In conversation with the noted historian on the history of the land dispute, how the issue was communalised, why he thinks it cannot be said that there was a temple under the Babri Masjid, and more.
Eminent historian Dwijendra Narayan Jha pioneered studies on material culture in early Indian history. In his academic career spanning more than 35 years, he undertook extensive research on society and the economy in ancient India, and probed different dimensions of feudalism in early medieval India. As a professional historian, he actively intervened in contemporary political debates that derived their relevance from historical studies. In the process, he was targeted by multiple Hindutva organisations rather frequently. For instance, when his book The Myth of the Holy Cow brought out historical references about beef eating in sub-continental dietary habits in ancient India, he became the target of all those who disliked his conclusions. He has always valued historical evidence over myths, and at most times been on the wrong side of the powerful.
He was a part of a team of independent historians who scrutinised historical and archaeological evidence to dismiss the notion in its report that there was a Hindu temple underneath the Babri mosque. In this detailed interview to The Wire by Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta, he trashes the theory that the Babri mosque in Ayodhya was built by demolishing a Hindu temple. He also speaks of how Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) shifted its stand on the issue and, thus helped the Sangh parivar foment a Hindu-Muslim conflict around the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue.
The Supreme Court will be giving its verdict on Allahabad high court judgment soon. Thus, the dispute has become topical again. How, as a professional historian, do you look at it?
The Ayodhya dispute has been hanging fire for a long time now. Hindus and Muslims have been fighting over the control of the disputed site. As I have said in my earlier interviews to the media, I see it as a battle between faith and rationality. For it is impossible to prove that Ram was born within the limits of 2.77 acre of the disputed land in Ayodhya. I don’t see any logic in this faith. And as a professional historian I think history cannot be written on the basis of faith; whatever is written or spoken about on its basis is only fantasy.
You were a part of the team of historians that wrote “Ramjanmabhumi-Baburi Masjid: A Historians’ Report to the Nation”. What were your main findings?
First, I would like to clarify that the four historians – Suraj Bhan, Athar Ali, R.S. Sharma and I – who authored the report were independent of the government and of the two contending parties to the dispute. This effectively meant lack of cooperation from them.
But despite this, we were able to produce the report. We examined all the textual and archaeological evidence and came to the conclusion that there was no Hindu temple beneath the mosque.
How do you assess the role of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in fomenting the conflict? The ASI report built its theory that the masjid was built on a Hindu temple on the basis of “pillar bases” that it supposedly found. What is your take?
The ASI and the Hindu party have argued for the existence of the temple on the basis of “pillar bases”. But there are some points to be clarified about them. First the attitude of B.B. Lal, the former director-general of the ASI, who first excavated at Ayodhya, has been shifting his stand about them. In his first report, he does not mention the pillar bases. In 1988, Lal presented a paper at the ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research) seminar which also is totally silent about the pillar bases; and when he delivered a lecture on the historicity of the Ramayana he made no reference to the pillar bases.
But soon after the shilanyas in November 1989, Lal underwent a metamorphosis and in October 1990, in a paper published in an RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) publication, he referred to a pillared structure adjacent to the mosque; this was nearly 15 years after he excavated at Ayodhya. Scholars grow all the time and they may modify their opinion from time to time. But Lal grew at a frenetic pace and this makes his finding of pillar bases suspect.
Second, the 14 black stone pillars with non-Islamic motifs, which we found embedded at the arched entrances of the mosque were decorative pieces and not load bearing. The four historians wanted to examine the issue further but the ASI did not give them the site notebook.
Has the ASI made its report available to historians and archaeologists for assessment?
I have not seen the final report on the excavations carried under the court orders but those archaeologists and historians who have read it have trashed it. First, the ASI archaeologists who carried out the excavation did not observe the scientific norms which should have been observed in such an exercise. Second, the excavation was carried out with preconceived ideas about the presence of the temple. Third, the report suppresses evidence. For example, animal bones, gazed ware and glazed tiles, which have been found at the various levels, do not find any mention in the report.
You have been of the view that faith has superseded history/historical fact in the way a majority of Indians, and even the courts, have come to understand the demolition of Babri Masjid. Why do you think so?
In my view, it is only faith of the Hindu parties that was the overriding consideration for the Allahabad high court. The historical evidence was totally relegated to the background; it was trashed.
How did the notion that Babri Masjid was built at the site of Ram Janmabhoomi become popular? What are the textual and other references of Ram temples in Indian history?
The first known Sanskrit text to place Lord Rama’s birth place in a locality of Ayodhya is the Skanda Puråna. It has several versions, and is full of interpolations. The Ayodhyamahtmya itself (which forms part of Skanda Purana) is probably an interpolation of the late 18th or early 19th century.
Judging by its internal evidence, it is not earlier than 1600 (C.E). Of more than 30 sacred sites it mentions it names one as janmasthana. Interestingly, the compilers of the text devote eight verses to the janmasthana but 100 verses to the place whence he is supposed to have gone to heaven. The place is called the svargadwara. So the text on which the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and other groups are relying attaches greater importance to his passing away than to his birth!
The death of Rama was more important for the compilers of the text than the place of his birth. Also, the svargadwara is on the bank of the river Saryu, far away from the mosque site which is claimed to be the birthplace.
The French Jesuit priest Tifenthaller visited Ayodhya perhaps before 1765 and he for the first time referred to the destruction of the temple for the construction of the mosque. But it took time to become popular.
Was Ayodhya always regarded as a pilgrimage centre in historical texts? What does Tulsi Das’s Ramcharitmanas say about Ayodhya?
There is no evidence to show that Ayodhya was a Hindu pilgrimage centre in ancient times. And it had not emerged as one even as late as the 18th century. Tulsidas, the celebrated author of the Ramcharitmanas does not mention Ayodhya as a pilgrim centre. He suggests that it was not Ayodhya but Prayag that was to him the principal place of pilgrimage.
Is there a possibility that Ayodhya could have been a centre of other religions too, say Buddhism or Jainism?
There is evidence that Ayodhya was an important Buddhist centre in the early medieval period. Huen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim who came to India in the seventh century, during the time of Harshvardhana, referred to Buddhist presence here. He recorded that there were 100 Buddhist monasteries but only ten abodes of devas [Brahmanical gods] at this place.
Ayodhya is also known as Saket which occurs in Buddhist as well as Jain scriptures. Moreover, Jains claim that it was the place of birth of Rishabnath, their earliest tirthankar. And Abu Fazl, mentions the tradition that two Jewish prophets lie buried at Ayodhya. So the town was of sacred importance for several religions.
How and when did the whole Ayodhya dispute take a communal turn, in your view? In fact, the Hindutva groups now claim that not just Babur but several other so-called Muslim rulers, including Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan, destroyed many Hindu temples.
There is no doubt that the Muslim rulers destroyed Hindu temples. But we should remember that Hindus are more notorious in destroying the temples or places of worship. It can be proved that they destroyed innumerable religious establishments of Jains and Buddhists. Certainly it is a matter to be researched – who destroyed how many temples in the country.
There is not much evidence of communal conflict in medieval India. But at Ayodhya, the Hindu-Muslim clash took place in 1855, though the issue between the Hindus and Muslims was sorted out by the officers of the Nawab of Awadh. His officers settled the issue by allowing the idols being placed outside the mosque on what came to be known as Sita Ki Rasoi; a trust (Waqf) was also created. The property issue was finally settled in 1885 when the sub-judge of Faizabad and the Judicial Commissioner of Awadh decided that the Muslims continue their possession of the mosque and transferred Sita Ki Rasoi to the Hindus.
The matter should have remained settled but the situation changed with the rise of communalism in the 1930s.
A milestone in the communalisation of the dispute is December 1949 when the idol of Rama was surreptitiously put inside the mosque. The communalisation of the dispute received an unprecedented boost in 1984 when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was formed, with the slogan of building a Ram Temple at the site of the Babri Masjid.
In pre-independence India, were there scholars who studied the temple destruction theory? I remember you saying that a Scottish physician, Francis Buchanan, who worked with the Bengal Medical Service, visited Ayodhya in 1810 and rubbished this theory.
Of course, (H.M) Eliot and (John) Dawson wrote about the destruction of temples by Muslim rulers (in 1871) but did not study the problem as such. They, however, referred to the fact of destruction. The prominent historian to have made references to the destruction/desecration of Hindu temples was (historian) Jadunath Sarkar.
Do you think the courts should have involved historians and archaeologists in the whole adjudication process following the demolition?
Certainly. The historians should have been consulted in the adjudication process. I think a panel of international experts should have been entrusted the task of deciding whether there existed a temple under the mosque; judiciary alone is not equipped to pass judgment on a historical fact. But what can one expect from the judiciary which dismisses the report of historians and archaeologists as mere opinion?
Your team submitted your report to the government of India. How was its response?
We submitted our report to the government of India through Mr V.K. Dhall, in-charge of the Ayodhya cell in the PMO. But (we) never heard from him or anybody else from the government.
Finally, how does a lay person form an opinion on the matter amidst contrasting viewpoints of history? The proponents of a Ram temple in Ayodhya claim that only the so-called Marxist historians believe that there was no Hindu temple there.
The lay person has to be educated, and they should be convinced of a rational point of view. How one does it is a big problem. I have no ready answer for this. But make no mistake. The Marxists are not responsible for propagating the absence of the temple. The Hindutva groups are only raising a bogey of Marxism because they are unable to argue their case. n
A Report by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) sheds light on multiple instances of human rights violations in the region, challenging the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) narrative that ‘everything is normal in Kashmir’.
It has been 120 days to the state-sponsored siege in Kashmir. The revocation of Article 370 on August 5 had thrown Jammu and Kashmir, now a Union Territory, into the deep end. People were allegedly illegally detained, media services were hit, communication avenues were cut off, health services crashed, education came to a halt, religious freedom was curbed, trade dwindled and life as Kashmiris knew it, changed forever. Without consulting with those who mattered most – the people - Kashmir was under lockdown with military rushing in to ensure that nobody opposed the fate that was now imposed on them. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a collective of relatives of victims of enforced and involuntary disappearances in Kashmir, have come out with a report that states the facts as they are.
The APDP was formed in 1944 by Parveena Ahangar and has always actively campaigned for an end to the practice and crime of arbitrary and enforced disappearances at the local, national and international platforms. In wake of the human rights violations that have ensued since the abrogation of Article 370, the report takes the reader through the political history of the state of J&K, the history of Article 370 and its incorporation in the Indian Constitution and the impact on the human rights in Kashmir since August 5.
Article 370 and Constant Efforts at Its Abrogation
Since its origin in 1950, the Indian government has constantly tried to weaken Article 370 through amendments, with first steps taken in 1954. After J&K had acceded to the Dominion of India in 1947 through the Instrument of Accession, the power of the Indian Parliament in J&K was restricted to only three spheres – defense, communications and foreign relations.
The Constituent Assembly was convened in October 1951 and before the work of defining the future relationship between the Centre and the state began, a set of minimum principles for working out future relations between the two were discussed and the Delhi Agreement of 1952 came about.
The Delhi Agreement, between Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru focused on ten subject matters mostly including the residuary powers of the state, the issue of citizenship, jurisdiction of Supreme Court, the question of fundamental rights, national flag of the state, powers of President and the issue of emergency powers. It was decided that all these would fall within the jurisdiction of the state government. The relation of Jammu and Kashmir with the Dominion of India was to be based upon the principle of “asymmetrical federalism” which in turn was based on the principle of “autonomy, popular consent and negotiability”.
But the Centre and the State had a fall out, and soon Sheikh Abdullah was detained. The idea of ‘asymmetrical federalism’ was hampered. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bhartiya Jana Sangh put forth nationalistic narratives that further created hurdles for the autonomy of the state.
While the Delhi Agreement, 1952 said that the sovereignty in all matters other than those specified in the Instrument of Accession would reside with the state, the state was to have a Prime Minister instead of a Chief Minister and it would have its own union flag and while it agreed to the modification of Article 352 (emergency powers), it stated that “no proclamation of Emergency made on grounds of internal disturbance” shall have effect in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir; among other provisions.
However, the with the Constitutional Order of 1954 being passed, the power of the Parliament was extended to make laws on almost all matters and the jurisdiction of the Union Parliament from three subjects of defense, communications and foreign relations was extended to almost all subjects on the Union List. This was a significant change from the Constitutional Order of 1950 which limited the power of the Indian Parliament to only three subject matters.
In 1986, another Constitutional order saw the extension of Article 249 of the Indian Constitution to J&K, which allowed the Centre to legislate on matters mentioned in the State list as well. This order was passed without the concurrence of the state government, a flouting of terms under Article 370 that made it imperative that the Centre seek the consensus of the State Legislature to pass a Constitutional Order such as the one in 1986.
In 2019, the Centre abrogated Article 370 on August 5 amending the Indian Constitution (Article 367) in order to do so. Clause 3 of the Article 370 provides the provision of abrogation of Article 370 by a Presidential Order, with the consensus of the Constituent Assembly. It is pertinent to mention here that the Constituent Assembly was dissolved in 1956 itself after the enactment of the constitution. At the time of passing this order, the state of Jammu and Kashmir did not have a legislature. The State legislature was dissolved in 2018, when the state was put under Governor’s rule and later President’s rule. This amendment is also in conflict with the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution’s Article 147 that bars the Legislative Assembly from excising the powers of the Constituent Assembly with respect to the provisions of the Indian Constitution relating to the state of J&K.
The APDP reports states that the Indian Parliament abrogated Article 370 relying on the circuitous and malafide reasoning that since the state was under President’s rule, and there was no legislative assembly, the power to make laws rested with the Indian Parliament, thus substituting the concurrence of the State (as mandated in the constitution) with that of the Centre.
The Article 370 that protected the cultural and political integrity of Jammu and Kashmir had been eroded over the years through Presidential Orders almost 56 times.
Torture and Detentions in the Wake of the Abrogation
Human rights violations have been widely reported since the revocation of J&K’s special status in 2019. People have been detained under the mechanisms of existing laws and some are held allegedly outside the purview of law, all in a bid to suppress any political opposition by the people.
There have been numerous reports of the Centre detaining people under the Public Safety Act (PSA) – civilians, politicians and even children. The PSA allows for administrative detention of up to two years “in the case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State,” and for administrative detention of up to one year where “any person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
How the PSA Works
Under the PSA, the police make a dossier which contains details about the person and the grounds on which the detention is being done. The dossier is then communicated by the police to the administrative officials i.e. the Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate for the approval of his detention. The administration, allegedly with little or no application of mind, decides on the detention. Once a person is detained, the reasons for detention must be communicated to him within 5 days or a maximum of 10 days. If the grounds of detention are in “public or national interest”, the grounds need not be communicated at all. The authorities are required to place on record all the detentions in front of an Advisory Committee within a period of four weeks from the date of such detention. It is the Advisory Committee’s responsibility to review the detention orders and to scrutinize them and their validity. Upon scrutiny, the Advisory Committee may either uphold the Detention Order or quash it. The decision of the Advisory Committee is binding on the administration. The only legal remedy to appeal against detention under the PSA is to file a writ of Habeas Corpus before the High Court or the Supreme Court.
Reports of torture, cruel and inhumane treatment in detention have come forth. A report from Reuters shows that more than 3000 people have been detained under the PSA. Politicians like Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti; apart from youth leaders like Shah Faesal were placed under house arrest.
The APDP reports states that civilians detained pre and post the abrogation have been tortured and even shifted to prisons outside J&K. They have not only been detained under the PSA, but have also arbitrarily been booked under offences of rioting and attempt to murder.
The State Police itself has admitted to detaining 144 children since August 5, but also claims that most of them were released on the same day.33 .But the number cited by the police cannot be treated as autho-ritative, as reports indicate that there have been many occasions where the police have treated children as adults and detained them accordingly, using the PSA.
The report also highlights the arbitrary detention practices of the Army which has raided people’s homes or summoned people to police stations. People are picked up from their homes in nocturnal raids carried out regularly by these forces. The forces are also summoning people to the police station or army camps, usually by confiscating their mobiles or identity cards, and asking them to collect it from the camps or police stations. Once the person reports to the camp, the authorities either detain them indefinitely, torture them or treat them in a manner that constitutes cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and several provisions of the PSA are inconsistent with the Indian government’s obligation under the Treaty. For example, according to Article 9(2) of the ICCPR “[a]nyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.” However, Section 13 of the PSA allows the detaining authority to not communicate grounds of detention for up to 10 days of detention, and also to withhold any information that it considers “to be against the public interest to disclose”. India is yet to ratify the Convention against Torture (CAT) even after 22 years of signing it in 1977. But it is still a part of several other international law instruments, the ICCPR being one of them, the Article 7 of which states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The CAT requires state parties to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under their jurisdiction. However, not being a part of CAT and having no domestic anti-torture laws in place, the impunity to the imposers has increased and the accountability for their acts has been reduced to the ground.
The autonomy of the Press in Kashmir has always been allegedly restricted and violated. There has been a visible absence of news from Kashmir in the Indian media barring few over the past few years. Where these exist, they were usually concocted stories in line with the majoritarian and communal propaganda. Misreporting by news channels has factored out the self-determination angle and changed the narrative of Kashmir in people’s minds. For example, the fake encounter of Junaid Ahmed Khuroo, in2001, was reported in The Hindu as “a militant committing suicide inside a mosque”. It failed to show the truth, later, proceedings of the SHRC (State Human Rights Commission), found the case to be “cold blooded murder”. Although Greater Kashmir followed up the story, a Kashmir based paper, it has hardly any readership in Indian mainland.
The murder of a renowned journalist Sujhat Bukhari, who was a regular contributor to The Hindu and the Editor of Rising Kashmir in 2018, did not lead to extensive coverage by the Indian media. They did not raise the issue, and his murder remains unresolved, like many other killings in Kashmir.
The APDP report asserts that since the change of government in 2014, Kashmiri journalists have been stifled time and again. Aasif Sultan, a journalist with the Kashmiri Narrator, who recently won the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award 2019, has now been jailed for over one year. He has not been charged for any crime or tried by a court. The police only said that his laptop contained ‘incriminating’ evidence. The local journalist association protested against Aasif’s arrest and his editor went on record that the crackdown was because of a well-reported article he wrote on slain militant commander Burhan Wani. The report traced the life story of Burhan Wani and some of his fellow mates; it was published on his death anniversary.
Kashmir was placed under a virtual curfew post abrogation on August 5. National and international media agencies came out with many contradicting reports, with the mainstream media being heavily in favour of the government. The international news media presented its concern regarding the abrogation, but there was no on-ground report for the Kashmiri media had been completely silenced. The internet shutdown too meant that whatever rare reports were coming out could not be accessed by the public.
International human rights law guarantees the freedom of expression. Article 19 of the ICCPR states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. But the government has scrapped the advertising avenues of non-conformist newspapers and has arbitrarily detained journalists apart from continuously forcing them to disseminate pro-state propaganda.
Healthcare Services Hit
The valley has been under a total curfew for more than two months, critically affecting the medical and health care system in the region. This massive siege continuing for such a long period has severely impacted peoples’ right to access to health care and medical facilities, as guaranteed under international human rights law, reports the APDP.
The link between drug stores, stockists and depots has been broken due to the clampdown. There has been a reduction in patient admissions in hospitals, with patients not being able to visit the facilities due to a curfew and lack of public transport. Doctors had routinely raised concerns about the situation, especially regarding patients needing dialysis and chemotherapy, pregnant women and those in need of emergency surgeries. With the internet and landline services being hit, there were no means to call for ambulances and more than 8 million people have been denied the fundamental right to healthcare in light of the abrogation.
No government facility like mobile medical vans for patients had been provided and senior consultancies required to discuss critical cases couldn’t take place due to the internet restrictions.
Most importantly, the mental health of the people of Kashmir has been toyed with. Nobody can put a number to the casualties that have ensued due to the healthcare services being destroyed due to the abrogation.
Children’s Rights and Education
The APDP reports that various human rights organisations have emphasised the negative impact of conflict on children. There are various forms to it such as structural, social and psychological. In general, the situation in Kashmir has gravely impacted children: many children have been detained under the PSA for “stone-pelting”, many have lost their vision due to pellet firing on their eyes by security forces, some have died due to tear gas shelling, and many experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
The security forces have conducted many night raids in which children were picked up owing to a significant negative impact on their mental health.
It also reports that through board exams have been held in the Valley, the schools have been shut for the past four months. Though some schools have been reopened, the attendance still remains low due to the fear post the lockdown. The close proximity of security camps to schools makes students victims of surveillance and sexual violence. Schools in Kashmir in the past were occupied by armed forces. They often became sites of interrogation, and encounters with militants.
The security of students in Kashmir has always been at stake with 162 student killings taking place from 2003 to 2017. Holistic learning has been disturbed and there even e-learning cannot be resorted to due to the internet services being shut. Where does this leave them? Without an education what jobs are they going to aim for in the future?
The abrogation of Article 370 has had a tremendous impact on the trade in the Valley. The availability of essential commodities has dwindled and the lockdown has affected the ability of the people to access food and conduct trade.
Trade bodies in Kashmir have pegged that the people have suffered a collective loss of over Rs. 10,000 crore with apple traders and weavers being hit the worst. More than 60,000 weavers have been rendered jobless because of the dearth of online orders and the militants have increased attacks against apple traders, mostly non-locals, post the abrogation.
Warehouse management has failed and stocks meant for exports are now sitting stuck in warehouses. According to the latest reports, the security restrictions and communication blockade have resulted in empty markets. The Sopore Market, 2nd-largest fruit market in Asia, was seen to be completely empty during this time, with growers selling Rs 750-apple-crates at a nearly 80% reduced price. The government has set up a National Cooperative to help the farmers sell their produce but till now 80% of the produce has been rejected on the basis of quality restrictions. With the increasing restrictions in the movement of vehicles and the communications blockade, apple traders have been unable to get in touch with growers in Kashmir and saw a fall in 50-60% of the arrival of produce in the beginning of the season in august. This is particularly significant since the apple industry in Kashmir employs over 3.5 million people.
The walnut trade is considered to be the backbone of the economy in Uri district, those associated with it are saying that this year they had to bear losses worth crores due to the situation that has arisen post August 5. Supply of perishable items has been hit and people haven’t been able to meet their daily nutritional requirements because of not being able to access government stores and other shops.
Due to the curfew-like situation imposed, even as the situation looked like it was improving (before the militant attacks on traders), the shop owners observed a self-imposed civil disobedience and did not keep their shops open all day. Shops opened for a few hours each morning and evening, but remained largely shut, also due to the fear of being attacked.
Religious Freedom Curbed
APDP reports that mosques in Kashmir, as critical sites of community mobilization and participation, have been continuously barricaded/put under indefinite curfew in a move that separatist leaders have identified as an effort to suppress religious practice. Several reports have been published since at least 2009, highlighting the severe crackdown on mosques, religious processions, and even weddings and funerals. In other words, the Indian State has deliberately put an end to large assemblies of people, and prevented community gathering.
In 2019, after the entire Valley was shut down following the abrogation of Article 370, Muharram processions were once again banned in several regions. According to reports by Greater Kashmir and Scroll, the J&K police in July 2019 (some days before the communications blockade and before Article 370 was abrogated in Parliament) ordered the zonal superintendents to submit details of all the mosques within their jurisdiction.
Despite some reports that Eid passed peacefully, residents of the Valley actually spent the day in complete lockdown, unable to contact their loved ones or gather for their prayers. Safwat Zargar also documents instances of intimidation by the security forces where clerics have been summoned to army camps and “counseled” and threatened not to speak out against the removal of Article 370.
The ban on religious gatherings and the ability to commemorate holy days has been severely curtailed especially since August 5 with curbs on movement at religious places and congregational prayers, the arrest of religious preachers and the constant surveillance of religious institutions instilling a sense of fear in the public.
Unfortunately, Kashmir has always been the place where law has been constantly used to suppress and oppress the people. Access to justice, as per Indian Constitution is a fundamental right of every citizen and is one of the facets of life under Article 21 and equality under Article 14. Since the Indian Government used Art. 370 to abrogate Art.370 itself, the Indian Constitution apply to Kashmir now in too. However, under the same constitution, the residents of Kashmir are being deprived of their basic fundamental rights which are a clear violation of Part III of the Constitution of India.
Post the abrogation in 2019, High Courts and lower courts have been out of order due to the blockade. Legal aid is a constitutional right guaranteed by Articles 21 and 39-A of the Constitution of India. “Access to Justice” is a basic human right recognized by the Indian Constitution as well as various international covenants. However, it is pertinent to mention here the fact that despite so many detentions (nearly 16000 detentions) made by the concerned authorities, only few judges are present to hear and adjudicate the Habeas Corpus writ petitions. At present, only two benches are present in the High Court to dispose of the said petitions, the APDP reports.
The former President of the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association – Nazir Ahmad Ronga had been held in preventive detention since August 9, 2019 under the PSA. Also, the present Presidents of the JK Bar Association-Mr. Mia Abdul Qayoom has been held in preventive detention under the Public Safety Act (which the Amnesty International has termed as “Repressive and Draconic”) even before the passing of the bill and lodged at Agra jail of state of Uttar Pradesh which is approximately 1000 kms away from the city of Srinagar. Even the President of Baramullah (Abdul Salam Rather) and Anantnag (Fayaz Sodagar) District Bar Association have been detained. The High Court Bar Association filed a petition before the HC of Jammu & Kashmir to allow two of its members to meet the Bar President. However, the same was rejected by the Court. This has just proved that apart from denying justice and twisting the law to suit their agenda, the government has now taken the law in their own hands and turned a blind eye to the citizens of Kashmir and their plight.
The De-facto Emergency and the Issue of Normalcy
The Central Government of India has plunged Jammu and Kashmir in a de-facto state of emergency starting August 5. The fundamental rights of the people have been trampled upon and the indefinite curfew still goes on today. Every aspect of normal life has been hit – healthcare, education, freedom of movement, right to information, right to the internet and most importantly fear reigns in the mind of every Kashmiri. Yet, in a pitiful and shameful manner, the government and mainstream media, its accomplice has painted the picture that ‘all is well’ in Kashmir. Nobody can access justice because the judiciary in Kashmir itself is under siege. So who will rescue Kashmiris from this ‘collective punishment’ asks the APDP. The outright falsehood that everything is normal in Kashmir, is a shame. Losses have mounted, of lives and livelihoods, but will the Centre ever acknowledge that fact?
Whenever I forward this scene in my mind, the entire history goes into rewind mode. When this scene gets blurred, the past gets crystal clear. When the past is blurred, I can see with clarity the history being created at present. If you have not studied history at ‘WhatsApp University’, you will understand what I am trying to convey. I hope the students who were forced to march hands up, will not feel insulted and understand that this is the new face of the Indian state; and this face is slowly being unveiled.
The Delhi Police have tackled thousands of agitations in the past. People, who took part in these demonstrations, often came face-to-face with the police. During the Nirbhaya agitation, protestors even marched to Raisina Hills, and slogans were raised against the police. The agitators, however, had a belief that police will not open fire at them. Watching students forced to move forward under the shadow of guns, that trust has been betrayed. The police have changed, as they don’t spray cold water to disperse crowd; they have guns.
The police which had gone inside Jamia to search for outsiders, came out with students. If you can’t find any wrong in their action, let me make this plain and simple for you: Your freedom of expression is being held hostage. The police are not ours, it is ‘theirs’. By ‘theirs’, I don’t mean the government, I mean the ‘state’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently talked about recognising people involved in Bengal violence by their clothes. The language used by him is not much different than the language and tone used on social media. It is obvious that this is the language of the ‘state’. This is the reason why Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha tweeted comparing the agitation at Jamia with Muslim League’s pre-Independence ‘direct action’. He identified Jamia, which was founded by Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1946, Muslim League’s call for ‘direct action’ resulted in riots in which thousands of Hindus were killed. Gandhi hadn’t observed what the rioters were wearing; he had visited Kolkata and had put an end to violence. He also went to Bihar where Hindus had killed Muslims. He had stopped bloodshed there too. Gandhi didn’t have much clothes on his body which is why he couldn’t observe the clothes of rioters. He had discovered the beauty of minds and souls
Rakesh Sinha’s tweet says this is not 1946, this is 2019. Mr Sinha appears to be the ‘Vice-Chancellor’ of the ‘WhatsApp University’, who wants to change the understanding of history in the name of expressing anger over violence at Jamia. He is linking a university which has a national character to Muslim League. He seems to have forgotten that 50% students at Jamia are non-Muslim. Even if there were 100 per cent Muslim students, would it have been right to link them to Muslim League? Are Mr Sinha and PM Modi not trying to recognise students on the basis of clothes and colour?
There is a grave problem in the way we perceive the country’s younger generation. We believe the younger generation is lost in the world of smartphones. We think they are lost in their favourite songs, wearing their earpieces. But our perception of them is far from reality. Recently, in Gujarat’s Gandhi Nagar, in the secretariat’s exam, hundreds of students had gathered to protest an alleged fraud. They had used their smartphone screens as torches in the agitation. The state government thought the protest would die down in some days. But as the students remained steadfast to their demands, the government had to cancel the examination.
In Uttar Pradesh, the exam to recruit 69,000 teachers trends on Twitter every day, but the media ignores it. Nobody cares why the people who cleared the Railways’ recruitment exam, which was announced during elections, have not received their appointment letters. You saw at Mandi House, disabled candidates protested over Railways’ exam for several days. In Dehradun, the students of Ayurvedic colleges protested against fee hike for 45 days.
When students protest in their universities, they are lectured that they are there to study. When they protest against the paucity of teachers, they are told they are not studying. When there are no teachers, how can they study. When the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University agitated against the hike in hostel fee, they were mocked, called urban naxals. Nobody then says how students from poor background will study if education gets expensive. Nobody was concerned that the students of Indian Institute of Mass Communication protested against fee hike for 16 days.
Those who lecture students have a pattern - they hate poor and lower-middle class students. That’s why they come forward with their argument that these students research till the age of 40 on their tax money. What has research to do with age? Hence, nobody should fall into their trap that they are concerned about education. Their problem is why students of these universities raise their voices against the government. Political opposition has weakened but in these universities, the voice of dissent is gaining strength. Such people have a problem with this voice
I am in touch with students of many universities for the last two years. I believe a large section of students has become communal, but in them remain alive tiny dreams of democracy. Sometimes, drawing strength from these dreams, they hit the streets against fee hike and for the declaration of their exam results. A day will come they will break free of their communal thinking. I get letters from students saying WhatsApp University had made them communal. They express regret. They are realising that India cannot develop if communalism persists. They were not there to see the horrors of partition in 1947, but they can very well see the horrors of partition in 2019. It is your fault that you are not able to understand India’s young generation.
You saw how Jamia’s students were evicted like criminals. There are two more photographs from Jamia. To save Shaheen Abdullah, Ayesha and Farzana took on the police. Girls are shielding a boy. They are standing taller than Jamia’s Gaalib statue. Another girl Chanda Yadav is standing with them shoulder-to-shoulder. This photograph should be stuck in every room of girls’ hostels. India will become as beautiful as their dreams and spirit. If you want to understand the new India, watch these two images from Jamia. You will feel good. Good luck, India!
Ravish Kumar is Managing Editor, NDTV India
Data from the National Population Register (NPR) Will be Used to Identify ‘Doubtful’ Citizens and, in Turn, Create a National Register of Citizens (NRC)
As protests sweep through India over the Citizenship Amendment Act as well as the National Register of Citizens, an inconspicuous bureaucratic process to create a National Population Register has come under fire. In West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government stayed work on the National Population Register on Monday citing the “interest of public order”. While the National Population Register has not made waves elsewhere, in West Bengal, activists and protesters have attacked the exercise, alleging that it is actually the first step to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens.
The National Register of Citizens is controversial: while its purported aim is to identify illegal immigrants, there are fears it could arbitrarily exclude genuine Indian citizens. Ignoring these concerns, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said the Bharatiya Janata Party government will implement the NRC nationwide before 2024. The Bharatiya Janata Party has argued that the National Population Register has nothing to do with the National Register of Citizens and is part of the Census. Scroll.in spoke to experts as well as accessed the legal orders around the National Population Register and found this is not true. The NPR has no relation to the Census and is, in fact, connected to the proposed all-India NRC.
What is the NPR?
According to online literature published by the Union government, the objective of the National Population Register “is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country”. This database “would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars”. What sort of information would the National Population Register collect? Scroll.in has viewed the 14 questions that form part of the exercise, for which a pilot project began in August. The questions include demographic details such as name, age, sex, relationship in household, nationality, educational qualifications, occupation, date of birth, marital status, residential address, birthplace and mother tongue.
Till now, nothing here is very different from the usual data the Union government collects via the Census. But then, the National Population Register also asks a respondent where his or her parents were born. Moreover, the National Population Register also asks for Aadhaar details, driver’s licence, voter identity card and mobile number “if available”. An official told Scroll.in it is not mandatory for respondents to share this information. However, with many respondents likely to give their Aadhaar details, this will allow the Union government, for the first time, to connect their biometric details with information like the birthplace of their parents.
How is NPR linked to the NRC?
The legal framework for the National Population Register is grounded in the Citizenship Act, 1955. In 2003, the Act was amended by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government to introduce the category of an “illegal migrant”. To implement this amendment, a set of rules were issued. (Rules are practical instructions on how to execute a law on the ground.) At the time, these rules barely created a ripple. But they set in place a mechanism that could turn Indian society and politics upside down since they lay out a process to create a National Register of Citizens: “the register containing details of Indian Citizens living in India and outside India”.
The rules read: “The Central Government shall, for the purpose of National Register of Indian Citizens, cause to carry throughout the country a house-to-house enumeration for collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual, residing in a local area including the Citizenship status”. For administrative purposes, there are a nested collection of registers: the “National Register of Indian Citizens shall be divided into sub-parts consisting of the State Register of Indian Citizens, the District Register of Indian Citizens, the Sub-district Register of Indian Citizens and the Local Register of Indian Citizens”.
How would these registers of citizens be created? The rules explicitly spell it out: “The Local Register of Indian citizens shall contain details of persons after due verification made from the Population Register.” When the Local Register is generated from the Population Register, a “verification process” would be carried out which would create the category of “doubtful citizenship”. The final National Register of Citizens would be prepared by asking doubtful citizens to prove they are Indians as part of a “claims and objections” process.
This Population Register mentioned in the rules is nothing other than the National Population Register. In a gazette notification issued on July 31, 2019, the Modi government passed an order to “prepare and update the Population Register” in every state other than Assam. To sum up: the National Population Register would create a list of all the residents of the country. And then the National Register of Citizens would take that list and identify people of “doubtful citizenship” – thus, by corollary creating a list of citizens. It is this process that leads Prasenjit Bose, economist and convenor of the Joint Forum against National Register of Citizens, to describe the National Population Register as the “first step on the road to the National Register of Citizens”.
Ranjit Sur, from the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, concurs. “The only job of the National Population Register is to create an National Register of Citizens,” said Sur. “Let me emphasise on the ‘only’.” Protesters demonstrate amid tear gas fired by police during a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in New Delhi on December 13. Credit: Reuters
How is the nationwide NRC different from the Assam NRC?
Notably, the National Register of Citizens process described above is different from the National Register of Citizens that has already taken place in Assam. This is because the 2003 rules carve out a special exception for the state.
In Assam, the National Register of Citizens would be created by “inviting applications from all the residents for collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual, residing in a local area in the State including the citizenship status based on the National Register of Citizens 1951, and the electoral rolls up to the midnight of the 24th day of March 1971,” the 2003 rules state. In sharp contrast, the National Register of Citizens for the rest of India is to be drawn on the basis of the National Population Register.
As a result, there is a difference in how the National Register of Citizens for Assam and the rest of India will be conducted. “The Assam National Register of Citizens was populated using the application method but the all-India National Register of Citizens will be done through enumeration basis, by going house to house and collecting data in the form of the National Population Register,” explained Ranjit Sur. The Assam National Register of Citizens was widely criticised for being arbitrary. But now activists are noting that the National Population Register method that will be used to conduct the all-Indian National Register of Citizens is even more opaque. “In Assam, everyone knew the cut-off date and the documents required. Rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim, everyone had to stand in the same queue,” explained Prasenjit Bose. “But here everything is left to a bureaucrat. The state will decide who is a doubtful citizen and who is not. It is completely arbitrary.”
How is the NPR different from the Census?
That the National Population Register is part of the Census is a widespread notion. On Tuesday, in fact, reacting to the West Bengal government’s plans to stop work on the National Population Register, the BJP repeated this claim. “National Population Register builds up to the Census data 2021,” argued BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta. This claim, however, is not borne out legally. “The National Population Register is being conducted under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the 2003 rules while the Census is done under the Census Act, 1948,” explained Ranjit Sur. “The Census data is kept secret and cannot be used for anything else. The National Population Register data will be publicly displayed as part of the claims and objections process and will be used to create a National Register of Citizens.”
Sur continued: “Their laws are different, their aims are different. National Population Register has nothing to do with the Census and anyone making that claim is simply saying so to misguide.” This mistaken notion might have something to do with the fact that the two exercises are conducted simultaneously. The Union government has stated that it will “update the National Population Register along with the House listing phase of Census 2021”.
The Polit Bureau of CPI(ML) Red Star which met at party centre greeted the comrades who made the Jan Akrosh Abhiyan a success. According to its evaluation, during the last two months the situation in the country has become worse. The present upsurge taking place all over the country proves that the intensive campaign organized by the party and class/mass organizations against the Modi-2’s decisions further intensifying the fascistization, consistently for months with correct slogans, especially the campaign against the Assam NRC, the CAB, the all India NRC/NPR plan also played a role in creaking the present upsurge against the Modi-2.
Though the Modi-2 is trying to minimize and sideline the seriousness of the economic slow- down which is becoming more and more serious day by day, its consequences are evident. GDP growth rate has come down to 4.5% with no scope of reversing this trend in coming days. The economy is serious recession. As market is becoming increasingly dull, more production units are shutting down or decreasing production. As millions are losing jobs and unemployment is increasing, purchasing power further goes down, making the market more dull. It is a vicious circle. Recouping through increasing foreign trade is also not materializing, in the atmosphere of present trade war. Both US and China along with other countries are trying to get the Indian market opened more for them, through RCEP like treaties. Though Modi did not sign it this time due to strong popular resistance, pressure is mounting to sign it. Prices of all essential commodities and services are also increasing. Except speeding up sale of the PSUs, the Modi government has no other solution to put forward to overcome this situation. The banking system is also in crisis, as the NPAs are accumulating day by day. The latest GST hike on essential items is making the situation worse for the masses
It is in this situation, in the elections to Maharashtra and Haryana, in spite of Modi-Shah trying to convert their J&K and CAB moves to whip up muscular nationalism as votes, BJP’s vote share and seats reduced, just five months after its sweeping victory in the LS elections. Though it manipulated to retain power in Haryana, in spite of all efforts, subverting Constitutional values, it could not prevent the SS- NCP- Congress alliance coming to power in Maharashtra. In Jharkhand, it is fighting the elections alone, and its prospects are bleak. The RSS/BJP has reached a stage when they will resort to creation of mass hysteria through CAA/NCR. They will try to divide the people and create civil war like conditions, when they can dominate the scene using state machinery including military and constitutional institutions. So, as the students’ resistance against CAA and NCR has erupted all over the country they are resorting to horrifying state terror to suppress them. It is the time to support the student struggles and all other resistances to fascist Modi rule, engaging in issue based broad united movements with all anti RSS/BJP forces, focusing on the struggle against discriminative CAA and NCR/NPR.
At the same time, the ruling class parties as well as the social democrats in power have no basic differences on neoliberal/corporate policies like issues with BJP. Their opposition to BJP is only a contradiction among the ruling class parties. Still, it is necessary to become part of the broadest unity of all anti-BJP forces on issue basis to fight and defeat it as the immediate task. At the same time, the cardinal question of overthrowing the fascist RSS should be vigorously taken by intensifying the re-building of the revolutionary party, uniting all communist revolutionary forces in a left core based on a common program, and launching a mass platform of all struggling left and democratic forces with all oppressed classes and sections to defeat the fascist RSS and to achieve social change.
CPI(ML) Red Star
Strange things are happening in our country. According to Constitution any change in the status of a state can be made only with the approval of the people of the state. Since the provision to hold referendum is not provided in the Constitution, it means getting the approval of the state assembly. But in J&K the assembly was dissolved. It is president’s rule there. Besides, from 4th August hundreds of leaders of all non-BJP political parties, former chief ministers, most of the ex MLAs and other leaders are kept under detention. Still, the argument of Modi-2 is, since J&K is under president’s rule, his consent is sufficient for the abrogation of Article 370 and for down grading the state to two union territories! When the armed forces are for protecting the country’s borders, many lakhs of them with AFSPA like black laws are deployed to police people of J&K! From 4th August all communications are cut, 144 and curfew are imposed denying all democratic rights of the people! Against these violations of Constitution and democratic rights, people appeal to the SC. But it is telling the victims to wait! When an editor from the state approach the Press Council of India, against curtailment of all press freedoms, its president of PSI asks her to give the government more time to achieve normalcy!
Under parliamentary democracy the opposition has statutory rights and importance. But all attempts of the opposition leaders and MPs to go and see what is happening in the state, are prevented by not allowing them to go out of Srinagar and Jammu airports. The governor is saying the schools are open, but no students are not attending them. Though no emergency is declared, the situation is worse than that of emergency. Virtually it is total clamp down, throwing the people in to open jail denying them the right to contact anybody or to get essential goods. What is happening in J&K is the clear manifestation of state terror and creeping up of fascisation. No citizen with democratic consciousness can remain silent in such a situation. The resignation of a young IAS cadre from Kerala reflects the extent of dissent among the conscious people.
If what is happening in J&K is barbarous, on 31st August the Assam government is going to release the final NRC of the state, according to which about 4 million residents of the state are going to lose citizenship! These people can appeal to Foreigners Tribunals up to 120 days, and if their appeal is not redressed, they will be thrown to Detention Camps! Besides Modi-2 is going to get its Citizenship (Amendments) Bill, which refuses citizenship to Muslim minorities, passed by the Rajya Sabha somehow and complete the NPR based on it by 30th September, 2020. It is reported that 2o to 30 million may lose citizenship at all India level under it. The plan is to throw all of them to Detention Camps, as no country is going to receive them! If these moves are not reversed by creating public opinion against them, India shall be reduce to a fascist hell!
All these are taking place when the economy is under deep recession as a result of the economic policies of Modi rule from 2014. From every states reports are coming out: 200 textile mills closing down in TN, 1100 engineering units closing down in Jamshedpur alone, all the PSUs and major corporate enterprises retrenching many lakhs, and thousands of medium and small units closing down besides growing distress in the agrarian sector. If in the Economic Survey and the budget presented two months ago, the finance minister had rejected all reports about increasing slow down of the economy as propaganda by anti-national forces, and presented a glossy picture based on cooked up data, now forced to accept it as, not only the IMF and World Bank, but her own Niti Ayog chief also talked about economy facing collapse, she has announced relief measures not for the ordinary citizens, but for the corporate giants, using recession also as an opportunity for aggressive wealth transfer to corporate looters. Fascisation and aggressive majoritarian Hindutva are a cover for intensifying corporate loot and perpetuating the neo-colonial dependency.
This situation calls for massive people’s movements mobilizing the toiling masses and all oppressed sections. Let us strive to take up the challenge uniting all the forces who can be united for it at all levels!
CPI(ML) Red Star