Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Case Against Teesta Setalvad - Rais Khan

This is one in a series of blogs to put the facts in one place about various charges levelled against Teesta Setalvad -

1. Spicing up the riot cases

2. Lunawada mass graves

3. Madhu Trehan's attack
Also see Coverage of English media of Mumbai violence simplistically

4. Funding

The case of Kausar Bano

6. Memorial of Resistance 

7. Tavleen Singh

8. Rais Khan

Background Facts

1. Mr Rais Khan Pathan, a former employee of the organisation has fallen prey to powerful  vested interests in the state of Gujarat who appear to be misusing sections of the administration and police to settle scores simply because our organisation is at the  forefront of the battle for justice against the powerful perpetrators of 2002. They are still  in power today. 
2. Mr Rais Khan was in employment of Citizens for Justice and Peace from April 2002 to January, 2008. He was disengaged by the said organization on 18.1.2008 because of  his acts of conniving with the accused in various riots matters, amongst other acts. It  appears that subsequent to his disengagement, he started making complaints, filing  applications in different court proceedings, authority, etc. We have in this case petitioned  the Supreme Court (wherein we have protection) and also filed a Defamation Suit against him in February 2012 of Rs 5 Crores
3. This Mr Rais Khan, silent from January 2008 until September 2010 suddenly started shopping for fora in a vindictive manner suggesting clearly that he is not acting on his own. For 33 months, he was silent but soon after the Critical Trials reached fruition, soon after the Zakia Jafri case in which CJP is a co-petitioner and the chief minister number 1 accused refused to go away, Rais Khan became visible declaring that his aim was to send “Setalvad to Jail” (Times of India, December 30, 2010).
4. The details of malafide actions of Rais Khan as also the nexus between the state of Gujarat and Rais Khan compounded by strictures of the Courts against him (Rais Khan) are as follows::

A. April 2010 State of Gujarat filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in response to our petition asking for a Re-Constitution of the Special Investigation Team (SIT). In its response the government of Gujarat made unfounded and vicious allegations against the secretary, CJP. Interestingly, there is a striking similarity between the submissions of  the State and the allegations made by Rais Khan five months later.
B. 1.9.2010 Rais Khan Aziz Khan Pathan first files an Application before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by this Hon‟ble Court making vile, baseless and malafide allegations against Teesta Setalvad (They are near identical to those made by  the state government earlier).
C. 9.9.2010 & 17.9.2010 Rais Khan Aziz Khan Pathan thereafter through a letter to  the Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad levelled  allegations against Ms.Teesta Setalvad and others, apparently to safeguard the interest  of the accused. The police did not respond.
D. 19.10.2010 An affidavit is filed by Rais Khan Aziz Khan Pathan before the NanavatiShah-Mehta Commission to which we filed a response.
E. 28.10.2010-3.12.2011 An application was moved by Rais Khan Aziz Khan Pathan under section 311 of the Code of Criminal Procedure before the Sessions Court, Ahmedabad conducting the trials of Sardarpura, (235/2009) Naroda Gam (Criminal Case No. 203/2009) and Gulberg cases praying that he be examined as a witness in the said case alleging that he was privy to information about how the affidavits of victims/witnesses in the present case were prepared. The said application was filed to  take out a grudge against the petitioners and with an ulterior motive. It is also submitted that the application also seems to be filed at the behest of persons who are out to scuttle the trial and stop the delivery of justice to the victims of the communal riots. The Application, in fact, amounted to causing interference in the administration of Justice.
F. November 2010 onwards. Rais Khan himself and two three witnesses of the Pandharwada mass graves case make vile allegations against the secretary and the organisation. He was quoted extensively in the media saying that “he would get Setalvad arrested.” 
G. February 2012 onwards. Raiskhan instigates one witness in the Best Bakery case, Yasmeen Shaikh, during the appeal being heard in Bombay to make vile and malafide allegations against myself and the organisation I represent. The Bombay High Court  while disposing of the appeal holds that no tutoring of evidence took place.

5. The Trial Courts have used strong words against this interference and at that point the Media does report this. Not only was Rais Khan‟s application in the Sardarpura case rejected but the Court went further...on 20.12.2010. By the same order show cause notice under section 195(1) Cr.P.C. was also issued. 

(i) The Court ordered as under: “The application filed by the applicant Rais Khan Aziz Khan Pathan invoking the power of the Court under section 311 of the CRPC stands rejected and it is hereby ordered to issue show-cause notice to the applicant under section 340(1) of the CRPC in respect of the offence made under section 177 of the I.P.C. with reference to section 195(1) of the CRPC returnable on or before 27.12.2010.”. The Learned Sessions Court by its Final Order convicting 31 accused of heinous crimes, dated 9.11.2011, has decided the Section 195(1) CRPC issue and found that the Rais Khan was indulging in acts for which he should be prosecuted under Section 177 and 182 IPC. On page 13 of the Separate Order passed by the Trial Court on 20.2.2010 the Court questions the motives of Rais Khan:
“From the plain reading of the application and from the above facts and circumstances, it apparently becomes clear that the present application has no sanctity for the on-going process of justice and he has no respect for the truth and, therefore, he cannot be relied upon for just decision of the case. From the contents of the application itself, credibility of the applicant is unreliable and by examining such applicant as court witness, court cannot become part of mockery of administration of justice and the try by the applicant to allow this application, would also amount to mockery of administration of justice. So, considering the conduct of the applicant and contents of the application, it appears that the applicant is coming with an intention to achieve some unknown goal either to his previous employer or to help the accused with an intention to gain undesirable result in the case”

In the main judgment delivered on the same day i.e. 9.11.2011, the Learned Sessions judge also gave a finding that there has been no tutoring of witnesses by Teesta Setalvad. (Paras 56-57 of the Judgement). 

Sardarpura Judgement (9.11.2011 ) Paras 56 & 57
“56. It is submitted on behalf of accused that, eyewitness are tutored by Smt.Teesta Setalvad. The interest of Teesta Setalvad and her organization in the present case is obvious. The witnesses have specifically denied that, Teesta  Setalvad has told them as to what evidence was to be given in a case. Considering the evidence and fact in this regard when we consider this fact mere discussion about the case would not necessarily indicate tutoring. It is not an accepted proposition that, the witnesses are never to be contacted by any one or spoken to about the matter regarding which they are to depose. A number of things can be told to the witnesses such as not to be nervous, carefully listen to the question put to them, state the facts before the Court without fear, therefore it does not appear any objectionable morally or legally. Tutoring a witness is quite different from guiding him as to his behaviour. In the present case, the injured witnesses were in such a state of mind that without the active support of someone they might not have come before the court to give evidence at all. The encouragement and the advice if provided by Citizen for Peace and Justice that cannot be considered as tutoring and simply because of that, we cannot infer that the witnesses are tutored. From the matter it transpires that Citizen for Justice and Peace have made allegations before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India against the State authorities but on that strength it cannot be said that, NGOs. have worked with bad motives. If they had fought for truth what was believed by them as truth. It does not mean that they have tutored the witnesses to falsely identify the accused in the Court.
“57. In this regard when we consider the evidence, witness could be tutored only by a person who knew the facts. It is difficult for a person who was not present at the time of occurrence to tutor an occurrence witness and if at all this can be done, it would be based on the records of the case, which does not seen to have been happened in the present case. Further, more the happenings and the manner in which in the present case took place, is also not much in dispute, so the aspect of tutoring would be confined to the identification only. It is not easy to tutor one to identify another as victims and accused are previously known to each other but not known to tutoring persons. Tutoring of this type would require the persons tutoring, the concerned accused and the concerned witness to be together for a reasonable period or one or more occasion. Further, tutoring in such cases would be in consonance with police record or prosecution case which does not appear to be happened in this case. Further, it is also important to be considered that, before identification in the Court by the witness accused were asked to sit in the Court as per their own choice, they were not forced to sit at serial number given to them in Charge sheet or any other fix order and their names were never loudly being called out in the court in the presence of witnesses. The identification of accused have taken place under the observation of the Court. So the court can view the actions/reactions of the witnesses. All precautions were taken by the Court while identification of accused were carried out in the Court room. Further, precautions were also taken by the Court whether witness could see the persons sitting in the Court room. Similarly accused were given liberty to sit in the court in any manner, anywhere.”

(ii) Similar allegations of tutoring were made by defence counsel in the Naroda Patiya case. In the judgement delivered on 29.8.2012, 32 persons were convicted in the Naroda Patiya case by a detailed judgement. The Learned Judge in the said judgement also dealt with the issue of the affidavits which were filed by the victims in this Hon‟ble Court and allegation of tutoring of the witnesses, the Learned Judge has given a finding as below:

Exceprts from Naroda Patiya Judgement Point 14, Pages 305, 306


(1)  The affidavits filed in the Hon‟ble Supreme Court are also another point of cross-examination and arguments. Firstly, it has not been proved that whether this affidavit was produced in the Supreme Court or not. The most important aspect is, it is not elicited from the I.O. as to whether these affidavits were really filed at Hon'ble the Apex Court or not. No certified copy has been secured from Hon'ble the Apex Court. When defence wants to rely upon it, it should highlight reasonable probability of its filing, if not proof. No investigation was carried out admittedly on that and secondly the purpose for filing such affidavit is different from the purpose of giving the testimony and even giving statement before SIT. Hence, two unequals cannot be compared.
(2) Even if it is accepted that such affidavits were in fact filed then also the reason for which the affidavits were filed before Hon'ble the Supreme Court of India that too, in a transfer petition, is absolutely different than giving statement before the Investigating Officer. Hence it cannot be treated as earlier statement of the PW in the sense that it is not the same thing. In the humble opinion of this Court these affidavits cannot be used to challenge credibility of the witnesses as submitted.
(3) It is possible that after six years, when the PW gave statement for the first time in free and fearless atmosphere after getting the security which the PW did not have during previous investigation, the PW could muster courage to state many more true facts. But at times, after coming home from the SIT, one remembers many other things which one has missed while telling it to the SIT. It can happen that the witness would like to tell those left out things in his testimony. Hence, if something was not told to the SIT and if told only to the Court, then, in such case, it is not proper to believe that the witness is speaking lie only on that count. It is different that the deadline has to be drawn somewhere. In the facts and circumstances of this case, what is not told before SIT and if it is material contradiction or omission in the eyes of the Court then that part has been kept out of consideration as interest of fair trial demands that. Except the uniform, mechanical sentence and such other aspects and such other parts which has not inspired the confidence of the Court even in the investigation of SIT by and large the investigation of SIT is the base of the case.
(4) Even if it is accepted that these affidavits were filed, then it was obviously to support the transfer petition and not to prove or investigate the prosecution case, therefore also, the purpose being different, this cannot be held to be earlier statement made during the investigation.
(5) Who drafts the affidavits, for what, when, who translated the contents of instruction of the P.W. are also all the issues needs to be answered before giving importance to this part of the cross but no such material is on record. It is therefore just and proper not to blow it out of proportion.”

Point 32, Page 332

It is notable that it is not alleged that the NGO leaders or lawyers or the social workers have any personal enmity or ill-will against the accused. Hence the suggestion in the cross-examination of PW that they have been speaking as was taught to them, is found very irrelevant. What would be the benefit of such NGO is nowhere suggested except suggesting that it was to defame State of Gujarat. But then, the State of Gujarat is not an accused but is the prosecuting agency which was forgotten it seems. No substance is found in this submission.”

6. We would like to emphasise that in the ten long years repeated attempts by the state of Gujarat and its agents to induce witnesses and turn them hostile have not borne fruit. In  2004 the star witness in the Best Bakery case turned hostile for a second time while she was due to give evidence in re-trial in Mumbai and on November 3, 2004 made malafide allegations against me and my organisation. I moved the Hon‟ble Supreme Court praying for an independent inquiry into the allegations. An Inquiry conducted by Registrar General Supreme Court BM Gupta was ordered that completely exonerated me and my organisation. (July 2005)

7. The Supreme Court of India (March 2006) convicted Ms Shaikh to one year simple imprisonment for contempt of court and the Trial Court for perjury. I submit that subsequently an Income Tax Inquiry ordered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court found an amount of Rs 18 lakhs going to “undisclosed person” from the account of ruling party MLA. Shri Madhu Srivastava (AK Malhotra’s Report of the Special Investigation Team presented to the Hon’ble Supreme Court, May 2010). While as I said before, the allegations have remained the same those who made them have changed. In all these twists and turns, senor advocates belonging to the BJP (Mr Lekhi, father in law of Meenakshi Lekhi for Ms Zahira Shaikh (2004-2006), Mr Mahesh Jethmalani for Yasmeen Shaikh(2011), VHP advocates like Ankur Oza for Raiskhan Pathan.

8. I include below excerpts from the report of the Registrar General for your easy reference (July 2005):-

Excerpts: Registrar General Supreme Court of India Shri BM Gupta’s Report

Pg 28: “Sh. Baria appears to be an independent and believable witness. Nothing is there on record which can suggest any interest of this officer in writing such a statement /complaint on behalf of Ms. Zahira without stating by her. All the five witnesses denied the allegations of Ms. Zahira and against it only the statement of Ms. Zahira cannot be accepted. Thus, no inducement by tutoring, as alleged is proved”.

Pg 32: At this final stage, she (Zahira) appears to take this stand by first time that at that time her signatures were obtained on a large number of papers and it may be treated as afterthought. This is also a vague explanation as she has not clarified as to who obtained these signatures of hers and why without any verification she signed this Ex.37, when such document was to be submitted to very highly placed authorities i.e. Hon‟ble Chairperson of NHRC and Chief Commissioner. She does not say that whether there 
was inducement, coercion, threat or pressure of any kind so far as this document is concerned. In this view, it cannot be said that there was any inducement, coercion, threat or pressure behind this document

Pg 34: As discussed above, the allegations of Ms. Zahira that there was inducement by tutoring by Ms. Teesta and her so called and her so called agents Sh. Mohd. Vora, Sh.Arif Malik and Sh. Munna Malik does not establish so far as this document is concerned.

Pg 37: “Ms. Zahira admits the existence of this affidavit dated 20th May, 2002 filed before the Nanavati Commission. Now it is for Ms. Zahira to explain the existence and truthfulness or otherwise of the same. According to the statements made by her in her affidavits and during Inquiry Proceedings, she only puts aforementioned allegations against aforementioned persons and all these persons are examined and they have denied the allegation. Weighing the testimonies put forward by both the parties including the witnesses, the stand taken by Ms. Zahira with regard to this affidavit also is not established or appears not to be true and hence it cannot be accepted that there was any threat/ inducement/ coercion and pressure in the root of these four document”.

Pg 45: The allegations of confinement put by her (Zahira) is not believable as not supported by the circumstances as mentioned hereinafter nor by any other witness. “Thus, in view of the above, no inducement, threat, coercion or pressure whatsoever has been established in this part”.

Pg 49: “As discussed above, no coercion through tutoring and putting the words by Ms. Teesta into her mouth and also substitution of statement by another already prepared document do not establish”.

Pg 101: “It may undisputably be said that the phrase „to have fruits of heaven out of hell‟ has now been established synonymous to Ms Zahira who once earned public sympathy out of her desertion through the condemned tragedy has made concerted efforts and has engaged herself in having cash/comforts from every possible corners... Ms Zahira changed her stand three times as already mentioned in parts A to D and that changing of these stands are well known”.

Pg 102: Allegation of Ms. Zahira of Tutoring by Ms. Teesta or her agents
“In her affidavit dated 20th March, 2005, Ms. Zahira puts an allegation against Ms. Teesta that she or her agents, Mohd. Vora, Arif Malik and Munna Malik tutored her for giving/submitting the statements/affidavits before the various authorities. As against this, the following part of her statement *************************************************************************************** [pages of Vol. II] shows that there was no influence by tutoring of Ms. Teesta on her or on her family till she went to Bombay and, as such, there is no truth in the said allegation:

“Question” Whether influence, fear or pressure of Ms. Teesta started on you in July 2003 after you went to Mumbai?
Answer: There was no influence of Teesta on me or on my family prior to the period I was taken to Mumbai.”
Difference appears in both the statement.

Pg 103: As per affidavits dated 3rd November, 2004 and 20th March, 2005 of Ms.Zahira, she stated that she was forcefully taken from Vadodara to Mumbai by Shri Rais Khan, agent of Ms. Teesta and kept there in ***************************************************************************************** in trial court, Mumbai, she admitted that she was kept very well by Ms. Teesta and the fact of her taking forcefully does not find place in the statement before the trial court, Mumbai.

Speaking truth or lies

For the first time on 6th August, 2005 in her statement [pages 453 of Vol. II], she admitted the fact that “earlier I used to live with them alone and they got the things done through me as they wished to do, earlier I have told lies also but now I am not telling a lie and I would not do so even in future”

 During her examination on 6th August, 2005, Ms. Zahira has said: [pages 431 of Vol. II]

Question: If you knew that all these things are false then why did you do soon being tutored by someone?

Answer: They had told me that I would get compensation provided I say so, otherwise not.

Question: It means that you told a lie in order to get compensation?

Answer: I had stated as they wanted me to state.

Apparently, she can even tell a lie for getting compensation for herself”.

Pg: 105: “Looking at the aforementioned status in full including all other circumstances of the case, I feel no hesitation to mention that Ms Zahira is not such a lady who speaks the truth and has developed an image of a self-condemned liar whose statements alone cannot be safely accepted”.

Pg 55: “Mr Chavan, Inspector, Bombay police who recorded the statement of Ms. Zahira on 16th December, 2003, vide his affidavit dated 22nd August, 2005 stated that he had gone to record the statement of Ms. Zahira at the place of Ms. Teesta and recorded the statement of Ms. Zahira as stated by her and it was read over to Ms. Zahira and she signed. For this document same view can be attributed as of affidavit dated 8th September, 2003 the genuineness is not to be seen here and no allegation from any of the parties with regard to the scope of this inquiry is available on record”.

9.. Given this detailed and rich background—and also given the fact that BLP Member of the Legislative Assembly (and Minister) is now convicted of Incitement to Murder, Criminal Conspiracy and Distribution of Arms) we thought it in the fitness of things to place this Communication on record and provide detailed background material to show how despite repeated exonerations by Courts from the Trial Court to the Supreme Court, the propaganda by the party guilty of ruling over the violence in 2002 and stray persons whom they win over are targeting one group that continues to toil for justice for 2002.

10. The ploy in 2012 was now a Criminal Defamation complaint filed by Rais Khan which is 
being used by sections of the Gujarat Police as a roving Inquiry against not just us but all those 
who have assisted us and dozens of poor witnesses to intimidate them. We have challenged 
this in the Gujarat High Court and the matter is still pending.
An earlier response from CJP

Sunday, 23 June 2013

R B Sreekumar

A collection of articles on/by Sreekumar -

The Wages of Dissent


Delhi too muting CBI probe in Ishrat Jahan case?

Mumbai Mirror Bureau

Someone is interested in stalling the CBI probe into the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, and it is not just the BJP.

It is not just the BJP that, for obvious reasons, wants to soft-pedal investigations into the extra-judicial killings in the Ishrat Jahan case. Astonishingly, the New Delhi dispensation too, has been dawdling on the matter. Some of its actions are taking the edge off the ongoing CBI investigations. 

In late April, additional DGP and senior Gujarat IPS officer P P Pandey, an accused in the case, was interrogated at his residence for two-and-a-half hours after which he broke down, fearing arrest. 

"And there was no reason for us not to do so (arrest him)," said an officer associated with the investigation. But a message from the capital insisted that Pandey should not be arrested; that he should be interrogated some other day, and that the interrogation just done would be considered "off the record and not official." 

By the time the CBI sought out Pandey in the second week of May, the officer had disappeared. What the logic was being deferring Pandey's arrest is puzzling, said a senior officer associated with the investigations. 

Pandey was also reportedly spotted in New Delhi with a Congress minister at least twice, even after the CBI had issued an arrest warrant and pleaded that he be declared an absconder. The minister even requested another senior colleague to help out Pandey. Pandey was declared an absconder in the case by a special CBI court. 

In the case of Intelligence Bureau super cop Rajinder Kumar, the CBI says it has adequate evidence to immediately arrest him. Kumar allegedly provided false intelligence inputs to Gujarat police and facilitated the killings. But RK, as he is known, is not being arrested; the CBI says the "green signal is yet to come." 

Kumar of course has someone to defend him within his own organisation. IB Director Asif Ibrahim has accused the CBI of gunning for Kumar. 

A Tehelka expose says the CBI will testify before a trial judge in Ahmedabad that one of the accused officers has, in a sworn testimony, identified Rajendra Kumar as a mastermind of the encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan and three others in June 2004. 

The agency, on directions from the Gujarat High Court, is expected to file its chargesheet before the trial court on July 4. 

The report also says another officer has testified that Kumar met the 19-year old Ishrat while she was in illegal police custody. And that yet another testimony with the CBI implicates Amit Shah, who was a junior home minister in Gujarat at the time of the killings. 

It was the claim of the accused that they had intelligence inputs that the four who were killed were terrorists setting out to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. 

Why is Kumar being sheltered, and why are officers who are pursuing the Ishrat case diligently being side-lined or described as over zealous? There are several unanswered questions in the dark Ishrat Jahan case. 

Independent sources confirmed to Mirror that the CBI is deliberately going slow on Kumar. And this, it seems, is at the behest of a powerful Congress lobby whose intentions are unclear. 

Sources claim that Kumar has been shooting veiled threats at Congressmen. He has warned "to expose over a dozen senior Congressmen and obligations he has discharged for the UPA government" if he is "touched" by the CBI. 

No Congress leader was willing to come on record to discuss the issue. Those spoken to dismissed allegations that they were shielding Kumar as baseless and "planted by the BJP".

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Case Against Teesta Setalvad - Tavleen Singh

This is one in a series of blogs to put the facts in one place about various charges levelled against Teesta Setalvad -

1. Spicing up the riot cases

2. Lunawada mass graves

3. Madhu Trehan's attack
Also see Coverage of English media of Mumbai violence simplistically

4. Funding

The case of Kausar Bano

6. Memorial of Resistance 

7. Tavleen Singh

8. Rais Khan

The ‘communalism’ divide

Tavleen Singh 
Posted: Nov 21, 2004 at 0059 hrs IST

NOW that Hindu fundamentalism is on the verge of extinction, can we start discussing it and fundamentalism in general with a degree of detachment? Probably not but I am going to try. With Hindutva’s poster girl Uma Bharati in disgrace, our most important Shankaracharya in jail and the BJP in seemingly terminal decline it seems clear that Hindutva’s might was hugely exaggerated. What puzzles me is how a phenomenon that could be extinguished by an electoral defeat should have assumed such proportions that someone as supposedly knowledgeable as President Clinton’s national security adviser, Sandy Berger, could liken it to Islamic terrorism? Strobe Talbott in his new book, Engaging India, describes a lunch with Jaswant Singh at which he points out to Berger the rumblings of radical Islam and how important India’s role could be in helping the West fight it and Berger replies that he is as worried about Hindu fundamentalism in India.

This was before 9/11 but for Berger to even consider the comparison is indicative of how good we Indians are at maligning our country. It is from the writings of Indian journalists that Western policy makers got the impression that Hindu nationalism was as much a threat to the world as radical Islam and that nuclear weapons were as unsafe in our hands. It is from the writings of Indian journalists that Western NGOs formed the impression that Christians and Muslims in India were on the verge of being wiped out. You may remember how often we reported that Gujarat was the ‘‘laboratory’’ for this plan but what you probably do not remember is the untruthful reports (never denied) that churches were being burned by Hindus in districts like the Dangs. What you probably do not remember is the alleged gangrape of nuns in Jhabua (allegedly by Hindu fanatics) that never happened and that again went un-denied.

Indian journalists of ‘‘liberal’’ bent have been predicting the death of Indian secularism since the Babri Masjid was pulled down, so it is strange, is it not, that what appears to have died instead is Hindutva.

In the vanguard of those fighting Hindu fundamentalism was Teesta Setalvad’s magazine, Communalism Combat. It won awards, went from strength to strength, received laurel upon laurel until, recently, when Teesta’s protege Zaheera Sheikh condemned her for exploiting her for money.

When she made these charges I remembered other charges that had been made and contacted Teesta’s husband and partner, Javed Anand. He requested a list of questions which I sent and he answered, albeit in hurt tones that I should ask the same questions that had been raised by the ‘‘saffron brotherhood’’. In answer to a question, he said the magazine did not need to be registered as an NGO because it was not one. It was a private limited company, he said, that rendered accounts to the Income Tax Department. Fine. Though communalism is an odd subject to make a profit out of.

This is not about Communalism Combat or the fight between Zaheera and Teesta. What it is about is the number of magazines and NGOs that have thrived on maligning India for being a country as fundamentalist as our Islamic neighbours. Is it not time to ask where their funds come from?

With Hindutva gone for the foreseeable future, can we now please start dealing with the more serious problem of radical Islam? And can we hope that the magazines who thrived on painting India as a country of fanatics will now concentrate on exposing communalism of the other kind?

Personally, I doubt this or we would already have seen some attempt in these journals to draw attention to the fact that the most successful exercise in ethnic cleansing in India has been of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley. Last week in Jammu, the Prime Minister offered them better accommodation than the hovels they have lived in for nearly 15 years, but is that all we can offer them?

There was a time when secularists argued that there was no point in worrying about ‘‘minority communalism’’ because it could not break up the country while Hindu fundamentalism could. With radical Islam transcending international borders this is no longer the case. Javed Anand, in his response to my questions, charged me with ‘‘unfairly tarnishing an entire community’’ when I wrote of the dangers of Islamic terrorism. But I would be telling less than the truth if I did not say that on my travels I see a dangerously radical mood among ordinary Muslims that manifests itself mainly as rage against the US. I do not know how this rage can be calmed but do know that it would be dangerous to ignore what is happening.

Calling Tavleen Singh’s bluff

Posted: Dec 02, 2004 at 0000 hrs IST

If a high-flying columnist such as Tavleen Singh were to limit herself to peddling prejudice, paranoia and sheer naivete as informed opinion, who are we to stand between her and her precious constituency? But when basic journalistic ethics are given the go-by even while a facade of objectivity and even-handedness is diligently maintained, when insinuation is paraded as argument, when facts are selectively handpicked to dress up fiction, Ms Singh’s bluff needs to be called.

In her recent column ‘The communalism divide’ (The Sunday Express, Nov 21), the prime target of Ms Singh’s wrath are ‘‘magazines and NGOs who have thrived on maligning India for being a country as fundamentalist as our Islamic neighbours’’. Ms Singh’s ‘‘anti-national’’ magazines and NGOs remain nameless and faceless, with the sole exception of Communalism Combat, the monthly magazine that we co-edit. But even here, instead of holding her ground as an honest critic, she stoops to the hit-and-run tactics of cowardly journalism.

Before writing her column, Ms Singh e-mailed us a list of ‘‘harsh questions’’. They added up to the charge that we are a shady, unregistered outfit (NGO), accountable to no one, funded by ‘‘Saudis of a dubious nature’’ for publishing a magazine that cries itself hoarse over Muslim victims of communal violence but keeps silent over the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and the victims of the anti-Sikh carnage in 1984.

We give a detailed reply to all the questions. We categorically state that the magazine or its editors do not have a single petro-dollar to hide, that Communalism Combat is not an NGO activity but is published by a registered, private limited company whose audited annual accounts are regularly filed with the Income Tax and other authorities. In addition, we attach a specially-prepared list of headlines of cover stories and special reports published by Communalism Combat since its launch in August 1993, so that Ms Singh could see for herself that the magazine has been as unsparing of Muslim communalism and extremism, lamented the fact that the victims of the anti-Sikh carnage of 1984 had been denied justice, frequently highlighted the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, and repeatedly castigated Bangladesh and Pakistan for the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities. (We would be happy to e-mail a copy of the list to all interested readers of The Indian Express). We also inform Ms Singh that she is welcome to access archives on our website,

It is obvious in retrospect that Ms Singh was merely interested in those bits of facts that suited her thesis, the rest she would twist or fabricate.

‘‘In the vanguard of those fighting Hindu fundamentalism was Teesta Setalvad’s magazine, Communalism Combat....’’ Excuse us. Ms Singh is entitled to her opinion of us and of our magazine, but what gives her the right to distort facts? Did she not owe it her own professional integrity to share with her readers the information (fact) that the editors she accuses of being concerned with fighting Hindu fundamentalism alone, among other things, co-hosted the visit of Taslima Nasreen to Mumbai in March 2000, kept her at their own home, arranged public meetings and interviews for her, in support of her right to be heard and in defiance of Muslim fanatics who had threatened to burn Taslima alive if she dared enter the metropolis?

CC was the perhaps the first publication in South Asia to feature the inhuman and oppressive politics of the Taliban in Afghanistan (‘Hell on Earth’, cover story, November 1998). It was up front, questioning the Islamisation of the movement in Kashmir (‘The Talibanisation of Kashmir’, cover story, November 1999). ‘Living with Terror, Minorities in Bangladesh’, our cover story for September 2004, is only the latest in half-a-dozen cover stories and special reports that we have featured in the last few years to highlight atrocities against Hindus and other minorities in neighbouring Bangladesh.

‘‘Teesta Setalvad’s magazine, Communalism Combat....’’ Elementary journalistic courtesy would have required her to point out the fact that CC is co-edited. But Teesta needed to be singled out so that she could be ‘‘exposed’’ immediately thereafter: ‘‘Teesta’s protege Zaheera Shaikh condemned her for exploiting her for money.’’

The choice of words (protege) is telling. Why was Zaheera’s allegation not part of the list of charges and queries against us for our version? Shouldn’t Ms Singh have informed her readers that within days of Zaheera’s allegation, it is not she but Teesta who has applied to the Supreme Court praying for a probe into the murky episode? Zaheera has rushed her complaints to the National Commission for Minorities and National Commission for Women but is fighting shy of going near the National Human Rights Commission, the only among the three commissions to be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. Does this not arouse Ms Singh’s journalistic curiosity?

‘‘Communalism is an odd subject to make a profit out of’’. We gave Ms Singh a fair picture of how profitable communalism has been for us in the last 11 years. Why she has chosen to keep that a personal secret only she can answer. We started Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd in the hope of undertaking professional assignments that would generate revenue to sustain Communalism Combat, which we foresaw as not being viable on its own strength. What, prey, is so odd about that?

Having distorted facts and employed clever words to make insinuations against the only two persons and their magazine she names in her entire column, Ms Singh pretends her column is not actually about them! How ingenious! Her column, she says, is about ‘‘anti-national’’ magazines and NGOs ‘‘who have thrived on maligning India for being a country as fundamentalist as our Islamic neighbours’’. Having adopted a hit-and-run tactics vis-a-vis us, Ms Singh can proceed to hurl the most outrageous charges without any fear of contradiction for she smartly names no names.

We need only repeat the plaint of fellow journalists in recent years: ‘‘Please don’t shoot the messenger!’’ If with their ‘‘What face will I show to the world?’’ and ‘‘Gujarat is a blot on the nation!’’ even Vajpayee and Advani have been forced to acknowledge Narendra Modi’s malevolent role in maligning India, why is Ms Singh chasing imaginary ghosts?

The timing of her demand for an inquiry into NGOs and their source of funds is interesting, echoing as it does Modi’s demand immediately after Zaheera’s fresh turnaround under the protection of the Gujarat police. The Gujarat Chief Minister’s desperation is understandable. Be it the deposition of top IPS officials before the Nanavati Commission, or the evidence piling up before the courts, or the ongoing expose in the very paper that provides you with precious column space, things are getting hotter by the day for Modi. A desperate man will take desperate steps. What’s your problem, Ms Singh? Don’t be so naive as to write such a premature obit for Hindutva. And can’t you see that the best way to fight terrorism, Islamic or otherwise, is to fight against injustice. That is all that we are trying our best to do, through Communalism Combat and otherwise. Pick a forum of your choice for an honest debate but deviousness does not befit a journalist like you.

Are these all ‘anti-national’, Ms Singh?

A sample of Communalism Combat cover stories, special reports since August 1993:

• October 2004: Special Report: ‘Confronting honour killings’ (in Pakistan)

• September 2004: Cover Story: ‘Living with Terror: Minorities in Bangladesh’; Editorial: ‘The butchers next door’

• July 2004: Cover Story: ‘Talaq, talaq, talaq’; Also see, ‘Us’ or the ‘enemy’, an opinion piece by Javed Anand as part of the cover story

• July 2004: Special Report: ‘Religion-based reservation’

• June 2004: Special Report: ‘Kashmir: The politics of Fear’

• February-March 2004: ‘Minority women’s rights are human rights’

• January 2004: Special Report: ‘Pandits: When will they return?’

• December 2003: Special Report: ‘Doctoring young minds’ (Pakistan)

• October 2003: Special Report: ‘Bangladesh: Terror Raj for minorities’

• Aug-Sept 2003: 10 years of Communalism Combat. The full issue is a feedback from a wide cross-section of CC readers, doing a ‘social audit’ of the magazine. ‘‘It is to me, the secular Gita of our time’’ (Swami Agnivesh)

• May 2003: Special Report: ‘Kashmiri Pandits: On the firing line’

• February 2003: Cover Story: ‘The Road Not Taken: Secularism in India’ (Please see article by Arif Mohd Khan)

• February 2003: Forum: ‘Rethinking Islam’

• January 2003: Cover Story: ‘Violence in South Asia’

• July 2002: Special Report: ‘Targeted: Bangla Hindus’; ‘Gang rape in Pakistan’

• July 2002: Comment: ‘Male order’ (Blurb: ‘Liberal Muslims, men and women, must condemn the chauvinism of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’)

• Jan-Feb 2002: Special Report: ‘Kashmir, the moral dimension’

• December 2001: Cover Story: ‘Bangla Hindus, Victims of Growing Muslim Extremism’

• November 2001: Special Report: ‘Hindu trauma’ (Bangladesh)

• November 2001: Debate: ‘To my Muslim friends’

• November 2001: ‘Politics behind the purdah’

• October 2001: Cover Story (following 9/11): ‘Islam: Moment of Truth’

• July 2001: Cover Story: ‘Winds of Change’ (Kashmir)

• May 2001: Cover story: ‘Thrice Oppressed’ (Blurb: ‘Dalit and Muslim women grapple with the triple burden of caste/community, class and gender’)

• March 2001: Cover story: ‘Should the Haj subsidy go?’ (Yes, in CC’s opinion); Special Report: ‘Barbarians in Bamiyan’

• October 2000: Special Report: ‘Nowhere people: Hindus ousted from Pakistan’

• September 2000: Special Report: ‘A forgotten people’

• August 2000: Cover Story: ‘ISI: The demon we feed’

• March 2000: Cover Story: ‘Taslima Nasreen in Mumbai’ (Because a Muslim fanatic outfit threatened to burn her alive if she dared enter Mumbai, Communalism Combat and Mahanagar joined hands to invite her to Mumbai)

• March 2000: Special Report: ‘Syedna’s stooges target Asghar Ali Engineer’

• November 1999: Cover Story: ‘The Talibanisation of Kashmir’

• October 1999: Special Report: ‘Short on arguments, Hindutva tries the foreign funds bogey against Combat, NGOs’

• July 1999: Cover story: ‘After Kargil, Kashmir’

• April 1999: Cover Story: ‘Denying a shared past’ (RSS and Tableeghi Jamaat two sides of the same coin)

• March 1999: Cover Story: ‘The enemy within’ (Blurb: ‘Muslim extremists unleash a reign of Taliban-style terror on co-religionists, women specially, in Left-controlled West Bengal and Kerala’)

• February 1999: Cover Story: ‘Allah’s army in Pakistan, Hindutva brigade in India, Buddhist Lions in Sri Lanka’

• February 1999: Special Report: ‘Right to be Rushdie’

• November 1998: Cover Story: ‘Islamic Afghanistan: Hell on Earth!’

• November 1998: Neighbours: ‘Whose right is it anyway?’ (Blurb: ‘Humanism must mean more than Islamic solidarity (OIC) through selective outrage’)

• October 1998: Special Report: ‘Mullahs bay for Taslima’s blood in Bangladesh’

• May 1998: Cover Story: ‘How green is my Valley?’ (Blurb: ‘The killing of innocent Hindus by Pakistan-trained mercenaries in J&K is one more bid to convert the Kashmiriyat issue into a Hindu-Muslim problem’)

• May 1998: Special Report: ‘Equal Before God’: Christian feminist theology denounces male domination as ‘sin’

• March 1998: Special Report: ‘Kashmiri Pandits: Tragedy of errors’

• September 1997: Cover Story: ‘What kind of a God will condemn a ‘heathen’ child to eternal Hell? (A hard-hitting essay by Swami Agnivesh)

• September 1997: Special Report: ‘Fatwas for all seasons’

• June 1997: Campaign: ‘Afghan women seek support’ (against jehadi tyrants)

• May 1997: Cover Story: ‘Shah Bano lives’(A seething indictment of the Muslim clergy and Muslim men and the role they played in the Shah Bano issue, a powerful story by Pakistani writer, writer Zahida Hena)

• May 1997: ‘The right to silence’ (A castigation of Muslim fundamentalists from Kolkata who flout the high court directions against noise pollution)

• May 1997: ‘Women beyond the veil’

• March 1997: ‘Justice for Muslim women: Bangladesh shows the way’

• March 1997: ‘The sack of Shantinagar’ (special report on the biggest attack on the Christian community in Pakistan in 50 years)

• February 1997: ‘In Allah’s Home at last’ (Muslim women gain the right to enter a mosque in Kerala)

• February 1997: ‘Blasphemy and Bangladesh: Fighting religious fundamentalism’

• February 1997: ‘Outlawed by Faith’ (On the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan)

• January 1997: ‘Central government stalling reforms in their personal law demanded by Christians’

• January 1997: ‘Feminism and the Catholic church in the US’

• October 1996: ‘1984 anti-Sikh riots: Will cops go scot-free?’

• October 1996: ‘If Muslim societies are unable to do justice to women, they will be wiped out of history’ (Interview with Riffat Hassan)

• August 1996: ‘Mandirs are dark and narrow, masjids are open and airy: How history is taught in Pakistan’s schools’

• May 1996: ‘Muslim press and purdah’; ‘Blame male chauvinist Muslim societies, not Allah, for women’s oppression’

• April 1996: ‘Religious laws are not merely retrograde but can also be very divisive for women’ (By Salma Sobhan, Bangladesh activist)

• April 1996: ‘Shah Bano: Bangladesh shows the way’; ‘(Indian) Muslims demand end of triple talaq, restricted polygamy’

• March 1996: ‘Tablighi Jamaats are misleading Muslims’; ‘Dissent is the issue’ (in defence of Taslima Nasreen)

• May-June 1995: Cover Story: ‘Code and conduct: Muslim voices in favour of reforms in all personal laws in India’

• May-June 1995: Special Report: ‘Muslim mob attacks Ahmediyas’ (Malegaon)

• May-June 1995: Ethos: ‘A cheap passport to the Muslim heaven’

• April 1995: Interview: ‘Muslim campuses more intolerant’: Prof Mushir-ul-Hasan

• March 1995: Interview: ‘In Pakistan I can be convicted for adultery on the evidence of four Muslim males, but a Muslim cannot be convicted on the evidence of non-Muslims’: Former chief justice of Pakistan, Dorab Patel

• March 1995: ‘Rent-a-mullah service: Pakistan’s blasphemy law should go’

• February 1995: ‘Is this Ali Miyan’s Islam?’

• January 1995: ‘Moulding of a moulvi’s mind’

• Nov-Dec 1994: Special Report: ‘Forgotten victims of a communal vendetta’ (Blurb: ‘Apart from a few human rights organisations, no one wants to remember that ten years after the genocide of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in the country, the guilty—Congress(I) leaders who master-minded the carnage and police officials who turned a blind eye—are yet to be punished’)

• October 1994: ‘On Taslima Nasreen’ (In defence of Taslima Nasreen), by C M Naim

• July 1994: Appeal: ‘I will not be silenced’; Taslima Nasreen

• June 1994: Cover Story: ‘Freedom to dissent’. (Blurb: ‘If democracy is to survive, the call to kill Rushdie or Taslima Nasreen must be unequivocally condemned’)

• April-May 1994: Campaign: ‘Join hands with Mushir-ul-Hassan’

• Campaign: ‘Support Iranian Women’

• April-May 1994: Forum: ‘Kashmir and the secular Jinnahs’

• March 1994: Cover Story: ‘Uniform Civil Code or Gender Justice?’

• March 1994: Media X-Ray: ‘Islam lovers’ and ‘Hindu fascists’ (On the Urdu press)

• March 1994: Media X-Ray: ‘Allah’s earthquakes’ (On a sickening editorial in the Urdu Times)

• November 1993: ‘Muslim foot-in-the-mouth disease’

• August 1993 (The first issue of CC): ‘Muslim women against the moulvis’

(CC has also published numerous reports, including cover stories, on Dalit oppression. Chandrabhan Prasad started his career as a columnist in Communalism Combat. As you can imagine, what he wrote for us was very critical of secularists in general and the Left in particular, even though we are both very proud of being part of the Left tradition)


I’m ready but will they talk to someone as ‘prejudiced’ as me?

Tavleen SinghPosted: Dec 05, 2004 at 0000 hrs IST

If you read this newspaper last Thursday you would have seen your humble columnist’s name splashed across this page in six columns. Used as I am to seeing it only in the minuscule type of bylines it made me feel like quite a star. What had I done to deserve such celebrity, I thought, bleary-eyed after yet another long night of festivity in this season of weddings? Had I won some award? No such luck. All I had done was get so badly under the skin of the editors of Communalism Combat that I had provoked a diatribe. So incensed were Javed Anand and Teesta Setalvad by the paragraph on them in this column two weeks ago that their rejoinder turned into a rant. ‘‘If a high-flying columnist such as Tavleen Singh were to limit herself to peddling prejudice, paranoia and sheer naivete as informed opinion, who are we to stand between her and her precious constituency? But when basic journalistic ethics are given the go-by even while a facade of objectivity is maintained, when insinuation is paraded as argument, when facts are selectively hand picked to dress up fiction, Ms Singh’s bluff needs to be called’’. Phew! What prose. Why bother writing with such passion against a pathetic, prejudiced, paranoid and naive creature like me?

For my part I believe in dispassionate debate. So I am going to answer the charges they make. They charge me with making ‘‘insinuations’’ about their funding, with singling them out as anti-national, with ‘‘cowardly’’ journalism, with accusing them of being concerned only with Muslim victims of communalism and with ‘‘echoing’’ Narendra Modi’s demand for an inquiry into NGO funding.

Let us start with ‘‘insinuations’’. There were no insinuations. I was clear that I found Teesta’s ‘‘high-flying’’ ways questionable. When Zaheera Sheikh charged that Teesta had exploited her for monetary gain I remembered that people often wondered about Communalism Combat’s funding and saw it as an NGO with an agenda. Inquiries with the Charity Commissioner of Maharashtra revealed that they were not listed as an NGO, so I rang Javed Anand and asked why not. He said it was because they were a private limited company. I asked him outright if he would like to answer the charge that Communalism Combat was funded with Saudi money. No insinuation there. The reason I asked was because an editor I know was once asked to edit a magazine on communalism and refused when it was revealed that money for the enterprise was coming from the Gulf.

As for my having called Communalism Combat ‘‘anti-national’’, I never have. I detest the expression. I believe, though, that it made too much out of Hindu fundamentalism and that is what I wrote. I believe also that people like Teesta and Javed get into dangerous territory when they equate Hindu fundamentalism with radical Islam. One of their own headlines speaks for itself ‘Denying a shared past’ (RSS and Tableeghi Jamaat two sides of the same coin). I believe they are as different as Hinduism and Islam.

Islam has a book written by God, it has a messenger of God to whom that book was revealed and who enjoins followers to go out and preach Allah’s word and convert the ‘‘unbelievers’’ gently if possible but violently if necessary. Hinduism, whose real name is Sanatan Dharam, does not believe it is the final word on anything or that it was blessed with the last Prophet. It believes everyone has the right to believe what they like and worship as they will.

Another problem I have with crusaders against ‘‘communalism’’ is that by banging on about secularism and communalism they distract attention from the real issue, which is the justice system. The only way to stop hate crimes is severe punishment for those who commit them. It is about justice never being done and not about that uniquely Indian, and much used, word, communalism.

Politicians have long used secularism and communalism to distract attention from their inability to solve our real problems. But it is much easier to stir up religious and ethnic passions than to provide a billion people with drinking water, electricity, jobs and housing. Isn’t that what Modi did in Gujarat? Which brings me to the last two charges Teesta and Javed levelled against me: that I was ‘‘echoing’’ Modi and that I was ‘‘insinuating’’ that they were only concerned with Muslim victims of ethnic violence.

The first I am not going to dignify with a response and as for the second I stand by my insinuation. Along with their tirade they published a sample of Communalism Combat stories to prove their fairness. On that basis I can bet that less than 10 per cent of their stories deal with violence against Hindus and Sikhs but I am ready to accept their offer of an ‘‘honest debate’’. What I don’t understand is why they would want to talk to someone who is prejudiced, paranoid and naive.

write to


In Defence of Communalism Combat

As a columnist Tavleen Singh is proving to be just the opposite of what she used to be as a journalist
Posted Saturday, Dec 11 00:00:00, 2004
N P Chekkutty

Tavleen Singh has been a journalist who commanded my respect from the days when she was reporting for the now defunct Sunday, edited by M J Akbar, and her reports from various parts of India, giving graphic details of the life in the Other India will always remain as some the best journalistic writings I have ever read in my life. Her writings carried a passion rarely seen in Indian journalism, a forthrightness of conviction and they were always well- researched as she used to travel far and wide in search of her stories.
Later on when she took to writing books, she seems to have started losing her balance as anyone going through the pages of her work, Kashmir: A Tragedy of Errors, would think she was not writing about Kashmir and its steep and sudden fall into a cauldron of violence, but about her own travels in the place and her contacts among the high and mighty in the Valley.

Now in some of her recent columns in Indian Express, Tavleen Singh seems to have completely abandoned her journalistic caution, her meticulous adherence to well-researched arguments, and her insistence on facts over fiction. As a reporter, this has been her main strength. But as a columnist, she is proving to be just the opposite of what she used to be as a journalist: She is opinionated, unfair and often wild off the mark in her assessments.

In two recent articles in Indian Express, she is making wild allegations and insinuations against a fellow journalist-tuned activist, Teesta Setalvad who runs the ten-year-old magazine Communalism Combat. Her allegations seem to be clearly motivated and it raises issues of contemporary journalism such as what is to be considered fair comment, and how far a column can make use of hearsay or just guesswork while commenting on public issues.

First let us just take up the issues that Tavleen Singh raises against Teesta Setalvad and Communalism Combat which she co-edits along with her husband Javed Anand, from Mumbai. In her piece "The Communalism Divide", published in Indian Express on November 21, Tavleen Singh makes the point that those magazines who thrived on painting India as a country of fanatics should now concentrate on exposing the communalism of the other kind. She insists that they do not attack Islamic fundamentalism, a much more serious threat than Hindu fundamentalism and alleges that this type of journalism was making a clean profit out of the business of communalism. She also goes onto say that it is time to ask where do they get their funds from.

Then when Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand reacted to her allegations (Indian Express, December 2) pointing out that her allegations were factually incorrect, she takes an injured tone even as she repeated the same allegations again without any effort to substantiate any one of them. She writes (IE December 5): "I stand by my insinuation. They [have] published a sample of Communalism Combat stories to prove their fairness, [but] I can bet that even 10 per cent of their stories do not deal with violence against Hindus and Sikhs"

She once again repeats her allegations that funds for such efforts as Communalism Combat, a campaign journal, were coming from nefarious foreign hands like the Saudis. The message: The journal is Saudi funded, they do not write anything against Muslims, their campaign on Best Bakery case and other human rights violations are insincere.

I have no idea whether any journalist writing against Hindu communalism is writing such stuff because he/she has accepted money from the ubiquitous Saudis who have so much of petro-dollars. It is possible there could be some people who take money from such sources, but then it must equally be true that there could be some others accepting money (or other considerations like a seat in Parliament, an ambassadorship or something else) from the Hindu fundamentalists or any others who have an agenda to sell. But I don't think it would be fair for any sensible journalist to say that Tavleen Singh or any other person who defends the Hindu rightwing is doing so not out of conviction but out of financial considerations. This is crap, to say the least.

Tavleen Singh attacks Communalism Combat as a journal which singles out the Hindu rightwing as the only threat to Indian secularism and ignores the much more serious threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism. I think this is a grossly inaccurate accusation, because as a reader of Communalism Combat who has followed the commendable work this little journal and its editors and writers had done for upholding secular ideals in the country in the past one decade, would agree that they are fair, and they are unsparing of all hues of communalism, whether Hindu, Muslim or any other. In fact, I remember that back in 1998, when I first came to know Teesta Setalvad, it was when she wanted me to write a report on the rising trend of Islamic fundamentalism in Kerala, in the backdrop of worldwide pan-Islamic upsurges and the jungle law rule of Taliban in Afghanistan, the hounding of Salman Rushdie by the Iranian mullahs and the attacks on Talima Nasreen in Bangladesh, etc.

The facts presented by Teesta Setalvad and Javed in their rejoinder completely refutes this charge of selective attack on Hindu communalism with a list of select articles on the threat posed by fundamentalists of other hues; Muslim, Christian or Sikh that appeared in the journal in the past few years. The fact of the matter is that Communalism Combat, right from the days of its inception in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai riots in 1992-93 had made a serious effort to nail down communal forces of every kind and it was unsparing of all of them. But Tavleen Singh seems to find fault with them because they were successful not only as journalists unearthing facts often unreported by mainstream media and then relentlessly followed them up with an action plan, but also as human rights activists fighting such cases in the courts of law.

Tavleen too admits this, though indirectly. She says she is writing about these journalists-on-the-communalism-business, as she remembered allegations about them when Zahira Sheikh made her charges against Teesta Setalvad in the sensational Best Bakery case. I think this is the crux of the matter: Best Bakery case is a turning point in Indian journalistic and legal history as this journal and its editor fought so hard and long that she could convince the Supreme Court that the earlier criminal investigations and court proceedings in the State of Gujarat were not objective and fair, thus getting an order from the apex court transferring it to Mumbai for a retrial.

Anyone who has a sense of the real world, as Tavleen Singh ought to have, could see that those who are likely to be in dock if the case runs its full course would try to influence the proceedings and derail the whole process, as they had done successfully in the past. They must be at it again, because this trial is so crucial for the Hindu fundamentalist right in India. Communalism Combat did a splendid job fighting such forces and Tavleen Singh attacking them for what they did is a surprising development, given the fact that this kind of action is what we need in our profession today . I feel this is the time to rally round people like Teesta Setalvad and Communalism Combat,because there is a concerted move to derail the course of justice in Best Bakery case, buying up witnesses and influencing the course of law. I hope Tavleen Singh would remember her own past and would rally round the fighting journalists who espouse a cause and not run them down with silly allegations at a critical juncture as in the case of Gujarat riot trials.

However more recently, Tavleen Singh has been raising the issue of failure of criminal justice system. This piece was written before the Naroda Patiya judgement. One cannot  fail to notice the kid glove treatment that Modi gets from her. Here I feel the secular discourse has made a blunder by shifting attention from VHP, BD etc and concentrating on Modi alone.

A matter of justice
The Afternoon - Tavleen Singh
| Column | Apr 2012

For two days before the verdict of the Special Investigating Team (SIT) was due on the Gujarat riots, the possible exoneration of Narendra Modi seemed to be the only thing anyone wanted to speak to me about in Delhi. Television anchors got their aides to call and ask what time I would be available to make a comment, ‘secular’ friends expressed gloomy concern about possible exoneration of the man they have demonised for a decade and my more ‘communal’ friends said cheerfully that they believed that Modi would finally be able to step onto the national stage if he was given a ‘clean chit’ by the Supreme Court’s investigative team.

On the day that the verdict was announced, there was a sudden storm in Delhi. I was driving home when the afternoon sky darkened menacingly and dusty winds started blowing noisily to be followed by rain, thunder, lightning and finally hail. I said a prayer for farmers because nothing worse can happen than a hailstorm at this time of year and then found myself reading portents into the stormy weather. By now I knew that the SIT had announced that there was ‘no evidence’ linking Modi to the Gulberg Society massacre in which the Congress politician, Ehsan Jafri, was brutally murdered in a massacre that claimed the lives of nearly a hundred people. Were the gods displeased with the exoneration?

Communal riot competition

When I got home and turned on my television I came upon Teesta Setalvad quarrelling angrily with a BJP politician called Yatin Oza. At the end of the shouting match that ensued, Ms Setalvad said in one of her few calm moments that she considered the verdict ‘a setback’. Later that evening, on Barkha Dutt’s special show on the Gujarat verdict, I found myself arguing with both the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ravi Shankar Prasad and the Congress Party’s Manish Tewari. I found the comments of both these gentlemen distasteful because they reduced the debate to a communal riot competition. Prasad brought up, as BJP politicians usually do, the massacres of the Sikhs in 1984 and Tewari responded that the Prime Minister had personally apologised whereas the Chief Minister of Gujarat has never expressed a word of remorse. Lord Meghnad Desai, who sat beside me in the NDTV studio, agreed that Mr. Modi needed to apologise, causing me to intervene and point out that an apology would make no difference to those who saw their loved ones die brutal, untimely deaths in barbaric violence.
In the futile attempts to vilify and exonerate Mr. Modi, what appears to have been lost is the main lesson of the Gujarat riots. This is that it should not have taken ten years for justice to be done. It is because our justice system works in such mysteriously slow ways that people continue to believe that they can get away with killing people simply because they belong to another religion. Having covered more incidents of communal violence than I can list in this column, I have found that the one reason that the violence happened at all was because the killer mobs knew that they would get away with their crimes.

They are right to believe this. Nobody of any consequence has been punished for the massacres of the Sikhs in 1984. The mobs that wandered about Delhi seeking out Sikhs to slaughter were led by Congress party leaders, who have not only remained unpunished but have, in many cases, been awarded with tickets to contest elections. What signal does this send out to those who want to participate in the next bout of barbaric bloodletting? The officials and policemen, who are usually complicit in the violence, have never been made to answer for gross dereliction of duty. So why should they not believe that their political masters expect them to allow killer mobs to do their evil deeds unhindered? If our justice system worked better, the sickening cycle of communal violence would have been halted long ago. It is my view that the violence we saw in Gujarat in 2002 was the last major Hindu-Muslim riot we will ever see, but this is not because the justice system has started working better but because private news channels make massacres virtually impossible. Even the most hardened hate-mongers and murderers hesitate to perform when there are television cameras trained on them.

Modi’s not the real problem

This does not absolve the criminal justice system of its responsibility to start functioning in a way that provides justice before it becomes so delayed as to be meaningless. No country that likes to boast about adherence to the rule of law can afford to allow murderers to remain unpunished for decades. Those who join the mobs when there is communal violence are murderers, but they are never called this because when the violence is over they go back to being faceless tailors, carpenters, butchers and political workers. Why is this allowed? Why do we continue to believe that putting Narendra Modi in jail will bring closure to Gujarat? Surely those who did the actual killings in Gulberg, Naroda Patiya and Ode need to be named and locked up for the rest of their miserable lives, but this is not what has happened so far.

Whenever I have gone back to Gujarat since 2002 I have made it a point to revisit villages like Ode where Muslims, including women and children, were locked into a building and burned alive. And, I have met people who participated in these ghastly crimes who have gone back to being ‘normal’ citizens. When I have asked them if they are ashamed of what they did, they usually answer proudly that they did what they did as an act of patriotism and valour. When the serpents who spread this kind of poison are identified and sent to jail for incitement to violence, we will see the end of communal tensions in India. But, for this to happen, we need a criminal justice system that does not take a decade to do justice.

Since 2002, Gujarat has changed, Mr. Modi has changed, the media has changed, politics has changed, but the criminal justice system continues to function much as it has always done. Slowly. The question we need to ask is why this is so? Why do eminent chief justices find it so hard to put their own house in order even as they lecture political leaders and officials to improve their methods of functioning? This is the question we must keep asking over and over again
Now Tavleen Singh correctly identifies the dangers of Islamism, like Madhu Trehan, she fails to appreciate the importance of what Arup Patnaik did in this piece-

Reaping the wages of pandering to Islamism for votes
By Tavleen Singh on August 25, 2012

Tags: islamism, Islam, Raj Thackeray, Fanaticism

When Barkha Dutt asked me to appear on her show last Tuesday the subject for discussion was meant to be the latest reports of the Comptroller & Auditor-General. I find the CAG’s method of auditing dubious and was eager to talk about this. But, by the time I flew from Mumbai to Delhi the subject had changed to Raj Thackeray’s protest against the police handling of the recent violence at a meeting organised by the Raza Academy. On my way to the airport in Mumbai I had seen small crowds of people walking down Marine Drive carrying Maharashtra Navnirman Sena flags but had not expected the thousands who rallied to Thackeray’s call. The MNS genre of bigoted, provincial politics does not appeal to me even slightly but as someone who lives in Mumbai I understood local anger about the way in which Muslim mobs were allowed not just to run riot in the city on August 11 but to even attack policemen.
Barkha invited the Police Commissioner of Mumbai Arup Patnaik (who has since been shunted out) to be part of her show along with Sanjay Nirupam of the Congress and a member of the MNS who frothed bile every time he opened his mouth. And, there was the human rights activist, Javed Anand, and distinguished Mumbai citizen, Alyque Padamsee.  Barkha began by giving the Police Commissioner a chance to explain why he had been so gentle with a mob of violent fanatics who snatched weapons out of the hands of policemen, attacked public property including a war memorial and allegedly molested policewomen. The Police Commissioner said his restraint came from a desire to avoid police firing in which hundreds could have been killed. He was applauded for this by the two Muslim gentlemen on the panel and Nirupam and savaged by the MNS representative and in the end the focus became policing methods and not minority fanaticism which, in my view, is a much more serious problem.
It has been fanned for decades by political parties hungry for Muslim votes and has now reached alarming levels.  In some parts of India we have homegrown Taliban style groups. Remember the Christian professor in Kerala whose hand was chopped off by Muslim vigilantes who took objection to a question paper set by him? Remember the Muslim women teachers who were banned from teaching in a Kolkata college because they refused to wear the burqa? Remember the Raza Academy’s own offer of a reward of Rs 1 lakh to anyone ready to throw a slipper at Salman Rushdie if he dared to appear at the Jaipur Literary Festival? Unfortunately for the slipper-throwers the organisers of the festival were too cowardly to stand by Rushdie or the writers who read from his work at the festival. So, Muslim fanaticism won that round.
As it seems to win every round because the police and our ‘secular’ political parties consider all exhibitions of Islamist fanaticism harmless, so even when the police came under personal attack in Mumbai on August 11 they responded gently. Would they have done the same if it was MNS men who seized semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of policemen and rampaged through city streets? Mumbai’s Police Commissioner has been applauded as a hero by Muslim groups but it is exactly this kind of double-standard in policing and politics that, in my view, has allowed the spread of Islamism’s bigoted ideology across India.
The Raza Academy is considered a ‘moderate’ Islamic group and yet it has no qualms about imposing literary censorship on writers like Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen forgetting that India is not an Islamic country. And, because our political leaders are usually too cowardly to stand by the principles on which India was founded the fanatics win. This is why we have seen the gentler, more refined Islam that was born out of India’s syncretic culture disappear under veils, beards and ugly religiosity. In the 20 years that I have been an itinerant citizen of Mumbai I have seen these changes happen before my eyes in Muslim quarters of the city in the form of an increased number of veiled women and bearded men. If you chat to them, as I do, you will find that nearly all of them believe that 9/11 was the work of Zionists and that 26/11 was the work of the RSS. They have a sense of grievance that is not based on reality.
On my travels in other parts of the country I see signs of this new fanaticism and religiosity everywhere. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, to use that old cliché. In Kashmir it would have been almost impossible to see a veiled woman 30 years ago. Islamic rules there were so flexible that women prayed in mosques alongside men and Sufi shrines were places where even Hindus were allowed to worship.
In southern India where there never used to be visible signs of difference between the attire or the surnames of Hindus and Muslims there now are. I personally started noticing them about 20 years ago in Tamil Nadu where I met Muslim women in Coimbatore who had taken to wearing salwar-kameez and speaking Urdu. The same sort of thing is happening in Maharashtra and there are madarsas in villages now that teach Urdu.  In Rajasthan I have visited villages near Nagaur that look as if they belonged in Saudi Arabia. At a famous shrine near one of them I was astounded to see a board that spoke of how India was a land of darkness and superstition until Islam arrived. The shrine commemorated an Iraqi mullah who had come all the way from Baghdad to teach us barbarians about Allah’s message.
Raj Thackeray may be wrong to tap into Hindu anger for his own political aggrandisement but anyone who thinks that this anger does not exist needs to think again. So when the police allow Muslim mobs to go berserk in a city like Mumbai they end up pandering to a dangerous new kind of fanaticism that should never be pandered to. This is why in this writer’s book Arup Patnaik is not a hero. He should have been reprimanded for not anticipating the violence of August 11 instead of being applauded for stopping it before it spread through the city. Whatever may have happened in Assam and Burma the Raza Academy could have found a better way of protesting than gathering a mob. One mob nearly always leads to another.

For an alternate view on Arup Patnaik's role in controlling Mumbai violence of August 2013 see here