After 23 years in jail, I am free but what you see now is a living corpse, says Nisar

Acquitted in Babri anniversary train blasts case, Nisar was among 3 who walked free this month.

– See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/babri-masjid-demolition-train-blast-tada-supreme-court-acquitted-in-babri-anniversary-train-blasts-case-nisar-2824883/#sthash.1Je5gWXI.dpuf

Ex-Gujarat IPS Rahul Sharma Faces Fresh Proceedings, Says He Isn’t Aware of It

He has been targeted by the Gujarat government ever since he presented mobile phone records of ministers, police officers and bureaucrats before the commission probing the 2002 riots.

File photo of Rahul Sharma. Credit: Special Arrangement

Though the home ministry has given its go ahead to the Gujarat government to start fresh disciplinary proceedings against former Indian Police Service officer Rahul Sharma, he said he was not aware what the new case was about. Sharma has been in the crosshairs of the BJP state government after he made a submission before the Nanavati Commission that was probing the 2002 riots.

“I have only heard about the latest permission but no information has come to me regarding this so far,” Sharma told The Wire. But, he said, that had been the case with most showcause notices and explanations sought from him by the state government earlier as well.

Speaking about how he has been repeatedly targeted by the BJP government ever since he decided to present mobile phone records of ministers, police officers and bureaucrats before the commission, Sharma said, “there were six showcause notices (against him), but only one has been dropped. As for the remaining five, I do not have any information on them”.

Similarly, the Gujarat government had earlier, when Narendra Modi was chief minister, sought nearly 30 odd explanations from him. But here again, Sharma said “this is what appeared in the newspapers. I had no formal communication regarding them”.

On being asked if he was fighting any case in the courts right now, the senior cop, who took voluntary retirement last year and is now a practicing lawyer, replied in the negative, saying, “none, zero”. Sharma said the proceedings against him, so far, had not been serious. “Showcause does not have any meaning, they are not truly speaking departmental enquiries, but probably just build up to that. The only showcause which was dropped was before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order – it pertained to the issue of rewards to the personnel,” he said.

The state asked him to explain the payment of a sum of Rs. 3000 to his driver and gunman as dearness and travel allowance and his three-month delay in accounting for a personal trip by a government vehicle.

The Gujarat government has this time sought permission from the home ministry to proceed against Sharma for some other “offence” because under the All India Service Conduct rules such a nod is essential to initiate any action against an IPS officer within four years of retirement. Sharma had applied for premature retirement in November 2014 which was accepted in February 2015.

For many, Sharma remains a hero who saved the lives of many innocent Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots when he was posted as Superintendent of Police in Bhavnagar. This aspect has also been revealed in Rana Ayyub’s latest book, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up, in which she has made a mention of how G.C. Raigar, who was the intelligence head of Gujarat during the 2002 riots and later became Additional Director General of Police, spoke to her about Sharma.

Raigar told her in an interview, “He’s (Rahul Sharma) under scrutiny [by the government] for saving Muslim lives. He saved Muslim children in a school. Not only saved but he also arrested some people and [he] arresting a ruling party member so they got him transferred from his posting.”

Sharma had also shown great courage in the face of adversity to submit the CDs containing the phone records of important functionaries around the time of the riots before the Nanavati Commission. For his actions, which were perceived as transgression by the government, Sharma was repeatedly issued show cause notices by the Gujarat government. He was also chargesheeted in 2011 in connection with some CDs containing vital mobile phone data going missing.

In response, Sharma had moved the CAT which in January 2016 scrapped the chargesheet and in a severe indictment of the state government held that the case pertaining to him was “tainted by mischief” and “coloured by malice and mala fides”.

This episode also finds a mention in Ayyub’s book: “The Gujarat government had issued a notice to senior IPS officer Rahul Sharma asking how and why he submitted phone records of senior politicians and bureaucrats during the riots to inquiry commissions without approval. In its notice, nine years after the riots, it asked Sharma why action should not be taken against him.” She wondered how this could have happened when “the SIT itself stated that the Modi government did not keep any records or minutes of the crucial meetings it held during the riots.”

Incidentally, she said, Sharma, a 1992 batch IPS officer was DCP (control room), Ahmedabad, in April 2002. “Investigating the violence at Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society, he collected data from AT&T and CelForce mobile service providers of all calls received and made in Ahmedabad during this period and handed over these to the Crime Branch. These CDs containing phone records of senior ministers, police officers, and members of RSS and VHP to each other were subsequently ‘lost’. But while deposing before the Nanavati Commission set up in March 2002 to inquire into the riots, Sharma submitted a copy of this CD that he had preserved,” she wrote.

Courtesy: Thewire.in

 

Why many Pakistanis view Indians as the monsters across the border

But a Gallup study found that 73% of Pakistanis polled felt that their opinion about Indians changed for the positive after meeting them.

“I will go to hell now,” wailed a young sixth grader, seated in an upper middle class school in Lahore. I had just distributed a stack of postcards, which had arrived from India as part of an exchange project I was running for the Citizens Archive of Pakistan. Indian students had sent pictures of religious festivals, weddings and other cultural highlights. One postcard depicted a Hindu deity and had landed with this particular child. She looked up at me with her innocent wide eyes and whispered, “My eyes have committed sin, my mother said if I see something like this on TV or otherwise I will go to hell.”

A few months later when I took a handful of Pakistani students with me to Delhi as part of this project, a school principal received us with garlands and reached forward to place a tikka on our foreheads. Three of the children had begun to cry; they asked me if this meant they had become Hindu. They had heard numerous tales of their ancestors being converted by force they said. Was this their fate too?

The imaginary monster

Gallup Pakistan recently conducted a study on Partition and revealed that 76% of Pakistanis surveyed have never met an Indian. In a country with just 3% minorities, it is unlikely that most of them have come across a Hindu or Sikh either. But in the absence of this “other,” Pakistanis have found it necessary to construct the “other.”

The Two-Nation Theory – which is overtly or tacitly endorsed by all mainstream political parties, and is entrenched in history textbooks and media debates, especially in Punjab – demands the existence of this “other,” to define ourselves against. The “other” then becomes a figment of our imagination; an imaginary monster looming on the other side of the border, a monster fed on state jingoism, biased educational curriculum and media propaganda. An essential part of our identity is based on the premise that Pakistan is the pure neighbour of an infidel nation, one that it must protect itself against.

History in Pakistani textbooks only begins with the introduction of Muhammad Bin Qasim, who rid the land of all infidel practices. History textbooks openly call Hindus enemies, labelling the entire religious community as mischievous and treacherous. As part of this, certain versions of the past are highlighted, versions which reiterate the enmity between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and which accentuate Hindu and Sikh atrocities at the time of Partition, portraying Muslims as innocent bystanders and victims.

One of the children I had taken across with me to India as part of the delegation had later told me:

“There was a passage in my Class 5 Urdu book. It said Sikhs used to butcher little children with their swords and cut them up into little pieces. When we crossed Wagah border and you told me that a few Sikhs were receiving us, I expected them to be holding those daggers. When I saw them holding the garlands instead, that image shattered in front of me.”

Unfortunately, for 76% of Pakistanis, who never come across Indians, this image continues to resonate with them.

No grey, just black and white

The Gallup Pakistan study further reveals that 48% of Pakistanis believe that Muslims did not carry out any violence against people of other religions at the time of Partition. Conversely, 56% Pakistanis state that Hindus were most responsible for causing chaos and clashes during Partition. Furthermore, 57% of the respondents stated that neither they nor their forefathers had any Hindu or Sikh friends before 1947. The phrase, “Hindus can never become the true friends of Muslims,” from the Punjab Textbook Board Islamiyat textbook resonates loudly with this line of thought.

It is perhaps no wonder that only 24% of the respondents stated that they are not satisfied with the syllabi in history textbooks. For the rest, the textbooks and their tall claims are the only truth they know, and want to know. 92% respondents stated that they would have voted for Pakistan had they been mature adults at Partition, 80% stating that they would have agreed with the Two-Nation Theory, and 71% shared that they felt Muslims had benefitted from the creation of Pakistan.

Renowned political psychologist Ashis Nandy’s study on Partition a few years ago had revealed that 40% of his sample had recalled stories of themselves being rescued by someone from the other side. According to the Gallup Pakistan study, however, 61% of Pakistanis have never come across an incident of someone being saved by a Hindu or Sikh at Partition.

This is not surprising. Sitting in the heart of Punjab throughout my childhood, I heard stories about blood-strewn trains, massacres and mutilated bodies. These versions were told and retold through textbooks and Independence Day special programmes every August 14. They were also reiterated in story-telling sessions with my maternal grandmother, who had served at the Walton Camp in Lahore, one of the largest refugee camps set up for the millions that were crossing over the newly-formed border. When I would express the desire to visit India, my grandmother – one of the kindest people I know – would say, “Tobah tobah, udhar tou sirf saanp rehte hain, (God forbid, only snakes live on that side).”

My grandmother had fortunately not lost a single family member at Partition. Yet over time, I learnt that many Partition survivors like her had personalised general stories of carnage and bloodshed, and felt and shared them as personal tragedies. For my grandmother, India was synonymous with the Hindus and Sikhs who had butchered women, men and children at Partition, and whose bodies she had to bury during her time at the camp. For most children and grandchildren of Partition, these are the only versions they have heard, the only truth they know. Many of them, even the most educated lot, find it difficult to decipher between religion and national identity. A student once emphatically stated, “Of course Shah Rukh is Pakistani, after all he’s Muslim!” The same logic is used by many in Pakistan and India to question the loyalties of religious minorities in their respective countries. The minorities have to time and again prove their Pakistani- or Indian-ness.

The case for dialogue

But in the midst of all this, are other narratives and stories waiting to be explored. During the course of my research on Partition, 25 years after hearing stories of the Walton Camp repeatedly at family gatherings, I went back to my grandmother and began to ask a different set of questions. I was struck by how many other stories she had held within, stories which had been engulfed by the trauma of Partition, by the state narratives that reinforce the bloodshed and violence at the hands of non-Muslims, by the histories that emphasise otherisation.

I learnt for the first time of her sister being saved by a Sikh family in Amritsar at Partition. I learnt about her friends Uma and Rajeshwari, who a few years ago had brought her saris from India and for whom she had bought gifts. I heard about her baby sister being named after her father’s Sikh friend’s daughter. Grandparents and great grandparents on both sides of the border hold many such tales deeply seated in their hearts. Some utter them; others speak through their silences. But for many children and grandchildren of the Partition generation, these stories are never heard, never explored.

Though Partition survivors have lived through the violence and trauma of Partition first hand, they have also lived in a community where the “other” was not really the “other” but an essential part of their daily lives. There was a mutual co-dependence of sorts. Their children however have only inherited a linear version of history, a history most often gone unchallenged.

Though one must be vary of generalisations, many Indians suffer from the same biases and prejudices. It is perhaps no wonder then that a child of no more than six years of age ran away from me in Mumbai after hearing I was from Pakistan. When I asked him why, he said he was scared of Ajmal Kasab. Other children were in awe that I was not clad in a burqa. They asked me if I had ever tasted pizza, been to an ATM, and of course, whether I had met Hafiz Saeed.

Through the parochial lens that we use to see the “other,” such stereotypes become easy to form. The only hope lies in the fact that with more access to each other, some of these stereotypes can be thwarted.

The Gallup Pakistan study found that 73% of Pakistanis felt that their opinion about Indians changed for the positive after meeting them. In January 2016, I held a Skype session with 7th graders in a school in Mumbai. Though we started the discussion with an air of suspicion, with children openly telling me that when they thought of Pakistan, they automatically thought of terrorism, at the end of the one hour session, one child commented:

“Now I know not all Pakistanis are murderers, I can think of going across too.”

That’s what dialogue, what one hour of conversation between Indians and Pakistanis, can achieve. The longer we wait, however, the more we are at risk of being absorbed by the rigid and myopic versions of the “other,” versions which will become the only truth that we will ever encounter. For those who recall the nuances of that time, the varied experiences, the co-existence, would no longer be amongst us.

Anam Zakaria is the author of Footprints of Partition: Narratives of Four Generations of Pakistanis and Indians.

 

Courtesy: scroll.in

No Room For Dalits In India’s Newsrooms, Reporter Finds Only 3 In All Of Karnataka

 

By Maitreyee Boruah for Youth Ki Awaaz:

Had it not been for Rohith Vemula’s heart-rending account of his early life as a Dalit in the note he left behind, it might have been just another suicide.

But the contents of the suicide note not only led to massive protests, it also triggered a series of debates in the media on the discrimination faced by Dalits in higher educational institutes.

In such a scenario, where newsrooms have never attempted to make their spaces diverse in nature, a recent advertisement by a popular magazine seems to be a step in the right direction.

In media houses, where the hiring process is largely informal, with very few publications and TV channels advertising positions for journalists, the said magazine’s advertisement seeking ‘a Dalit- or an Adivasi-only person’ for the post of a reporter is rare.

Reliable data is not available to establish the number of Dalit/Adivasi journalists in media; experts say it is minuscule. Media critics say coverage on issues of caste, communalism and discrimination lacks sensitivity because of the absence of journalists from these sections.

“These days, media houses scout for entry-level journalists from media schools. Most of the Dalits/Adivasis are poor. They can’t afford to pay the high fees charged by these institutes. Thus, very few young Dalits/Adivasis are getting trained as journalists,” says Aditya Sinha, author and former editor-in-chief of ‘DNA’ and ‘The New Indian Express’.

Sevanti Ninan, editor, ‘The Hoot’, which regularly conducts research pertaining to the media to strengthen its independence, says she had no doubt that the number is still minuscule, but the situation is changing.

“The Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai has scholarships for Dalit journalists. One of their graduates is a state correspondent of The Hindu. They have applicants from other states (outside Tamil Nadu) and there would be a dozen or more coming out of their course. The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) has some reserved seats too. Dalits like tribal journalists are attracted to the reservation that exists for them in teaching and other jobs. Journalism does not offer them a secure future,” Ninan adds.

As per a report published in Kafila in 2014, “Though, the Asian College of Journalism—a not-for-profit school–does not have reserved seats, it accorded scholarship to four SC/ST students in 2012-13, as previous years. Notwithstanding scholarship, the percentage of Dalit students in ACJ to the total intake is woefully low: 1.5 percent of the total students for three-year combined.” It also cites how, “Some expensive private institutions such as Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Xavier Institute of Communication, Times School of Journalism and Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication have no scholarship or reserved seats for SC/ST students.”

“Our media houses are not pluralistic and liberal in nature. Most editors and journalists are from the upper castes and privileged sections,” says Chandra Bhan Prasad, Dalit author, and mentor to the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI).

“The near-absence of Dalit and Adivasi journalists reflects in the way news related to underprivileged sections is given scant importance by the press,” he adds.

Even the aforementioned magazine advertisement cites the same reason for the “diversity position” in its job posting.

E-mail queries sent to the executive editor of the magazine to find out the response received by them to their advertisement went answered.

To date no survey has been conducted by any competent authority, including the Press Council of India (PCI), to know the exact percentage of Dalit and Adivasi in Indian newsrooms. It is a fact though that very few from these sections of society are in mainstream media.

Lack of ‘merit’ and the Dalit ‘preference’ to work in the government sector are often cited as reasons for the absence of journalists from underprivileged sections in media houses.

Times Have Not Changed: The Case Of Karnataka

Bala Gurumurthy, author, activist and administrative officer at the Karnataka government run Dr. Ambedkar Research Institute which studies socio-economic status of SC/ST in the state, says Dalit issues make headlines only when they are violent in nature such as rape, murder, and suicide.

Dr. Ambedkar Research Institute was established by the government of Karnataka in 1994. The Institute functions under the administrative control of the Social Welfare Department. The mainmotto of the institute is to study the socio-economic status of the SC/ST population in Karnataka.

“What about social boycott? A Dalit endures various kinds of humiliation and struggle. How many times TV debates bring those questions to the fore?” Gurumurthy asks even as he insists that very few journalists are sensitive towards the cause of the Dalit and the marginalized.

Two decades ago, B.N. Uniyal, a veteran journalist from Delhi made an attempt to “find” a Dalit journalist in Delhi at the request of a foreign correspondent, who wanted to speak to a “Dalit” journalist on a tussle between Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders and journalists.

Uniyal could not find a single Dalit working journalist! The result of his frustrating search was apioneering article “In Search Of A Dalit Journalist” published in The Pioneer on November 16, 1996.

17 years later, in 2013, Delhi-based journalist and author Ajaz Ashraf, for a story he wrote, could identify only 21 Dalit journalists across India.

Three Alone!

Today, 20 years after Uniyal’s search for a Dalit journalist, the author of this report could zero in on only three Dalit working journalists in all of Karnataka— one in an English newspaper; two in Kannada newspapers.

They shared their caste details and spoke of the discrimination Dalit journalists faces in media houses. Of the three, while two did so on strict conditions of anonymity, fearing for their “careers,” only one was comfortable in using his name.

“We are very few in number. I know only one more person (apart from me) from the Dalit community who works as a reporter in Kolar district,” says K.S. Ganesh of the popular Kannada newspaper Prajavani.

Ganesh acknowledges to discrimination against Dalit journalists in newsrooms. “It is a well-known secret. If we talk about it, it would be taken against us. We would be accused of dividing the journalist fraternity on the basis of caste,” he says.

“They say they don’t have the space. That’s their best excuse. The Kolar edition of my newspaper regularly carries stories on the marginalised sections but they don’t get published in the Bengaluru edition,” says Ganesh.

Of the other two who chose to remain anonymous, one, a senior reporter of a prominent English daily who has been working for more than 10 years said, “If I openly discuss the deep-rooted prejudice against Dalit and Adivasi in media houses, my career would be in jeopardy.”

There are many instances of leading media houses giving jobs to relatives of senior editors as they dominate the newsroom but not to a qualified Dalit, the senior reported insists.

The second Bengaluru scribe who sought anonymity and works for a Kannada daily, says people from dominant castes say the Dalit lacks merit, that the Dalit has less command over the language.

Living In Denial?

Not many upper caste journalists acknowledge the existence of caste-based bias in media.

“We are journalists, we don’t have any caste or religion. Keep caste away from the media,” says a Kolkata-based Brahmin woman journalist. “I don’t believe in the caste system. Neither do I practice caste-based discrimination. Who says a Brahmin can’t report and write on Dalits? A journalist has to be sensitive, that’s all that’s needed.”

However, a few ‘upper-caste’ journalists do admit to a dearth of scribes from marginalised sections. They blame the editors and media owners for not bridging the gap.

“It is not easy to talk about the existence of caste-based politics in newsrooms. (Only) few editors and owners of big media houses actively encourage diversity and discussion on it in newsrooms,”says Samir Kar Purkayastha, a Kolkata-based independent senior journalist.

How To Fix It

Media houses can take a cue from the US and conduct a survey on the lines of American Society of Newspaper Editors (asne.org) Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey, suggests Prasad.
“The Indian Dalit is like the African-American in the US. The American press rectified the exclusion of Blacks by increasing their numbers in newsrooms. Surveys done by ASNE are a testimony to it,”he says.

Increasing the diversity in US newsrooms has been a primary mission of ASNE since 1978. The society has been an industry leader in helping news organisations better reflect their communities, states the ASNE website.

nagaraju koppula
Nagaraju Koppula

Then there’s the question of the Dalit journalist and allegations of disparity in pay. When cancer claimed the life ofNagaraju Koppula, a Dalit scribe working with The New Indian Express, Hyderabad, in 2015, his friends alleged underpayment and caste discrimination at his workplace.

The movement could not sustain for long as it was not backed by any prominent institution. Despite the demand for compensation from the employer of Nagaraju and the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission, however, not much has happened so far.

But there are those who beg to differ. “This applies to all (journalists), irrespective of caste or gender. Similarly designated journalists are paid differently depending on place of posting, English media journalists are paid better than their counterparts in the vernacular medium. Like hiring, pay packages of journalists are never openly discussed. So it would be difficult to say if Dalit journalists are further discriminated in terms of salary,” says Purkayastha.

Ninan says there simply isn’t enough information available on this issue in the public domain.

Uniyal was disappointed when “In Search Of A Dalit Journalist” failed to force editors and owners of media houses to seriously introspect and overthrow the “Brahminical” dominance of newsrooms.

Two decades later, not much has changed: There’s very less room for the Dalit in newsrooms.

About the author: Maitreyee Boruah is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist and a senior member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters. Her reporting reflects issues of society at large and human rights in particular.

Geospatial Bill: Another Attempt To Control the Free Flow of Information

The draft bill, in a single stroke, manages to puncture all kinds of aspirations for privacy or open data sharing.

Credit: Wikipedia

The obsession of nations with maps is an ancient phenomenon. Beginning with the zealous guarding of maps through an intricate ecology of sailors, sea captains, ministers and Spanish royalty in the 15th century – even as the “New World” and alternative routes to “the East” were being discovered, to the excellent account which Rudyard Kipling gives in his book, Kim, which is, in fact, a book about how two different states fight over the mapping of mountain terrain – the mapping mania, and the struggle to control maps is at least as old as the idea of the modern state itself, if not older.

So it should come as no surprise when the Indian government, on May 4, released a draft of The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 to “regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto” .

The draft geospatial bill is a classic illustration of how the concern of the state tends to become about its own protection and about fostering its own existence at the cost of civil liberties. With its righteous (if unspoken as articulately) justification on the grounds of “nationalism” and “national security,” this bill (whose basic features have been concisely explained here), in a single stroke, manages to puncture all kinds of aspirations for privacy, open data sharing, human dignity, constructive speech or expression, and well, just plain reason. Here’s how:

State Problem 1: The “nationalist” need to control mapping through licensing regimes (read: colonial state continuities)

Licensing of media, while an important tool on many occasions such as the allocation of natural resources like newsprint and spectrum, and airwaves, actually has the most consistent history in India of being used as a method of State control over what people talk, how people talk, and to whom people can talk (see Report of the Second Press Commission of 1978 and the discussion surrounding it).

Historian Ranajit Guha, traces this state paranoia regarding people’s conversations back to the 19th century. This was a time when the British were greatly frustrated with all the “rumours” that used to float about then – these “rumours” also had a role in fueling the 1857 revolt (it was a “rumour” about the pedigree of army cartridges which served as “the spark in the powder keg,” so to say). But basically, the colonial state’s frustration over rumours was the frustration over its inability to control people’s conversations, and where the idea of media licensing regime was borne in India in the form of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. And this painfully sweet colonial fruit has spread its seeds in Indian law for well over a hundred years now, surviving the Constitution and now thriving well into the 21st century.

It is in this trend of events that the current draft bill on geospatial mapping can also be located. Section 3(1) lays down that without the “general or special permission” of a so-called Security Vetting Authority (which is provided to be set up especially under the Bill), “no person shall acquire geospatial imagery or data including value addition of any part of India either through any space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or terrestrial vehicles, or any other means whatsoever.” Section 3(3) additionally specifies that such permission, if deemed appropriate, will be granted by the authority “within three months from the date of receipt of an application,” but given that it is India, you know that could be several years. And thus, following the wake of the colonial state, another attempt to control the free flow of information has been designed by the contemporary State of “free India.”

Licensing mechanisms in the field of community radio have plagued the industry and held back growth in the name of nationalism and national security. Are we to expect the same with maps and the host of geo-data online start-ups that are starting to grow in India?

State Problem 2:  The “nationalist” suspicion of crowdsourced and open-source or any easily shareable mapping data (read: unconstitutional violation of free expression)

Section 3(1) of the draft bill reads like this: “Save as otherwise provided in this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder, or with the general or special permission of the Security Vetting Authority, no person shall acquire geospatial imagery or data including value addition of any part of India either through any space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or terrestrial vehicles, or any other means whatsoever.”

So what constitutes “geospatial imagery or data”? Well, the funny thing is those terms are not exactly defined under the bill (bad legislative drafting is becoming so commonplace that it is not even worth commenting on), but rather, “geospatial imagery or data” is included under the category of “geospatial information,” and that is defined as following (see Section 2(e) of the draft Bill): “Geospatial Information means geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles including value addition; or graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth or any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a co-ordinate system and having attributes.”

This definition is certainly one tall order. Especially the bit about “any other means whatsoever”. What is amusing is that it would have been a tall order even in the time when men and women only drew landscapes with flower pigments or charcoal (thus “mapping” the terrain), but in an age of high-tech smartphone cameras, Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, Foursquare, Facebook checkins, your Ola and Uber rides, Whatsapp location share, phone and car GPS systems and the very cute Mapbox, it borders on the ridiculous. What the paranoid state is trying to tell us is that it owns our surroundings. It owns everything we see around us. And all this, with very little subtlety or nuance. But then, as has been said, the nature of law, is violence.

This discomfort with accessible mapping will almost certainly clash with the guaranteed right to the freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, since “right to information” (and therefore, “geospatial information”) has been read as a part of Article 19(1)(a) since at least 1975 (see Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain). Though Article 19(1)(a) is limited by Article 19(2) which covers “laws in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, and in the security of the State” with the shroud of constitutionality, the law in question nevertheless needs to qualify as a “reasonable restriction.”

This test, as amply clarified in the Shreya Singhal judgment last year (by referring to a 1989 Supreme Court judgment), lays down that what constitutes a “reasonable restriction” is as follows (see para 38): “The anticipated danger…” [eg. of national insecurity, which the law in question might be trying to erase] “… should not be remote, conjectural or far-fetched. It should have proximate and direct nexus with the expression. The expression of thought should be intrinsically dangerous to the public interest. In other words, the expression should be inseparably locked up with the action contemplated like the equivalent of a “spark in a powder keg.

Though it is true that in the Shreya Singhal case, the discussion was not exactly around “sovereignty and integrity” and “security of the State” but rather around “public order” in this context, but the framing of Article 19(2) amply illustrates that “reasonable restriction” is a requirement common to both these grounds, so it might as well be extended to “sovereignty and integrity” and “security of the State.”

So the question then becomes this: Will this crazy regulation of mapping survive the standard of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution? It would seem not, since this Bill prevents one from drawing a map for a friend of yours who is new in town in the interest of safeguarding of national security etc. (as the Preamble of the draft Bill states), does seem “remote, conjectural and far-fetched.” Doesn’t it? So I guess what I’m saying is this: I think this Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 can also be argued to be declared a pretty unconstitutional bit of legislative draft.

State Problem 3: The “nationalist” fear of Internet which allows for easy flow of information (read: what happens to the State when citizens don’t need intermediaries?)

Academician Balakrishnan Rajagopal, traces the formation of the 21st century world of “connectedness” by narrating the story of how the latter part of the 20th century has seen citizens in different countries and jurisdictions interconnect and create movements in response to their common ailment- the State. (see Balakrishnan Rajagopal, International Law From Below). His story is not exactly about the Internet, but it gives a good sense of the larger story which the internet story is certainly a part of- the larger story of people, and more narrowly, citizens of different sovereign States, managing to establish conversations with each other without going through the intermediary of the State (think passports, travel, visa v. IRC chats, Snapchat, and Facebook).

So what does the State do when it feels that a new medium which allows for the free flow of information, viz. the internet, is making it irrelevant? Well, it drafts this (see Section 4, draft Bill):“Save as otherwise provided in this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder, and with the general or special permission of the Security Vetting Authority, no person shall disseminate or allow visualization of any geospatial information of India- either through internet platforms or online services, or publish or distribute any geospatial information of India in any electronic or physical form.”

And also, Section 5, the most relevant portion of which states: “…No person shall, in any manner, make use of, disseminate, publish or distribute any geospatial information of India, outside India, without prior permission from the Security Vetting Authority.”

In this manner the State makes its intentions clear: It does not want its own citizens to share information about their joint holdings (which is the body of the country, i.e. “geospatial information.”), with citizens of a different nationality. This takes the form of the legal issue of jurisdiction and enforcement in the so-called digital age. So the scope of the proposed bill also extends to not just citizens in and outside the country but also to “any person who commits an offence beyond India” under the Act (see Section 1(4) of the draft Bill). Be it either the Blackberry caseGoogle’s run-in with the Competition Commission Of India, or the more recent State obsession with licensing OTT/web services, the state and the connected nature of the Internet have always had problems with each other.

In order to enforce this (though how? where? why?), the state carves Section 18(2) of the draft bill: “The Enforcement Authority shall, if he has reasonable cause to suspect that any contravention of the provisions of this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder has been committed, shall have access to any computer resource, any apparatus, data or any other material connected with such system, for the purpose of searching or causing a search to be made for obtaining any information or data contained in or available to such computer system.

And Section 18(3): “For the purposes of sub-section (2), the Enforcement Authority, by order, direct any person in charge of, or otherwise concerned with the operation of, the computer system, data apparatus or material, to provide him with such reasonable technical and other assistance as he may consider necessary.”

So with these two “enforcement” sections, “solutions” to jurisdictional issues begin to violate an idea of privacy for the citizen. And it has been well-argued that privacy in fact, is a right protected by the Constitution. But then, does it even matter? Because this trend is neither new nor innovative. The Information Technology Act, 2000 already contains provisions for similar seizures (see Sections 76, 68 and 69 of The Information Technology Act, 2000). But when paranoia rules the state’s decision-making, no legal measure — including 7 years jail time — can seem enough.

Smarika Kumar is an independent legal researcher and was formerly with the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore.

U.R. Ananthamurthy on How Gujarat Produced a Pan-Indian Hero

n this extract from Hindutva or Hind Swaraj, the celebrated writer dwells on the theme of crime and punishment

U.R. Ananthamurthy. Credit: HPNadig/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

In his foreword to U.R. Ananthamurthy’s Hindutva or Hind Swaraj, the sociologist Shiv Viswanathan writes that the book is a sign that the “age of the manifesto” is still with us:

“One of India’s greatest storytellers, he chose the manifesto as the genre for his swan song. One needs the speech of manifestos to cut to the very core of Indian politics, the heart of darkness we call the nation state. When Narendra Modi’s victory was imminent, an impassioned Ananthamurthy cried out that he would not like to live in an India ruled by Modi. An irked BJP ideologue asked him to leave for Pakistan. Ananthamurthy’s answer to Giriraj Kishore and other vociferous critics was this text. His last work was more than a manifesto. It was a prayer, a confession, a plea, an argument, a conversation capturing a world we might lose….

“Ananthamurthy states his methodology clearly. He warns that the dialogic encounter he seeks to develop is distinct from the debates of the ancients, the point–counterpoint of older debates and discourses. He places before the reader two sets of texts, which are roughly contemporary, Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj confronts Savarkar’s writings, and URA contends that Modi is only enacting the logic of a Savarkar script. Modi is thus not an original but merely a mimic, following the logic of a historical position. Ananthamurthy reads Modi as a giant clone, a copy of the original Veer Savarkar. There is an aesthetic of layers in his presentation. It begins from the topical and moves to the philosophical and ethical. Eventually, what he presents is a civilizational response to Modi….

“URA argues that one must challenge the shibboleth that, merely because one has ascended to power through a majority, one can exonerate it from reason. Democracy, he claims, thrives by providing space for the non-majoritarian. Yet he locates such a politics in a wider space as part of an understanding of evil. He realises that one has to go back to the very notion of evil and explore the evil that lurks behind words like patriotism and development. He notes that a phrase as unpoetic as ‘in the national interest’ seems to permit any kind of crime or atrocity. URA as poet is measuring the genocidal quotient of words, and especially evaluating the official concepts of the Modi regime, like nation state, development and democracy.”


U.R. AnanthamurthyHindutva or Hind Swaraj

Extracts from Hindutva or Hind Swaraj by U.R. Ananthamurthy

In Raskolnikov, Dostoyevsky has created an unforgettable character: an impoverished young man wandering around St Petersburg in tattered clothes, unwashed and unfed. Extremely attached to his mother and sister, the protagonist is mortified that he has to live off their hard-earned money. He borrows some money from a pawnbroker – money that could have bought him a meal – but seeing a man much worse off than himself, the young man gives him the money and walks away.

In that utterly abject, pitiful, penniless state, lonely, but with no desire for friendship, a thought comes to Raskolnikov. Why did Napoleon become great? Because he had the courage to do something big. What is this courage? Winning a battle after slaying countless people and then without remorse preparing for another? Does poor Raskolnikov have this courage?

Through this protagonist, Dostoyevsky presents a novel idea. An idea that is important to understanding human history. Raskolnikov was ashamed of his shyness. His cowardice. His damaged conscience. How could he overcome them? For many discontented young men in Europe of that time, Napoleon had become a hero. Napoleon, who came from a humble background, rose like a rocket to fame and power during the French Revolution. Many people in Europe who celebrated his success were disappointed when he declared himself emperor. Beethoven who had planned to dedicate one of his outstanding symphonies to Napoleon tore up the dedication….

Raskolnikov thinks about Napoleon too. He has very strong feelings of aversion towards an unpleasant old woman who is a pawnbroker and moneylender. She lives in a narrow lane, in a secure little nest. Raskolnikov thinks that if he can kill her and overcome the guilt, he will know that he has the strength of Napoleon. Obsessed with this thought, he hides an axe under his cloak and knocks on the old woman’s door. Cautiously, fearfully she opens the door. Holding out a tightly wrapped bundle, he says, ‘Take this cigarette case and give me some money.’ While she is trying to unwrap the packet, he strikes her with the axe. He is shocked. He doesn’t know what to steal from there. He stuffs whatever is at hand into his pockets.

Just then, the old woman’s sister walks into the room. She is described as a meek, submissive and abused woman. Raskolnikov, who had gone there to commit one murder, ends up committing two. This becomes a complex moral dilemma for him. The Christian faith pulls him in, but he does not submit. He despises himself because he cannot become a Napoleon. This symbolic story is necessary to understand the history of Europe.

People like Napoleon who perpetrate unimaginable violence without any sense of shame become heroes in the eyes of the public. Those who are capable of making their country a great nation are like Napoleon. Or like Hitler. Mao’s great nation China, which invaded Tibet, is on the same path. For countries where money grows no amount of space is sufficient.

I will attempt to weave in another story with Raskolnikov’s. No matter how vehemently Indians declare that we are non-violent, in our movies and our songs we applaud those who come to power through extreme violence. People may practise non-violence in their daily lives but the Indian psyche also admires acts of brutality. Even the names of many Hindu deities would suggest such a reading. Consider the name Murari– one who has vanquished the demon Mura. We do not extol Shivaji for his acts of good governance, but for his skill with counter-offensive tactics. We forget Emperor Ashoka in our political discourse.

It is the same in Europe; perpetrators of violence become rulers. If you go to the Tower of London, you will see that several queens were put to death because they did not produce a male child. Up until now, human history has only recognised heroes who have emerged victorious in battle. We thought that Gandhi’s message of freedom through ahimsa heralded a changeIronically, this ahimsa was fraught with violence too. Streams of blood flowed during the Hindu-Muslim riots. With a staff taller than himself, Gandhi walked barefoot through Noakhali. India celebrated Independence in the absence of Gandhi.

How did Gujarat produce a pan-Indian hero? The Gujarat massacre took place when he was chief minister. To say that he tried to prevent it but failed would mean he was weak. Nobody can say that. One is reminded of an image used by the poet Adiga. When yajnas are conducted, everyone present is involved in some task or the other. But a mantrajnya, an expert in the mantras, does not participate. He is known as the ‘brahma’, and is crucial to the ritual. The brahma does nothing.

Modi was the brahma. Whatever happened has happened. Raskolnikov was tormented by the thought that he should not have committed the murder. A hapless prostitute teaches him love. Modi also feels remorse. But of another kind. A remorse that says if a pup gets run over by a car, what can be done? One could say, oh poor thing. If the car had stopped, would the puppy have lived?

Here I will dare to express a thought. Maybe this is why the people of India appreciated Modi; see how he silenced the minorities…


I have reservations about how Savarkar paints the word Hindutva with the power and glory of kshatra in a highly emotional manner. In the process of establishing nationhood, all countries draw pictures of a flawless past. We can view our past with its many joys and sorrows without exaggerating them. The Upanishads and the Mahabharata can thrill us. When one looks at the heroes of the Puranas – performing animal sacrifices, and destroying forests, animals and birds to establish a country – one can only wonder, in bemusement, whether they are not champions of modern development. But the nationalist Savarkar did not see a world like the one he lived in, suffering and struggling to overcome the humiliation of British rule. Instead, he saw a glorious, mythical, unique world to be emulated exactly.

The truth of life is different. For Buddha, who lived in ancient times, life was full of suffering. A seeker of truth must, like Gautama, sees a corpse, an old man and a sick person groaning in pain. In his search for the truth, he must renounce the world and then come back to it.

Two important events from our past are Dharmaraja’s sorrow after his victory in the battle of Kurukshetra and the anguish and compassion that liberated Buddha, making him relevant even today. Savarkar’s line of thought could generate in us the daring to kill our enemy, but it cannot satisfy us. The coronation of Sri Rama is a golden moment in our mythology. That’s all it is. We take pride in it. To be liberated, though, we need the Upanishads and Buddha.

Savarkar’s emotion-charged logic flows in this manner: If India is to be a Hindu state, if all citizens of the country are to be considered Hindus, when will we be able to call a Muslim a Hindu? Maybe at some later date, not now. At the time when this idea becomes a reality, there will be no arrogance amongst the religious. The followers of religion will give up their arrogance and live in harmony, a state which is natural to human beings. Or religion itself will become irrelevant.

Contrast this with what Gandhi says: No religion is complete in itself. That is why all the religions of the world should survive. With equal respect….


…Gandhi’s clarity of thought comes from the greatness of ancient India as well as the meanness of its decadent practices. In his words, Gandhi paid more attention to the greatness, but in his actions, he focused on its meanness. Like untouchability, casteism and unclean holy places that discriminated among people on the basis of their caste. Gandhi observed a fast for one day because Kasturba, along with his secretary Desai, went to the PuriJagannath temple where untouchables were not allowed. This is how he acted. Gandhi’s egoless courage is unique in that it allows him to reject modern medicine, the British Parliament, railways, lawyers and doctors. Some of his words are as follows:

Nothing can equal seeds sown by ancestors, Rome went, Greece shared the same fate, the might of the Pharaohs was broken, Japan has become Westernized, of China nothing can be said. But India is still somehow or other, sound at the foundation.

Civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty.

Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms. To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means good conduct.

If Savarkarism is a display of valour, Gandhism advocates morality and self-realisation. Even as he builds the argument, Gandhi recalls the Gujarati word for ‘civilisation’. His modernism is not cosmopolitan. It has its roots in Gujarati, it grew in India and its branches spread across the sky. In the early twentieth century, these two Indias, the cosmopolitan and the other rooted in India, germinated among the Indians living in England, and sprouted and spread to India as well.

Extracted from U.R. Ananthamurthy, Hindutva or Hind Swaraj (HarperCollins, 2015) and used with permission from the publishers.

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