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M’tra Govt moves HC against MAT Order directing inclusion of Transgenders in police recruitment

In a controversial response to the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal to facilitate the employment of transgenders into the state police, the Maaharashtra Govt has approached the Bombay HC to reverse the order

28 Nov 2022

Transgender

The Maharashtra Government has approached the Bombay High Court against the November 26 to the state to create the third option of 'other gender,' after male and female in the application forms of all recruitments of the Home Department. The state has called it an "overreach of jurisdiction" and an "interference in the domain of policy making."  Interestingly, Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have made suitable changes for inclusion of transgenders into their policies.

The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT), Justice Mridula Bhatkar, had only on Friday, November 25, frowned at the State Government's resistance to add the option of "other gender" to the application form for enrolment of transgenders in the state police department.

Even as the Maharashtra Government cited administrative difficulties and the need for a policy from the Central Government first, MAT Chairperson Justice Mridula Bhatkar was of the opinion that the State was "fully empowered to draw its own policy and take decisions in such matters." The chairperson had specifically noted steps taken by the Governments of Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for the inclusion of transgenders in their respective police force and other government departments.

The tribunal was seized with an application by 23-yr-old Arya Pujari seeking an opportunity to apply for the post of constable in the "other gender" category of the police force. In August 2022, Chairperson Bhatkar had granted the Home Department six months to take a policy decision on the issue.

Finally, on November 14, the MAT directed at least one post to be reserved for transgender persons in the selection process of constables this year. Subsequently, it directed the State to add the option of "other gender" in all online application forms and fix the criteria for physical standards and tests for transgender candidates. It was then that Pujari's advocate informed the tribunal on Friday that the State was yet to implement any of the orders.

The lawyer for the Maharashtra government, Swati Manchekar submitted that the home department intended to challenge the order owing to administrative difficulties. She also claimed that the SC's order in the ongoing Shanavi Ponnuswamy's case and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) required the Centre to take a policy decision first.

"…till today neither the order of this Tribunal has been complied with nor it is challenged before the Hon'ble High Court. Thus, the order of the Tribunal is frustrated," Justice Bhatkar noted at the outset.

She recorded the petitioner's submissions who pointed out an officer memorandum from the Central Government way back in 2020 directing all Government Ministries to modify recruitment rules for inclusion of transgenders to be in conformity with the provisions of The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.Justice Bhatkar acknowledged the State's right to appeal but also reproduced sections of the NALSA judgement in which directions were given independently to the Central Government as well as the State Government.

ON Shanavi Ponnuswamy's case, the tribunal observed that the Civil Aviation Ministry was the respondent in that case, therefore directions were issued accordingly. Moreover, 'Police' is a subject in the State List of the Constitution of India, and thus, the State Government is fully empowered to draw its own policy and take decisions in such matters.

Incidentally, it was also pointed out that Bihar had modified its recruitment rules to include transgenders. Similarly, in 2021 Karnataka modified its rules to not only allow transgenders to participate in the process of recruitment in the Police Department, but they were also provided reservation in all the services of the State of Karnataka. The Tamil Nadu Government has, in its recent advertisements created separate physical tests for transgender men and transgender women.

Accordingly, Chairperson Bhatkar extended the date of acceptance of transgenders application form to December 8 and adjourned the matter to December 23, 2022.

“Progressive” Maharashtra backs out on Transgenders

Now, challenging the Order of MAT, the state government’s petitionpetition pertains to recruitment of police constables, drivers and State Reserve Police Force. The window to accept online applications for recruitment ends on November 30, 2022.

"Keeping in view the overall nature of duties to be performed by persons holding the posts for which the recruitment process is undertaken demonstrate that it will not at all be practicable to make appointment of transgenders to these posts." It added that "various grassroot level difficulties that need not be spelt out herein ought to be taken into consideration before coming to any conclusion in this regard as to the appointment of transgenders as sought by the petitioner and as intended and directed by the impugned orders,the plea states.

The State claimed that the MAT failed to the appreciate that the state was yet to frame any policy regarding recruitment of transgenders, especially in the police force, and therefore the tribunal's directions couldn't be implemented. The appeal was mentioned before a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta by GP PP Kakade today and will be heard on November 30, 2022.

In two orders dated November 14 and 18, 2022 the MAT directed the State to accept the applicant's form under the category of transgender for a police constable's post. It also directed the state to create a third category of transgender in all Home Department recruitments.

MAT Chairperson Justice Mridula Bhatkar passed the orders on an application filed by 23-yr-old Arya Pujari seeking an opportunity to apply for the post of constable in the "other gender" category of the police force. In August, Chairperson Bhatkar had granted the Home Department six months to take a policy decision on the issue. Pujari is represented by Advocate Kranti LC.

However, when the State continued to cite administrative difficulties even after six months, the MAT observed that the State was "fully empowered to draw its own policy and take decisions in such matters."

The chairperson noted steps taken by the Governments of Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for the inclusion of transgenders in their respective police force and other government departments. The MAT also recorded specific directions to the State in the SC judgement of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Before the HC the State seeks for both the orders to be quashed and their implementation to be stayed in the interim. It pointed out that the recently enacted Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019, provides a mechanism to identify a transgender person but doesn't provide for reservation in educational institutions and public appointments.

It added that there is an extreme urgency to fill up vacant posts in the police department and therefore the current process should not be hindered on any account.

According to the plea various states have treated transgenders differently, in Punjab they are taken in the category of males, whereas in Tamil Nadu they are treated as females. Therefore, merely because other states have a policy wouldn't be a reason to issue the directions.

Related:
Supreme Court directs Centre to frame policy on jobs for transgender persons

Transgender Activists Say UP Cop Beat Them up for Sheltering Trans Son in Gurugram

Madras HC expresses “dismay and anguish” as NCERT removes report on gender non-conforming, transgender children

M’tra Govt moves HC against MAT Order directing inclusion of Transgenders in police recruitment

In a controversial response to the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal to facilitate the employment of transgenders into the state police, the Maaharashtra Govt has approached the Bombay HC to reverse the order

Transgender

The Maharashtra Government has approached the Bombay High Court against the November 26 to the state to create the third option of 'other gender,' after male and female in the application forms of all recruitments of the Home Department. The state has called it an "overreach of jurisdiction" and an "interference in the domain of policy making."  Interestingly, Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have made suitable changes for inclusion of transgenders into their policies.

The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT), Justice Mridula Bhatkar, had only on Friday, November 25, frowned at the State Government's resistance to add the option of "other gender" to the application form for enrolment of transgenders in the state police department.

Even as the Maharashtra Government cited administrative difficulties and the need for a policy from the Central Government first, MAT Chairperson Justice Mridula Bhatkar was of the opinion that the State was "fully empowered to draw its own policy and take decisions in such matters." The chairperson had specifically noted steps taken by the Governments of Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for the inclusion of transgenders in their respective police force and other government departments.

The tribunal was seized with an application by 23-yr-old Arya Pujari seeking an opportunity to apply for the post of constable in the "other gender" category of the police force. In August 2022, Chairperson Bhatkar had granted the Home Department six months to take a policy decision on the issue.

Finally, on November 14, the MAT directed at least one post to be reserved for transgender persons in the selection process of constables this year. Subsequently, it directed the State to add the option of "other gender" in all online application forms and fix the criteria for physical standards and tests for transgender candidates. It was then that Pujari's advocate informed the tribunal on Friday that the State was yet to implement any of the orders.

The lawyer for the Maharashtra government, Swati Manchekar submitted that the home department intended to challenge the order owing to administrative difficulties. She also claimed that the SC's order in the ongoing Shanavi Ponnuswamy's case and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) required the Centre to take a policy decision first.

"…till today neither the order of this Tribunal has been complied with nor it is challenged before the Hon'ble High Court. Thus, the order of the Tribunal is frustrated," Justice Bhatkar noted at the outset.

She recorded the petitioner's submissions who pointed out an officer memorandum from the Central Government way back in 2020 directing all Government Ministries to modify recruitment rules for inclusion of transgenders to be in conformity with the provisions of The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.Justice Bhatkar acknowledged the State's right to appeal but also reproduced sections of the NALSA judgement in which directions were given independently to the Central Government as well as the State Government.

ON Shanavi Ponnuswamy's case, the tribunal observed that the Civil Aviation Ministry was the respondent in that case, therefore directions were issued accordingly. Moreover, 'Police' is a subject in the State List of the Constitution of India, and thus, the State Government is fully empowered to draw its own policy and take decisions in such matters.

Incidentally, it was also pointed out that Bihar had modified its recruitment rules to include transgenders. Similarly, in 2021 Karnataka modified its rules to not only allow transgenders to participate in the process of recruitment in the Police Department, but they were also provided reservation in all the services of the State of Karnataka. The Tamil Nadu Government has, in its recent advertisements created separate physical tests for transgender men and transgender women.

Accordingly, Chairperson Bhatkar extended the date of acceptance of transgenders application form to December 8 and adjourned the matter to December 23, 2022.

“Progressive” Maharashtra backs out on Transgenders

Now, challenging the Order of MAT, the state government’s petitionpetition pertains to recruitment of police constables, drivers and State Reserve Police Force. The window to accept online applications for recruitment ends on November 30, 2022.

"Keeping in view the overall nature of duties to be performed by persons holding the posts for which the recruitment process is undertaken demonstrate that it will not at all be practicable to make appointment of transgenders to these posts." It added that "various grassroot level difficulties that need not be spelt out herein ought to be taken into consideration before coming to any conclusion in this regard as to the appointment of transgenders as sought by the petitioner and as intended and directed by the impugned orders,the plea states.

The State claimed that the MAT failed to the appreciate that the state was yet to frame any policy regarding recruitment of transgenders, especially in the police force, and therefore the tribunal's directions couldn't be implemented. The appeal was mentioned before a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta by GP PP Kakade today and will be heard on November 30, 2022.

In two orders dated November 14 and 18, 2022 the MAT directed the State to accept the applicant's form under the category of transgender for a police constable's post. It also directed the state to create a third category of transgender in all Home Department recruitments.

MAT Chairperson Justice Mridula Bhatkar passed the orders on an application filed by 23-yr-old Arya Pujari seeking an opportunity to apply for the post of constable in the "other gender" category of the police force. In August, Chairperson Bhatkar had granted the Home Department six months to take a policy decision on the issue. Pujari is represented by Advocate Kranti LC.

However, when the State continued to cite administrative difficulties even after six months, the MAT observed that the State was "fully empowered to draw its own policy and take decisions in such matters."

The chairperson noted steps taken by the Governments of Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for the inclusion of transgenders in their respective police force and other government departments. The MAT also recorded specific directions to the State in the SC judgement of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Before the HC the State seeks for both the orders to be quashed and their implementation to be stayed in the interim. It pointed out that the recently enacted Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019, provides a mechanism to identify a transgender person but doesn't provide for reservation in educational institutions and public appointments.

It added that there is an extreme urgency to fill up vacant posts in the police department and therefore the current process should not be hindered on any account.

According to the plea various states have treated transgenders differently, in Punjab they are taken in the category of males, whereas in Tamil Nadu they are treated as females. Therefore, merely because other states have a policy wouldn't be a reason to issue the directions.

Related:
Supreme Court directs Centre to frame policy on jobs for transgender persons

Transgender Activists Say UP Cop Beat Them up for Sheltering Trans Son in Gurugram

Madras HC expresses “dismay and anguish” as NCERT removes report on gender non-conforming, transgender children

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"It frustrates the whole system": Supreme Court voices deep anguish against Centre sitting over Collegium recommendations

For the third time in recent weeks, the Supreme Court today minced no words in expressing anguish towards Centre for sitting over proposals reiterated by the Collegium for appointment as judges.

28 Nov 2022

SC

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul heading a division bench expressed a deep sense of anguish at the Centre for sitting over Collegium’s proposals on judicial appointments and further went on to wonder if the recommendations are being withheld on account of Government's discontent with the non-implementation of the National Judicial Appointments Commission, reported LiveLaw. He said,

"The issue is, names are not being cleared. How does the system work? We have expressed our anguish…It appears that the Govt is not happy that the NJAC has not passed the muster. Can that be the reason to not clear the names?"

The strong remarks come soon after Law Minister Kiren Rijiju criticized the Collegoum system –for the second time-- at the Times Now Summit. The minister had said that that the Collegium system is alien to the Constitution of India and isn't backed by the people of the country and that the Government can't be expected to merely approve the names recommended by the Collegium.

Referring to this, Justice Kaul said that people may have reservations about the law (Collegium system). But till it stands, it is the law of the land.

During the hearing of the case (The Advocates' Association Bengaluru v. Shri Barun Mitra, Secretary (Justice), senior advocate Vikas Singh, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, brought to the attention of the bench the defiant comments made by the Law Minister that "never say that the government is sitting on the files, then don't send the files to the government, you appoint yourself, you run the show then".

Expressing strong disapproval of the Minister's comment, Justice Kaul said : "When someone high enough says that..it should not have happened..Mr AG, I have ignored all press reports, but this has come from somebody high enough also. With an interview... I am not saying anything else.."

The judge continued, "The whole process takes time, IB inputs are taken. Your inputs are taken. Supreme Court collegium considers your inputs and sends the name. Once it is reiterated, that is the end of the matter, as the law stands now."

Justice Kaul therefore asked the Attorney General and the Solicitor General to convey the "sentiments of the bench" to the Govt and ensure that law of the land is followed. The matter has been kept for December 8.

"Both of you are senior enough to convey the sentiments of the bench to the Govt. Please resolve the issue, don't force us to decide on the judicial side", Justice Kaul told the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. The judge reminded them that the bench had exercised restraint by not issuing a contempt notice.

Attorney General for India R Venkataramani told the bench that he had discussions with the Secretaries after the last order of the Supreme Court and assured the bench that he will endeavour to resolve the deadlock.

"There is a need for some expedition without bringing in any other factor. After receiving the order, I had a couple of discussion with the Secretaries. Some facts were told. I had a couple of questions too. Let me come back. Let me weed out the issues", the AG said.

The bench also comprising Justice AS Oka was considering a contempt petition filed by the Advocates Association Bengaluru in 2021 against the Centre not approving 11 names reiterated by the Supreme Court collegium. The Association contended that the Centre's conduct is in gross violation of the directions in PLR Projects Ltd v. Mahanadi Coalfields Pvt Ltd wherein the Supreme Court directed that names reiterated by the Collegium must be cleared by the Centre within 3 to 4 weeks.

Justice Kaul also said that withholding the recommendations often frustrates the entire system. He pointed that many competent lawyers and judges are uncertain about accepting judgeship, due to the uncertainty involved.

"When we persuade youngsters to accept judgeship, their concern is what is the guarantee the appointments take place in time…Timelines have to be adhered to. Many recommendations have crossed the 4 month limit. No information to us…One lawyer whose name was recommended has unfortunately passed away. Another has withdrawn consent. Please resolve the issue… I am troubled by the fact that first generation lawyers, who are competent and have come from law schools, are declining judgeship due to this reason."

Justice Kaul further criticized the practice of splitting the Collegium recommendations. He orally said,

"Sometimes when you appoint, you pick up some names from the list and not others. What you do is you effectively disrupt the seniority. When the Supreme Court collegium makes the recommendation, many factors are kept in mind."

Seventeen days ago, on Nov 11, criticising the Centre for delaying the appointments, the Court had issued notice to the Secretary (Justice).

"Keeping names pending is not acceptable. We find the method of keeping the names on hold whether duly recommended or reiterated is becoming some sort of a device to compel these persons to withdraw their names as has happened.", the bench noted in the order.

The bench observed that in the cases of 11 names which have been reiterated by the collegium, the Centre has kept the files pending, without giving either approval or returning them stating reservations, and such practice of withholding approval is "unacceptable".

"If we look at the position of pending cases for consideration, there are 11 cases pending with the Government which were cleared by the Collegium and yet are awaiting appointments. The oldest of them is of vintage 04.09.2021 as the date of dispatch and the last two on 13.09.2022. This implies that the Government neither appoints the persons and nor communicates its reservation, if any, on the names.", the bench observed in the order.

One of the instances cited in the petition is that of Senior Advocate Aditya Sondhi, whose elevation to the Karnataka High Court was reiterated in September 2021. In February 2022, Sondhi withdrew his consent for judgeship as no approval regarding his appointment was forthcoming.


Related:

Collegium system & transparency of judicial appointments: a conundrun

Six Members in the Supreme Court Collegium until May 13, 2023

“Unacceptable”, Centre withholding names approved by Collegium: Supreme Court Issues Notice to law secretary over delay in judicial appointments

"It frustrates the whole system": Supreme Court voices deep anguish against Centre sitting over Collegium recommendations

For the third time in recent weeks, the Supreme Court today minced no words in expressing anguish towards Centre for sitting over proposals reiterated by the Collegium for appointment as judges.

SC

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul heading a division bench expressed a deep sense of anguish at the Centre for sitting over Collegium’s proposals on judicial appointments and further went on to wonder if the recommendations are being withheld on account of Government's discontent with the non-implementation of the National Judicial Appointments Commission, reported LiveLaw. He said,

"The issue is, names are not being cleared. How does the system work? We have expressed our anguish…It appears that the Govt is not happy that the NJAC has not passed the muster. Can that be the reason to not clear the names?"

The strong remarks come soon after Law Minister Kiren Rijiju criticized the Collegoum system –for the second time-- at the Times Now Summit. The minister had said that that the Collegium system is alien to the Constitution of India and isn't backed by the people of the country and that the Government can't be expected to merely approve the names recommended by the Collegium.

Referring to this, Justice Kaul said that people may have reservations about the law (Collegium system). But till it stands, it is the law of the land.

During the hearing of the case (The Advocates' Association Bengaluru v. Shri Barun Mitra, Secretary (Justice), senior advocate Vikas Singh, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, brought to the attention of the bench the defiant comments made by the Law Minister that "never say that the government is sitting on the files, then don't send the files to the government, you appoint yourself, you run the show then".

Expressing strong disapproval of the Minister's comment, Justice Kaul said : "When someone high enough says that..it should not have happened..Mr AG, I have ignored all press reports, but this has come from somebody high enough also. With an interview... I am not saying anything else.."

The judge continued, "The whole process takes time, IB inputs are taken. Your inputs are taken. Supreme Court collegium considers your inputs and sends the name. Once it is reiterated, that is the end of the matter, as the law stands now."

Justice Kaul therefore asked the Attorney General and the Solicitor General to convey the "sentiments of the bench" to the Govt and ensure that law of the land is followed. The matter has been kept for December 8.

"Both of you are senior enough to convey the sentiments of the bench to the Govt. Please resolve the issue, don't force us to decide on the judicial side", Justice Kaul told the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. The judge reminded them that the bench had exercised restraint by not issuing a contempt notice.

Attorney General for India R Venkataramani told the bench that he had discussions with the Secretaries after the last order of the Supreme Court and assured the bench that he will endeavour to resolve the deadlock.

"There is a need for some expedition without bringing in any other factor. After receiving the order, I had a couple of discussion with the Secretaries. Some facts were told. I had a couple of questions too. Let me come back. Let me weed out the issues", the AG said.

The bench also comprising Justice AS Oka was considering a contempt petition filed by the Advocates Association Bengaluru in 2021 against the Centre not approving 11 names reiterated by the Supreme Court collegium. The Association contended that the Centre's conduct is in gross violation of the directions in PLR Projects Ltd v. Mahanadi Coalfields Pvt Ltd wherein the Supreme Court directed that names reiterated by the Collegium must be cleared by the Centre within 3 to 4 weeks.

Justice Kaul also said that withholding the recommendations often frustrates the entire system. He pointed that many competent lawyers and judges are uncertain about accepting judgeship, due to the uncertainty involved.

"When we persuade youngsters to accept judgeship, their concern is what is the guarantee the appointments take place in time…Timelines have to be adhered to. Many recommendations have crossed the 4 month limit. No information to us…One lawyer whose name was recommended has unfortunately passed away. Another has withdrawn consent. Please resolve the issue… I am troubled by the fact that first generation lawyers, who are competent and have come from law schools, are declining judgeship due to this reason."

Justice Kaul further criticized the practice of splitting the Collegium recommendations. He orally said,

"Sometimes when you appoint, you pick up some names from the list and not others. What you do is you effectively disrupt the seniority. When the Supreme Court collegium makes the recommendation, many factors are kept in mind."

Seventeen days ago, on Nov 11, criticising the Centre for delaying the appointments, the Court had issued notice to the Secretary (Justice).

"Keeping names pending is not acceptable. We find the method of keeping the names on hold whether duly recommended or reiterated is becoming some sort of a device to compel these persons to withdraw their names as has happened.", the bench noted in the order.

The bench observed that in the cases of 11 names which have been reiterated by the collegium, the Centre has kept the files pending, without giving either approval or returning them stating reservations, and such practice of withholding approval is "unacceptable".

"If we look at the position of pending cases for consideration, there are 11 cases pending with the Government which were cleared by the Collegium and yet are awaiting appointments. The oldest of them is of vintage 04.09.2021 as the date of dispatch and the last two on 13.09.2022. This implies that the Government neither appoints the persons and nor communicates its reservation, if any, on the names.", the bench observed in the order.

One of the instances cited in the petition is that of Senior Advocate Aditya Sondhi, whose elevation to the Karnataka High Court was reiterated in September 2021. In February 2022, Sondhi withdrew his consent for judgeship as no approval regarding his appointment was forthcoming.


Related:

Collegium system & transparency of judicial appointments: a conundrun

Six Members in the Supreme Court Collegium until May 13, 2023

“Unacceptable”, Centre withholding names approved by Collegium: Supreme Court Issues Notice to law secretary over delay in judicial appointments

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As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

28 Nov 2022

Gujarat Polls

Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions.

Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years.

It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, black marketing, speculative forward and other derivative trading in food crops etc. are making the situation worse.

Can the government not stop these malpractices by toning up the preventive machinery and promulgating suitable laws? It can but it would not, because the BJP like any other trusted party of the ruling bourgeoisie like the Congress is committed to fill the coffers of the offenders, most of whom are either linked to the monopoly houses or financiers of the ruling party.

Other problems tormenting the people of Gujarat along with their fellow citizens in other parts of the country include mounting unemployment, closure of one after another industry throwing thousands out of job, resulting in fast diminishing means of earning. Some facts would show what peril the state of Gujarat is.

Industrial units shutting down

More than 2,000 industrial units in various estates of the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) are closed, according to information provided in the Assembly by the Gujarat government in a written reply. With regard to this data on closed units, secretary-general of the Federation of Gujarat Industries (FOGI) says, “As per the information provided, there is no mention of how many industrial units shut down year on year basis.

Highlighting the reason of the closure, he mentioned, “There could be various reasons attached to it but we do not rule out that a few might have not been able to sustain because of demonetization and roll out of GST due to slow refund circle process in the first year.”

Available data show, around 2,069 units were shut in GIDCs in 31 districts as of December 31, 2018. In Jamnagar, 36 units were shut in GIDCs, but 19 of them closed down since 2016. Similarly, 19 out of 50 units in Kutch, and 10 out of 18 units in Banaskantha downed shutters in last two years. A total of 89 industrial accidents happened between January and July 2020 across Gujarat. Over 130 workers died in industrial accidents in Gujarat during the first seven months of 2020, of which 57 per cent were reported in four months after the Covid lockdown was lifted in phases in the state.

Unemployment, job loss

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), in its “Unemployment Rate in India” report, noted that Gujarat’s unemployment rate which was 6.7% before the outbreak of Covid, which shot up to a whopping 18.7% within months. After Covid lockdown was lifted, no perceptible improvement is reported.
In 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to bring the Gujarat model of development to India, the focus of the state was on mega-projects at the expense of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which hurt job creation. Gujarat labour and employment Minister Dilip Thakor said in a written reply that in February 2020 (pre-pandemic period) told that 4.58 lakh educated youth were registered with various state employment exchanges. Of these, 4.34 lakh were 'educated' while 23,433 were semi-educated'.

Six states saw rising joblessness in cities in July-September 2019. The highest spike in the urban unemployment rate was seen in Gujarat, where it rose 1.3 percentage points to 4.3 per cent. In the beginning of June 2022, some 17 lakh job aspirants applied for 3,400 vacant posts of talati (village panchayat executive head), indicating the unemployment crisis in Gujarat.

Gujarat showed signs of distress related to economy when state authorities recorded 294 suicides in 2018 where reason for ending life was termed as ‘poverty’, and 318 persons ended their lives citing ‘unemployment’ as the reason. The figures were 163% and 21% more than the ones recorded in 2017.
Data on crime tabled by the state home department in the assembly state that a total of 14,702 cases of suicide were registered in Gujarat in the last two years, suggesting that on an average nearly 20 persons took their lives every day. The minister of state for home said 90 persons had ended their lives in Kheda and 111 persons had committed suicide in Anand district of Gujarat in 2019.

As the World Suicide Prevention Day is observed annually on 10 September, the NCRB report gave a snapshot of what drove Gujaratis to the brink in 2021. The number rose by 48%. Pravin Valera, coordinator of Jeevan Aastha Suicide Prevention helpline, said that the call volumes increased by about 20% since 2020, which has remained high even in 2022.

Condition of workers

The condition of the workers in the state is perilous. Minimum wages in the state have marginally increased in October after 25 years, i.e., in the face of ensuing election. Gujarat is having the lowest daily wage in the country, which is only Rs 220 for agricultural labourer.

The latest labour codes brought in by the Central government and implemented by the State government have opened up the vista of exploitation of workers. After the catastrophic fire that broke out at Nandan Denim Limited’s factory, one of the largest in Narol, a major hub textile and garment industry in Ahmedabad, during normal business hours on 8 February 2020 seven workers died of burns and asphyxiation and many were severely injured.

A study, ‘Looking Beyond Fire Extinguishers’, published in 2021 by Ajeevika Bureau, a non-profit organization, on the issue of labour practices leading to the fire accidents has found unsafe, inhumane and exploitative working conditions, with 322 industrial accidents occurring in Gujarat in the last two years.
The frequency of such accidents highlights lack of basic worker safety and compliance with workplace safety laws, particularly the Factories Act, 1948. Workers are aware of the involved risks to their lives but continue to work to make two ends meet.

According to the study, the factories have hazardous working conditions such as exposure to dangerous substances, intense heat and dust pollution. The denial of safe and healthy working conditions to employees stems from a variety of factors in which employers shift responsibility for safety and health to the under-equipped contractor and, eventually, the employee.

Even regular employment in these factories may not always provide a solution to the problem of safety and abusive working conditions that limit worker’s ability to raise concerns, according to the study. Factories normally hire workers under a variety of contractual arrangements and pay them on a daily or piece-rate basis. Only 4% of the total surveyed workers employed in higher roles were on the payroll of the factories. The remaining 96% were recruited through casual contracts.

Further, 12-hour work shifts are a norm, while 40% of the surveyed workers agreed to have worked over time including the previous 24 hours without any break. An operator describes an accident in which he became temporarily blind as a result of his floor master’s negligence in handling bleach. But he chose not to report the incident for fear of reprisals.

Workers are assigned to work with hazardous substances and processes with no prior training or protective equipment. This causes injuries and fatalities but rarely leads to legal action against the factories. The practice of using subcontractors and outsourcing work allows for blame-shifting and makes it difficult to identify non-compliance on paper.

Predicament of the peasants

The condition of peasants in the state is not good. They are selling land out of distress implying steady rise in the number of poor and marginal peasants. The number of agricultural workers has increased by 17 lakh. Even after 75 years of Independence, the peasants of Gujarat, like other states, are exposed to the vagaries of nature. They have been suffering frequently from natural calamities like drought and flood, absence of proper support from the government, non-availability of remunerative price of their produce and debt-burden.

Gujarat is one of the chronic drought-prone states of India, with an average annual rainfall about only 700 mm, with more than half of the district sub-divisions of Gujarat receiving rainfall within the range of 200–400 mm. Substantial portion of the state continues to be arid to semi-arid. Data show, 43,938 sq km area in Gujarat drought prone.

Last year, as the dry spell continued in the state, farmers in the affected districts like Surendranagar, Aravalli and Banaskantha submitted memorandums to their respective local administrations to declare their districts drought-hit. Though the government was reported to have not made any statement on the rising monsoon deficiency, the then BJP Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the Narmada dam had adequate water for drinking purposes for the next one year. His statement suggested that there would not be any shortage of drinking water, obliquely indicating deficiency of water for irrigation.

Huge amount of water was released from the Madhuban Dam on the Daman Ganga River in the Valsad district as the region continued to remain battered by heavy rainfall. The floods caused massive damage to crops on over 50,000 hectares. Thousands of farmers across Gujarat have protested this year demanding adequate power supply to save standing crops.

In March 2022, protests were held at more than 75 places as erratic and inadequate power forced angry farmers on to the streets demanding increasing supply to run pumps for irrigation. The question is why in 75 long years, including around 27 years of the BJP rule, there is no proper irrigation system to save agriculture and the poor peasants?

A perception has been cunningly spread by vested interests that farmers of Gujarat had no problem with the three black farm laws which the central BJP government was forced to repeal under pressure of historic year long farmers’ struggle near Delhi. But the fact is that when a good number of Gujarat farmers wanted to join the struggling peasants at the Shahjahanpur border of UP, they were forcibly prevented.

Though the black farm laws have been withdrawn, the Gujarat government is making every effort to implement them through the backdoor. The state Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Committees (mandis) are being closed down one after another giving rise to problems involving salary of the APMC employees, Minimum Support Price, Crop Insurance, etc.

The state government has introduced the PPP (Private-Public Partnership) model in crop insurance and land measurement, but redressal of any dispute over such areas remains abegging because of money power and political connections of the private operators. Suppressing facts, erstwhile BJP Chief Minister Vijay Rapani had claimed in a meeting of Niti Aayog in Delhi in 2018 that farmers in Gujarat are prosperous. However, realities contradict his claim.

Hunger, poverty

The number of poor people in the state under the National Food Security Act is 3.82 crore – which is 62.62% of the total population. The ‘Hunger Watch’ survey carried out by Anna Suraksha Adhikar Abhiyan (ASAA), Gujarat, to track the hunger situation amongst vulnerable and marginalized communities of the state amid the Covid pandemic revealed that 20.6 per cent households sometimes skipped meals due to lack of food, while 21.8 per cent said they sometimes slept without a single meal.

“The government has not given accurate information to the families, many of whom are from very deprived communities, as to why their ration cards cannot be used anymore to claim their basic entitlements. This process of making ration cards ‘silent’ has happened at the local taluka and/or district level. Additionally, in many areas, taluka level committee meetings are not being held due to Covid-19 effectively depriving families their right to food security,” the report states. In all, 50 lakh families do not get enough to eat.

The number of families living Below the Poverty Line (BPL) in Gujarat have risen by 2,556, taking the total number of BPL families over 31.56 lakh, as on August 31, 2021, the Gujarat Assembly was informed in March this year. About 20 lakh families in Gujarat do not have a good home to live in. A large number of poor people have no ration cards. 

The BJP government in Gujarat has been in power since 1996. Present PM Modi was the Gujarat chief minister for about 14 years, If the BJP wanted, it could have eradicated poverty in Gujarat during its 26 years of rule. But that has not happened.

Fragile healthcare system

Gujarat has often been lauded for its effective healthcare system. The fragility of the healthcare system of the state was highly exposed during Covid pandemic. Even whatever little facilities are existing in the hospitals including the private ones fell short when Covid wave spread in the state. 

There were queues of ambulances outside hospitals. There was acute shortage of oxygen cylinders and ventilators. During pandemic, the state registered the highest mortality rate in India -- 4.38 per cent -- which is considerably higher than the national average of 2.49 per cent.

In the initial weeks of the outbreak, government hospitals in Gujarat, especially the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, grabbed headlines for their high mortality rate. The Gujarat High Court slammed the state government, saying the conditions at the Civil Hospital were “pathetic”, and that the hospital was “as good as a dungeon, maybe even worse”.

Data from the health secretary’s office indicate that average span of hospitalization among discharged patients in Gujarat is 11.03 days, while among the deceased, it’s 6.24 days. As against over 25,000 to 30,000 Covid identification tests conducted in Tamil Nadu, which has almost the same population as Gujarat, the figure for Gujarat on 20 and 21 July 2020 was 12,867 and 13,693 respectively. In fact, Ahmedabad Medical Association filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court demanding that the tests be made proportionate to the population.

In a bid to help private hospitals for minting huge profits taking advantage of people’s distress, the government on the one hand allowed them to charge exorbitant fees for treatment, while on the other hand, instead of proper ventilators, it placed orders for ‘Dhaman 1’ ventilators developed by a Rajkot-based private firm Jyoti CNC, which were not approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI).

A row erupted when the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital wrote to the government stating that the ‘Dhaman-1’ ventilators were not up to the mark and sought sophisticated machines. Justice DA Mehta Commission of Inquiry report revealed multiple regulatory violations and hazardous practices at the two Covid hospitals in Gujarat where 13 patients were killed in fire accidents last year.

“It was an invitation for disaster,” the report, tabled in the Gujarat Assembly, said about Ahmedabad’s Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad and Uday Shivanand Hospital in Rajkot. That is why it has come as a shock that in the Covid-19 pandemic, the state has registered the highest mortality rate in India -- 4.38 per cent – while the national average was 2.49 per cent.

Pathetic condition of education

Gujarat is claimed by the ruling quarters as one of the economically developed states of India, but when it comes to human development, particularly education and health, its performance is quite poor. The performance of Gujarat in education-related indicators is dismal. According to the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) 2018, only 43% of students of government schools in standard V could read standard II level text. This clearly shows the quality of the education of government schools in Gujarat. Gujarat’s education department survey admits that 12,000 government schools have only one or two teachers.

Gujarat’s finance minister announced the thrust areas of this year's budget, and education is one of them. But the numbers of the state’s education spending do not match with the narrative.

The fund allocation and the percentage share of education in GSDP is one of the lowest in the country. For the fiscal 2019-20, the percentage share of education in GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) was only 1.55%. A survey in 2019 showed that 81% of government school students of classes 3-8 cannot read or write Gujarati fluently. Over 32% posts of teachers of English, math and science, and over 80% posts of principals are vacant in state-run secondary schools in Gujarat, the education minister told the assembly in 2021.

As is known to all, there is privatization spree in education. The policy of privatization and commercialization of education has converted education into commodity though the Supreme Court in a recent remark has rebutted that concept. But the BJP government is going ahead with its privatization policy.
In April last, the Gujarat government passed Bill to pave way for 11 new private universities including Adani university. Members of the Gujarat State Professors’ Association protested at various colleges in an attempt to voice their concerns over the bill. As many as 446 private schools but just 20 government new primary schools were opened in 2020-21. Closure and merger of government schools has become the order of the day. The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is slated to put the final nail to the coffin of education.

Crime against women

Gujarat is cited by the ruling quarters as one of the safest states for women to reside and roam around freely. But numbers question ‘Safe Gujarat’ tag by the ruling BJP. As per data released by the National Records Crime Bureau for 2019, complaints of crimes committed against women have been increasing steadily. While about three molestation cases of women are taking place every day in the state, more than one rape complaint is reportedly filed daily.
Organizations working for women say that the cases of crime against women are much more than reported. Gujarat reported nearly four rapes every day in the two years beginning 1 January 2018. In 2019- 20, the state reported 2,723 rape cases, of which 41 were incidents of gang-rape, while 35 involved girls younger than five years old.

A total of 3,796 cases of rape and 61 offenses of gang rape were registered in Gujarat in the two years ending on 31 December 2021. As per Central government report, sexual harassment at workplaces is maximum in Gujarat.

Spurt in cybercrime

While the ‘Digital India' push has led to a massive surge in online transactions, cyber crime offence too are growing exponentially. Gujarat became a hub of cyber crime during the lockdown. As per data released by the Cyber Crime Cell of Ahmedabad Police, over 15,300 complaints related to financial frauds have been received from all over Gujarat between January and July 2020.

Over the past five years, cyber crime cases in Gujarat have risen by 235%, reveal data released by National Crime Records. Bureau (NCRB). Against one case of cyber crime every day in 2017, four cases were registered in 2021.

Corruption, wasteful expenditure

Gujarat has the distinction of ranking third among the states of the country in the number of corruption crimes reported. According to Niti Aayog figures, the number of corruption crimes in Gujarat is 1,677.34 for every one crore inhabitants. 

The state cabinet, it may be re-called, passed a resolution in November 2018 dissolving Gujarat State Land Development Corporation (GSLDC) following large-scale corruption and financial irregularities. ACB unearthed disproportionate assets worth Rs 56 crore in 2021. The accused included 184 government employees and 103 individuals. In last December, the question paper for recruitment in government services had leaked. Under people’s pressure, the government had to take eight accused in custody.

Alongside, wasteful expenditure is also on the rise. In order to divert people’s attention and foment Gujarat chauvinism, a 600 feet tall statue of Sardar Patel was installed spending Rs 2,989 crore from government exchequer. The construction of the statue has affected 75,000 tribals across 72 villages in Gujarat’s Narmada district.

Former US President Donald Trump's three-hour Gujarat visit cost over Rs 100 crore in 2020 and huge mobilisaation to his programme was one of the causes which considerably delayed adoption of preventive measures against Covid-19. 

It is pertinent to mention that as Trump's motorcade made its way from the airport in Ahmedabad to a sprawling cricket stadium named after PM Modi, the city's municipal corporation built a four-foot-high wall to hide a stretch of slums on the route. During the global summit in January 2017 as well as Japanese Prime Minister’s visit in September 2017, the government put huge green clothes to hide the slums along the roads.
---
*Activist, Socialist Unity Centre of India (C) which is contesting three seats – one each in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat

Courtesy: https://www.counterview.net

 

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

Gujarat Polls

Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions.

Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years.

It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, black marketing, speculative forward and other derivative trading in food crops etc. are making the situation worse.

Can the government not stop these malpractices by toning up the preventive machinery and promulgating suitable laws? It can but it would not, because the BJP like any other trusted party of the ruling bourgeoisie like the Congress is committed to fill the coffers of the offenders, most of whom are either linked to the monopoly houses or financiers of the ruling party.

Other problems tormenting the people of Gujarat along with their fellow citizens in other parts of the country include mounting unemployment, closure of one after another industry throwing thousands out of job, resulting in fast diminishing means of earning. Some facts would show what peril the state of Gujarat is.

Industrial units shutting down

More than 2,000 industrial units in various estates of the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) are closed, according to information provided in the Assembly by the Gujarat government in a written reply. With regard to this data on closed units, secretary-general of the Federation of Gujarat Industries (FOGI) says, “As per the information provided, there is no mention of how many industrial units shut down year on year basis.

Highlighting the reason of the closure, he mentioned, “There could be various reasons attached to it but we do not rule out that a few might have not been able to sustain because of demonetization and roll out of GST due to slow refund circle process in the first year.”

Available data show, around 2,069 units were shut in GIDCs in 31 districts as of December 31, 2018. In Jamnagar, 36 units were shut in GIDCs, but 19 of them closed down since 2016. Similarly, 19 out of 50 units in Kutch, and 10 out of 18 units in Banaskantha downed shutters in last two years. A total of 89 industrial accidents happened between January and July 2020 across Gujarat. Over 130 workers died in industrial accidents in Gujarat during the first seven months of 2020, of which 57 per cent were reported in four months after the Covid lockdown was lifted in phases in the state.

Unemployment, job loss

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), in its “Unemployment Rate in India” report, noted that Gujarat’s unemployment rate which was 6.7% before the outbreak of Covid, which shot up to a whopping 18.7% within months. After Covid lockdown was lifted, no perceptible improvement is reported.
In 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to bring the Gujarat model of development to India, the focus of the state was on mega-projects at the expense of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which hurt job creation. Gujarat labour and employment Minister Dilip Thakor said in a written reply that in February 2020 (pre-pandemic period) told that 4.58 lakh educated youth were registered with various state employment exchanges. Of these, 4.34 lakh were 'educated' while 23,433 were semi-educated'.

Six states saw rising joblessness in cities in July-September 2019. The highest spike in the urban unemployment rate was seen in Gujarat, where it rose 1.3 percentage points to 4.3 per cent. In the beginning of June 2022, some 17 lakh job aspirants applied for 3,400 vacant posts of talati (village panchayat executive head), indicating the unemployment crisis in Gujarat.

Gujarat showed signs of distress related to economy when state authorities recorded 294 suicides in 2018 where reason for ending life was termed as ‘poverty’, and 318 persons ended their lives citing ‘unemployment’ as the reason. The figures were 163% and 21% more than the ones recorded in 2017.
Data on crime tabled by the state home department in the assembly state that a total of 14,702 cases of suicide were registered in Gujarat in the last two years, suggesting that on an average nearly 20 persons took their lives every day. The minister of state for home said 90 persons had ended their lives in Kheda and 111 persons had committed suicide in Anand district of Gujarat in 2019.

As the World Suicide Prevention Day is observed annually on 10 September, the NCRB report gave a snapshot of what drove Gujaratis to the brink in 2021. The number rose by 48%. Pravin Valera, coordinator of Jeevan Aastha Suicide Prevention helpline, said that the call volumes increased by about 20% since 2020, which has remained high even in 2022.

Condition of workers

The condition of the workers in the state is perilous. Minimum wages in the state have marginally increased in October after 25 years, i.e., in the face of ensuing election. Gujarat is having the lowest daily wage in the country, which is only Rs 220 for agricultural labourer.

The latest labour codes brought in by the Central government and implemented by the State government have opened up the vista of exploitation of workers. After the catastrophic fire that broke out at Nandan Denim Limited’s factory, one of the largest in Narol, a major hub textile and garment industry in Ahmedabad, during normal business hours on 8 February 2020 seven workers died of burns and asphyxiation and many were severely injured.

A study, ‘Looking Beyond Fire Extinguishers’, published in 2021 by Ajeevika Bureau, a non-profit organization, on the issue of labour practices leading to the fire accidents has found unsafe, inhumane and exploitative working conditions, with 322 industrial accidents occurring in Gujarat in the last two years.
The frequency of such accidents highlights lack of basic worker safety and compliance with workplace safety laws, particularly the Factories Act, 1948. Workers are aware of the involved risks to their lives but continue to work to make two ends meet.

According to the study, the factories have hazardous working conditions such as exposure to dangerous substances, intense heat and dust pollution. The denial of safe and healthy working conditions to employees stems from a variety of factors in which employers shift responsibility for safety and health to the under-equipped contractor and, eventually, the employee.

Even regular employment in these factories may not always provide a solution to the problem of safety and abusive working conditions that limit worker’s ability to raise concerns, according to the study. Factories normally hire workers under a variety of contractual arrangements and pay them on a daily or piece-rate basis. Only 4% of the total surveyed workers employed in higher roles were on the payroll of the factories. The remaining 96% were recruited through casual contracts.

Further, 12-hour work shifts are a norm, while 40% of the surveyed workers agreed to have worked over time including the previous 24 hours without any break. An operator describes an accident in which he became temporarily blind as a result of his floor master’s negligence in handling bleach. But he chose not to report the incident for fear of reprisals.

Workers are assigned to work with hazardous substances and processes with no prior training or protective equipment. This causes injuries and fatalities but rarely leads to legal action against the factories. The practice of using subcontractors and outsourcing work allows for blame-shifting and makes it difficult to identify non-compliance on paper.

Predicament of the peasants

The condition of peasants in the state is not good. They are selling land out of distress implying steady rise in the number of poor and marginal peasants. The number of agricultural workers has increased by 17 lakh. Even after 75 years of Independence, the peasants of Gujarat, like other states, are exposed to the vagaries of nature. They have been suffering frequently from natural calamities like drought and flood, absence of proper support from the government, non-availability of remunerative price of their produce and debt-burden.

Gujarat is one of the chronic drought-prone states of India, with an average annual rainfall about only 700 mm, with more than half of the district sub-divisions of Gujarat receiving rainfall within the range of 200–400 mm. Substantial portion of the state continues to be arid to semi-arid. Data show, 43,938 sq km area in Gujarat drought prone.

Last year, as the dry spell continued in the state, farmers in the affected districts like Surendranagar, Aravalli and Banaskantha submitted memorandums to their respective local administrations to declare their districts drought-hit. Though the government was reported to have not made any statement on the rising monsoon deficiency, the then BJP Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the Narmada dam had adequate water for drinking purposes for the next one year. His statement suggested that there would not be any shortage of drinking water, obliquely indicating deficiency of water for irrigation.

Huge amount of water was released from the Madhuban Dam on the Daman Ganga River in the Valsad district as the region continued to remain battered by heavy rainfall. The floods caused massive damage to crops on over 50,000 hectares. Thousands of farmers across Gujarat have protested this year demanding adequate power supply to save standing crops.

In March 2022, protests were held at more than 75 places as erratic and inadequate power forced angry farmers on to the streets demanding increasing supply to run pumps for irrigation. The question is why in 75 long years, including around 27 years of the BJP rule, there is no proper irrigation system to save agriculture and the poor peasants?

A perception has been cunningly spread by vested interests that farmers of Gujarat had no problem with the three black farm laws which the central BJP government was forced to repeal under pressure of historic year long farmers’ struggle near Delhi. But the fact is that when a good number of Gujarat farmers wanted to join the struggling peasants at the Shahjahanpur border of UP, they were forcibly prevented.

Though the black farm laws have been withdrawn, the Gujarat government is making every effort to implement them through the backdoor. The state Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Committees (mandis) are being closed down one after another giving rise to problems involving salary of the APMC employees, Minimum Support Price, Crop Insurance, etc.

The state government has introduced the PPP (Private-Public Partnership) model in crop insurance and land measurement, but redressal of any dispute over such areas remains abegging because of money power and political connections of the private operators. Suppressing facts, erstwhile BJP Chief Minister Vijay Rapani had claimed in a meeting of Niti Aayog in Delhi in 2018 that farmers in Gujarat are prosperous. However, realities contradict his claim.

Hunger, poverty

The number of poor people in the state under the National Food Security Act is 3.82 crore – which is 62.62% of the total population. The ‘Hunger Watch’ survey carried out by Anna Suraksha Adhikar Abhiyan (ASAA), Gujarat, to track the hunger situation amongst vulnerable and marginalized communities of the state amid the Covid pandemic revealed that 20.6 per cent households sometimes skipped meals due to lack of food, while 21.8 per cent said they sometimes slept without a single meal.

“The government has not given accurate information to the families, many of whom are from very deprived communities, as to why their ration cards cannot be used anymore to claim their basic entitlements. This process of making ration cards ‘silent’ has happened at the local taluka and/or district level. Additionally, in many areas, taluka level committee meetings are not being held due to Covid-19 effectively depriving families their right to food security,” the report states. In all, 50 lakh families do not get enough to eat.

The number of families living Below the Poverty Line (BPL) in Gujarat have risen by 2,556, taking the total number of BPL families over 31.56 lakh, as on August 31, 2021, the Gujarat Assembly was informed in March this year. About 20 lakh families in Gujarat do not have a good home to live in. A large number of poor people have no ration cards. 

The BJP government in Gujarat has been in power since 1996. Present PM Modi was the Gujarat chief minister for about 14 years, If the BJP wanted, it could have eradicated poverty in Gujarat during its 26 years of rule. But that has not happened.

Fragile healthcare system

Gujarat has often been lauded for its effective healthcare system. The fragility of the healthcare system of the state was highly exposed during Covid pandemic. Even whatever little facilities are existing in the hospitals including the private ones fell short when Covid wave spread in the state. 

There were queues of ambulances outside hospitals. There was acute shortage of oxygen cylinders and ventilators. During pandemic, the state registered the highest mortality rate in India -- 4.38 per cent -- which is considerably higher than the national average of 2.49 per cent.

In the initial weeks of the outbreak, government hospitals in Gujarat, especially the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, grabbed headlines for their high mortality rate. The Gujarat High Court slammed the state government, saying the conditions at the Civil Hospital were “pathetic”, and that the hospital was “as good as a dungeon, maybe even worse”.

Data from the health secretary’s office indicate that average span of hospitalization among discharged patients in Gujarat is 11.03 days, while among the deceased, it’s 6.24 days. As against over 25,000 to 30,000 Covid identification tests conducted in Tamil Nadu, which has almost the same population as Gujarat, the figure for Gujarat on 20 and 21 July 2020 was 12,867 and 13,693 respectively. In fact, Ahmedabad Medical Association filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court demanding that the tests be made proportionate to the population.

In a bid to help private hospitals for minting huge profits taking advantage of people’s distress, the government on the one hand allowed them to charge exorbitant fees for treatment, while on the other hand, instead of proper ventilators, it placed orders for ‘Dhaman 1’ ventilators developed by a Rajkot-based private firm Jyoti CNC, which were not approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI).

A row erupted when the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital wrote to the government stating that the ‘Dhaman-1’ ventilators were not up to the mark and sought sophisticated machines. Justice DA Mehta Commission of Inquiry report revealed multiple regulatory violations and hazardous practices at the two Covid hospitals in Gujarat where 13 patients were killed in fire accidents last year.

“It was an invitation for disaster,” the report, tabled in the Gujarat Assembly, said about Ahmedabad’s Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad and Uday Shivanand Hospital in Rajkot. That is why it has come as a shock that in the Covid-19 pandemic, the state has registered the highest mortality rate in India -- 4.38 per cent – while the national average was 2.49 per cent.

Pathetic condition of education

Gujarat is claimed by the ruling quarters as one of the economically developed states of India, but when it comes to human development, particularly education and health, its performance is quite poor. The performance of Gujarat in education-related indicators is dismal. According to the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) 2018, only 43% of students of government schools in standard V could read standard II level text. This clearly shows the quality of the education of government schools in Gujarat. Gujarat’s education department survey admits that 12,000 government schools have only one or two teachers.

Gujarat’s finance minister announced the thrust areas of this year's budget, and education is one of them. But the numbers of the state’s education spending do not match with the narrative.

The fund allocation and the percentage share of education in GSDP is one of the lowest in the country. For the fiscal 2019-20, the percentage share of education in GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) was only 1.55%. A survey in 2019 showed that 81% of government school students of classes 3-8 cannot read or write Gujarati fluently. Over 32% posts of teachers of English, math and science, and over 80% posts of principals are vacant in state-run secondary schools in Gujarat, the education minister told the assembly in 2021.

As is known to all, there is privatization spree in education. The policy of privatization and commercialization of education has converted education into commodity though the Supreme Court in a recent remark has rebutted that concept. But the BJP government is going ahead with its privatization policy.
In April last, the Gujarat government passed Bill to pave way for 11 new private universities including Adani university. Members of the Gujarat State Professors’ Association protested at various colleges in an attempt to voice their concerns over the bill. As many as 446 private schools but just 20 government new primary schools were opened in 2020-21. Closure and merger of government schools has become the order of the day. The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is slated to put the final nail to the coffin of education.

Crime against women

Gujarat is cited by the ruling quarters as one of the safest states for women to reside and roam around freely. But numbers question ‘Safe Gujarat’ tag by the ruling BJP. As per data released by the National Records Crime Bureau for 2019, complaints of crimes committed against women have been increasing steadily. While about three molestation cases of women are taking place every day in the state, more than one rape complaint is reportedly filed daily.
Organizations working for women say that the cases of crime against women are much more than reported. Gujarat reported nearly four rapes every day in the two years beginning 1 January 2018. In 2019- 20, the state reported 2,723 rape cases, of which 41 were incidents of gang-rape, while 35 involved girls younger than five years old.

A total of 3,796 cases of rape and 61 offenses of gang rape were registered in Gujarat in the two years ending on 31 December 2021. As per Central government report, sexual harassment at workplaces is maximum in Gujarat.

Spurt in cybercrime

While the ‘Digital India' push has led to a massive surge in online transactions, cyber crime offence too are growing exponentially. Gujarat became a hub of cyber crime during the lockdown. As per data released by the Cyber Crime Cell of Ahmedabad Police, over 15,300 complaints related to financial frauds have been received from all over Gujarat between January and July 2020.

Over the past five years, cyber crime cases in Gujarat have risen by 235%, reveal data released by National Crime Records. Bureau (NCRB). Against one case of cyber crime every day in 2017, four cases were registered in 2021.

Corruption, wasteful expenditure

Gujarat has the distinction of ranking third among the states of the country in the number of corruption crimes reported. According to Niti Aayog figures, the number of corruption crimes in Gujarat is 1,677.34 for every one crore inhabitants. 

The state cabinet, it may be re-called, passed a resolution in November 2018 dissolving Gujarat State Land Development Corporation (GSLDC) following large-scale corruption and financial irregularities. ACB unearthed disproportionate assets worth Rs 56 crore in 2021. The accused included 184 government employees and 103 individuals. In last December, the question paper for recruitment in government services had leaked. Under people’s pressure, the government had to take eight accused in custody.

Alongside, wasteful expenditure is also on the rise. In order to divert people’s attention and foment Gujarat chauvinism, a 600 feet tall statue of Sardar Patel was installed spending Rs 2,989 crore from government exchequer. The construction of the statue has affected 75,000 tribals across 72 villages in Gujarat’s Narmada district.

Former US President Donald Trump's three-hour Gujarat visit cost over Rs 100 crore in 2020 and huge mobilisaation to his programme was one of the causes which considerably delayed adoption of preventive measures against Covid-19. 

It is pertinent to mention that as Trump's motorcade made its way from the airport in Ahmedabad to a sprawling cricket stadium named after PM Modi, the city's municipal corporation built a four-foot-high wall to hide a stretch of slums on the route. During the global summit in January 2017 as well as Japanese Prime Minister’s visit in September 2017, the government put huge green clothes to hide the slums along the roads.
---
*Activist, Socialist Unity Centre of India (C) which is contesting three seats – one each in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat

Courtesy: https://www.counterview.net

 

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Sabrang

UP: Farmers Remind PM Modi of His Promises, Warn of Delhi-like Protest in Entire Country

SKM, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, which spearheaded the one-year-long agitation against the farm laws, has also called a general body meeting on December 8 to decide the future course of the movement.

28 Nov 2022

Photo
Photo by Abdul Alim Jafri

Lucknow: Meera and Shiv Baran from the Bamhna Kherda village in Uttar Pradesh's Hardoi district started their road trip towards the state capital Lucknow on November 25 with a torn blanket, a worn-out sweater and an unshaken resolve. "We will not tolerate the breach of promises anymore," they said.

After spending six hours in a cramped tempo with 17 others, Meera and her friends finally got the chance to stretch out their legs and wrap themselves in a thick blanket after landing in Lucknow.

"Ye sarkar apna wada bhi nahi nibhati hai. Sirf ghareebon ko jhootha sapna dikhati hai (The government does not fulfil its promises; it only gives false hopes to the poor)," distraught Meera told NewsClick.

Groups of farmers with their colourful flags, many of them on tractors, in buses and open pickups started reaching the Eco Garden in Lucknow at dawn on Saturday. They had come to join the 'Mazdoor-Kisan Mahapanchayat' to mark two years since they launched their agitation against the now-repealed three farm laws. By afternoon, the crowds swelled with farmers coming from Bahraich, Lakhimpur Kheri, Deoria, Ballia, Azamgarh, Hardoi, Faizabad, Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit, Meerut, Bijnor, and Muzaffarnagar. They alleged a breach of assurance given by the Centre on their pending demands.

A massive crowd gathered on Saturday for a farmers' Mahapanchayat or a meeting called by Samyukta Kisan Morch (SKM), where leaders including Hannan Mollah, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, and Mukut Singh, state general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) were spotted on the stage. Apart from these, representatives of Kisan Sabha, Jai Kisan Andolan, Krantikari Kisan Union and Bhartiya Kisan Shramik Janshakti Union were among the speakers.

Accusing PM Narendra Modi-led NDA government of betraying farmers and not fulfilling most of their demands, SKM leader Hannan Mollah said that the Modi government is a "traitor". "The government has proved it is a traitor who has cheated the farmers. At the time of scrapping three agri laws, (they) had made a commitment to set up a committee to give legal shape to the minimum support price, withdraw all criminal cases registered against farmers, release tractors and other vehicles impounded during the agitation and take action against the guilty involved in the massacre of farmers at Lakhimpur Kheri. They are protecting the corporates. They have proved they have no intention of fulfilling our demands," the SKM leader told NewsClick.

“Unfortunately, none of these promises have been fulfilled. The government has refused to grant the status of martyrs to more than 700 farmers killed during the year-long agitation,” he said, adding that this time, not only will Delhi be an epicentre of farmers' protest but the entire country will witness the agitation.

SKM, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, which spearheaded the one-year-long agitation against the farm laws, has also called a general body meeting on December 8 to decide the future course of the movement.

It was on November 26, 2020, that SKM had launched the one-year-long March to Delhi protest.

Other longstanding demands by the farmers include raising the sugarcane price to Rs 500 per quintal, prohibiting action against farmers for burning crop residue, providing free electricity to farmers, dismissing and arresting Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra 'Teni' for his alleged involvement in the Lakhimpur violence, lifting the tractor-trolley ban, measures to control stray cattle menace. and compensating farmers for crop damage caused by unseasonal rains.

BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, while addressing the gathering, appealed to the peasants to learn to operate "Twitter and Tractor" as they both will help to fight the government.

Tikait further said, "Badshah (Modi) says that there will be development in 2047. But by then all the farmers will have lost our land. The freedom struggle lasted for 90 years; it was a more dangerous period than this. But if the farmers do not get alert, history will repeat as we are living under an undeclared emergency where both pen and camera are guarded by guns.”

The BKU leader also pointed to the high-handedness of the police in Azamgarh, Jewar in the name of airport expansion.

"In 2005, the Bihar government by ending the mandis system (market yards regulated by the government) in the state, ruined the farmers there and the peasants are selling paddy at only Rs 800 per quintal. Similarly, the government destroyed the farmers of Jammu and Kashmir. Apple growers are in dire straits. Furthermore, whether it is Jewar Airport, Azamgarh or Lucknow, farmers' lands are being acquired without their consent," Tikait told NewsClick on the sideline of the Kisan Mahapanchayat.

Gunja Pati and Kausalya from Jigina Karampur in Azamgarh district along with hundreds of others under the banner of 'Makan Bachao Khet Bachao Sanyukta Morcha (Save houses and farms)', travelled to Lucknow in the fear of losing their houses, livelihood, and farmland after the announcement of a proposed expansion of Mandauri airstrip in Khiriya Ka Bagh, near Jamua Hariram.

Gunja, who owns eight biswa, and Kausalya, who is the owner of two, told NewsClick that they came to Lucknow hoping that their plight would be heard from a big plat platform. "My husband is a daily wage labourer and earns Rs 250 daily. Whatever we have is our one roof and the small patch of land to survive. But if this government snatches that from us, we will die. The fear of losing land brought us here," the duo told NewsClick.

Paryesh Nisad, a youth who claimed to have run away, hidden from the district administration, and taken a kutcha road to reach Lucknow, told NewsClick, "A day before yesterday, the district administration with cops barged into our houses so that we don’t participate in the Lucknow protest. They (police) threatened us with dire consequences if we joined the protest," he told NewsClick, adding that police also took pictures of whoever came to Lucknow.

Azamgarh
Photo by Abdul Alim Jafri

Radhe Shyam of Hasanpur village said, "We are poor people and we cannot fight with this powerful government. What we want is only our land and the government should shift the airport somewhere else."

The proposal aims to expand the Azamgarh airstrip to an international airport under the UDAN scheme. The project will displace about 10,000 people from around 600 acres covering eight villages: Hasanpur, Kadipur Harikesh, Jamua Hariram, Jamua Jolha, Gadanpur Chindan Patti, Manduri Jigina Karampur, and Jehra Pipri. The villagers are unwilling to give up their land and livelihoods tied to the land.

Courtesy: Newsclick

UP: Farmers Remind PM Modi of His Promises, Warn of Delhi-like Protest in Entire Country

SKM, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, which spearheaded the one-year-long agitation against the farm laws, has also called a general body meeting on December 8 to decide the future course of the movement.

Photo
Photo by Abdul Alim Jafri

Lucknow: Meera and Shiv Baran from the Bamhna Kherda village in Uttar Pradesh's Hardoi district started their road trip towards the state capital Lucknow on November 25 with a torn blanket, a worn-out sweater and an unshaken resolve. "We will not tolerate the breach of promises anymore," they said.

After spending six hours in a cramped tempo with 17 others, Meera and her friends finally got the chance to stretch out their legs and wrap themselves in a thick blanket after landing in Lucknow.

"Ye sarkar apna wada bhi nahi nibhati hai. Sirf ghareebon ko jhootha sapna dikhati hai (The government does not fulfil its promises; it only gives false hopes to the poor)," distraught Meera told NewsClick.

Groups of farmers with their colourful flags, many of them on tractors, in buses and open pickups started reaching the Eco Garden in Lucknow at dawn on Saturday. They had come to join the 'Mazdoor-Kisan Mahapanchayat' to mark two years since they launched their agitation against the now-repealed three farm laws. By afternoon, the crowds swelled with farmers coming from Bahraich, Lakhimpur Kheri, Deoria, Ballia, Azamgarh, Hardoi, Faizabad, Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit, Meerut, Bijnor, and Muzaffarnagar. They alleged a breach of assurance given by the Centre on their pending demands.

A massive crowd gathered on Saturday for a farmers' Mahapanchayat or a meeting called by Samyukta Kisan Morch (SKM), where leaders including Hannan Mollah, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, and Mukut Singh, state general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) were spotted on the stage. Apart from these, representatives of Kisan Sabha, Jai Kisan Andolan, Krantikari Kisan Union and Bhartiya Kisan Shramik Janshakti Union were among the speakers.

Accusing PM Narendra Modi-led NDA government of betraying farmers and not fulfilling most of their demands, SKM leader Hannan Mollah said that the Modi government is a "traitor". "The government has proved it is a traitor who has cheated the farmers. At the time of scrapping three agri laws, (they) had made a commitment to set up a committee to give legal shape to the minimum support price, withdraw all criminal cases registered against farmers, release tractors and other vehicles impounded during the agitation and take action against the guilty involved in the massacre of farmers at Lakhimpur Kheri. They are protecting the corporates. They have proved they have no intention of fulfilling our demands," the SKM leader told NewsClick.

“Unfortunately, none of these promises have been fulfilled. The government has refused to grant the status of martyrs to more than 700 farmers killed during the year-long agitation,” he said, adding that this time, not only will Delhi be an epicentre of farmers' protest but the entire country will witness the agitation.

SKM, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, which spearheaded the one-year-long agitation against the farm laws, has also called a general body meeting on December 8 to decide the future course of the movement.

It was on November 26, 2020, that SKM had launched the one-year-long March to Delhi protest.

Other longstanding demands by the farmers include raising the sugarcane price to Rs 500 per quintal, prohibiting action against farmers for burning crop residue, providing free electricity to farmers, dismissing and arresting Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra 'Teni' for his alleged involvement in the Lakhimpur violence, lifting the tractor-trolley ban, measures to control stray cattle menace. and compensating farmers for crop damage caused by unseasonal rains.

BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, while addressing the gathering, appealed to the peasants to learn to operate "Twitter and Tractor" as they both will help to fight the government.

Tikait further said, "Badshah (Modi) says that there will be development in 2047. But by then all the farmers will have lost our land. The freedom struggle lasted for 90 years; it was a more dangerous period than this. But if the farmers do not get alert, history will repeat as we are living under an undeclared emergency where both pen and camera are guarded by guns.”

The BKU leader also pointed to the high-handedness of the police in Azamgarh, Jewar in the name of airport expansion.

"In 2005, the Bihar government by ending the mandis system (market yards regulated by the government) in the state, ruined the farmers there and the peasants are selling paddy at only Rs 800 per quintal. Similarly, the government destroyed the farmers of Jammu and Kashmir. Apple growers are in dire straits. Furthermore, whether it is Jewar Airport, Azamgarh or Lucknow, farmers' lands are being acquired without their consent," Tikait told NewsClick on the sideline of the Kisan Mahapanchayat.

Gunja Pati and Kausalya from Jigina Karampur in Azamgarh district along with hundreds of others under the banner of 'Makan Bachao Khet Bachao Sanyukta Morcha (Save houses and farms)', travelled to Lucknow in the fear of losing their houses, livelihood, and farmland after the announcement of a proposed expansion of Mandauri airstrip in Khiriya Ka Bagh, near Jamua Hariram.

Gunja, who owns eight biswa, and Kausalya, who is the owner of two, told NewsClick that they came to Lucknow hoping that their plight would be heard from a big plat platform. "My husband is a daily wage labourer and earns Rs 250 daily. Whatever we have is our one roof and the small patch of land to survive. But if this government snatches that from us, we will die. The fear of losing land brought us here," the duo told NewsClick.

Paryesh Nisad, a youth who claimed to have run away, hidden from the district administration, and taken a kutcha road to reach Lucknow, told NewsClick, "A day before yesterday, the district administration with cops barged into our houses so that we don’t participate in the Lucknow protest. They (police) threatened us with dire consequences if we joined the protest," he told NewsClick, adding that police also took pictures of whoever came to Lucknow.

Azamgarh
Photo by Abdul Alim Jafri

Radhe Shyam of Hasanpur village said, "We are poor people and we cannot fight with this powerful government. What we want is only our land and the government should shift the airport somewhere else."

The proposal aims to expand the Azamgarh airstrip to an international airport under the UDAN scheme. The project will displace about 10,000 people from around 600 acres covering eight villages: Hasanpur, Kadipur Harikesh, Jamua Hariram, Jamua Jolha, Gadanpur Chindan Patti, Manduri Jigina Karampur, and Jehra Pipri. The villagers are unwilling to give up their land and livelihoods tied to the land.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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UP: Azamgarh BJP MP Allegedly Threatened to 'Break Knees' of Villagers Protesting Airport Expansion

After protesters, including SKM, demanded retraction, Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ reportedly clarified he meant no one should take law & order into own hands.

25 Nov 2022

azam
File photo.

Lucknow: As protests by villagers against the proposed expansion of Manduri airstrip in Azamgarh of Uttar Pradesh are intensifying, with Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) also backing it, matters took a serious turn with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP. Dinesh Lal Yadav (Nirahua), allegedly threatening to "break the knees" of protesting farmers.

On November 19, Azamgarh MP Nirahua allegedly (see Rajeev Yadav’s letter) said during a public gathering in Mubarakpur area: "Azamgarh ke pichdepan ka ekmatra karan yahan ke logon ka mann badha hua hai. Agar Azamgarh ko aage badhaana hai to pehle ise khatm karna hoga. Jin logon ka mann badha hua hai ya to inhe jail bhejo ya ghutna maar kar ghuntna tod do ya seedhe upar bhej do (The lone reason Azamgarh remained backward is its people here who are out of hand. If the district has to be progress, then first such a trend needs to be stopped. Those who are out of control, either send them to jail, break their knees or kill them.”

Farmers collective SKM condemned this alleged threat and demanded that the MP retract the same.

However, later, Nirahua reportedly clarified that he meant that nobody should take law into their hands. "If the problem is not being resolved then let us know. We will sort it out but one should not take law into his hands," he said when the villagers landed at police station demanding action against him.

Deja Vu Lakhimpur Kheri?

The SKM and 'Makan Bachao Khet Bachao Sanyukta Morcha', which was formed to lead the protest, have charged the BJP MP of trying to incite violence in Azamgarh, like in Lakhimpur Kheri alleging that this was done to derive political mileage ahead of the forthcoming urban polls.

"Such a statement was also given by Union minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra Teni in Lakhimpur Kheri wherein he talked about “teaching a lesson” to farmers protesting against the three farm laws. After that, his son's convoy mowed down four farmers and a journalist. Nirahua's statement is an attempt to create similar atmosphere. In such a situation, action should be taken against the BJP MP," Rajeev Yadav, SKM member, who is among the leaders of the Azamgarh protest, told NewsClick. 

He said that this was not the first time BJP MP made such statements against protesting villagers. Earlier, Nirahua had said that the people who are protesting against airport expansion are “anti-development” and "politically motivated".  

The protesting villagers had first given a complaint to Azamgarh superintendent of police (SP) Anurag Arya on November 21 but could not turn into First Information Report (FIR). On November 23, the union handed over a memorandum to the district magistrate, demanding action against the BJP leader.

Thousands of locals, mainly women, reportedly from the dalit and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) communities, have been protesting against the proposed expansion of Mandauri airstrip in Azamgarh since 43 days. The protest has been going strong, drawing support from farm leaders and social activists.

The proposal is to expand the Azamgarh airstrip to an international airport under the UDAN scheme. The project will displace about 10,000 people from around 600 acres covering eight villages Hasanpur, Kadipur Harikesh, Jamua Hariram, Jamua Jolha, Gadanpur Chindan Patti, Manduri Jigina Karampur and Jehra Pipri. The villagers are unwilling to give up their land and livelihoods tied to the land.

Meanwhile, a large number of protesting locals are planning to reach Lucknow to join the nationwide march to Raj Bhawan on November 26, called by SKM in protest against the alleged breach of assurance by the Centre on their pending demands. The proposed expansion of the airport in Azamgarh is also supposed to be raised then.

Courtesy: Newsclick

UP: Azamgarh BJP MP Allegedly Threatened to 'Break Knees' of Villagers Protesting Airport Expansion

After protesters, including SKM, demanded retraction, Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ reportedly clarified he meant no one should take law & order into own hands.

azam
File photo.

Lucknow: As protests by villagers against the proposed expansion of Manduri airstrip in Azamgarh of Uttar Pradesh are intensifying, with Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) also backing it, matters took a serious turn with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP. Dinesh Lal Yadav (Nirahua), allegedly threatening to "break the knees" of protesting farmers.

On November 19, Azamgarh MP Nirahua allegedly (see Rajeev Yadav’s letter) said during a public gathering in Mubarakpur area: "Azamgarh ke pichdepan ka ekmatra karan yahan ke logon ka mann badha hua hai. Agar Azamgarh ko aage badhaana hai to pehle ise khatm karna hoga. Jin logon ka mann badha hua hai ya to inhe jail bhejo ya ghutna maar kar ghuntna tod do ya seedhe upar bhej do (The lone reason Azamgarh remained backward is its people here who are out of hand. If the district has to be progress, then first such a trend needs to be stopped. Those who are out of control, either send them to jail, break their knees or kill them.”

Farmers collective SKM condemned this alleged threat and demanded that the MP retract the same.

However, later, Nirahua reportedly clarified that he meant that nobody should take law into their hands. "If the problem is not being resolved then let us know. We will sort it out but one should not take law into his hands," he said when the villagers landed at police station demanding action against him.

Deja Vu Lakhimpur Kheri?

The SKM and 'Makan Bachao Khet Bachao Sanyukta Morcha', which was formed to lead the protest, have charged the BJP MP of trying to incite violence in Azamgarh, like in Lakhimpur Kheri alleging that this was done to derive political mileage ahead of the forthcoming urban polls.

"Such a statement was also given by Union minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra Teni in Lakhimpur Kheri wherein he talked about “teaching a lesson” to farmers protesting against the three farm laws. After that, his son's convoy mowed down four farmers and a journalist. Nirahua's statement is an attempt to create similar atmosphere. In such a situation, action should be taken against the BJP MP," Rajeev Yadav, SKM member, who is among the leaders of the Azamgarh protest, told NewsClick. 

He said that this was not the first time BJP MP made such statements against protesting villagers. Earlier, Nirahua had said that the people who are protesting against airport expansion are “anti-development” and "politically motivated".  

The protesting villagers had first given a complaint to Azamgarh superintendent of police (SP) Anurag Arya on November 21 but could not turn into First Information Report (FIR). On November 23, the union handed over a memorandum to the district magistrate, demanding action against the BJP leader.

Thousands of locals, mainly women, reportedly from the dalit and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) communities, have been protesting against the proposed expansion of Mandauri airstrip in Azamgarh since 43 days. The protest has been going strong, drawing support from farm leaders and social activists.

The proposal is to expand the Azamgarh airstrip to an international airport under the UDAN scheme. The project will displace about 10,000 people from around 600 acres covering eight villages Hasanpur, Kadipur Harikesh, Jamua Hariram, Jamua Jolha, Gadanpur Chindan Patti, Manduri Jigina Karampur and Jehra Pipri. The villagers are unwilling to give up their land and livelihoods tied to the land.

Meanwhile, a large number of protesting locals are planning to reach Lucknow to join the nationwide march to Raj Bhawan on November 26, called by SKM in protest against the alleged breach of assurance by the Centre on their pending demands. The proposed expansion of the airport in Azamgarh is also supposed to be raised then.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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'Ensure your name is on voters’ list or you’ll be sent to NRC Detention Camps,' Mamata warns people

The chief minister's attack on the ruling BJP at the centre came at a state government programme to distribute land 'pattas' (documents) to marginalised families across West Bengal

24 Nov 2022

Mamata Banerjee

New Delhi: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has warned people of the state to ensure that their names are on the electoral roll to avoid getting sent to detention camps under the garb of enforcing the National Register of Citizens (NRC). She was speaking on Wednesday, November 23.

 Her remarks were made while addressing a programme organised by the state government to distribute land ‘pattas’ (documents) to marginalised families from all districts.

“Ensure your name is there on the voter list or else you will be sent to detention camps in the name of NRC. It’s a shame, shame and shame,” news agency PTI quoted Banerjee as saying.

The NRC, coupled with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, has long since been a point of serious controversy between the Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in Bengal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government. Now, with panchayat elections looming in the state, the issue assumes new importance.

According to some media reports, the TMC is set to face a tough challenge, particularly in the state’s rural areas, due to allegations of widespread corruption and a lack of employment opportunities. These  polls have, in recent years, also been seen as a sign of things to come vis-a-vis politics in the state as a whole.

Therefore, Banerjee’s remarks on the NRC are noteworthy as they reiterate her long-standing opposition to the BJP’s efforts to implement it in conjunction with the CAA.

Notably, the BJP has gradually softened its stance on NRC implementation in Bengal. While assembly elections were going on in the state last year, Kailash Vijayvargiya, national general secretary of the BJP said that if the party came to power in the state, it would not implement the NRC and that the ruling TMC was wrong to accuse the saffron party of taking away the rights of the people.

Vijayvargiya did, however, say that the CAA would be implemented, but the Union government is yet to notify the rules for the legislation. Investigations by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) however reveal that in several states special window clearances for specifically named minorities from neighbouring countries have already been opened thtough MHA’s executive diktat without Rules for the 2019 amendment being passed.

“So many people came here from Bangladesh after losing everything. Those who came here before March 1971 are considered citizens of this country. But sometimes people are fooled. They are branded as not citizens of this country,” the media quoted Banerjee as saying on Wednesday.

“If the refugees are not citizens then how come their votes were counted as valid? One cannot call them not citizens of this country after being elected to the government with the help of their votes. This is just a way to disrespect them,” the chief minister continued.

Mamata also told the voters gathered that letters were being sent to the prime minister every day “to stop funds for welfare projects… From 100 days’ work to other schemes,” – an ostensible reference to the leader of the opposition in West Bengal, the BJP’s Suvendhu Adhikari, who reportedly wrote to Prime Minister Modi in August and alleged that the TMC government was diverting Union government funds meant for welfare schemes.

“Those who are doing this are trying to stop the economic growth of the state. We were also in the opposition once but never tried to stop the development of the state,” Banerjee continued, according to the Express, adding that the Union government is “running on the party’s instruction” without specifically mentioning the BJP. 

Banerjee at the programme handed over 4,701 land pattas. She also referred to incidents of “forcible takeover of land by the railway and airport authorities”, 

“No eviction will be allowed in Bengal without proper compensation and rehabilitation,” she said. “[Start] protests if your land is forcibly taken and the state will be with you”.

(With PTI inputs)


Related:

Is the GoI’s database linkage plan a precursor to NRC?

"Claims Look Legitimate", AG to Supreme Court on plea seeking Aadhaar Cards for those included in the NRC list

Yet another NRC reverification plea moved before SC

Reviving the NRC brawl

'Ensure your name is on voters’ list or you’ll be sent to NRC Detention Camps,' Mamata warns people

The chief minister's attack on the ruling BJP at the centre came at a state government programme to distribute land 'pattas' (documents) to marginalised families across West Bengal

Mamata Banerjee

New Delhi: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has warned people of the state to ensure that their names are on the electoral roll to avoid getting sent to detention camps under the garb of enforcing the National Register of Citizens (NRC). She was speaking on Wednesday, November 23.

 Her remarks were made while addressing a programme organised by the state government to distribute land ‘pattas’ (documents) to marginalised families from all districts.

“Ensure your name is there on the voter list or else you will be sent to detention camps in the name of NRC. It’s a shame, shame and shame,” news agency PTI quoted Banerjee as saying.

The NRC, coupled with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, has long since been a point of serious controversy between the Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in Bengal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government. Now, with panchayat elections looming in the state, the issue assumes new importance.

According to some media reports, the TMC is set to face a tough challenge, particularly in the state’s rural areas, due to allegations of widespread corruption and a lack of employment opportunities. These  polls have, in recent years, also been seen as a sign of things to come vis-a-vis politics in the state as a whole.

Therefore, Banerjee’s remarks on the NRC are noteworthy as they reiterate her long-standing opposition to the BJP’s efforts to implement it in conjunction with the CAA.

Notably, the BJP has gradually softened its stance on NRC implementation in Bengal. While assembly elections were going on in the state last year, Kailash Vijayvargiya, national general secretary of the BJP said that if the party came to power in the state, it would not implement the NRC and that the ruling TMC was wrong to accuse the saffron party of taking away the rights of the people.

Vijayvargiya did, however, say that the CAA would be implemented, but the Union government is yet to notify the rules for the legislation. Investigations by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) however reveal that in several states special window clearances for specifically named minorities from neighbouring countries have already been opened thtough MHA’s executive diktat without Rules for the 2019 amendment being passed.

“So many people came here from Bangladesh after losing everything. Those who came here before March 1971 are considered citizens of this country. But sometimes people are fooled. They are branded as not citizens of this country,” the media quoted Banerjee as saying on Wednesday.

“If the refugees are not citizens then how come their votes were counted as valid? One cannot call them not citizens of this country after being elected to the government with the help of their votes. This is just a way to disrespect them,” the chief minister continued.

Mamata also told the voters gathered that letters were being sent to the prime minister every day “to stop funds for welfare projects… From 100 days’ work to other schemes,” – an ostensible reference to the leader of the opposition in West Bengal, the BJP’s Suvendhu Adhikari, who reportedly wrote to Prime Minister Modi in August and alleged that the TMC government was diverting Union government funds meant for welfare schemes.

“Those who are doing this are trying to stop the economic growth of the state. We were also in the opposition once but never tried to stop the development of the state,” Banerjee continued, according to the Express, adding that the Union government is “running on the party’s instruction” without specifically mentioning the BJP. 

Banerjee at the programme handed over 4,701 land pattas. She also referred to incidents of “forcible takeover of land by the railway and airport authorities”, 

“No eviction will be allowed in Bengal without proper compensation and rehabilitation,” she said. “[Start] protests if your land is forcibly taken and the state will be with you”.

(With PTI inputs)


Related:

Is the GoI’s database linkage plan a precursor to NRC?

"Claims Look Legitimate", AG to Supreme Court on plea seeking Aadhaar Cards for those included in the NRC list

Yet another NRC reverification plea moved before SC

Reviving the NRC brawl

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Gujarat Elections: Temple With 2 Doors Leads to Different Realities

Caste discrimination is ingrained in villages of Dhanera, north Gujarat, and has been normalised after years of oppression.

24 Nov 2022

temple
The temple in Sankad village with two different fire pits for the Scheduled Castes (left) and the upper castes.

Dhanera, Gujarat: A temple with two entrances opens up to a broad hallway that leads up to two fire pits in front of two doors marking separate entries to different temples. One temple remains open while the other is closed—members of the local Scheduled Caste (SC) Gohil community identify the closed one as theirs.

As this reporter goes towards the closed side of the temple, the priest enters from the other side. “It’s an age-old custom. The temple is 100 years old; some things cannot be changed,” he answers when questioned about caste discrimination.

Untraceable custom

The 68-year-old priest continues to support the discriminatory custom. “We do not do any injustice but temples should be different,” he says adding that “there were differences, as taught to them, that is part of the culture”. 

The temple is located in Dhanera Taluka’s Sankad village, in the Banaskantha district of Gujarat. Newlywed couples come to seek blessings at the temple, which is shared by 30 villages.

“Is God different? Are our offerings different? Is the cause of the visit (marriage) different? Then why can’t we share the same space?” questions Sankad native Dinesh (35).

Temples in the villages of Saral, Thawar and others in Banaskantha also have similar tales of discrimination to narrate.

cst1
A teenager from an SC community peeks into the temple in Sankad.

When women from the Gohil and Solanki communities went to attend a Navratri function in Saral, they were asked to leave. “We were not allowed to dance, sing or participate in the puja and asked to leave,” says Meeta, who firmly believes in the principles of BR Ambedkar.

CST2
Women of Saral village believe only in the principles of BR Ambedkar.

At the Shiva temple in the same village, women from these two communities who fast for 16 Mondays during the holy month of Shravan are barred. “We are asked to stay away and maintain the difference,” says Meeta. 

Even dead bodies of members of SC communities are discriminated against because of their castes. In all the 94 villages of Dhanera Vidhan Sabha, there are different crematoriums for different castes.

The discrimination does not end here. There are pending court cases over ownership of crematorium land in Vasan and Malotra villages. The SC community of Vasan alleges that the land, allocated by the collector to it for 40 years, was hijacked by the sarpanch and other upper-castes. A similar incident allegedly happened in Malotra, where the land is demarcated by a fence. 

Ostracisation from public spaces to settlements

An unmetalled road along an open crematorium leads to a settlement in the woods in Sankad. The settlement, which bears all the marks of ostracisation due to its far-off location, has mud houses with hay boundary walls. They belong to the Valmikis, the last in the caste system, who are oppressed even by the SCs of the village. 

Caste discrimination in these villages does not start with the Brahmins. The Other Backward Classes oppress the SCs (Gohils and Solanki), who, in turn, discriminate against the Valmikis.

Geeta, making millet chapatis for lunch at one of the houses, is the youngest and the most educated among the three sisters-in-law in the family. She had studied up till the 8th grade. “We are not allowed to raise our voices. If we do, we are abused,” says the 19-year-old, who could study only till class eight.

 

In 2017 and before, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Assembly election manifestos consistently promised to eradicate caste discrimination in Gujarat. However, these villages tell a different tale. 

“During the last campaign, candidates promised to construct metalled roads and permanent houses. But you can see the condition of the road you took to reach our house,” Geeta says sarcastically when asked about the election campaigns of political parties adding that “they visit us once in five years only to ask for votes”.

From weddings to other public events, the Valmikis use their utensils and sometimes even carry their own food to marriages. For the comparatively less underprivileged SC communities of Solankis and Galchars, the situation is slightly better due to their vote bank. “They have separate utensils for us in their houses,” says Dinesh, a member of the Gohil community in Sankad.

CST3
The temple used by the Valmiki community.

“The difference is evident. Our newlywed couples cannot enter temples and are supposed to worship from outside. We carry our utensils and sometimes food too to their weddings. They mostly don’t attend our weddings—and even if they do, they give cash and leave,” Shilpa, another member of the Valmiki community says describing the deep-rooted discrimination.

Even election candidates visiting the Valmiki settlement “do not enter the houses or touch the community members. They give verbal assurances and leave”, adds Shilpa. Some of the candidates enter the houses of other less underprivileged communities and have tea during campaigns.

Shilpa’s husband Bhangi Pagwan Bhai Virchand tried several times to apply for the position of Safai Kamgaar. Finally, he gave up and expected their son Shivam, who has a master’s degree, to improve the family’s financial condition. But he too failed to land a job and now assists his father and uncles in farming.

CST4
Shilpa’s husband Bhangi Pagwan Bhai Virchand shows the forms which he filled to get a house under the PM Awaas Yojana.

Caste discrimination stretches to government schemes as well. Shilpa’s family applied for a house under the PM Awas Yojana thrice but their forms either failed to reach the concerned officials or were ignored. “Once an officer from Palanpur even visited our house for inquiry. He said that since we already have a roof, we do not need a house,” says Shilpa, who stays with the six family members in a one-room house with no washroom or a permanent roof. 

Oppression: From land to representation

Dhanera is one of the biggest constituencies containing SCs, who total 28,000. Besides, it has a tribal population of approximately 9%. But neither SCs or Scheduled Tribes (STs) have any representatives.

Dhanera

“No one from the SC or ST community can contest even in Panchayat elections without a reserved seat. An analysis of the unreserved seats in Panchayat election shows a clear picture of the situation here,” says Pankaj, a local reporter and son of a former sarpanch. 

Gujarat was among the top five BJP-ruled states with the highest number of crimes against Dalits in 2018, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

As per the rules, the underprivileged have been granted some government land for farming. Masra Hamira Galchar (62), a native of Malotra, lost his land in 2019 and son in the first wave of the pandemic. He now works as a daily wager in the lands of other farmers for Rs 200 a day. 

In 2002, Galchar was granted six bighas. When the water crisis hit the village, he could not afford to spend lakhs on a borewell. With no option left, he approached the village Patel, who arranged for irrigation on the condition that he would have a “75% share in the produce”.

“I was left with only one-fourth share despite slogging on my land,” adds Galchar. In 2018, he finally asked the Patel for another share. When he refused, Galchar stopped working for him. 

Galchar collected his crops in one place to sell some of them and use the rest for as cattle feed. The same night, the “Patel and a few other men burnt his crops”. When Galchar and his family rushed to extinguish the fire, they were “beaten up”.

When he registered an FIR at the Dhanera Police Station, the Patel claimed that the land belonged to him and Galchar had instead burnt “his” crops. The police believe his version and the case has been pending in a Palanpur court for the last four years. Since the matter is sub judice, Galchar can’t use the land.

CST5
Masra Hamira Galchar, of Malotra village, shows his land papers.

“Being of the same caste matters more than being fair,” Galchar says with fading hope and a hunger for justice in his eyes while showing documents and a copy of the FIR in support of his claim to the land.

Galchar, who has a debt running in lakhs, has already spent, at least, Rs 3 lakh on the court case. When asked about how will he pay the loans or whether he is sure about getting his land back, he replied with only a pitiful smile. 

Meanwhile, the Patel has his own house and lands, and continues his ‘one-fourth share’ business with other farmers of the village. 

Caste-based atrocities against Dalits and tribals in Gujarat spiked by, at least 70%, between 2003 and 2018. Despite the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) pledge to eliminate caste discrimination, the situation hasn’t changed. 

“It is this way to keep honour intact,” asks Shilpa pointing out

the separate entries to the Sankad temple.

Saral is also known as Ambedkar Nagar. However, fasting Dalit women are not allowed inside temples. Caste discrimination in villages of north Gujarat is part of the culture and the social fabric.

The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist reporting on issues of unemployment, education and human rights.

Courtesy: Newsclick

Gujarat Elections: Temple With 2 Doors Leads to Different Realities

Caste discrimination is ingrained in villages of Dhanera, north Gujarat, and has been normalised after years of oppression.

temple
The temple in Sankad village with two different fire pits for the Scheduled Castes (left) and the upper castes.

Dhanera, Gujarat: A temple with two entrances opens up to a broad hallway that leads up to two fire pits in front of two doors marking separate entries to different temples. One temple remains open while the other is closed—members of the local Scheduled Caste (SC) Gohil community identify the closed one as theirs.

As this reporter goes towards the closed side of the temple, the priest enters from the other side. “It’s an age-old custom. The temple is 100 years old; some things cannot be changed,” he answers when questioned about caste discrimination.

Untraceable custom

The 68-year-old priest continues to support the discriminatory custom. “We do not do any injustice but temples should be different,” he says adding that “there were differences, as taught to them, that is part of the culture”. 

The temple is located in Dhanera Taluka’s Sankad village, in the Banaskantha district of Gujarat. Newlywed couples come to seek blessings at the temple, which is shared by 30 villages.

“Is God different? Are our offerings different? Is the cause of the visit (marriage) different? Then why can’t we share the same space?” questions Sankad native Dinesh (35).

Temples in the villages of Saral, Thawar and others in Banaskantha also have similar tales of discrimination to narrate.

cst1
A teenager from an SC community peeks into the temple in Sankad.

When women from the Gohil and Solanki communities went to attend a Navratri function in Saral, they were asked to leave. “We were not allowed to dance, sing or participate in the puja and asked to leave,” says Meeta, who firmly believes in the principles of BR Ambedkar.

CST2
Women of Saral village believe only in the principles of BR Ambedkar.

At the Shiva temple in the same village, women from these two communities who fast for 16 Mondays during the holy month of Shravan are barred. “We are asked to stay away and maintain the difference,” says Meeta. 

Even dead bodies of members of SC communities are discriminated against because of their castes. In all the 94 villages of Dhanera Vidhan Sabha, there are different crematoriums for different castes.

The discrimination does not end here. There are pending court cases over ownership of crematorium land in Vasan and Malotra villages. The SC community of Vasan alleges that the land, allocated by the collector to it for 40 years, was hijacked by the sarpanch and other upper-castes. A similar incident allegedly happened in Malotra, where the land is demarcated by a fence. 

Ostracisation from public spaces to settlements

An unmetalled road along an open crematorium leads to a settlement in the woods in Sankad. The settlement, which bears all the marks of ostracisation due to its far-off location, has mud houses with hay boundary walls. They belong to the Valmikis, the last in the caste system, who are oppressed even by the SCs of the village. 

Caste discrimination in these villages does not start with the Brahmins. The Other Backward Classes oppress the SCs (Gohils and Solanki), who, in turn, discriminate against the Valmikis.

Geeta, making millet chapatis for lunch at one of the houses, is the youngest and the most educated among the three sisters-in-law in the family. She had studied up till the 8th grade. “We are not allowed to raise our voices. If we do, we are abused,” says the 19-year-old, who could study only till class eight.

 

In 2017 and before, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Assembly election manifestos consistently promised to eradicate caste discrimination in Gujarat. However, these villages tell a different tale. 

“During the last campaign, candidates promised to construct metalled roads and permanent houses. But you can see the condition of the road you took to reach our house,” Geeta says sarcastically when asked about the election campaigns of political parties adding that “they visit us once in five years only to ask for votes”.

From weddings to other public events, the Valmikis use their utensils and sometimes even carry their own food to marriages. For the comparatively less underprivileged SC communities of Solankis and Galchars, the situation is slightly better due to their vote bank. “They have separate utensils for us in their houses,” says Dinesh, a member of the Gohil community in Sankad.

CST3
The temple used by the Valmiki community.

“The difference is evident. Our newlywed couples cannot enter temples and are supposed to worship from outside. We carry our utensils and sometimes food too to their weddings. They mostly don’t attend our weddings—and even if they do, they give cash and leave,” Shilpa, another member of the Valmiki community says describing the deep-rooted discrimination.

Even election candidates visiting the Valmiki settlement “do not enter the houses or touch the community members. They give verbal assurances and leave”, adds Shilpa. Some of the candidates enter the houses of other less underprivileged communities and have tea during campaigns.

Shilpa’s husband Bhangi Pagwan Bhai Virchand tried several times to apply for the position of Safai Kamgaar. Finally, he gave up and expected their son Shivam, who has a master’s degree, to improve the family’s financial condition. But he too failed to land a job and now assists his father and uncles in farming.

CST4
Shilpa’s husband Bhangi Pagwan Bhai Virchand shows the forms which he filled to get a house under the PM Awaas Yojana.

Caste discrimination stretches to government schemes as well. Shilpa’s family applied for a house under the PM Awas Yojana thrice but their forms either failed to reach the concerned officials or were ignored. “Once an officer from Palanpur even visited our house for inquiry. He said that since we already have a roof, we do not need a house,” says Shilpa, who stays with the six family members in a one-room house with no washroom or a permanent roof. 

Oppression: From land to representation

Dhanera is one of the biggest constituencies containing SCs, who total 28,000. Besides, it has a tribal population of approximately 9%. But neither SCs or Scheduled Tribes (STs) have any representatives.

Dhanera

“No one from the SC or ST community can contest even in Panchayat elections without a reserved seat. An analysis of the unreserved seats in Panchayat election shows a clear picture of the situation here,” says Pankaj, a local reporter and son of a former sarpanch. 

Gujarat was among the top five BJP-ruled states with the highest number of crimes against Dalits in 2018, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

As per the rules, the underprivileged have been granted some government land for farming. Masra Hamira Galchar (62), a native of Malotra, lost his land in 2019 and son in the first wave of the pandemic. He now works as a daily wager in the lands of other farmers for Rs 200 a day. 

In 2002, Galchar was granted six bighas. When the water crisis hit the village, he could not afford to spend lakhs on a borewell. With no option left, he approached the village Patel, who arranged for irrigation on the condition that he would have a “75% share in the produce”.

“I was left with only one-fourth share despite slogging on my land,” adds Galchar. In 2018, he finally asked the Patel for another share. When he refused, Galchar stopped working for him. 

Galchar collected his crops in one place to sell some of them and use the rest for as cattle feed. The same night, the “Patel and a few other men burnt his crops”. When Galchar and his family rushed to extinguish the fire, they were “beaten up”.

When he registered an FIR at the Dhanera Police Station, the Patel claimed that the land belonged to him and Galchar had instead burnt “his” crops. The police believe his version and the case has been pending in a Palanpur court for the last four years. Since the matter is sub judice, Galchar can’t use the land.

CST5
Masra Hamira Galchar, of Malotra village, shows his land papers.

“Being of the same caste matters more than being fair,” Galchar says with fading hope and a hunger for justice in his eyes while showing documents and a copy of the FIR in support of his claim to the land.

Galchar, who has a debt running in lakhs, has already spent, at least, Rs 3 lakh on the court case. When asked about how will he pay the loans or whether he is sure about getting his land back, he replied with only a pitiful smile. 

Meanwhile, the Patel has his own house and lands, and continues his ‘one-fourth share’ business with other farmers of the village. 

Caste-based atrocities against Dalits and tribals in Gujarat spiked by, at least 70%, between 2003 and 2018. Despite the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) pledge to eliminate caste discrimination, the situation hasn’t changed. 

“It is this way to keep honour intact,” asks Shilpa pointing out

the separate entries to the Sankad temple.

Saral is also known as Ambedkar Nagar. However, fasting Dalit women are not allowed inside temples. Caste discrimination in villages of north Gujarat is part of the culture and the social fabric.

The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist reporting on issues of unemployment, education and human rights.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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UP: 'BJP's Pasmanda Appeasement is Nothing More Than Hollow Rhetoric'

Muslim intellectuals believe it is another attempt to divide Muslims into sects.

23 Nov 2022

UP: 'BJP's Pasmanda Appeasement is Nothing More Than Hollow Rhetoric'
Image Courtesy: NDTV

Lucknow: Months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an outreach programme focussing on Pasmanda (Backward) Muslims, the Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched an aggressive campaign ahead of the forthcoming urban polls in the state.

Three back-to-back conventions for the "socio-economic uplift" of the Pasmanda community were held in Lucknow, Bareilly, Rampur and Kanpur, respectively, as part of its Muslim outreach programme. At least half a dozen such events featuring top ministers of Yogi government 2.0 lined up till next month, especially in western Uttar Pradesh, where Pasmanda Muslims have a sizable presence.

Amid the buzz that the saffron party could field Muslim candidates, mostly in western Uttar Pradesh, in these urban elections, the BJP has been tactically aiming to win over the most backward among the Muslims, ones who do odd jobs for survival and have been among the beneficiaries of the various schemes of the "double engine" BJP governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh.

Minority Welfare Minister Danish Azad Ansari, the lone Muslim face of the Yogi 2.0 government, said, "Both Central and State governments have worked for economic and social empowerment of Muslims so far without any discrimination. The BJP now wants the political empowerment of Muslims by ensuring their participation" during the first convention held in the state capital.

The president of the Uttar Pradesh BJP's minority wing, Kunwar Basit Ali, said this time strong and trusted Muslim BJP workers will be given tickets in the urban local bodies elections.  

"The BJP government has done as much as it could do for the Pasmanda Muslims. Now, it has to take it from them," he said.

"The government has given benefits of its schemes to 4.5 crore Muslims in UP, they have been made a minister, head of minority commission, president of Urdu Academy, 80 per cent share to Pasmanda Muslims in various commissions and morchas of the government," Ali claimed during an outreach programme in west UP.

In Pasmanda Muslim meets, the BJP leaders highlighted that the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress always used Muslims as a "vote bank" and did not give them their due.

The BJP top brass also pointed out the recent wins in the Lok Sabha by-polls in Muslim-dominated constituencies from Rampur and Azamgarh to state that the script is changing.

Attempt to Divide Muslims?

The party's reach indicates that it wants to win over Muslims, who have traditionally been thought of as its rival parties' vote bank in the state's power.

Muslim intellectuals NewsClick spoke with, believe that it is another attempt to divide Muslims into sects.

Omar Rashid, who has been tracking UP politics for over a decade and formerly worked with The Hindu, told NewsClick, "The BJP's Pasmanda Muslim outreach contradicts the BJP's own approach towards Muslims in general as the party has marginalised the beleaguered minority community not only in representation but also through oppressive laws targetting their marriages, food habits, clothes, security as well as prayer. In such a scenario, the BJP's outreach to create an artificial political division among Muslims appears nothing but a publicity stunt to further push the Opposition into submission and keep them constrained to the Muslim question, which in turn helps the BJP polarise Hindu communities. The BJP would not feel comfortable taking on the Opposition parties if the question evolved around the well-being and future of OBC and Dalit castes."

He further added, "Although there are social differences within Muslims and their castes often mimic the hierarchical style of the Hindu caste system, the division is not as stark especially when it comes to politics. There is little to no anger amongst Pasmandas towards the upper-caste Muslims when it comes to critical questions of security and freedom. In the last four decades, it has been always directed at the BJP and its Hindutva agenda. After such a long experience with the BJP, which Muslims across classes and castes have repeatedly voted against, it seems unlikely that the BJP's narrative would find any takers among the Muslim masses. By propping up a couple of opportunistic Muslim brokers in the hope of accentuating the narrative, the BJP can create a discussion in the media. However, building trust among Muslims, be they poor or rich, Pasmanda or Ashraf (Upper class), is a long journey for a party whose core is the subjugation of minorities and their constitutionally granted rights."

Rashid questioned why did the BJP not reach out to the Pasmandas even once in eight years. The social justice report of 2018 which recommends the division of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota into three parts is still lying in storage. Pasmanda Muslims would benefit from that. So what stops the BJP from implementing the sub-quota?

Nakshab, a senior journalist based in Meerut, told NewsClick, "Muslims as a community itself is Pasmanda. According to the Sachar Committee, Muslims are the most prosecuted community in the country. In fact, the condition of Muslims is worse than Dalits as per the report. The intake of Muslims in government jobs is around one or two%, they are not being able to avail the social welfare schemes. This outreach by the BJP among Pasmanda is an attempt to divide Muslims into sects and would portray how Pasmanda Muslims are being exploited by Ashraf Muslims like the upper caste Hindu treating Dalits."

When questioned will downtrodden Muslims be attracted by this outreach, he further added, "the same party doing prosecution of same Pasmanda Muslims in the name of cow protection and other hand you are talking about the welfare of the same community. These two things cannot go hand in hand."

The journalists said that the BJP often comes out with outlandish claims to push its narrative and derail the opposition in the media. Earlier, the party vehemently claimed that Muslim women, that too those clad in burqa, were voting for the BJP due to the criminalisation of triple talaq and other welfare measures. Such claims infantilise Muslim women and also reduce their agency as thinking adults.

The Muslim intellectuals questioned the BJP government's stand as to how its party leaders had kept quiet on volatile issues like CAA-NRC despite 23 Muslims, mostly Pasmanda being killed in alleged police firing. The victims killed during the violence hail from poor financial backgrounds. And most of them were daily wagers. Even mob lynching, bulldozing of homes of Muslims and public flogging still prevails across the state.

Who Are Pasmanda Muslims?

The word Pasmanda is derived from Persian and it means "left behind" or oppressed. The Pasmanda group makes up over 85% of Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh.

Even though the Pasmandas are in the majority, the community is socially and economically backward. The community includes Dalit (Arzals) and backward Muslim (Ajlafs) population. The rest of the 15% of Muslims are considered upper class or Ashrafs.

The castes within Pasmanda Muslims are generally decided by their profession. It includes more than 45 communities such as Malik (Teli), Momin Ansar (weavers), Qureshi (butchers), Mansoori (those who make quilts and mattresses), Idrisi (tailors), Saifi (iron smith), Salmani (barbers), Ghosi (animal trader), Saifi (carpenter), Raeen (vegetable growers/sellers) and Hawari (washermen).

The Ashraf or elite class comprises the Sheikhs, Sayyeds, Turks and Pathans.

Ali Anwar Ansari, a former Member of Parliament may not have been the first person who coined the term 'Pasmanda' but he is credited for widely using it. In 1998, he founded All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (AIPMM), an apolitical body. This term is mostly used by the Muslims in north India- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand.

"BJP is habitual of such cheating and forgery. Their audacity with the Muslims has already been exposed. The entire politics of the current government is anti-Muslim and now they are talking about 'Sneh' yatra for Pasmanda Muslims which is only merely lip service. BJP only pretends to respect Babasaheb Ambedkar but opposes his ideology. Same in the Mahatma Gandhi case. PM Modi praises Gandhi on foreign soil but his leaders and workers praise and garland his killer. BJP does not have any stalwart leader so they keep mentioning Ambedkar and Gandhi in their speech. How will the party attract Pasmanda Muslims when it talks about an economic boycott of the community, give calls to make India a Hindu Rashtra and leave no stone unturned to harass Muslims in the name of love jihad, UPSC jihad with the help of media," Ali Anwar told NewsClick.

The former MP further added, "Bilkis Bano belongs to the Ghanchi community of Pasmanda, the same community PM Modi belongs to but what happened with the accused? All of them were freed with the help of Modi. Where did his love for Pasmanda Muslims go then?

Taking a dig at the Opposition, he further said that as the ruling party continues to explore new ways to widen its support base, the Opposition's space to manoeuvre appears to be shrinking.

"Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lalji Tandon benefited from doing Shia-Sunni and Modi and Yogi want to do the same but it won't happen. However, fearing BJP, the opposition parties including Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress stopped talking about secularism, leaving aside Pasmanda Muslims and addressing their issues. BJP wants to portray they are concerned for the Pasmanda community. Muslim religious scholars and intellectuals are also responsible for giving a little space to BJP among Pasmanda Muslims as they never address their issues on the ground which I had realised post-Babri demolition and doing my bit to bring them under one umbrella," he stressed.

Ali Anwar Ansari also wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanking him for using the word 'Pasmanda during the BJP's national executive in Hyderabad in July. Anwar in his letter questioned why backward Muslims had not been part of discussions earlier and why BJP thought of organising a 'Sneh yatra' now.

"It was a pleasant surprise to hear you talk about Pasmanda, but the Pasmanda Muslims want 'Samman' (equality and dignity), not 'sneh' (affection). The term 'sneh' has a specific connotation: That the Pasmanda Muslims need 'sneh' denotes that they are an inferior lot requiring patronage from the ones who are superior," Ansari wrote.

(Photo of the letter accessed by NewsClick)

(Photo of the letter accessed by NewsClick)
 

Commenting over the outreach by BJP, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Samajwadi Party (SP) spokesperson told NewsClick, "those who have been left behind should be talked about and welfare policies should be made for them. There is a difference between 'kathni (saying) and karni' (doing) of the BJP. It is evident that the party could not field any Muslim in 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2022 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections and they are talking about political representation of Pasmanda Muslims."

The SP spokesperson also accused the ruling BJP to clear its stand on Article 341 of the constitution which was supposed to give benefits to the Pasmanda community.

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, stipulates that no person professing a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism can be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste. The original order under which only Hindus were classified was later amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists.

Congress leader Shahnawaz Alam also raised livelihood issues of the Qureshi community of the Pasmanda section. He said the plight of weavers in PM Modi's constituency is not hidden from anyone.

Courtesy: Newsclick

UP: 'BJP's Pasmanda Appeasement is Nothing More Than Hollow Rhetoric'

Muslim intellectuals believe it is another attempt to divide Muslims into sects.

UP: 'BJP's Pasmanda Appeasement is Nothing More Than Hollow Rhetoric'
Image Courtesy: NDTV

Lucknow: Months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an outreach programme focussing on Pasmanda (Backward) Muslims, the Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched an aggressive campaign ahead of the forthcoming urban polls in the state.

Three back-to-back conventions for the "socio-economic uplift" of the Pasmanda community were held in Lucknow, Bareilly, Rampur and Kanpur, respectively, as part of its Muslim outreach programme. At least half a dozen such events featuring top ministers of Yogi government 2.0 lined up till next month, especially in western Uttar Pradesh, where Pasmanda Muslims have a sizable presence.

Amid the buzz that the saffron party could field Muslim candidates, mostly in western Uttar Pradesh, in these urban elections, the BJP has been tactically aiming to win over the most backward among the Muslims, ones who do odd jobs for survival and have been among the beneficiaries of the various schemes of the "double engine" BJP governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh.

Minority Welfare Minister Danish Azad Ansari, the lone Muslim face of the Yogi 2.0 government, said, "Both Central and State governments have worked for economic and social empowerment of Muslims so far without any discrimination. The BJP now wants the political empowerment of Muslims by ensuring their participation" during the first convention held in the state capital.

The president of the Uttar Pradesh BJP's minority wing, Kunwar Basit Ali, said this time strong and trusted Muslim BJP workers will be given tickets in the urban local bodies elections.  

"The BJP government has done as much as it could do for the Pasmanda Muslims. Now, it has to take it from them," he said.

"The government has given benefits of its schemes to 4.5 crore Muslims in UP, they have been made a minister, head of minority commission, president of Urdu Academy, 80 per cent share to Pasmanda Muslims in various commissions and morchas of the government," Ali claimed during an outreach programme in west UP.

In Pasmanda Muslim meets, the BJP leaders highlighted that the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress always used Muslims as a "vote bank" and did not give them their due.

The BJP top brass also pointed out the recent wins in the Lok Sabha by-polls in Muslim-dominated constituencies from Rampur and Azamgarh to state that the script is changing.

Attempt to Divide Muslims?

The party's reach indicates that it wants to win over Muslims, who have traditionally been thought of as its rival parties' vote bank in the state's power.

Muslim intellectuals NewsClick spoke with, believe that it is another attempt to divide Muslims into sects.

Omar Rashid, who has been tracking UP politics for over a decade and formerly worked with The Hindu, told NewsClick, "The BJP's Pasmanda Muslim outreach contradicts the BJP's own approach towards Muslims in general as the party has marginalised the beleaguered minority community not only in representation but also through oppressive laws targetting their marriages, food habits, clothes, security as well as prayer. In such a scenario, the BJP's outreach to create an artificial political division among Muslims appears nothing but a publicity stunt to further push the Opposition into submission and keep them constrained to the Muslim question, which in turn helps the BJP polarise Hindu communities. The BJP would not feel comfortable taking on the Opposition parties if the question evolved around the well-being and future of OBC and Dalit castes."

He further added, "Although there are social differences within Muslims and their castes often mimic the hierarchical style of the Hindu caste system, the division is not as stark especially when it comes to politics. There is little to no anger amongst Pasmandas towards the upper-caste Muslims when it comes to critical questions of security and freedom. In the last four decades, it has been always directed at the BJP and its Hindutva agenda. After such a long experience with the BJP, which Muslims across classes and castes have repeatedly voted against, it seems unlikely that the BJP's narrative would find any takers among the Muslim masses. By propping up a couple of opportunistic Muslim brokers in the hope of accentuating the narrative, the BJP can create a discussion in the media. However, building trust among Muslims, be they poor or rich, Pasmanda or Ashraf (Upper class), is a long journey for a party whose core is the subjugation of minorities and their constitutionally granted rights."

Rashid questioned why did the BJP not reach out to the Pasmandas even once in eight years. The social justice report of 2018 which recommends the division of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota into three parts is still lying in storage. Pasmanda Muslims would benefit from that. So what stops the BJP from implementing the sub-quota?

Nakshab, a senior journalist based in Meerut, told NewsClick, "Muslims as a community itself is Pasmanda. According to the Sachar Committee, Muslims are the most prosecuted community in the country. In fact, the condition of Muslims is worse than Dalits as per the report. The intake of Muslims in government jobs is around one or two%, they are not being able to avail the social welfare schemes. This outreach by the BJP among Pasmanda is an attempt to divide Muslims into sects and would portray how Pasmanda Muslims are being exploited by Ashraf Muslims like the upper caste Hindu treating Dalits."

When questioned will downtrodden Muslims be attracted by this outreach, he further added, "the same party doing prosecution of same Pasmanda Muslims in the name of cow protection and other hand you are talking about the welfare of the same community. These two things cannot go hand in hand."

The journalists said that the BJP often comes out with outlandish claims to push its narrative and derail the opposition in the media. Earlier, the party vehemently claimed that Muslim women, that too those clad in burqa, were voting for the BJP due to the criminalisation of triple talaq and other welfare measures. Such claims infantilise Muslim women and also reduce their agency as thinking adults.

The Muslim intellectuals questioned the BJP government's stand as to how its party leaders had kept quiet on volatile issues like CAA-NRC despite 23 Muslims, mostly Pasmanda being killed in alleged police firing. The victims killed during the violence hail from poor financial backgrounds. And most of them were daily wagers. Even mob lynching, bulldozing of homes of Muslims and public flogging still prevails across the state.

Who Are Pasmanda Muslims?

The word Pasmanda is derived from Persian and it means "left behind" or oppressed. The Pasmanda group makes up over 85% of Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh.

Even though the Pasmandas are in the majority, the community is socially and economically backward. The community includes Dalit (Arzals) and backward Muslim (Ajlafs) population. The rest of the 15% of Muslims are considered upper class or Ashrafs.

The castes within Pasmanda Muslims are generally decided by their profession. It includes more than 45 communities such as Malik (Teli), Momin Ansar (weavers), Qureshi (butchers), Mansoori (those who make quilts and mattresses), Idrisi (tailors), Saifi (iron smith), Salmani (barbers), Ghosi (animal trader), Saifi (carpenter), Raeen (vegetable growers/sellers) and Hawari (washermen).

The Ashraf or elite class comprises the Sheikhs, Sayyeds, Turks and Pathans.

Ali Anwar Ansari, a former Member of Parliament may not have been the first person who coined the term 'Pasmanda' but he is credited for widely using it. In 1998, he founded All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (AIPMM), an apolitical body. This term is mostly used by the Muslims in north India- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand.

"BJP is habitual of such cheating and forgery. Their audacity with the Muslims has already been exposed. The entire politics of the current government is anti-Muslim and now they are talking about 'Sneh' yatra for Pasmanda Muslims which is only merely lip service. BJP only pretends to respect Babasaheb Ambedkar but opposes his ideology. Same in the Mahatma Gandhi case. PM Modi praises Gandhi on foreign soil but his leaders and workers praise and garland his killer. BJP does not have any stalwart leader so they keep mentioning Ambedkar and Gandhi in their speech. How will the party attract Pasmanda Muslims when it talks about an economic boycott of the community, give calls to make India a Hindu Rashtra and leave no stone unturned to harass Muslims in the name of love jihad, UPSC jihad with the help of media," Ali Anwar told NewsClick.

The former MP further added, "Bilkis Bano belongs to the Ghanchi community of Pasmanda, the same community PM Modi belongs to but what happened with the accused? All of them were freed with the help of Modi. Where did his love for Pasmanda Muslims go then?

Taking a dig at the Opposition, he further said that as the ruling party continues to explore new ways to widen its support base, the Opposition's space to manoeuvre appears to be shrinking.

"Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lalji Tandon benefited from doing Shia-Sunni and Modi and Yogi want to do the same but it won't happen. However, fearing BJP, the opposition parties including Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress stopped talking about secularism, leaving aside Pasmanda Muslims and addressing their issues. BJP wants to portray they are concerned for the Pasmanda community. Muslim religious scholars and intellectuals are also responsible for giving a little space to BJP among Pasmanda Muslims as they never address their issues on the ground which I had realised post-Babri demolition and doing my bit to bring them under one umbrella," he stressed.

Ali Anwar Ansari also wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanking him for using the word 'Pasmanda during the BJP's national executive in Hyderabad in July. Anwar in his letter questioned why backward Muslims had not been part of discussions earlier and why BJP thought of organising a 'Sneh yatra' now.

"It was a pleasant surprise to hear you talk about Pasmanda, but the Pasmanda Muslims want 'Samman' (equality and dignity), not 'sneh' (affection). The term 'sneh' has a specific connotation: That the Pasmanda Muslims need 'sneh' denotes that they are an inferior lot requiring patronage from the ones who are superior," Ansari wrote.

(Photo of the letter accessed by NewsClick)

(Photo of the letter accessed by NewsClick)
 

Commenting over the outreach by BJP, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Samajwadi Party (SP) spokesperson told NewsClick, "those who have been left behind should be talked about and welfare policies should be made for them. There is a difference between 'kathni (saying) and karni' (doing) of the BJP. It is evident that the party could not field any Muslim in 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2022 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections and they are talking about political representation of Pasmanda Muslims."

The SP spokesperson also accused the ruling BJP to clear its stand on Article 341 of the constitution which was supposed to give benefits to the Pasmanda community.

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, stipulates that no person professing a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism can be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste. The original order under which only Hindus were classified was later amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists.

Congress leader Shahnawaz Alam also raised livelihood issues of the Qureshi community of the Pasmanda section. He said the plight of weavers in PM Modi's constituency is not hidden from anyone.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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EXCLUSIVE: How close is Chandrachur Goswami, of 'Gandhi-as-mahishasura' fame to BJP

The state working president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha president is known for peddling fake news and making hate speeches

22 Nov 2022

Gandhi
Image: YouTube Screengrab

Early last month, there erupted a controversy around All India Hindu Mahasabha’s depiction of Mahatma Gandhi as an `asura` idol. This was on October 2, 2022, Gandhi Jayanti, at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata. The idol of asura resembling Mahatma Gandhi was installed at the pandal, following which a complaint with the Kolkata Police was filed. After having come under an agitated social media scrutiny, though the organisers denied connection to Gandhi, its state working president Chandrachur Goswami had something else to say. On his own youtube channel he says, “even though the resemblance is coincidental, we firmly believe that Mahatma Gandhi is unfit to be recognised as the father of the nation.” He went further and was quoted saying, “We want Gandhi-Mukt Bharat,” which, according to section 292 of the IPC that restricts people from demeaning iconic figures, is an offence. 

So who is Chandrachur Goswami? And even though,very significantly, the BJP in Bengal has distanced itself from him, how connected is he with them? 

According to sources, 33-year-old Goswami, who has a postgraduate degree in environmental science and a masters degree in Music, has work experience as a ‘lecturer’ in some universities and handles multiple responsibilities of the Hindu Mahasabha. He is also editor-in-chief of ‘Swastika Digital TV’, which is reportedly backed by the BJP. In 2021, when he was an active member of BJP intellectual cell, Goswami stood as an independent candidate against Mamata Banerjee in the Bhawanipur by-election in 2021. He got about 81 votes. He has also been a member of the BJP for Bengal Intellectual cell. <bengali newspaper confirming this> According to reports, videos and his own admission in the past, Home minister Amit Shah had named him as one his ‘elite’ members to be on the advisory committee of the team responsible for building ‘Sonar Bangla’. 

Chandrachur had been regularly sharing platforms at religious events and talk shows with eminent BJP members like BJP MLA, Agnimitra Paul, Hony. Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF), the New Delhi based think tank of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Anirban Ganguly, BJP MP from Bankura, Dr. Subhas Sarkar and even BJP West Bengal-State President, Dilip Ghosh.


Goswami with BJP leader Agnimitra Paul


Goswami with BJP leader Anirban Ganguly


Goswami in a panel with Subhas Sarkar

dilip
Goswami in an online panel with Dilip Ghosh

Not only BJP bigwigs, but Goswami seems to have connections in the bureaucracy as well and is often seen hanging out with personalities like ex- chief justice Susanta Chatterjee.

Susanta
(Mr Chatterjee was Judge of the Calcutta High Court on January 1, 1986 and Judge of Orissa High Court from December 22,1994  to April 1, 1999).

Even though he enjoys close proximity with these prominent names of the BJP, the proverbial doublespeak that camouflages deep connections between various wings of the sangh parivar is evident from his public utterances. After the recent debacle, he and his organisation were quoted saying, ““The Congress and the BJP are either sides of the same coin. BJP’s constitution itself says that the party believes in Gandhian socialism and Gandhian secularism. BJP toys with the idea of Hindutva for political gains. We are the real propagators of the idea of Hindu Rashtra. The only agenda of the Hindu Mahasabha is to see India as a Hindu Rashtra.” But strangely on his youtube channel, Goswami has been heard promoting the BJP’s Namami Gange, while claiming that Ganga is the only river in the world which can never bear any virus and absurd facts like Ganga contains 25% more oxygen than any other river. In another video, he and ABHM are even seen congratulating Yogi Adityanath on his victory in May 2022. Moreover, he has also spoken as the chief guest at the BJP trade cell. He has also been heard promoting unverified facts like - the telescope was invented by the Hindus 5000 years ago. 

Occasionally, his speeches and videos even tend to communalise events and incite the minority population with provocative words such as “a call for CPI(M) leader Md.Salim to eat pork.” https://youtu.be/goWvekI4Fyw (2:10 onwards). In another video, he’s heard saying that it’s beneath him to utter the names of individuals from the minority community while addressing them as ‘lumpens’. Section 295(A) of the IPC says it's a crime to  “outrage the religious feelings of any class, insult or attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class.”  

Chandrachur Goswami seems to be one of the many ‘fringe-leaders’ that are close to today’s Indian political mainstream. They provoke and even lure an unassuming public by sensationalising social issues without dealing with social concerns that affect all sections of Indians. The recent controversy has only brought to the forefront his association with those in power and his own admission of being close with BJP leaders like Dilip Ghosh - thus disclosing, who in the political and media spectrum, have shown an steady ascent into prominence and visibility, because of the favours showered by the powerful. 

It’s only a matter of time that his ‘hate-agenda’ won’t be the ‘fringe’ anymore - with a rapid increase in his following, online and offline -  and the general public who don’t favour him,  bears the brunt of it. 

Goswami is yet to be arrested by the Kolkata Police after the recent FIR against him filed on October 4, 2022.


Related:

Gandhi as “evil” (Mahiasura) is a time-tested narrative for all hues of Hindu communalists

Mahatma Gandhi : Words that still resonate

Gandhi more relevant than ever, even in India

The Truth Behind the Mahatma Gandhi Assassination

EXCLUSIVE: How close is Chandrachur Goswami, of 'Gandhi-as-mahishasura' fame to BJP

The state working president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha president is known for peddling fake news and making hate speeches

Gandhi
Image: YouTube Screengrab

Early last month, there erupted a controversy around All India Hindu Mahasabha’s depiction of Mahatma Gandhi as an `asura` idol. This was on October 2, 2022, Gandhi Jayanti, at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata. The idol of asura resembling Mahatma Gandhi was installed at the pandal, following which a complaint with the Kolkata Police was filed. After having come under an agitated social media scrutiny, though the organisers denied connection to Gandhi, its state working president Chandrachur Goswami had something else to say. On his own youtube channel he says, “even though the resemblance is coincidental, we firmly believe that Mahatma Gandhi is unfit to be recognised as the father of the nation.” He went further and was quoted saying, “We want Gandhi-Mukt Bharat,” which, according to section 292 of the IPC that restricts people from demeaning iconic figures, is an offence. 

So who is Chandrachur Goswami? And even though,very significantly, the BJP in Bengal has distanced itself from him, how connected is he with them? 

According to sources, 33-year-old Goswami, who has a postgraduate degree in environmental science and a masters degree in Music, has work experience as a ‘lecturer’ in some universities and handles multiple responsibilities of the Hindu Mahasabha. He is also editor-in-chief of ‘Swastika Digital TV’, which is reportedly backed by the BJP. In 2021, when he was an active member of BJP intellectual cell, Goswami stood as an independent candidate against Mamata Banerjee in the Bhawanipur by-election in 2021. He got about 81 votes. He has also been a member of the BJP for Bengal Intellectual cell. <bengali newspaper confirming this> According to reports, videos and his own admission in the past, Home minister Amit Shah had named him as one his ‘elite’ members to be on the advisory committee of the team responsible for building ‘Sonar Bangla’. 

Chandrachur had been regularly sharing platforms at religious events and talk shows with eminent BJP members like BJP MLA, Agnimitra Paul, Hony. Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF), the New Delhi based think tank of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Anirban Ganguly, BJP MP from Bankura, Dr. Subhas Sarkar and even BJP West Bengal-State President, Dilip Ghosh.


Goswami with BJP leader Agnimitra Paul


Goswami with BJP leader Anirban Ganguly


Goswami in a panel with Subhas Sarkar

dilip
Goswami in an online panel with Dilip Ghosh

Not only BJP bigwigs, but Goswami seems to have connections in the bureaucracy as well and is often seen hanging out with personalities like ex- chief justice Susanta Chatterjee.

Susanta
(Mr Chatterjee was Judge of the Calcutta High Court on January 1, 1986 and Judge of Orissa High Court from December 22,1994  to April 1, 1999).

Even though he enjoys close proximity with these prominent names of the BJP, the proverbial doublespeak that camouflages deep connections between various wings of the sangh parivar is evident from his public utterances. After the recent debacle, he and his organisation were quoted saying, ““The Congress and the BJP are either sides of the same coin. BJP’s constitution itself says that the party believes in Gandhian socialism and Gandhian secularism. BJP toys with the idea of Hindutva for political gains. We are the real propagators of the idea of Hindu Rashtra. The only agenda of the Hindu Mahasabha is to see India as a Hindu Rashtra.” But strangely on his youtube channel, Goswami has been heard promoting the BJP’s Namami Gange, while claiming that Ganga is the only river in the world which can never bear any virus and absurd facts like Ganga contains 25% more oxygen than any other river. In another video, he and ABHM are even seen congratulating Yogi Adityanath on his victory in May 2022. Moreover, he has also spoken as the chief guest at the BJP trade cell. He has also been heard promoting unverified facts like - the telescope was invented by the Hindus 5000 years ago. 

Occasionally, his speeches and videos even tend to communalise events and incite the minority population with provocative words such as “a call for CPI(M) leader Md.Salim to eat pork.” https://youtu.be/goWvekI4Fyw (2:10 onwards). In another video, he’s heard saying that it’s beneath him to utter the names of individuals from the minority community while addressing them as ‘lumpens’. Section 295(A) of the IPC says it's a crime to  “outrage the religious feelings of any class, insult or attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class.”  

Chandrachur Goswami seems to be one of the many ‘fringe-leaders’ that are close to today’s Indian political mainstream. They provoke and even lure an unassuming public by sensationalising social issues without dealing with social concerns that affect all sections of Indians. The recent controversy has only brought to the forefront his association with those in power and his own admission of being close with BJP leaders like Dilip Ghosh - thus disclosing, who in the political and media spectrum, have shown an steady ascent into prominence and visibility, because of the favours showered by the powerful. 

It’s only a matter of time that his ‘hate-agenda’ won’t be the ‘fringe’ anymore - with a rapid increase in his following, online and offline -  and the general public who don’t favour him,  bears the brunt of it. 

Goswami is yet to be arrested by the Kolkata Police after the recent FIR against him filed on October 4, 2022.


Related:

Gandhi as “evil” (Mahiasura) is a time-tested narrative for all hues of Hindu communalists

Mahatma Gandhi : Words that still resonate

Gandhi more relevant than ever, even in India

The Truth Behind the Mahatma Gandhi Assassination

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BJP's Vikram Saini disqualified after 23 days of conviction, wife a candidate now; SP's Azam Khan removed very next day

This disproportionate action was pointed out by the Supreme Court; now the bypolls will be held on December 5 

22 Nov 2022

Vikram Saini

The Allahabad High Court suspended the two-year sentence of disqualified BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini convicted for the Muzaffarnagar riots, pending appeal before it. The bench of Justice Samit Gopal noted that he was out on bail during the pendency of trial and this was a case of no injury, and on this basis granted bail and suspended the sentence. By his conviction Saini became the first political leader to be held guilty for his role in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.

Saini has filed an appeal against the October 11, 2022 judgment passed by the Special MP/MLA Court, Muzaffarnagar whereby he was convicted under sections 147[rioting], 148[rioting with deadly weapon], 336[Act endangering life or personal safety of others] read with 149[unlawful assembly], 323[voluntarily causing hurt], 504 [Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace], 506[criminal intimidation] as well as section 7 [Molesting a person to prejudice of employment or business] of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act  and sentenced to 2 years in prison.

The appellant argued that he is not a previous convict and of the 2 other criminal case sgainat him, he is acquitted in one and the trial for the other is pending wherein he is charged under section 153(A) of the IPC. He further argued that there is no credible evidence against him, no public witness to support prosecution case and it is a case of no injury. Further, a balkati (a spear like weapon) was recovered from the house of the appellant but the same was planted, argued the appellant and pointed out that he was acquitted of charges of attempt to murder.

The court noted that the appellant was on bail pending trial and that this is a case of no injury thus decided to grant bail and suspended his sentence, pending appeal.

The riots claimed 62 lives and resulted in the displacement of over 60,000 people in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh.

On November 7, the Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh Assembly secretariat why different yardsticks had been applied to Samajwadi Party veteran Azam Khan and Saini in the matter of disqualifying them as MLAs over their jail sentences. Khan was sentenced to three years in jail on October 27 over a 2019 hate speech case. While Azam Khan’s Rampur Sadar seat was declared “vacant” a day after his conviction, Saini was disqualified from the Assembly on November 4, that is, 23 days after his conviction.

Status of other cases

In September, Uttar Pradesh minister Kapil Dev Agarwal, VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi, former BJP MLA Ashok Kansal,  former district BJP president Yashpal Panwar and former MP and SP leader Harendra Malik besides former BJP MP Sohan Vir Singh were granted bail and their non-bailable warrants were cancelled after they surrendered in a special MP/MLA court in a case relating to violating prohibitory orders and inciting communal tension during the riots. It was alleged that they had taken part in the panchayat meeting in Nagla Madore village where they violated the prohibitory orders and incited violence through their speeches on August 30, 2013, reported NDTV.

In October, in the same case, Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan and Narsinghanand Saraswati alias Deepak Tyagi, priest of Dasna (Gaziabad) temple appeared in the special MP/MLA Court whereby bail was granted to them and their non-bailable warrants were cancelled.

On March 25, 2021, a Special MP/MLA Court accepted the state government’s request and allowed the withdrawal of the case of inciting violence against Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana, BJP MLA Sangeet Som, former BJP MP Bhartendu Singh, and VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi. The government decided in the public interest not to proceed further with their prosecution. The allegations against Som, among others, was that he circulated a fake video showing the murder of a youth claiming that it depicted the lynching of two Jat boys, Sachin and Gaurav, by a Muslim mob in Kawal village that was instrumental in spreading the violence. The Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission, which submitted its report two years after the violence, had indicted Som for his role in the incident. But a special investigation team (SIT) formed to probe the incident gave Som a clean chit in 2017. In its final report presented to the court, the investigation officer claimed they had found no evidence against Som.

While presenting date relating to pending cases against legislators, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria informed the Supreme Court in August 2021 that the UP government withdrew 77 cases related to Muzaffarnagar riots under Section 321 of CrPC without giving any reason. Many of these cases included serious offences entailing life sentence. The Standing counsel for UP stated that 510 cases relating to the riots were registered in five districts of Meerut zone against 6,869 accused. Chargesheet was filed in 175 of these cases and in 165 cases, final reports were submitted and 170 cases were expunged.

In September 2021, a Sessions Court acquitted 20 persons on charges of setting ablaze and looting several houses during the riots, due to witnesses turning hostile and lack of evidence.

In 2019, an Indian Express investigation found that in 40 of the 41 cases registered relating to the violence against Muslims in Muzaffarnagar, all the accused were acquitted.

Some other prominent persons facing trial include former Uttar Pradesh minister Saeeduzama (Samajwadi Party), his son Salman Saeed, ex-BSP MP Kadir Rana, party's former MLAs Noor Saleem Rana from Charthawal and Maulana Jamil from Miranpur were booked for allegedly violating prohibitory orders and inciting communal tension by making inflammatory speeches in Khalapur, during the riots. In January this year, the cases were transferred to the Special MP/MLA court.

It is pertinent to note that this is not an exhaustive list of cases relating to Muzaffarnagar riots but only the ones where prominent political leaders were involved.

Related:

Why the hurry to unseat Azam Khan? SC to UP Govt

No hope for Rape Survivors: Muzaffarnagar Riots 2013

Muzaffarnagar riots: BJP MLA Vikram Saini, 11 others convicted, sentenced

Hate-monger Sangeet Som’s Sena bristles at hate video

BJP's Vikram Saini disqualified after 23 days of conviction, wife a candidate now; SP's Azam Khan removed very next day

This disproportionate action was pointed out by the Supreme Court; now the bypolls will be held on December 5 

Vikram Saini

The Allahabad High Court suspended the two-year sentence of disqualified BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini convicted for the Muzaffarnagar riots, pending appeal before it. The bench of Justice Samit Gopal noted that he was out on bail during the pendency of trial and this was a case of no injury, and on this basis granted bail and suspended the sentence. By his conviction Saini became the first political leader to be held guilty for his role in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.

Saini has filed an appeal against the October 11, 2022 judgment passed by the Special MP/MLA Court, Muzaffarnagar whereby he was convicted under sections 147[rioting], 148[rioting with deadly weapon], 336[Act endangering life or personal safety of others] read with 149[unlawful assembly], 323[voluntarily causing hurt], 504 [Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace], 506[criminal intimidation] as well as section 7 [Molesting a person to prejudice of employment or business] of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act  and sentenced to 2 years in prison.

The appellant argued that he is not a previous convict and of the 2 other criminal case sgainat him, he is acquitted in one and the trial for the other is pending wherein he is charged under section 153(A) of the IPC. He further argued that there is no credible evidence against him, no public witness to support prosecution case and it is a case of no injury. Further, a balkati (a spear like weapon) was recovered from the house of the appellant but the same was planted, argued the appellant and pointed out that he was acquitted of charges of attempt to murder.

The court noted that the appellant was on bail pending trial and that this is a case of no injury thus decided to grant bail and suspended his sentence, pending appeal.

The riots claimed 62 lives and resulted in the displacement of over 60,000 people in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh.

On November 7, the Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh Assembly secretariat why different yardsticks had been applied to Samajwadi Party veteran Azam Khan and Saini in the matter of disqualifying them as MLAs over their jail sentences. Khan was sentenced to three years in jail on October 27 over a 2019 hate speech case. While Azam Khan’s Rampur Sadar seat was declared “vacant” a day after his conviction, Saini was disqualified from the Assembly on November 4, that is, 23 days after his conviction.

Status of other cases

In September, Uttar Pradesh minister Kapil Dev Agarwal, VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi, former BJP MLA Ashok Kansal,  former district BJP president Yashpal Panwar and former MP and SP leader Harendra Malik besides former BJP MP Sohan Vir Singh were granted bail and their non-bailable warrants were cancelled after they surrendered in a special MP/MLA court in a case relating to violating prohibitory orders and inciting communal tension during the riots. It was alleged that they had taken part in the panchayat meeting in Nagla Madore village where they violated the prohibitory orders and incited violence through their speeches on August 30, 2013, reported NDTV.

In October, in the same case, Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan and Narsinghanand Saraswati alias Deepak Tyagi, priest of Dasna (Gaziabad) temple appeared in the special MP/MLA Court whereby bail was granted to them and their non-bailable warrants were cancelled.

On March 25, 2021, a Special MP/MLA Court accepted the state government’s request and allowed the withdrawal of the case of inciting violence against Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana, BJP MLA Sangeet Som, former BJP MP Bhartendu Singh, and VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi. The government decided in the public interest not to proceed further with their prosecution. The allegations against Som, among others, was that he circulated a fake video showing the murder of a youth claiming that it depicted the lynching of two Jat boys, Sachin and Gaurav, by a Muslim mob in Kawal village that was instrumental in spreading the violence. The Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission, which submitted its report two years after the violence, had indicted Som for his role in the incident. But a special investigation team (SIT) formed to probe the incident gave Som a clean chit in 2017. In its final report presented to the court, the investigation officer claimed they had found no evidence against Som.

While presenting date relating to pending cases against legislators, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria informed the Supreme Court in August 2021 that the UP government withdrew 77 cases related to Muzaffarnagar riots under Section 321 of CrPC without giving any reason. Many of these cases included serious offences entailing life sentence. The Standing counsel for UP stated that 510 cases relating to the riots were registered in five districts of Meerut zone against 6,869 accused. Chargesheet was filed in 175 of these cases and in 165 cases, final reports were submitted and 170 cases were expunged.

In September 2021, a Sessions Court acquitted 20 persons on charges of setting ablaze and looting several houses during the riots, due to witnesses turning hostile and lack of evidence.

In 2019, an Indian Express investigation found that in 40 of the 41 cases registered relating to the violence against Muslims in Muzaffarnagar, all the accused were acquitted.

Some other prominent persons facing trial include former Uttar Pradesh minister Saeeduzama (Samajwadi Party), his son Salman Saeed, ex-BSP MP Kadir Rana, party's former MLAs Noor Saleem Rana from Charthawal and Maulana Jamil from Miranpur were booked for allegedly violating prohibitory orders and inciting communal tension by making inflammatory speeches in Khalapur, during the riots. In January this year, the cases were transferred to the Special MP/MLA court.

It is pertinent to note that this is not an exhaustive list of cases relating to Muzaffarnagar riots but only the ones where prominent political leaders were involved.

Related:

Why the hurry to unseat Azam Khan? SC to UP Govt

No hope for Rape Survivors: Muzaffarnagar Riots 2013

Muzaffarnagar riots: BJP MLA Vikram Saini, 11 others convicted, sentenced

Hate-monger Sangeet Som’s Sena bristles at hate video

Related Articles


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