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'Vice' Journalist Angad Singh Blacklisted, Showed India in 'Negative Manner': Centre to Delhi HC

According to the Union government, Singh's documentary, 'India Burning', portrayed India in a "negative manner". He was deported from Delhi to New York in August last year.

28 Jan 2023

Angad BediImage: Twitter/angadsingh

New Delhi: The Union government has told the Delhi high court that Vice News journalist Angad Singh has been “blacklisted” even though he is an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholder, according to Livelaw.

An affidavit filed by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office said Singh, in his documentary, had depicted India “in a negative manner”. “Singh is a blacklist subject who was blacklisted at the instance of the consulate-general of India with the remarks that if he ever arrived in India he ought not to be permitted to enter India and the consulate-general would be given information about the same,” the affidavit said, according to Indian Express.

According to the affidavit, Singh was blacklisted at the recommendation of the Consulate General of India in New York. 

Justice Prathiba M Singh of the Delhi high court was hearing Singh’s plea against the Union government’s refusal to permit his entry to India. Singh was deported from Delhi to New York in August 2022.

Union government’s counsel, Anurag Ahluwalia, told the court that Singh is a “blacklisted subject” as he had allegedly violated Section 11A of the Foreigners Order, 1948. The particular provision prohibits a foreigner from producing any picture, film or documentary without permission in writing from the Union government.

Singh moved the court against the Union government’s decision to deny entry to him to India. He said the government move was “illegal” and violated Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Indian constitution, and that he was an OCI card holder. He added that his OCI card was issued to him in March 2007 and was renewed in August 2018.

According to Singh’s counsel, Swati Sukumar, OCI cardholders enjoy all rights granted under the Indian constitution, barring certain rights mentioned under Section 7 B (2) of the Citizenship Act. She also argued that under Section 7D of the Act, OCI cards cannot be cancelled on any grounds, as provided therein.

Sukumar particularly relied on the proviso to the section which holds that an OCI cardholder would have to be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard before an order is passed for the cancellation of their card. She further said no reasons were communicated to Singh on why he was refused a special permit for the production of a food show in August 2022.

She also went on to argue that her client’s OCI card was “still valid” and that he was claimed to have been blacklisted by respondents but his OCI card had not been cancelled yet.

Meanwhile, the government’s affidavit said Singh had “misrepresented facts in the visa application for obtaining a journalistic visa in 2020 and had published a documentary titled India Burning, which depicted India in a negative manner”.

The government’s counsel, Anurag Ahluwalia, said Singh was blacklisted because he had allegedly violated Clause 11A of the Foreigners Order, 1948, which states that “no foreigner can produce a film for public exhibition without permission in writing from the central government”. Therefore, he was blacklisted despite being an OCI cardholder, Ahluwalia added.

The court listed the matter to be heard on February 28, after Ahluwali sought two weeks’ time to obtain information on “whether any showcause notice or proceedings were commenced” against Singh for the cancellation of his Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card.

Courtesy: The Wire

'Vice' Journalist Angad Singh Blacklisted, Showed India in 'Negative Manner': Centre to Delhi HC

According to the Union government, Singh's documentary, 'India Burning', portrayed India in a "negative manner". He was deported from Delhi to New York in August last year.

Angad BediImage: Twitter/angadsingh

New Delhi: The Union government has told the Delhi high court that Vice News journalist Angad Singh has been “blacklisted” even though he is an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholder, according to Livelaw.

An affidavit filed by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office said Singh, in his documentary, had depicted India “in a negative manner”. “Singh is a blacklist subject who was blacklisted at the instance of the consulate-general of India with the remarks that if he ever arrived in India he ought not to be permitted to enter India and the consulate-general would be given information about the same,” the affidavit said, according to Indian Express.

According to the affidavit, Singh was blacklisted at the recommendation of the Consulate General of India in New York. 

Justice Prathiba M Singh of the Delhi high court was hearing Singh’s plea against the Union government’s refusal to permit his entry to India. Singh was deported from Delhi to New York in August 2022.

Union government’s counsel, Anurag Ahluwalia, told the court that Singh is a “blacklisted subject” as he had allegedly violated Section 11A of the Foreigners Order, 1948. The particular provision prohibits a foreigner from producing any picture, film or documentary without permission in writing from the Union government.

Singh moved the court against the Union government’s decision to deny entry to him to India. He said the government move was “illegal” and violated Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Indian constitution, and that he was an OCI card holder. He added that his OCI card was issued to him in March 2007 and was renewed in August 2018.

According to Singh’s counsel, Swati Sukumar, OCI cardholders enjoy all rights granted under the Indian constitution, barring certain rights mentioned under Section 7 B (2) of the Citizenship Act. She also argued that under Section 7D of the Act, OCI cards cannot be cancelled on any grounds, as provided therein.

Sukumar particularly relied on the proviso to the section which holds that an OCI cardholder would have to be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard before an order is passed for the cancellation of their card. She further said no reasons were communicated to Singh on why he was refused a special permit for the production of a food show in August 2022.

She also went on to argue that her client’s OCI card was “still valid” and that he was claimed to have been blacklisted by respondents but his OCI card had not been cancelled yet.

Meanwhile, the government’s affidavit said Singh had “misrepresented facts in the visa application for obtaining a journalistic visa in 2020 and had published a documentary titled India Burning, which depicted India in a negative manner”.

The government’s counsel, Anurag Ahluwalia, said Singh was blacklisted because he had allegedly violated Clause 11A of the Foreigners Order, 1948, which states that “no foreigner can produce a film for public exhibition without permission in writing from the central government”. Therefore, he was blacklisted despite being an OCI cardholder, Ahluwalia added.

The court listed the matter to be heard on February 28, after Ahluwali sought two weeks’ time to obtain information on “whether any showcause notice or proceedings were commenced” against Singh for the cancellation of his Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card.

Courtesy: The Wire

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Ban caste discrimination: Ambedkar Intl Center to Seattle City Council

The AIC has worked closely with council member Kshama Sawant, the Coalition of Seattle Indian-Americans (CSAI), Equality Labs, and the Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA) to help draft this proposed ordinance.

25 Jan 2023

Ambedkar

The Ambedkar International Center, Inc. (AIC), a US-based civil rights group that fights against caste oppression, and other groups have asked the Seattle City Council to ban caste-based discrimination. The proposed ordinance, officially introduced by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, would put Seattle at the national forefront of protecting the caste-discriminated.

The proposed ordinance for the Seattle City Council would add caste to its civil rights laws, prohibit caste-based discrimination, and include protections against discrimination in employment, public places, housing, and contracting, said a press release from the AIC.
 

 

The AIC has worked closely with council member Kshama Sawant, the Coalition of Seattle Indian-Americans (CSAI), Equality Labs, and the Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA) to help draft this proposed ordinance. This proposal builds on AIC’s policy in Seattle and advocacy efforts to end caste-based discrimination and fight for justice for victims of caste discrimination.

“Taking up such a model legislation is the need of the hour; a raft of evidence shows that the evils of caste and caste discrimination is present in the United States”, said Anil Wagde, a member of the AIC. According to the Seattle-based AIC, the 2020 census data shows that the South Asian population is the fastest-growing major ethnic group in Seattle, home to a large tech industry, where caste discrimination has thrived.

“The proposal comes in light of a growing movement to recognize and stop caste discrimination in the States. If passed, Seattle will become the first city in the States to ban caste discrimination and add protections against it,” stated the release.

More recently, Brown University became the first Ivy League institution to add caste to its non-discrimination policy and explicitly prohibit caste discrimination, joining a number of US colleges and universities. The AIC’s in Seattle proposal is also being supported by Ambedkarite Buddhist Association of Texas, Boston Study Group and Ambedkar Kings Study Circle.

“Such legislation will not only bring the evils of caste to light and how caste bias operates but will also be much-needed legal teeth for the victims of caste discrimination. We thank Council member Kshama Sawant for her support and CSAI for this initiation. We would also like to thank our policy advisor Sumit Anand for his guidance and expertise. We hope that other city councils will follow suit and these small steps culminate in a national ban on caste discrimination”, Anil added.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

Ban caste discrimination: Ambedkar Intl Center to Seattle City Council

The AIC has worked closely with council member Kshama Sawant, the Coalition of Seattle Indian-Americans (CSAI), Equality Labs, and the Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA) to help draft this proposed ordinance.

Ambedkar

The Ambedkar International Center, Inc. (AIC), a US-based civil rights group that fights against caste oppression, and other groups have asked the Seattle City Council to ban caste-based discrimination. The proposed ordinance, officially introduced by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, would put Seattle at the national forefront of protecting the caste-discriminated.

The proposed ordinance for the Seattle City Council would add caste to its civil rights laws, prohibit caste-based discrimination, and include protections against discrimination in employment, public places, housing, and contracting, said a press release from the AIC.
 

 

The AIC has worked closely with council member Kshama Sawant, the Coalition of Seattle Indian-Americans (CSAI), Equality Labs, and the Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA) to help draft this proposed ordinance. This proposal builds on AIC’s policy in Seattle and advocacy efforts to end caste-based discrimination and fight for justice for victims of caste discrimination.

“Taking up such a model legislation is the need of the hour; a raft of evidence shows that the evils of caste and caste discrimination is present in the United States”, said Anil Wagde, a member of the AIC. According to the Seattle-based AIC, the 2020 census data shows that the South Asian population is the fastest-growing major ethnic group in Seattle, home to a large tech industry, where caste discrimination has thrived.

“The proposal comes in light of a growing movement to recognize and stop caste discrimination in the States. If passed, Seattle will become the first city in the States to ban caste discrimination and add protections against it,” stated the release.

More recently, Brown University became the first Ivy League institution to add caste to its non-discrimination policy and explicitly prohibit caste discrimination, joining a number of US colleges and universities. The AIC’s in Seattle proposal is also being supported by Ambedkarite Buddhist Association of Texas, Boston Study Group and Ambedkar Kings Study Circle.

“Such legislation will not only bring the evils of caste to light and how caste bias operates but will also be much-needed legal teeth for the victims of caste discrimination. We thank Council member Kshama Sawant for her support and CSAI for this initiation. We would also like to thank our policy advisor Sumit Anand for his guidance and expertise. We hope that other city councils will follow suit and these small steps culminate in a national ban on caste discrimination”, Anil added.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

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Should Respect for ‘an Islam’ Supersede Academic Freedom?

A professor in the US gets fired for showing a Muhammad painting

16 Jan 2023

A professor in the US gets fired for showing a Muhammad paintingIImage: Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons

Hamline University in Minnesota, USA, recently fired a professor for showing a painting of Muhammad during his lecture. The course was about global art history wherein the professor had included a section on Islamic art. It was within this module that he showed a particular painting of the prophet Muhammad. To his credit, he had already asked Muslim students that if they found it offensive or hurtful, they had the option of leaving the class. But as it so happened, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) accused the professor of Islamophobia because he included that particular painting. It should be pointed out that the MSA, which has many offshoots, is known for its fondness of Islamism. Some studies have argued that the group is infested with the ideas of Hassan al- Banna and Abu ala al-Maududi, both ideological wellsprings of Islamism.    

The university, in a very hurried decision, without even giving a chance to the professor to explain himself, relieved him from the job. According to the university, it did so because, ‘it was decided that it was best that this faculty member was no longer part of the Hamline community’. The University, explaining the decision to all employees further said, ‘respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom’. Coming from a university, this is really worrying and points to a larger issue about engaging with Islamic sentiments without giving up the core values of freedom that define academic life.        

But first let us see the painting in question. The painting depicts Muhammad receiving the first revelation of the Quran brought by Angel Gibreel. This moment has been celebrated all over the Muslim world as Laylat ul Qadr (The Night of Power) and is generally ritualized as a night of prayer and gratitude. Far from being Islamophobic, the painting announces and extols the prophecy of Muhammad and Quranic revelation. Moreover, the original painting was part of the illustrated book written by the famous 14th century scholar, Rashid al Din Hamdani. It is important to recall that Rashid al Din was a historian, illustrator, calligrapher and a high-ranking administrator of the Ilkhanate/Mongol empire. Thus far from being Islamophobic, the painting witnesses the call to prophecy of Muhammad and was commissioned by a practicing Muslim himself. It is rather intriguing, how the mere showing of this painting by a professor constitutes any kind of Islamophobia.

Had the university done its homework before taking a decision, it would have known that the said painting has been increasingly used in history of art classes throughout the western world. Partly because of the aesthetics of the art work and partly in an effort to decolonize art; the academic world has been using this particular painting for long now.

Moreover, the university has completely missed the nuanced debate within the Muslim world regarding visual depictions of Muhammad. The art historian Christiane Gruber informs us that visual representations of Muhammad had been commonplace till recently, particularly in places of Shiite influences. One finds depictions of Muhammad with the face veiled throughout the Muslim world. The Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals commissioned such paintings and included them in texts. This was a time of ascendancy of Sufism and the paintings depicted the “luminous” character of the prophet or his many attributes. But it was not the case that the face of Muhammad was veiled in all paintings or hidden by a luminous light. In fact, naturalist and abstract depictions of the prophet went hand in hand and with the coming of print in the 19-20th centuries, there was a veritable explosion in the production and consumption of such images. Gruber tells us that especially in Iran, pictorial greetings with Muhammad images were commonly found in the market place.

These mass-produced images were mostly made and consumed by Muslims themselves. It is ironic therefore that Hamline University considered the particular image as being hurtful to Muslims. Even outside Iran, there is historical evidence that such images were used (though discreetly) by Muslims as aid to remembrance and meditation. In trying to exclude these pictures from the domain of Muslim aesthetics, the Hamline University seems to have sided with the neo-conservatives and Islamists within Muslims who argue that such depictions have always been forbidden in Islam. Throughout Muslim history and even today, there has never been a singular way of experiencing Islam. Consequently, one cannot say that Sunni way is better than the Shia simply because the latter uses pictures. In siding with one interpretation of Islam, Hamline University seems to be oblivious to such debates within the Islamic world. And this is not surprising in the least if the University authorizes a sectarian organization like the MSA to become the sole representative of Muslims. In the name of being inclusive, the University is in fact empowering a version of Islam which is inherently exclusivist.   

Universities are expected to create spaces for dialogue, dissent and pluralism. It might be possible that some Muslim students would have objected to the inclusion of a particular painting depicting Muhammad. But the answer to that shouldn’t be a knee jerk reaction like firing the professor; the better way for the University was to engage with such students. It is entirely possible that given the current state of the Muslim world, these Muslim students would themselves be unaware of their own iconic history. The University should have also asked the logical question as how a professor can teach a course of the history of art without using the visual medium as an aid to pedagogy.

But then if a university itself privileges religious sensitivities over academic freedom, then there is nothing much left to argue. If this ill-informed attitude continues, then the decay of the university system seems imminent.

Arshad Alam is a New Delhi-based independent researcher.

Should Respect for ‘an Islam’ Supersede Academic Freedom?

A professor in the US gets fired for showing a Muhammad painting

A professor in the US gets fired for showing a Muhammad paintingIImage: Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons

Hamline University in Minnesota, USA, recently fired a professor for showing a painting of Muhammad during his lecture. The course was about global art history wherein the professor had included a section on Islamic art. It was within this module that he showed a particular painting of the prophet Muhammad. To his credit, he had already asked Muslim students that if they found it offensive or hurtful, they had the option of leaving the class. But as it so happened, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) accused the professor of Islamophobia because he included that particular painting. It should be pointed out that the MSA, which has many offshoots, is known for its fondness of Islamism. Some studies have argued that the group is infested with the ideas of Hassan al- Banna and Abu ala al-Maududi, both ideological wellsprings of Islamism.    

The university, in a very hurried decision, without even giving a chance to the professor to explain himself, relieved him from the job. According to the university, it did so because, ‘it was decided that it was best that this faculty member was no longer part of the Hamline community’. The University, explaining the decision to all employees further said, ‘respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom’. Coming from a university, this is really worrying and points to a larger issue about engaging with Islamic sentiments without giving up the core values of freedom that define academic life.        

But first let us see the painting in question. The painting depicts Muhammad receiving the first revelation of the Quran brought by Angel Gibreel. This moment has been celebrated all over the Muslim world as Laylat ul Qadr (The Night of Power) and is generally ritualized as a night of prayer and gratitude. Far from being Islamophobic, the painting announces and extols the prophecy of Muhammad and Quranic revelation. Moreover, the original painting was part of the illustrated book written by the famous 14th century scholar, Rashid al Din Hamdani. It is important to recall that Rashid al Din was a historian, illustrator, calligrapher and a high-ranking administrator of the Ilkhanate/Mongol empire. Thus far from being Islamophobic, the painting witnesses the call to prophecy of Muhammad and was commissioned by a practicing Muslim himself. It is rather intriguing, how the mere showing of this painting by a professor constitutes any kind of Islamophobia.

Had the university done its homework before taking a decision, it would have known that the said painting has been increasingly used in history of art classes throughout the western world. Partly because of the aesthetics of the art work and partly in an effort to decolonize art; the academic world has been using this particular painting for long now.

Moreover, the university has completely missed the nuanced debate within the Muslim world regarding visual depictions of Muhammad. The art historian Christiane Gruber informs us that visual representations of Muhammad had been commonplace till recently, particularly in places of Shiite influences. One finds depictions of Muhammad with the face veiled throughout the Muslim world. The Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals commissioned such paintings and included them in texts. This was a time of ascendancy of Sufism and the paintings depicted the “luminous” character of the prophet or his many attributes. But it was not the case that the face of Muhammad was veiled in all paintings or hidden by a luminous light. In fact, naturalist and abstract depictions of the prophet went hand in hand and with the coming of print in the 19-20th centuries, there was a veritable explosion in the production and consumption of such images. Gruber tells us that especially in Iran, pictorial greetings with Muhammad images were commonly found in the market place.

These mass-produced images were mostly made and consumed by Muslims themselves. It is ironic therefore that Hamline University considered the particular image as being hurtful to Muslims. Even outside Iran, there is historical evidence that such images were used (though discreetly) by Muslims as aid to remembrance and meditation. In trying to exclude these pictures from the domain of Muslim aesthetics, the Hamline University seems to have sided with the neo-conservatives and Islamists within Muslims who argue that such depictions have always been forbidden in Islam. Throughout Muslim history and even today, there has never been a singular way of experiencing Islam. Consequently, one cannot say that Sunni way is better than the Shia simply because the latter uses pictures. In siding with one interpretation of Islam, Hamline University seems to be oblivious to such debates within the Islamic world. And this is not surprising in the least if the University authorizes a sectarian organization like the MSA to become the sole representative of Muslims. In the name of being inclusive, the University is in fact empowering a version of Islam which is inherently exclusivist.   

Universities are expected to create spaces for dialogue, dissent and pluralism. It might be possible that some Muslim students would have objected to the inclusion of a particular painting depicting Muhammad. But the answer to that shouldn’t be a knee jerk reaction like firing the professor; the better way for the University was to engage with such students. It is entirely possible that given the current state of the Muslim world, these Muslim students would themselves be unaware of their own iconic history. The University should have also asked the logical question as how a professor can teach a course of the history of art without using the visual medium as an aid to pedagogy.

But then if a university itself privileges religious sensitivities over academic freedom, then there is nothing much left to argue. If this ill-informed attitude continues, then the decay of the university system seems imminent.

Arshad Alam is a New Delhi-based independent researcher.

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“Hindu scriptures offer no moral teachings,” says Bangladeshi hardliner

Hardliners in Bangladesh have been making such disparaging comments in abid to unseat the government in next election

13 Jan 2023

Hindu religious scriptures
Image Courtesy: msn.com

Tarique Rahman, joint convener of Bangladesh Gono Odhikar Parishad, the party in opposition, has started attacking its Hindu minority by making disparaging comments and hurting religious sentiments ahead of the national election in Bangladesh. This group of hardliners is allegedly backed by militant outfit Jamaat-E-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the attack on minorities is an attempt to overthrow the government in the upcoming election, which has largely maintained a secular stand during its tenure.

“Scriptures of the Hindu religion do not offer any moral teaching — all the religious scriptures are porn scripts,” Tarique Rahman, a close aide of Nurul Haque Nur, said in a Facebook live. In the video which has been widely circulated on social media Rahman said that Hindu scriptures do not offer any moral teaching and are porn texts.

Nurul also appeared during a live stream and reportedly said, “Yes, I have indulged in a conspiracy with foreign intelligence agencies, including Mossad .. In my bid to unseat the government, I held a meeting with Mendi N Safadi, a Mossad agent, to hatch a conspiracy to unseat this government”.

Related:

Karnataka: Hate speech increased four folds, moral policing by hindu vigilantes on the rise

TN Dalit Youth Suicide: CJP seeks protection for victim’s family

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“Hindu scriptures offer no moral teachings,” says Bangladeshi hardliner

Hardliners in Bangladesh have been making such disparaging comments in abid to unseat the government in next election

Hindu religious scriptures
Image Courtesy: msn.com

Tarique Rahman, joint convener of Bangladesh Gono Odhikar Parishad, the party in opposition, has started attacking its Hindu minority by making disparaging comments and hurting religious sentiments ahead of the national election in Bangladesh. This group of hardliners is allegedly backed by militant outfit Jamaat-E-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the attack on minorities is an attempt to overthrow the government in the upcoming election, which has largely maintained a secular stand during its tenure.

“Scriptures of the Hindu religion do not offer any moral teaching — all the religious scriptures are porn scripts,” Tarique Rahman, a close aide of Nurul Haque Nur, said in a Facebook live. In the video which has been widely circulated on social media Rahman said that Hindu scriptures do not offer any moral teaching and are porn texts.

Nurul also appeared during a live stream and reportedly said, “Yes, I have indulged in a conspiracy with foreign intelligence agencies, including Mossad .. In my bid to unseat the government, I held a meeting with Mendi N Safadi, a Mossad agent, to hatch a conspiracy to unseat this government”.

Related:

Karnataka: Hate speech increased four folds, moral policing by hindu vigilantes on the rise

TN Dalit Youth Suicide: CJP seeks protection for victim’s family

Times Now channel pulled up for communal report on “Zameen Jihad” in Haldwani

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“Pour petrol on his house, not water”: Pakistani mullah incites death on Ahmadi Muslims

In another major escalation of anti-Ahmadiyya sentiment in Pakistan, a radical religious cleric "Syed Mohammad Sibtian Shah Naqvi of Sarghoda", with a significant social media following, has called for a total boycott of Ahmadi Muslims.

09 Jan 2023

Pakistan
Representational Image

Intolerance and hatred towards Ahmadis in Pakistan are nothing new rather, the phenomenon has a history, going back over decades which is also gaining momentum everyday. State silence or complicity especially with regards to religious clerics who spew venom sanctions the hate, and potentiality of violence.

Recently another instance of such an attack against Ahmadiyas was witnessed.  Systematic marginalisation of Ahmadis in all walks of life, because of their religious beliefs is not considered condemnable and Ahmadis are being treated as such a class which has no basic human rights and a recent incident in District Chakwal demonstrates this better reality.

In a speech made recently, Syed Mohammad Sibtian Patron Makazi, Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadees, Punjab; Founder and Principal of Markaz Imam Bukhari Sargodha went to the inhumane extent of saying if an Ahmadi’s house is on fire, you should pour petrol on it, not water. This egregious and toxic statement risks influencing impressionable youth in an environment already extremely hostile to Ahmadi Muslims who have every basic human right stripped away from them in the country. Their voice is being suffocated as Ahmadi representatives are being de-platformed at events and educational institutions.  

Ahmadi Muslim

Last year, 2021,  saw a violent and cynical escalation of anti-Ahmadiyya activities with grievous murders, gravestones vandalised and Mosques attacked. Now the new year begins with fresh calls for violence, hatred and inhumane action against Ahmadis, in unrelenting systemic persecution against the peaceful and charitable Ahmadiyya Muslims Community.   

The cleric went on to claim that minority rights apply to Jews, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus but not to Ahmadis. “The rights of the minorities are for the Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and it is not for them. There cannot be any relaxation with Mirzaiat and Qadianiat.”  

He said: “To eat, drink, sit, stand, do business, to be with them in their moment of sadness and moment of happiness, to buy things from their shop, to give them things from your shop, to hire them as salesmen all these things fall under the category of being Haraam.”  

The mullah went on the further dehumanise Ahmadis in a sickening and twisted speech which echoes the worst crimes of ostracisation and ‘othering’ seen in human history.   

“If a Mirzai [deregoatory term for Ahmadis] passes away his funeral should not be offered, if he falls ill he should not be attended, if he is found fallen down on the road he should not be taken to the hospital, if his house catches fire while he is in living in your neighbourhood, and if possible you can pour petrol on it no water.” 

This level of dehumanisation is not only against international human rights but every basic human and moral principle. It reeks of extreme hatred, prejudice and venom. This kind of rhetoric continues in Pakistan with authorities turning a blind eye. Anti-Ahmadiyya laws give license for such degraded sentiment to flourish with impunity.  

The International Human Rights Committee (IHRC) through a statement by Nasim Makil, its general secretary, that also represents Ahmadiyas has urged the international community to pressure the government of Pakistan to afford Ahmadi Muslims the same basic standards of human rights and protection of minorities offered to others and enshrined in international human rights laws.  

On July 13, 2021, UN human rights experts had expressed their deep concern over the lack of attention to the serious human rights violations perpetrated against the Ahmadiyya community around the world and called on the international community to step up efforts in bringing an end to the ongoing persecution of Ahmadis.  

The international community has been urged to pressure the Government of Pakistan to honour its responsibility to provide protection to all its citizens, ensure freedom of religious practice to Ahmadis, and bring perpetrators of inciters of such vicious attacks to justice. The Government of Pakistan must also bring its laws and practices in conformity with international standards as ordained by Article 2, 18 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 25, 26. 

The entire transcript of the hate-filled speech may be read here:

Related:

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Pakistan: Bheel family tortured, for fetching drinking water from mosque

 

 

“Pour petrol on his house, not water”: Pakistani mullah incites death on Ahmadi Muslims

In another major escalation of anti-Ahmadiyya sentiment in Pakistan, a radical religious cleric "Syed Mohammad Sibtian Shah Naqvi of Sarghoda", with a significant social media following, has called for a total boycott of Ahmadi Muslims.

Pakistan
Representational Image

Intolerance and hatred towards Ahmadis in Pakistan are nothing new rather, the phenomenon has a history, going back over decades which is also gaining momentum everyday. State silence or complicity especially with regards to religious clerics who spew venom sanctions the hate, and potentiality of violence.

Recently another instance of such an attack against Ahmadiyas was witnessed.  Systematic marginalisation of Ahmadis in all walks of life, because of their religious beliefs is not considered condemnable and Ahmadis are being treated as such a class which has no basic human rights and a recent incident in District Chakwal demonstrates this better reality.

In a speech made recently, Syed Mohammad Sibtian Patron Makazi, Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadees, Punjab; Founder and Principal of Markaz Imam Bukhari Sargodha went to the inhumane extent of saying if an Ahmadi’s house is on fire, you should pour petrol on it, not water. This egregious and toxic statement risks influencing impressionable youth in an environment already extremely hostile to Ahmadi Muslims who have every basic human right stripped away from them in the country. Their voice is being suffocated as Ahmadi representatives are being de-platformed at events and educational institutions.  

Ahmadi Muslim

Last year, 2021,  saw a violent and cynical escalation of anti-Ahmadiyya activities with grievous murders, gravestones vandalised and Mosques attacked. Now the new year begins with fresh calls for violence, hatred and inhumane action against Ahmadis, in unrelenting systemic persecution against the peaceful and charitable Ahmadiyya Muslims Community.   

The cleric went on to claim that minority rights apply to Jews, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus but not to Ahmadis. “The rights of the minorities are for the Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and it is not for them. There cannot be any relaxation with Mirzaiat and Qadianiat.”  

He said: “To eat, drink, sit, stand, do business, to be with them in their moment of sadness and moment of happiness, to buy things from their shop, to give them things from your shop, to hire them as salesmen all these things fall under the category of being Haraam.”  

The mullah went on the further dehumanise Ahmadis in a sickening and twisted speech which echoes the worst crimes of ostracisation and ‘othering’ seen in human history.   

“If a Mirzai [deregoatory term for Ahmadis] passes away his funeral should not be offered, if he falls ill he should not be attended, if he is found fallen down on the road he should not be taken to the hospital, if his house catches fire while he is in living in your neighbourhood, and if possible you can pour petrol on it no water.” 

This level of dehumanisation is not only against international human rights but every basic human and moral principle. It reeks of extreme hatred, prejudice and venom. This kind of rhetoric continues in Pakistan with authorities turning a blind eye. Anti-Ahmadiyya laws give license for such degraded sentiment to flourish with impunity.  

The International Human Rights Committee (IHRC) through a statement by Nasim Makil, its general secretary, that also represents Ahmadiyas has urged the international community to pressure the government of Pakistan to afford Ahmadi Muslims the same basic standards of human rights and protection of minorities offered to others and enshrined in international human rights laws.  

On July 13, 2021, UN human rights experts had expressed their deep concern over the lack of attention to the serious human rights violations perpetrated against the Ahmadiyya community around the world and called on the international community to step up efforts in bringing an end to the ongoing persecution of Ahmadis.  

The international community has been urged to pressure the Government of Pakistan to honour its responsibility to provide protection to all its citizens, ensure freedom of religious practice to Ahmadis, and bring perpetrators of inciters of such vicious attacks to justice. The Government of Pakistan must also bring its laws and practices in conformity with international standards as ordained by Article 2, 18 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 25, 26. 

The entire transcript of the hate-filled speech may be read here:

Related:

Undaunted by temple attack, Pakistani Hindu stuck in India, wants to go home

Century-old Hindu temple vandalised in Pakistan

Temple attack, an international embarrassment to country: Pak SC 

Pakistan: Bheel family tortured, for fetching drinking water from mosque

 

 

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Uneven yet Eloquent: PEN America’s anguished cries on India at 75

Over a 100 Indian and diasporic writers wrote, or gave statements about the suppression of dissent (among other things) in India at 75 

05 Jan 2023

India at 75

To mark India at 75, PEN America reached out to authors from India and the Indian diaspora to write short texts expressing what they felt. Together they make a historic document. Authors who were born in British India responded, as did India’s Midnight’s Children and grandchildren. Authors from around the globe sent us their thoughts, as did authors from India’s many languages, communities, faiths and castes. Some voices are optimistic, some prayerful, some anguished and enraged. Some suggest defeat, others venture hope, still others are defiant. The authors hold a spectrum of political views, and may be in disagreement about much else, but they are united in their concern for the state of Indian democracy. We invite you to read their ideas of what India was and ought to be, and what it has become.

The entire report may be read here

 
Of the several pieces in the compilation, here are some that stand out:

ALTAF TYREWALA

I NEEDED A GOD TODAY

TODAY I needed to confess

That I was back to needing

A father in heaven

Back to needing

Being afraid of sin

Of hellfire and demons

And a belief in the invisible

I needed a god today

But he’s closed for business

The prayer house is padlocked

The priests have disappeared

A sign on the door says

Seek Me in your heart’s shrine

You mean that shrine I razed?

That altar I burned?

That sanctuary I demolished?

That pedestal I smashed?

What resides in those ruins

Is belief’s ghost

And the echo of a prayer

To never need a god again

I needed a god today

I needed to tell him

That heart’s shrine

Is now a mausoleum

To disbelief and to living

Altaf Tyrewala is the author of three fiction books and has edited a crime fiction anthology. His works have been published around the world and he was awarded the DAAD Artist-in-Berlin literature grant. He has also curated a literature festival. He hails from Mumbai and now lives in Dallas.


JERRY PINTO

1977. A cinema hall in Mahim, Mumbai. Amar Akbar Anthony is playing. It is a Manmohan Desai special, which means we, the audience, those who love Hindi films, were ready for a rollick. We did not expect to cry.

To those lucky people who have not seen AAA, as we learned to call it: A terrible rich man kills someone by mistake; he asks his loyal driver, Kishanlal, to take the blame and promises that he will look after the driver’s family and his three children. Kishanlal takes the fall, goes to jail and when he comes out, he finds his wife is dying of tuberculosis and his sons are starving. He goes to confront his boss and in return for his loyalty, his boss orders his henchmen to kill Kishanlal. He eludes them and jumps into a car full of gold bullion and comes home to find his wife has gone off to commit suicide. The goons are still in hot pursuit so he stashes the children for safety in a nearby park, in the shadow of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and continues to take evasive action. His eldest son runs after the car but is knocked down, and left by the side of the road. A policeman takes the boy home, adopts him and names him Amar. The second boy is adopted by a Muslim tailor and named Akbar. The third child falls asleep in front of a Christian church and is adopted by the priests; he is Anthony. The boys grow up and one day, they are called to a hospital to give blood to a woman who is in need of it. They do not know it but they are donating blood for their mother.

Now, everyone knows that when you go and donate your blood, you fill a bottle and it is whisked off to the blood bank. But in Manmohan Desai’s magnificent and corny spectacle making, this could not be how we would see it. The three young men are seen lying down in a ward and each would declare his name as a nurse hooked him up to a blood donation line.

“Amar,“ declares the Hindu as his blood rises up, against the laws of gravity, to meet the blood of Akbar and Anthony. And then these three bloodstreams, conjoined, flowed down into the arm of their mother.

The man in the next seat began to weep. The whole theater was weeping together as a song underlined the message: Kya iski keemat chukaani nahin? (Will you pay your debt?) They got it. You don’t get India unless you have Amar, Akbar and Anthony, blood and blood and blood, paying their debt to the motherland.

I wept too. I was eleven years old.

At the end of the film, we all came out of the theater having cried and laughed and rejoiced when the three brothers are reunited in the end.

I used to say that the trope of three brothers separated at birth and reunited at the end was Hindi cinema’s way of thinking about Pakistan and Bangladesh. That we don’t make these films any more is perhaps our way of reconciling to the new political reality of the subcontinent.

I showed the film to a group of students recently. One of them said: “I’d really like to know what happened afterwards. Was Akbar circumcised by his Muslim father? Did Anthony remain a Christian?”

On bad days and there are so many of them, I know the answer to that one. On days of hope, I cling to the promise/premise of those lines: Anhonee ko honee kar de, honee ko anhonee. Ek jagah jab jamaa ho teenon: Amar, Akbar, Anthony

A rough translation of which would be: When the three of us, when Amar and Akbar and Anthony, get together, we make the impossible, possible.

Jerry Pinto is a poet, novelist, and translator in Bombay, and the author of several works of fiction, translations, and poetry, including Em and the Big Hoom. He received the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction in 2016


KIRAN DESAI

Eight Haikus for Asifa, age 8

I

as if a girl is

evening blue and green that just

hovers a moment

before the night’s dark then falls

II

as if a girl is

what it takes to rape and kill

it takes a village

it takes a policeman

a temple custodian

a tax man, a son

who took the bus all the way from meerut because

it takes a village

III

as if a girl is

a mother without a child

the moon still rising

IV

as if a girl is

a bad luck curse parents flee

over this mountain

the next and over

the border to lose their names

so we can’t find them

V

as if a girl is

snow obscuring mountains

and lies covering truth

VI

as if a girl is

chinar leaves or grass marked red

bloodied by murder

VII

as if a girl is

a ghost making a devil

of us all

she haunts

VIII

as if a girl is

only eyes—that’s all that’s left

warning—don’t forget!

Eight year old Asifa was gang raped and murdered in a temple in 2018, Kathua, Kashmir. When she died she became a symbol of the hate that has overwhelmed today’s India. But she also became India’s daughter, the daughter of us all. India may be in darkness, but we will forever remember your light, Asifa!

Kiran Desai is the author of Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard and The Inheritance of Loss. Among her honors are a Guggenheim, a National Book Critics Circle Award and a Man Booker Prize


MADHUSREE MUKERJEE

15 August, 1942. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad and thousands of other freedom fighters are in prison. More than 90,000 people will be arrested and up to 10,000 killed as the Quit India movement is crushed. Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai will die in prison. Millions will perish of hunger. India is an occupied and hostile country, says a British general. Virtually no one—not the rulers looting the country’s wealth, nor the people crushed under their weight and induced to fight one another instead of their exploiters— can imagine, in this darkest of dark times, that in a few years the land will be free.

15 August, 2022. Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu, GN Saibaba, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Aasif Sultan, Siddique Kappan, Sanjiv Bhatt, Teesta Setalvad and countless other freedom fighters are in prison. So are thousands of Muslims, for being Muslim, Dalits, for being Dalit, and Adivasis, for living on mineral-rich land that billionaires covet. Stan Swamy is dead. Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and far too many other truth tellers—rural reporters, Right-to-Information activists—are also dead. Murdered. And innumerable people whose crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Three-quarters of Indians are malnourished and being induced in their desperation to turn upon one another instead of their exploiters. Just one of their rulers is the world’s fourth-richest man.

India is once again an occupied and starving country. It’s hard to imagine, in this darkest of dark times, that the country will soon be free. But history repeats. And great evil always falls to great courage.

Madhusree Mukerjee is the author of Churchill’s Secret War and The Land of Naked People. She is a Guggenheim awardee and serves as a senior editor at Scientific America


M V RAMANA

In his famed 1947 poem Subh-e-Azadi (Freedom’s Dawn), Faiz Ahmed Faiz had bemoaned the fact that the end of British colonialism had turned out not to be “that clear dawn in quest of which those comrades set out” (translation by Victor Kiernan). Those were the terrible days of partition, with millions of people being displaced from the homes they had grown up at, perhaps over a million killed, and thousands of women abducted and raped. And yet Faiz was hopeful enough to end that poem with “Let us go on, our goal is not reached yet.”

Seventy-five years after that, it is hard to find such hope in today’s subcontinent. In so many ways, the situation seems more dire. Except for a small set of ultra-rich that have made out like bandits, few are optimistic about the future. But that is not all. The greater threat is the growing power of the religious right, and the goals they strive for will eventually destroy even the very possibility of shared existence.

M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (2012) and co-editor of Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream (2003).


P SAINATH

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lockdown speech of March 24, 2020 gave a nation of 1.4 billion people four hours to shut itself down. It would devastate hundreds of millions of livelihoods within days. Minutes after Modi’s speech, his government listed the essential services that would remain operational through the lockdown.

Refreshingly, that included ‘print and electronic media, telecommunications, internet services, broadcasting and cable services.’

In the next few months, major media houses, mostly corporate-owned or controlled, sacked between 2,000 and 2,500 journalists. They achieved much of this by extracting ‘voluntary resignations and retirements.’ The classification of media as an essential service did not save a single job. Or life. Covid-19 killed at least 700 journalists in the first 20 months of the pandemic.

All these numbers are gross underestimates. The sackings, especially. I was a member of the Press Council of India sub-committee to investigate the retrenchments; our letters seeking information from major media houses were met with anger and aggressive lawyers’ replies.

The country’s biggest newspaper group told us that the Press Council had no right to question the sackings. They were recruitment and labor issues and had nothing to do with press freedom (the Council’s purview). The government stayed silent on the sackings.

The media’s failure to cover the exodus of millions of migrant laborers from cities back to their villages was not unrelated to the Great Downsizing. These same segments of the media, too, have said barely a word in their editorials on the arrests, detentions, denial of bail, and the hundreds of cases against media persons—some under sections of laws not applied to journalists in over 100 years. The ‘mainstream’ media’s silence on the assault on democracy that India has seen for years now is not just about cowardice—though there’s dollops of that—but also about complicity and collaboration, coaxing and coercion.

Sure, there are rare exceptions—like the Dainik Bhaskar group that held out bravely despite the income tax and other raids on it. Mostly, though, truly courageous resistance has come from smaller, non-corporate media whose journalists and editors suffer severe harassment, tax raids, arrests, jailing. That have seen donors and sponsors pull their funds in fear. That are unsure of paying their staff salaries in the current financial year.

The new trend: arresting journalists and editors for ‘economic offenses’—‘money laundering’ being the official favorite. That vilifies journalists, hurting their credibility and making it hard for them to be viewed as political prisoners.

It’s worth knowing that four major public intellectuals assassinated in the past decade—Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh—had this in common: they were journalists, columnists or India at 75 107 writers who wrote in Indian languages. Also, rationalists who challenged religious fundamentalism.

Meanwhile, the super-rich, heading India’s biggest corporate houses, are rapidly acquiring more media properties. (With 166 of them, India ranks 3rd among nations in dollar billionaires. But ranks 131 in the UN Human Development Index). Owners whose billions flow from government contracts and huge public resources privatized for their benefit, and who contribute fantastic sums to the ruling party.

What did bother the government was the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières’ ranking India 142 (among 180 nations) in the World Press Freedom Index, 2020. (This year’s rank - 150). And Twitter’s latest transparency report confirms India made more ‘legal’ demands than any other nation to remove content posted by verified journalists and news outlets during July-December 2021. We’ve also seen what amounts to months of internet shutdowns across entire regions like Kashmir.

Indian journalists can always be shown the error of their ways. The worst you can do with non-Indians is to deny them visas. Yet, they acted swiftly to rebut the RSF report and index ranking.

In May 2020, the government set up an ‘Index Monitoring Cell’ (IMC) on the directive of the Union Cabinet Secretary, perhaps the country’s most powerful bureaucrat. One who reports directly to the two most important men in India—the Prime Minister and Home Minister. I was one of the IMC’s two original journalist members.

In December 2020, a subgroup presented the committee with a draft report striking for the absence of the word ‘draft’ on its cover. It failed to reflect the content of our discussions. And it made outrageous claims, some of which seemed to mock the sufferings of journalists in Kashmir.

I wrote a note of dissent which, among other things, listed 100 instances of arrests of, legal notices to, and FIRs and cases filed against, journalists in the span of just some months. Such as the October 2020 arrest of Siddique Kappan, a freelancer from Kerala who had gone to Uttar Pradesh to cover the Hathras rape and murder atrocity against Dalits. He was not allowed to meet a lawyer for weeks and remains in jail 22 months later.

Or Zubair Ahmed, a journalist in the Andamans booked on multiple charges for this tweet: ‘Can someone explain why families are placed under home quarantine for speaking over phone with Covid patients?’ Ahmed died by suicide this July, supposedly in depression—but an investigation is still on.

Immediately after that note of dissent went in—the committee simply vanished and has never been heard of since. Right to Information queries have failed to elicit any reasons for this. My friends find me ungrateful. ‘At least,’ they say, ‘it was the committee report that disappeared, not the journalist.’

And so you have the Indian media @75.

For three of my four decades as a journalist, I argued that the Indian media are politically free but imprisoned by P SAINATH India at 75 108 profit. Today I’d say they are still shackled by profit, but are increasingly politically imprisoned as well

P Sainath is the founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India and author of Everybody Loves A Good Drought. His new book, The Last Heroes: Footsoldiers of Indian Freedom, will be out later this year. Sainath has won more than 60 national and international awards and fellowships for his reporting


Related:

Whose FREEDOM@75?

75th Anniversary: What Do Indians Want?

Reflections on 75th anniversary of India’s Independence

Women’s dissent: India’s feminist legacy

 

Uneven yet Eloquent: PEN America’s anguished cries on India at 75

Over a 100 Indian and diasporic writers wrote, or gave statements about the suppression of dissent (among other things) in India at 75 

India at 75

To mark India at 75, PEN America reached out to authors from India and the Indian diaspora to write short texts expressing what they felt. Together they make a historic document. Authors who were born in British India responded, as did India’s Midnight’s Children and grandchildren. Authors from around the globe sent us their thoughts, as did authors from India’s many languages, communities, faiths and castes. Some voices are optimistic, some prayerful, some anguished and enraged. Some suggest defeat, others venture hope, still others are defiant. The authors hold a spectrum of political views, and may be in disagreement about much else, but they are united in their concern for the state of Indian democracy. We invite you to read their ideas of what India was and ought to be, and what it has become.

The entire report may be read here

 
Of the several pieces in the compilation, here are some that stand out:

ALTAF TYREWALA

I NEEDED A GOD TODAY

TODAY I needed to confess

That I was back to needing

A father in heaven

Back to needing

Being afraid of sin

Of hellfire and demons

And a belief in the invisible

I needed a god today

But he’s closed for business

The prayer house is padlocked

The priests have disappeared

A sign on the door says

Seek Me in your heart’s shrine

You mean that shrine I razed?

That altar I burned?

That sanctuary I demolished?

That pedestal I smashed?

What resides in those ruins

Is belief’s ghost

And the echo of a prayer

To never need a god again

I needed a god today

I needed to tell him

That heart’s shrine

Is now a mausoleum

To disbelief and to living

Altaf Tyrewala is the author of three fiction books and has edited a crime fiction anthology. His works have been published around the world and he was awarded the DAAD Artist-in-Berlin literature grant. He has also curated a literature festival. He hails from Mumbai and now lives in Dallas.


JERRY PINTO

1977. A cinema hall in Mahim, Mumbai. Amar Akbar Anthony is playing. It is a Manmohan Desai special, which means we, the audience, those who love Hindi films, were ready for a rollick. We did not expect to cry.

To those lucky people who have not seen AAA, as we learned to call it: A terrible rich man kills someone by mistake; he asks his loyal driver, Kishanlal, to take the blame and promises that he will look after the driver’s family and his three children. Kishanlal takes the fall, goes to jail and when he comes out, he finds his wife is dying of tuberculosis and his sons are starving. He goes to confront his boss and in return for his loyalty, his boss orders his henchmen to kill Kishanlal. He eludes them and jumps into a car full of gold bullion and comes home to find his wife has gone off to commit suicide. The goons are still in hot pursuit so he stashes the children for safety in a nearby park, in the shadow of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and continues to take evasive action. His eldest son runs after the car but is knocked down, and left by the side of the road. A policeman takes the boy home, adopts him and names him Amar. The second boy is adopted by a Muslim tailor and named Akbar. The third child falls asleep in front of a Christian church and is adopted by the priests; he is Anthony. The boys grow up and one day, they are called to a hospital to give blood to a woman who is in need of it. They do not know it but they are donating blood for their mother.

Now, everyone knows that when you go and donate your blood, you fill a bottle and it is whisked off to the blood bank. But in Manmohan Desai’s magnificent and corny spectacle making, this could not be how we would see it. The three young men are seen lying down in a ward and each would declare his name as a nurse hooked him up to a blood donation line.

“Amar,“ declares the Hindu as his blood rises up, against the laws of gravity, to meet the blood of Akbar and Anthony. And then these three bloodstreams, conjoined, flowed down into the arm of their mother.

The man in the next seat began to weep. The whole theater was weeping together as a song underlined the message: Kya iski keemat chukaani nahin? (Will you pay your debt?) They got it. You don’t get India unless you have Amar, Akbar and Anthony, blood and blood and blood, paying their debt to the motherland.

I wept too. I was eleven years old.

At the end of the film, we all came out of the theater having cried and laughed and rejoiced when the three brothers are reunited in the end.

I used to say that the trope of three brothers separated at birth and reunited at the end was Hindi cinema’s way of thinking about Pakistan and Bangladesh. That we don’t make these films any more is perhaps our way of reconciling to the new political reality of the subcontinent.

I showed the film to a group of students recently. One of them said: “I’d really like to know what happened afterwards. Was Akbar circumcised by his Muslim father? Did Anthony remain a Christian?”

On bad days and there are so many of them, I know the answer to that one. On days of hope, I cling to the promise/premise of those lines: Anhonee ko honee kar de, honee ko anhonee. Ek jagah jab jamaa ho teenon: Amar, Akbar, Anthony

A rough translation of which would be: When the three of us, when Amar and Akbar and Anthony, get together, we make the impossible, possible.

Jerry Pinto is a poet, novelist, and translator in Bombay, and the author of several works of fiction, translations, and poetry, including Em and the Big Hoom. He received the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction in 2016


KIRAN DESAI

Eight Haikus for Asifa, age 8

I

as if a girl is

evening blue and green that just

hovers a moment

before the night’s dark then falls

II

as if a girl is

what it takes to rape and kill

it takes a village

it takes a policeman

a temple custodian

a tax man, a son

who took the bus all the way from meerut because

it takes a village

III

as if a girl is

a mother without a child

the moon still rising

IV

as if a girl is

a bad luck curse parents flee

over this mountain

the next and over

the border to lose their names

so we can’t find them

V

as if a girl is

snow obscuring mountains

and lies covering truth

VI

as if a girl is

chinar leaves or grass marked red

bloodied by murder

VII

as if a girl is

a ghost making a devil

of us all

she haunts

VIII

as if a girl is

only eyes—that’s all that’s left

warning—don’t forget!

Eight year old Asifa was gang raped and murdered in a temple in 2018, Kathua, Kashmir. When she died she became a symbol of the hate that has overwhelmed today’s India. But she also became India’s daughter, the daughter of us all. India may be in darkness, but we will forever remember your light, Asifa!

Kiran Desai is the author of Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard and The Inheritance of Loss. Among her honors are a Guggenheim, a National Book Critics Circle Award and a Man Booker Prize


MADHUSREE MUKERJEE

15 August, 1942. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad and thousands of other freedom fighters are in prison. More than 90,000 people will be arrested and up to 10,000 killed as the Quit India movement is crushed. Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai will die in prison. Millions will perish of hunger. India is an occupied and hostile country, says a British general. Virtually no one—not the rulers looting the country’s wealth, nor the people crushed under their weight and induced to fight one another instead of their exploiters— can imagine, in this darkest of dark times, that in a few years the land will be free.

15 August, 2022. Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu, GN Saibaba, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Aasif Sultan, Siddique Kappan, Sanjiv Bhatt, Teesta Setalvad and countless other freedom fighters are in prison. So are thousands of Muslims, for being Muslim, Dalits, for being Dalit, and Adivasis, for living on mineral-rich land that billionaires covet. Stan Swamy is dead. Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and far too many other truth tellers—rural reporters, Right-to-Information activists—are also dead. Murdered. And innumerable people whose crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Three-quarters of Indians are malnourished and being induced in their desperation to turn upon one another instead of their exploiters. Just one of their rulers is the world’s fourth-richest man.

India is once again an occupied and starving country. It’s hard to imagine, in this darkest of dark times, that the country will soon be free. But history repeats. And great evil always falls to great courage.

Madhusree Mukerjee is the author of Churchill’s Secret War and The Land of Naked People. She is a Guggenheim awardee and serves as a senior editor at Scientific America


M V RAMANA

In his famed 1947 poem Subh-e-Azadi (Freedom’s Dawn), Faiz Ahmed Faiz had bemoaned the fact that the end of British colonialism had turned out not to be “that clear dawn in quest of which those comrades set out” (translation by Victor Kiernan). Those were the terrible days of partition, with millions of people being displaced from the homes they had grown up at, perhaps over a million killed, and thousands of women abducted and raped. And yet Faiz was hopeful enough to end that poem with “Let us go on, our goal is not reached yet.”

Seventy-five years after that, it is hard to find such hope in today’s subcontinent. In so many ways, the situation seems more dire. Except for a small set of ultra-rich that have made out like bandits, few are optimistic about the future. But that is not all. The greater threat is the growing power of the religious right, and the goals they strive for will eventually destroy even the very possibility of shared existence.

M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (2012) and co-editor of Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream (2003).


P SAINATH

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lockdown speech of March 24, 2020 gave a nation of 1.4 billion people four hours to shut itself down. It would devastate hundreds of millions of livelihoods within days. Minutes after Modi’s speech, his government listed the essential services that would remain operational through the lockdown.

Refreshingly, that included ‘print and electronic media, telecommunications, internet services, broadcasting and cable services.’

In the next few months, major media houses, mostly corporate-owned or controlled, sacked between 2,000 and 2,500 journalists. They achieved much of this by extracting ‘voluntary resignations and retirements.’ The classification of media as an essential service did not save a single job. Or life. Covid-19 killed at least 700 journalists in the first 20 months of the pandemic.

All these numbers are gross underestimates. The sackings, especially. I was a member of the Press Council of India sub-committee to investigate the retrenchments; our letters seeking information from major media houses were met with anger and aggressive lawyers’ replies.

The country’s biggest newspaper group told us that the Press Council had no right to question the sackings. They were recruitment and labor issues and had nothing to do with press freedom (the Council’s purview). The government stayed silent on the sackings.

The media’s failure to cover the exodus of millions of migrant laborers from cities back to their villages was not unrelated to the Great Downsizing. These same segments of the media, too, have said barely a word in their editorials on the arrests, detentions, denial of bail, and the hundreds of cases against media persons—some under sections of laws not applied to journalists in over 100 years. The ‘mainstream’ media’s silence on the assault on democracy that India has seen for years now is not just about cowardice—though there’s dollops of that—but also about complicity and collaboration, coaxing and coercion.

Sure, there are rare exceptions—like the Dainik Bhaskar group that held out bravely despite the income tax and other raids on it. Mostly, though, truly courageous resistance has come from smaller, non-corporate media whose journalists and editors suffer severe harassment, tax raids, arrests, jailing. That have seen donors and sponsors pull their funds in fear. That are unsure of paying their staff salaries in the current financial year.

The new trend: arresting journalists and editors for ‘economic offenses’—‘money laundering’ being the official favorite. That vilifies journalists, hurting their credibility and making it hard for them to be viewed as political prisoners.

It’s worth knowing that four major public intellectuals assassinated in the past decade—Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh—had this in common: they were journalists, columnists or India at 75 107 writers who wrote in Indian languages. Also, rationalists who challenged religious fundamentalism.

Meanwhile, the super-rich, heading India’s biggest corporate houses, are rapidly acquiring more media properties. (With 166 of them, India ranks 3rd among nations in dollar billionaires. But ranks 131 in the UN Human Development Index). Owners whose billions flow from government contracts and huge public resources privatized for their benefit, and who contribute fantastic sums to the ruling party.

What did bother the government was the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières’ ranking India 142 (among 180 nations) in the World Press Freedom Index, 2020. (This year’s rank - 150). And Twitter’s latest transparency report confirms India made more ‘legal’ demands than any other nation to remove content posted by verified journalists and news outlets during July-December 2021. We’ve also seen what amounts to months of internet shutdowns across entire regions like Kashmir.

Indian journalists can always be shown the error of their ways. The worst you can do with non-Indians is to deny them visas. Yet, they acted swiftly to rebut the RSF report and index ranking.

In May 2020, the government set up an ‘Index Monitoring Cell’ (IMC) on the directive of the Union Cabinet Secretary, perhaps the country’s most powerful bureaucrat. One who reports directly to the two most important men in India—the Prime Minister and Home Minister. I was one of the IMC’s two original journalist members.

In December 2020, a subgroup presented the committee with a draft report striking for the absence of the word ‘draft’ on its cover. It failed to reflect the content of our discussions. And it made outrageous claims, some of which seemed to mock the sufferings of journalists in Kashmir.

I wrote a note of dissent which, among other things, listed 100 instances of arrests of, legal notices to, and FIRs and cases filed against, journalists in the span of just some months. Such as the October 2020 arrest of Siddique Kappan, a freelancer from Kerala who had gone to Uttar Pradesh to cover the Hathras rape and murder atrocity against Dalits. He was not allowed to meet a lawyer for weeks and remains in jail 22 months later.

Or Zubair Ahmed, a journalist in the Andamans booked on multiple charges for this tweet: ‘Can someone explain why families are placed under home quarantine for speaking over phone with Covid patients?’ Ahmed died by suicide this July, supposedly in depression—but an investigation is still on.

Immediately after that note of dissent went in—the committee simply vanished and has never been heard of since. Right to Information queries have failed to elicit any reasons for this. My friends find me ungrateful. ‘At least,’ they say, ‘it was the committee report that disappeared, not the journalist.’

And so you have the Indian media @75.

For three of my four decades as a journalist, I argued that the Indian media are politically free but imprisoned by P SAINATH India at 75 108 profit. Today I’d say they are still shackled by profit, but are increasingly politically imprisoned as well

P Sainath is the founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India and author of Everybody Loves A Good Drought. His new book, The Last Heroes: Footsoldiers of Indian Freedom, will be out later this year. Sainath has won more than 60 national and international awards and fellowships for his reporting


Related:

Whose FREEDOM@75?

75th Anniversary: What Do Indians Want?

Reflections on 75th anniversary of India’s Independence

Women’s dissent: India’s feminist legacy

 

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IMSD condemns the Taliban’s shutting of university gates to Muslim women

23 Dec 2022

Taliban

IMSD unequivocally condemns the blatantly misogynist decree of Taliban that for all practical purposes has effectively banned women’s education in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban have taken over in 2021, girls haven’t been able to access schools. Although they promised to open girls’ school from March 23rd; the same day they revoked the order. This December on the 20th, there is another edict which debars women from universities. As always, no reasons were cited; neither did they indicate whether this is just a temporary measure. Going by what they have done with schools, the ban appears to be a permanent one.

The IMSD would like to remind the international community that the Taliban, during the negotiations in Doha, had promised not to rollback whatever little gains Afghan women had made in terms of education. Those who were spinning the narrative that the Taliban 2.0 was different from its earlier version now need to explain their continued support to this fanatic group. Those in the Indian Muslim community who were celebrating the Taliban takeover need to ask themselves whether this is the future they envision for half the Ummah. This is the time when the Muslim world should sit up and take notice as to what happens when we empower religious orthodoxies.

We would also like to point out that such anti-women diktats should not be seen as exceptions. The now increasingly marginalized idea that Muslim women should not be educated, has a long genealogy in the Muslim world. The (in)famous Deobandi, Ashraf Ali Thanwi, never wanted women to have even an iota of modern education. Deoband is the spiritual fountainhead of the Taliban; hence it shouldn’t surprise us that its ideological descendants are excluding women from all public spaces including schools and universities. IMSD believes that a fight against the depravities of the Taliban will be incomplete without questioning the very foundational ideas which inform such antediluvian practices.

IMSD stands in solidarity with all the struggling women and men in Afghanistan who are resisting such evil decrees of the regressive Ulama. We welcome the fact that the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have condemned the Taliban’s regressive step and appeal to the international community to urgently intervene and demand that this grossly violative decision be taken back immediately. We also appeal to all Indian Muslim organizations to outrightly condemn this misogynist action of the Taliban regime.

  1. A. J. Jawad, IMSD Co-convenor, Advocate, Chennai

  2. (Dr) Amar Jesani, Medico Friends Circle, Mumbai

  3. Amir Rizvi, IMSD, Designer, Mumbai

  4. Anand Patwardhan, IMSD, Documentary Filmmaker, Mumbai

  5. Anjum Rajabali, IMSD, Film writer, Mumbai

  6. Arshad Alam, IMSD, Commentator, Delhi

  7. Askari Zaidi, IMSD, Senior Journalist, Delhi

  8. Ashhar Khan, Jaunpur

  9. Bilal Khan, IMSD, Housing rights activist, Mumbai

  10. Dipak Malik

  11. Feroz Abbas Khan, IMSD, Director, Producer, Mumbai

  12. Feroze Mithiborwala, IMSD Co-convenoir, Bharat Bachao Andolan, Mumbai

  13. Gauhar Raza, Anhad, Delhi

  14. Ghulam Rasool Dehlv, Islamic scholari

  15. Hasan Ibrahim Pasha, IMSD, Writer, Allahabad

  16. (Dr) Indira Munshi, retired professor, Mumbai

  17. Javed Akhtar, IMSD, Poet, lyricist, Padma Bhushan, former MP, Mumbai

  18. Javed Anand, IMSD Convenor, Human Rights Defender, Mumbai

  19. Khadeeja Faroqui, Social Activist, Delhi

  20. Lara Jasani, Lawyer, Social Activist, Mumbai

  21. Mallika Sarabhai, Activist, Classical Dancer,Ahmedabad

  22. (Dr) Manisha Gupte, Social activist

  23. Mansoor Sardar, IMSD, Social Activist, Bhiwandi

  24. Mohammed Imran, Delhi, New York

  25. Muniza Khan, IMSD, CJP,Varanasi

  26. Naseeruddin Shah, Actor, Mumbai

  27. Nasim Khan, Varanasi

  28. Nasreen Fazelbhoy, IMSD, retired professor, Mumbai

  29. Neelima Sharma, Theatre, Delhi

  30. (Prof) Qamar Jahan, Lucknow

  31. Qaisar Pasha, IMSD, Homemaker, Allahabad

  32. Qutub Jahan, IMSD, Social Activist, Mumbai

  33. Rahman Abbas, Author, Novelist, Mira Road, Thane

  34. (Dr) Ram Puniyani, IMSD, Author, Commentator, Mumbai

  35. Rashida Tapadar, Civil service coach, freelance writer, Nagaland

  36. Rooprekha Verma, former Vice-chancellor, Lucknow

  37. Sabah Khan, IMSD, Parcham, Mumbai

  38. Saif Mahmood, IMSD, Supreme Court lawyer,Delhi

  39. Sandhya Gokhale, Feminist activist, FAOW, Mumbai

  40. Shabana Mashraki, Mumbai

  41. Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad, Delhi

  42. Shalini Dhawan, Designer, Mumbai

  43. Shama Bano, Social activist, Varanasi

  44. Shama Zaidi, IMSD, Film Maker, Mumbai

  45. Shamim Abbasi, Mau

  46. Shamsul Islam, Author, Delhi

  47. Sheeba Aslam Fehmi, Writer, Commentator, Delhi

  48. Sultan Shahin, Editor-in-chief, New Age Islam, Delhi

  49. Teesta Setalvad, IMSD, CJP Secretary, Mumbai

  50. Vasanthi Raman, retired professor, Delhi

  51. (Dr) Vibhti Patel, retired professor, Mumbai

  52. Zakia Soman, Co-convenor, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Delhi

  53. (Dr) Zeenat Shaukatali, IMSD, Islamic Scholar, Author

IMSD condemns the Taliban’s shutting of university gates to Muslim women

Taliban

IMSD unequivocally condemns the blatantly misogynist decree of Taliban that for all practical purposes has effectively banned women’s education in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban have taken over in 2021, girls haven’t been able to access schools. Although they promised to open girls’ school from March 23rd; the same day they revoked the order. This December on the 20th, there is another edict which debars women from universities. As always, no reasons were cited; neither did they indicate whether this is just a temporary measure. Going by what they have done with schools, the ban appears to be a permanent one.

The IMSD would like to remind the international community that the Taliban, during the negotiations in Doha, had promised not to rollback whatever little gains Afghan women had made in terms of education. Those who were spinning the narrative that the Taliban 2.0 was different from its earlier version now need to explain their continued support to this fanatic group. Those in the Indian Muslim community who were celebrating the Taliban takeover need to ask themselves whether this is the future they envision for half the Ummah. This is the time when the Muslim world should sit up and take notice as to what happens when we empower religious orthodoxies.

We would also like to point out that such anti-women diktats should not be seen as exceptions. The now increasingly marginalized idea that Muslim women should not be educated, has a long genealogy in the Muslim world. The (in)famous Deobandi, Ashraf Ali Thanwi, never wanted women to have even an iota of modern education. Deoband is the spiritual fountainhead of the Taliban; hence it shouldn’t surprise us that its ideological descendants are excluding women from all public spaces including schools and universities. IMSD believes that a fight against the depravities of the Taliban will be incomplete without questioning the very foundational ideas which inform such antediluvian practices.

IMSD stands in solidarity with all the struggling women and men in Afghanistan who are resisting such evil decrees of the regressive Ulama. We welcome the fact that the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have condemned the Taliban’s regressive step and appeal to the international community to urgently intervene and demand that this grossly violative decision be taken back immediately. We also appeal to all Indian Muslim organizations to outrightly condemn this misogynist action of the Taliban regime.

  1. A. J. Jawad, IMSD Co-convenor, Advocate, Chennai

  2. (Dr) Amar Jesani, Medico Friends Circle, Mumbai

  3. Amir Rizvi, IMSD, Designer, Mumbai

  4. Anand Patwardhan, IMSD, Documentary Filmmaker, Mumbai

  5. Anjum Rajabali, IMSD, Film writer, Mumbai

  6. Arshad Alam, IMSD, Commentator, Delhi

  7. Askari Zaidi, IMSD, Senior Journalist, Delhi

  8. Ashhar Khan, Jaunpur

  9. Bilal Khan, IMSD, Housing rights activist, Mumbai

  10. Dipak Malik

  11. Feroz Abbas Khan, IMSD, Director, Producer, Mumbai

  12. Feroze Mithiborwala, IMSD Co-convenoir, Bharat Bachao Andolan, Mumbai

  13. Gauhar Raza, Anhad, Delhi

  14. Ghulam Rasool Dehlv, Islamic scholari

  15. Hasan Ibrahim Pasha, IMSD, Writer, Allahabad

  16. (Dr) Indira Munshi, retired professor, Mumbai

  17. Javed Akhtar, IMSD, Poet, lyricist, Padma Bhushan, former MP, Mumbai

  18. Javed Anand, IMSD Convenor, Human Rights Defender, Mumbai

  19. Khadeeja Faroqui, Social Activist, Delhi

  20. Lara Jasani, Lawyer, Social Activist, Mumbai

  21. Mallika Sarabhai, Activist, Classical Dancer,Ahmedabad

  22. (Dr) Manisha Gupte, Social activist

  23. Mansoor Sardar, IMSD, Social Activist, Bhiwandi

  24. Mohammed Imran, Delhi, New York

  25. Muniza Khan, IMSD, CJP,Varanasi

  26. Naseeruddin Shah, Actor, Mumbai

  27. Nasim Khan, Varanasi

  28. Nasreen Fazelbhoy, IMSD, retired professor, Mumbai

  29. Neelima Sharma, Theatre, Delhi

  30. (Prof) Qamar Jahan, Lucknow

  31. Qaisar Pasha, IMSD, Homemaker, Allahabad

  32. Qutub Jahan, IMSD, Social Activist, Mumbai

  33. Rahman Abbas, Author, Novelist, Mira Road, Thane

  34. (Dr) Ram Puniyani, IMSD, Author, Commentator, Mumbai

  35. Rashida Tapadar, Civil service coach, freelance writer, Nagaland

  36. Rooprekha Verma, former Vice-chancellor, Lucknow

  37. Sabah Khan, IMSD, Parcham, Mumbai

  38. Saif Mahmood, IMSD, Supreme Court lawyer,Delhi

  39. Sandhya Gokhale, Feminist activist, FAOW, Mumbai

  40. Shabana Mashraki, Mumbai

  41. Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad, Delhi

  42. Shalini Dhawan, Designer, Mumbai

  43. Shama Bano, Social activist, Varanasi

  44. Shama Zaidi, IMSD, Film Maker, Mumbai

  45. Shamim Abbasi, Mau

  46. Shamsul Islam, Author, Delhi

  47. Sheeba Aslam Fehmi, Writer, Commentator, Delhi

  48. Sultan Shahin, Editor-in-chief, New Age Islam, Delhi

  49. Teesta Setalvad, IMSD, CJP Secretary, Mumbai

  50. Vasanthi Raman, retired professor, Delhi

  51. (Dr) Vibhti Patel, retired professor, Mumbai

  52. Zakia Soman, Co-convenor, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Delhi

  53. (Dr) Zeenat Shaukatali, IMSD, Islamic Scholar, Author

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Free Speech or Hate Speak?

Human rights organisations pick and choose whose freedom of speech – and other human rights – they are going to defend

21 Dec 2022

Hate speech

On Freedom of Speech and Censorship

written in September 2021

I was imprudent enough to bring back from a trip to New York a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, bought at the UN shop, which I gave to my then eight-year-old son as a present. For the following months, he persecuted me by ‘claiming his rights’ while making unreasonable demands, booklet in hand. While this is a lovely memory of a bright child, many of the demands I now witness being made by individuals – most often on behalf of their ‘communities’ in furtherance of ‘rights’ – are characterised by the same self-centred immaturity.

Beyond a certain age, individual ‘free choice’ within a group, be it family or society, needs to be confronted and balanced with the rights of others. In other words, human rights in general and freedom of expression in particular exist not in abstracto but in specific social circumstances that must be taken into account when it comes to exercising these rights.

The trend is to essentialise human rights today; it is therefore crucial to look into their historical and political construction.

Universalism vs the return of the divine

Human rights, historically, were constructed as protections of the powerless against abuses by the powerful. The 1689 Declaration of Rights protects British citizens against the king’s power. The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the brainchild of the French Revolution, with its corollary – secularism, defined as separation of state from religion – protects French citizens against the ‘divine’ power that the king derives from god, for it is the church that is crowning him on behalf of god. This literally makes him the representative of god on earth.

Hence, the development of secularism and the secular laws that are voted on – one man, one vote – by all (male) citizens, rather than decided upon by the king in the name of god. Unfortunately, women were not included, despite protests led by Olympe de Gouges – who paid with her life for her commitment to human rights for all.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man (which does extend rights to women, although they are seen as represented well enough by ‘Man’ in its title, but which leaves out the ‘citizen’) goes beyond a specific country to extend its jurisdiction to all human beings.
The Universal Declaration was drafted after the two extremely bloody world wars – in other words, European-interest wars – although they involved ‘colonial’ troops while fighting also for domination over non-European territories. It was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948, in Paris at the Palais de Chaillot (hence the designation of ‘Droits de l’Homme’ (rather than ’droits humains’), which till today prevails in French), by resolution 217 (III) A. It was composed at the time by 58 member states, out of which 48 adopted the Universal Charter.

It was thus the responsibility of the newly formed United Nations Organisation (UNO) to guarantee these rights. The Blue Helmets were designed to enforce these rights internationally.

Universal rights today are highly contested and attacked as ‘Western’ values, even though several former colonies – today branded ‘Third World’ countries – were directly involved in drafting and conceptualising the Universal Declaration (1).

Fifty seven countries set up an international organisation that met and notably drafted an alternative Declaration of Rights in Islam, which was adopted in Cairo on 5 August 1990 (2). Although some of its provisions definitely contradict and prove incompatible with those of the Universal Declaration, it is clearly acknowledged and taken into account at the UN level.

This marked the return of the ‘divine’ that plagues and confuses human rights principles. And it sealed a de facto end to a universalist vision of rights. However, there is still little thinking done in regard to conflicting rights.

Human rights vs Politics

Of course, history has now taught us that in many instances, it is allegedly to protect the human rights of others that imperialist invasions have been perpetrated – as was the case in Afghanistan.

Moreover, I have lived long enough to witness the many instances where human rights principles have been trampled, betrayed and abandoned by those supposed to guarantee them; by governments of all shades and colours; by human rights organisations; by the ‘independent’ media; by liberal politicians and others. In fact, I cannot recall a time when human rights have not been instrumentalised by and subsumed to political interests. Let’s look at some examples illustrating this point.

During the liberation struggle of Algeria (1954-62), after the peak of violations by the French colonial troops during what was dubbed the ‘Battle of Algiers’(1956-57), human rights advocates (3) sent two thousand files on cases of ‘disappeared’ people at the hands of the French army – a clear case of extrajudicial killing – to the daily Le Monde. This paper was much-praised for its reliability, integrity and independence but it never published one line about these cases, although defence lawyers who had supervised the elaboration of these files said they could stand in court. Le Monde did not want to risk being banned by the pro-war French government for championing human rights.

More recently, during the ‘war against civilians’ in Algeria in the 1990s (5) that had an approximate toll of 200,000 victims, largely at the hands of extreme right Islamist armed groups (such as GIA, AIS, FIDA, MIA, and more), many citizens and specifically women belonging to women’s rights groups begged international human rights organisations to report extensively on crimes committed by these ‘non-state actors’ (4).
This was in vain: one look at any of their annual reports (6) shows that those violations are barely mentioned, while crimes and violations committed by the state occupy the quasi-totality of the pages devoted to our country.

Moreover, in the late 1990s, the three founding members of the first Amnesty International section in Algiers were expelled from theorganisation without notice, in response to a private letter they had written to the then Paris-based general secretary of Amnesty International. They had written to let him know how Algerian people felt about Amnesty’s one-sided reports regarding the war raging in Algeria and its numerous civilian casualties. They were not even given a chance to meet and explain their concerns, nor did they receive a word of thanks for their years of dedicated work for the organisation. In this personal letter – I still hold a copy of it – they first remind the general secretary that they
are faithful members of the organisation. They introduced themselves as: ‘founding members, members of the executive bureau, coordinators and members of group 1 of the Algerian section of Amnesty’.
They also indicate that they are merely sending ‘some observations’ in their ‘personal capacity’. The observations are made with respect to a report on Algeria published by the organisation as well as the ‘press release that announced the publication of the report’. Their first observation is that: ‘This press release, which is aimed at informing large audiences nationally and internationally, clearly shows an unbalance in presenting the document itself.’

The three founding members then go on to spell out the reason for the unbalance. By ‘giving more space to some parts (state responsibility) and
keeping silent about other parts (the action of armed terrorist opposition groups), this press release shows a lack of objectivity on the part of AI in its
appreciation of the wave of violence that is shaking Algeria
’. And they conclude that ‘this press release only reinforces the emphasis already existing in the report, of only condemning one of the parties in conflict’.
They appeal to Amnesty’s principle that ‘partisan interpretations’ should be avoided. Like the head of Amnesty’s gender unit ten years later, they point at ‘the devastating effect that this press release had on public opinion in Algeria, including among those who till then were strong supporters of AI’. They conclude: ‘We feel compelled to inform you of the damaging consequences for the movement as well as for the struggle against violations of human rights that we have been waging till today in our country.

On 7 February 2010 the head of Amnesty International gender unit was suspended from her job (7). This was hours after the publication of an article in the UK paper The Sunday Times, where she made public – after two years of sending internal reports and analysis to her colleagues in vain – her concerns about Amnesty International’s legitimisation of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee as a human rights defender. This man, Moazam Begg, moved from the UK to Pakistan with the declared intention to join the fundamentalist armed groups in Afghanistan. He has stated: ‘The Taliban were better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past 25 years’ (2007:214).
He was supported by Amnesty far beyond the defence of his fundamental rights not to be tortured and illegally detained. He was accompanied in person by Amnesty’s general secretary during a European tour planned by Amnesty, where he had meetings with European heads of state and prominent political figures – also arranged by Amnesty.
Begg was able to share his views with political elites while the woman who criticised the access he was given to such spaces was silenced.

The selection process that Amnesty, as well as other human rights organisations, uses to decide who to defend and who not to defend and the extension of its mandate to providing fundamentalists with a political platform – rather than just defending their fundamental rights – all amounts to taking a political stand.

In more recent times, not even the Paris massacre of the Charlie Hebdo journalists – whose only weapons were their free pens – not even Professor Samuel Paty’s decapitation while teaching the official curriculum on freedom of expression, had raised unequivocal support from human rights organisations, the media or politicians and democratic governments.
The victims – just for having exercised their fundamental right of freedom of expression – were largely accused of having ‘provoked’ retaliation, of ultimate responsibility for their own assassination.

This is a far cry from how rights defenders on the ground understand ‘freedom of expression’. In the words of courageous Indian Muslim intellectuals and activists gathered on 26 October 2020 to reflect on freedom of expression and Paty’s murder:
We are here to condemn in unequivocal terms, no ifs and buts, not only the man responsible for this barbaric act but all those who had any role in the instigation of the crime as also all those who seek to justify it. We are here not just to condemn the slaying of Mr Paty, but also to demand the abolishing of
apostasy and banishing of blasphemy anywhere and everywhere across the world.
 (8)
A two-minute silence was observed at the beginning of the webinar as a mark of respect for the slain teacher described by Hassen Chalghoumi, an imam who leads prayers at a mosque in a Paris suburb as ‘a martyr for freedom of expression, and a wise man who has taught tolerance, civilisation and respect for others’. (9)

It is clear enough that human rights organisations pick and choose whose
freedom of speech – and other human rights – they are going to defend. In
that they fail in their commitments and their raison d’être.

A hierarchy of rights

Definitely, women are not high on the priority list of groups that human rights organisations are willing to defend.
For example, throughout the 1990s, armed fundamentalist groups in Algeria openly posted the names of targeted individuals on the doors of mosques – for combatants to take action against. They then issued press releases announcing in advance which specific categories of people (10) they would kill (they used the term ‘execute’, for they claimed to be both judges and executioners). The
declared categories were as follows: ‘journalists’, ‘artists’, ‘intellectuals’, ‘foreigners’, ‘women’... Yes, in the fundamentalists’ own words, in their
published ‘communiqués’: ‘women’. This is not a profession anyone could
leave, as journalists or artists could; nor would there be a country to flee to, as foreigners could. In other words, as in Algeria, fundamentalists everywhere condemn to death women for who they are, not for what they do.

Armed fundamentalists did implement their plans as announced and then went on to publicly claim responsibility for the murders and assassinations they had perpetrated within the said categories. Among the estimated 200,000 victims during this period, there was a substantially high percentage of women (some say more than 50% but I do not have reliable figures) who were mutilated, killed, beheaded, slit, burnt, raped and taken to the fundamentalist camps to serve as domestic and sex slaves (11).

Can the demand that women be secluded, forbidden to learn or to work (as under the Taliban, then and now) or else executed if they transgress the orders, and that democrats, secularists and religious minorities be physically eliminated – can this be considered an ‘opinion’ at all? Does voicing this ‘opinion’ falls under ‘freedom of speech’? Is it not hate speech?
Can a human rights organisation promote – in any way – anyone who publicly supports political movements holding these ‘opinions’ (12)?
Clearly, women’s rights came last in their list of rights to be defended, long after ‘minority rights’, ‘religious rights’ or ‘cultural rights’.

Whose freedom of expression?

So, should we stand for freedom of expression, knowing that political forces, including human rights organisations that dare pretend that they are apolitical, will selectively apply it in ways that have been quite dissatisfactory? Human rights principles were designed as tools for greater social justice. Tools in and by themselves are neither good nor bad: it depends on whose hands they rest in.
Various political forces (including the religious fundamentalist ones) invariably succeed in monopolising rights for themselves to achieve their political aims, while denying similar rights to their political opponents.

Catholic fundamentalists not only oppose reproductive rights for their followers, but they also deny these rights to others who don’t share their faith; moreover, they also deny others the right to even speak about contraceptive methods and abortion. When they are in command in a country, they make laws in accordance with their beliefs and deny others who don’t share these beliefs the right to even discuss the issue. For example, the law of 31 July 1920 in France (13) – a law passed under a government eager to comply with demands of the church to boost population growth after WWI – forbade not only the use, but also access to knowledge of contraception and abortion. Sharing this knowledge was deemed ‘incitement’ to a crime (the law: ‘réprime la provocation à l’avortement et à la propagande anticonceptionnelle’). Anyone
contravening the law could be sentenced to death. The last execution took place in 1943, during WWII. This law plagued French women’s rights and freedoms until 1967, when it was abolished.

When in power Muslim fundamentalists also prevent free discussion of issues they deem ‘un-Islamic’ and severely punish by law those who exercise their right to have different opinions (freedom of conscience) and to express them (freedom of speech). Both can be punished by death sentence. They routinely reflect on their ‘right’ to kill the unbelievers, Jews, gays, atheists and others for blasphemy and apostasy. Ali Belhadj, vice president of the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut or FIS) announced in advance on the eve of the 1991 elections in Algeria that should his party win the elections, there will be no more elections. He argued: ‘If one has the law of God, why should one need the law of the people? One should kill all these unbelievers.’ The FIS won the first round of the elections, but the second round of elections was cancelled by the then government for fear that the FIS coming to power through legal means (elections) will end of democracy in Algeria.
Many dictators in history, such as Hitler, came to power through elections and one could barely say it was for the greater benefit of democracy and human rights.

However, in the case of Algeria when elections were cancelled after Ali Belhadj’s statement, it was the government that was deemed undemocratic by international human rights organisations. Meanwhile women’s organisations, worker’s unions and all democratic and progressive people in Algeria were taking to the streets, begging the government to urgently take this politically difficult decision.

In all circumstances and places where they exist, Muslim fundamentalists say and write that they have a right and duty to eliminate the untermensch (namely Jews, communists, free thinkers and gays). When they are in power, they issue edicts that officially allow for their physical elimination and murder. When they are not in power, they still perpetrate killings according to their doctrine, as has been seen – apart from within our own countries – in the UK and France again and again. Priests and churches have been attacked, synagogues and Jewish schools, secularists, writers, cartoonists, journalists and women who did not conform to their dress and behaviour codes.

Muslim fundamentalists preach in advance what they later act upon and/or inspire others to act. By doing so they exercise their freedom of expression but deny others the same right and all other human rights as well.

In France, both the massacre of Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris, the attack on a Jewish primary school in Toulouse (where three children and an adult were assassinated within the premises) and the murder of Professor Paty near Paris are good illustrations of the fact that the murderers were sometimes tutored by long-distance-Islamist writings and statements, and thus incited to take action against people – their victims – they had never seen before. The actual crimes are a direct consequence of their instigators and sponsors’ freedom of expression.

Does this make me an opponent of freedom of speech? No. But it is increasingly hard for me to understand how honest liberal intellectuals continue to defend free speech unconditionally, refusing to even reflect on the fact that words – written or spoken – do have serious consequences in real life.

I do think we all have to take our responsibilities in the present situation where we cannot plead naiveté any longer, and we cannot rely on official human rights organisations to acknowledge the difficulties of the actual situations and think of ways to negotiate conflicting rights. The concept of hate speech is an attempt to limit the damages: someone cannot invoke rights to freedom of expression when they are publicly using it to incite violence against a person.

Rights are for protecting persons, not ideas or beliefs

French law makes a clear-cut distinction between attacking a person and attacking an idea: one cannot insult (hate speech) or attack a person; this will be dealt with in court. But one can insult, belittle, criticise or ridicule all the ideas and beliefs (including religious beliefs) of any given person.
For secularism oblige, the state is no longer (since the 1789 French Revolution) in charge of protecting religions and negotiating with their representatives. The state’s charge is its citizens and not their ideas and beliefs, which can be freely debated and contested.

This is different from the UK where a person’s ideas and beliefs must be respected, regardless of their absurdity. This has led to an unbelievable confusion towards what friends in India call ‘the industry of hurt sentiments’. In the UK and its former colonies, which inherited the British concept of secularism as equal tolerance by the state of all religions, this redefinition of secularism is breeding communalism. This involves unequal rights for different categories of citizens through specific laws of personal status, and representatives of different religions competing for more recognition and privileges from the state. This breeds communalism.
Further, it is not ideas and beliefs that are debated any more, but exclusively the sentiments and feelings of those who hold these ideas or beliefs dear to their hearts and cannot take the fact that others don’t share them and dare to say so. How far have we gone that hurt sensitivity can now lead to murder and justify it? And that this is done for the alleged furtherance of rights? As Kenan Malik wrote in ‘Forgetting the Lessons of Free Speech Struggles’:
One of the ironies, though, is that many arguments used today to defend speech restrictions as protections for the powerless are often the same as those once used by the powerful to protect their interests from challenge. When the US abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy was murdered in 1837 by a pro-slavery mob in Illinois, a southern newspaper blamed him for his own death, as he had “utterly disregarded the sentiments of a large majority of the people
of that place”. A century and a half later, we heard the same arguments in calls for the banning of The Satanic Verses or in claims that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were responsible for their own deaths, because they, too, had “disregarded the sentiments” of many Muslims
 (15).

In Salman Rushdie’s ironical words, in an interview with the New Yorker entitled ‘On Censorship’:
...to say nothing of poor, God-bothered Charles Darwin, against whom the advocates of intelligent design continue to march. I once wrote, and it still feels true, that the attacks on the theory of evolution in parts of the United States themselves go some way to disproving the theory, demonstrating that natural selection doesn’t always work, or at least not in the Kansas area, and that human beings are capable of evolving backward, too, towards the Missing
Link
 (17).

As a conclusion, denouncing an apocryphal quote from Voltaire

We love and cherish freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, which is a precondition to freedom of expression:
Imperfectly free, imperfectly breathable, but when it is breathable and free we don’t need to make a song and dance about it. We take it for granted and get on with our day. And at night, as we fall sleep, we assume we will be free tomorrow, because we were free today,’ Salman Rushdie also said in ‘On
Censorship
’ (above source).

However, we have to face the fact that free speech, this wonderful effort towards human emancipation, is only a tool. And it is now being appropriated, misused and perverted by political forces that aim precisely to do away with human rights for all. We see this with Muslim fundamentalists in Algeria attempting to win elections while intending to abolish them in future as soon as they take power.

What is to be done against the enemies of liberty when they use the very tools one designed to set everyone free?

French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire is known for his criticism of the Roman Catholic Church – as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state. He is often quoted as saying: ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will fight until death for you to have the right to say so’. This quote is apocryphal; British author Evelyn Hall’s unfortunate misuse of quotation marks in her 1906 publication entitled The Friends of Voltaire, attributed to him her own appreciation of his writings...

No doubt that liberals and blind supporters of freedom of speech love this false ‘quote’: for them all ideas are equally respectable. Not for me. Not for those who die because young men and now sometimes women read or listen to terrifying ideas that deny the human rights of others – especially the right to live.

But Voltaire was too intelligent and witty to ignore or underestimate the damage done by the spreading of inhuman ideas such as ethnic or creed
superiority over untermensch. We cannot plead naiveté. We know that the fiercest opponents to freedom of speech are using this very concept as a tool to spread their ideas in order to come to power – and then silence others.

Saint Just (1767-1794) – a very young French revolutionary, political philosopher, member and president of the French National Convention, Jacobin club leader – was a major figure of the French revolution. He was a close friend of Robespierre and served as his most trusted ally during the period of Jacobin rule (1793–94) in the French First Republic. Sitting in the Committee of Public Safety, he sent many opponents of the revolution to their deaths by decapitation, defending the use of violence against opponents of the government. His motto was: ‘no freedom for the enemies of freedom’ (pas de liberté pour les ennemis de la liberté). He was executed at age 27, just after the anti-revolution coup of 9 Thermidor (27 July 1794).

How does one negotiate between liberal freedom for all – whatever the costs and interests that it serves – a concept wrongly attributed to Voltaire, and the drastic silencing of the enemies of human rights advocated by Saint Just?
Is there a space in today’s thinking for going further in limiting hate speech?

At the very least, one should definitely be aware that human rights are nothing but a tool that can have devastating effects in the wrong hands, opposite to its intended effect.

I do not blame anyone for not having the perfect solution to this dilemma, but I do resent the good conscience with which, all in the name of human rights, some people are thrown to the beasts, left to die and rot under the boot of others.

Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian sociologist, taught epistemology in the social sciences in Algiers University for 12 years. She is the founder of the international solidarity network “Women Living Under Muslim Laws” (wluml.org - no longer alive) and of the network "Secularism Is A Women’s Issue » (siawi.org).

References:

1. Drafters of the Declaration https://www.un.org/en/about-
us/udhr/drafters-of-the-declaration
2. Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo_Declaration_on_Human_Rights_in_Isl
am
3. My personal testimony submitted along with others
4. Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic and Women Living Under Muslim
Laws, in Shadow Report on Algeria (2000) Available at:
https://www.nodo50.org/mujeresred/argelia-shadowreport.html
Feminist Dissent
197Lucas. Feminist Dissent, 2022, Issue 6, pp. 182-198
5. Karima Bennoune (October 1997) WLUML Dossier 18: SOS Algeria –
Women’s Human Rights Under Siege. Available at:
http://wrrc.wluml.org/node/295
6. Compare the number of pages devoted to crimes and violations
committed by the Algerian state to the number of pages devoted to crimes
committed by fundamentalist armed groups in any of the annual reports
published by Amnesty International during the 1990s.
7. Marieme Helie Lucas and Sabrang India, ‘Conscientious Objection’. (1
March, 2010) Available at: https://sabrangindia.in/node/1787
8. Press release (2020), ‘Muslim intellectuals, activists condemn Paris
beheading, demand abolition of apostasy and blasphemy laws’. Available
at: https://dilipsimeon.blogspot.com/2020/10/press-release-muslim-
intellectuals.html
9. ibid
10. Thoughout the 1990s, Rassemblement Algérien des Femmes
Démocrates (RAFD) kept a record of these statements.
11. RAFD underground publications.
12. Marieme Helie Lucas, ‘The power of words and ideology: is preaching
of Nazi-like ideology a human right?’ (20 July 2017) Available at: siawi.org
13. Loi du 31 juillet 1920 réprimant la provocation à l’avortement et à la
propagande anticonceptionnelle JORF du 1 août 1920. Available at:
https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/jorf/id/JORFTEXT000000683983
14. Canadian Woman Studies (2018) ‘Women’s Rights, Secularism, and the
Colonial Legacy’. Available at: http://www.yorku.ca/cwscf/
Feminist Dissent
198Lucas. Feminist Dissent, 2022, Issue 6, pp. 182-198
15. Marieme Helie Lucas, ‘Stand and be Counted’. (19 October 2020)
Available at: https://www.workersliberty.org/story/2020-10-19/stand-and-
be-counted
16. Kenan Malik, ‘Forgetting the Lessons of Free Speech Struggles’.
Available at: https://kenanmalik.com/2022/02/02/forgetting-the-lessons-
of-free-speech-struggles/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email
17.Salman Rushdie, ‘On Censorship’. Available at:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/05/on-censorship-
salman-rushdie.html#ixzz1uxR5YuAd
18. ibid
19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Friends_of_Voltaire
20. https://fr.wikiquote.org/wiki/Louis_Antoine_de_Saint-Just
21 Begg, Moazzem and Brittain, Victoria, (2007). ‘Enemy Combatant: The
Terrifying True Story of a Briton in Guantanamo’. Simon & Schuster UK


First published on https://www.siawi.org

Free Speech or Hate Speak?

Human rights organisations pick and choose whose freedom of speech – and other human rights – they are going to defend

Hate speech

On Freedom of Speech and Censorship

written in September 2021

I was imprudent enough to bring back from a trip to New York a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, bought at the UN shop, which I gave to my then eight-year-old son as a present. For the following months, he persecuted me by ‘claiming his rights’ while making unreasonable demands, booklet in hand. While this is a lovely memory of a bright child, many of the demands I now witness being made by individuals – most often on behalf of their ‘communities’ in furtherance of ‘rights’ – are characterised by the same self-centred immaturity.

Beyond a certain age, individual ‘free choice’ within a group, be it family or society, needs to be confronted and balanced with the rights of others. In other words, human rights in general and freedom of expression in particular exist not in abstracto but in specific social circumstances that must be taken into account when it comes to exercising these rights.

The trend is to essentialise human rights today; it is therefore crucial to look into their historical and political construction.

Universalism vs the return of the divine

Human rights, historically, were constructed as protections of the powerless against abuses by the powerful. The 1689 Declaration of Rights protects British citizens against the king’s power. The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the brainchild of the French Revolution, with its corollary – secularism, defined as separation of state from religion – protects French citizens against the ‘divine’ power that the king derives from god, for it is the church that is crowning him on behalf of god. This literally makes him the representative of god on earth.

Hence, the development of secularism and the secular laws that are voted on – one man, one vote – by all (male) citizens, rather than decided upon by the king in the name of god. Unfortunately, women were not included, despite protests led by Olympe de Gouges – who paid with her life for her commitment to human rights for all.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man (which does extend rights to women, although they are seen as represented well enough by ‘Man’ in its title, but which leaves out the ‘citizen’) goes beyond a specific country to extend its jurisdiction to all human beings.
The Universal Declaration was drafted after the two extremely bloody world wars – in other words, European-interest wars – although they involved ‘colonial’ troops while fighting also for domination over non-European territories. It was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948, in Paris at the Palais de Chaillot (hence the designation of ‘Droits de l’Homme’ (rather than ’droits humains’), which till today prevails in French), by resolution 217 (III) A. It was composed at the time by 58 member states, out of which 48 adopted the Universal Charter.

It was thus the responsibility of the newly formed United Nations Organisation (UNO) to guarantee these rights. The Blue Helmets were designed to enforce these rights internationally.

Universal rights today are highly contested and attacked as ‘Western’ values, even though several former colonies – today branded ‘Third World’ countries – were directly involved in drafting and conceptualising the Universal Declaration (1).

Fifty seven countries set up an international organisation that met and notably drafted an alternative Declaration of Rights in Islam, which was adopted in Cairo on 5 August 1990 (2). Although some of its provisions definitely contradict and prove incompatible with those of the Universal Declaration, it is clearly acknowledged and taken into account at the UN level.

This marked the return of the ‘divine’ that plagues and confuses human rights principles. And it sealed a de facto end to a universalist vision of rights. However, there is still little thinking done in regard to conflicting rights.

Human rights vs Politics

Of course, history has now taught us that in many instances, it is allegedly to protect the human rights of others that imperialist invasions have been perpetrated – as was the case in Afghanistan.

Moreover, I have lived long enough to witness the many instances where human rights principles have been trampled, betrayed and abandoned by those supposed to guarantee them; by governments of all shades and colours; by human rights organisations; by the ‘independent’ media; by liberal politicians and others. In fact, I cannot recall a time when human rights have not been instrumentalised by and subsumed to political interests. Let’s look at some examples illustrating this point.

During the liberation struggle of Algeria (1954-62), after the peak of violations by the French colonial troops during what was dubbed the ‘Battle of Algiers’(1956-57), human rights advocates (3) sent two thousand files on cases of ‘disappeared’ people at the hands of the French army – a clear case of extrajudicial killing – to the daily Le Monde. This paper was much-praised for its reliability, integrity and independence but it never published one line about these cases, although defence lawyers who had supervised the elaboration of these files said they could stand in court. Le Monde did not want to risk being banned by the pro-war French government for championing human rights.

More recently, during the ‘war against civilians’ in Algeria in the 1990s (5) that had an approximate toll of 200,000 victims, largely at the hands of extreme right Islamist armed groups (such as GIA, AIS, FIDA, MIA, and more), many citizens and specifically women belonging to women’s rights groups begged international human rights organisations to report extensively on crimes committed by these ‘non-state actors’ (4).
This was in vain: one look at any of their annual reports (6) shows that those violations are barely mentioned, while crimes and violations committed by the state occupy the quasi-totality of the pages devoted to our country.

Moreover, in the late 1990s, the three founding members of the first Amnesty International section in Algiers were expelled from theorganisation without notice, in response to a private letter they had written to the then Paris-based general secretary of Amnesty International. They had written to let him know how Algerian people felt about Amnesty’s one-sided reports regarding the war raging in Algeria and its numerous civilian casualties. They were not even given a chance to meet and explain their concerns, nor did they receive a word of thanks for their years of dedicated work for the organisation. In this personal letter – I still hold a copy of it – they first remind the general secretary that they
are faithful members of the organisation. They introduced themselves as: ‘founding members, members of the executive bureau, coordinators and members of group 1 of the Algerian section of Amnesty’.
They also indicate that they are merely sending ‘some observations’ in their ‘personal capacity’. The observations are made with respect to a report on Algeria published by the organisation as well as the ‘press release that announced the publication of the report’. Their first observation is that: ‘This press release, which is aimed at informing large audiences nationally and internationally, clearly shows an unbalance in presenting the document itself.’

The three founding members then go on to spell out the reason for the unbalance. By ‘giving more space to some parts (state responsibility) and
keeping silent about other parts (the action of armed terrorist opposition groups), this press release shows a lack of objectivity on the part of AI in its
appreciation of the wave of violence that is shaking Algeria
’. And they conclude that ‘this press release only reinforces the emphasis already existing in the report, of only condemning one of the parties in conflict’.
They appeal to Amnesty’s principle that ‘partisan interpretations’ should be avoided. Like the head of Amnesty’s gender unit ten years later, they point at ‘the devastating effect that this press release had on public opinion in Algeria, including among those who till then were strong supporters of AI’. They conclude: ‘We feel compelled to inform you of the damaging consequences for the movement as well as for the struggle against violations of human rights that we have been waging till today in our country.

On 7 February 2010 the head of Amnesty International gender unit was suspended from her job (7). This was hours after the publication of an article in the UK paper The Sunday Times, where she made public – after two years of sending internal reports and analysis to her colleagues in vain – her concerns about Amnesty International’s legitimisation of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee as a human rights defender. This man, Moazam Begg, moved from the UK to Pakistan with the declared intention to join the fundamentalist armed groups in Afghanistan. He has stated: ‘The Taliban were better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past 25 years’ (2007:214).
He was supported by Amnesty far beyond the defence of his fundamental rights not to be tortured and illegally detained. He was accompanied in person by Amnesty’s general secretary during a European tour planned by Amnesty, where he had meetings with European heads of state and prominent political figures – also arranged by Amnesty.
Begg was able to share his views with political elites while the woman who criticised the access he was given to such spaces was silenced.

The selection process that Amnesty, as well as other human rights organisations, uses to decide who to defend and who not to defend and the extension of its mandate to providing fundamentalists with a political platform – rather than just defending their fundamental rights – all amounts to taking a political stand.

In more recent times, not even the Paris massacre of the Charlie Hebdo journalists – whose only weapons were their free pens – not even Professor Samuel Paty’s decapitation while teaching the official curriculum on freedom of expression, had raised unequivocal support from human rights organisations, the media or politicians and democratic governments.
The victims – just for having exercised their fundamental right of freedom of expression – were largely accused of having ‘provoked’ retaliation, of ultimate responsibility for their own assassination.

This is a far cry from how rights defenders on the ground understand ‘freedom of expression’. In the words of courageous Indian Muslim intellectuals and activists gathered on 26 October 2020 to reflect on freedom of expression and Paty’s murder:
We are here to condemn in unequivocal terms, no ifs and buts, not only the man responsible for this barbaric act but all those who had any role in the instigation of the crime as also all those who seek to justify it. We are here not just to condemn the slaying of Mr Paty, but also to demand the abolishing of
apostasy and banishing of blasphemy anywhere and everywhere across the world.
 (8)
A two-minute silence was observed at the beginning of the webinar as a mark of respect for the slain teacher described by Hassen Chalghoumi, an imam who leads prayers at a mosque in a Paris suburb as ‘a martyr for freedom of expression, and a wise man who has taught tolerance, civilisation and respect for others’. (9)

It is clear enough that human rights organisations pick and choose whose
freedom of speech – and other human rights – they are going to defend. In
that they fail in their commitments and their raison d’être.

A hierarchy of rights

Definitely, women are not high on the priority list of groups that human rights organisations are willing to defend.
For example, throughout the 1990s, armed fundamentalist groups in Algeria openly posted the names of targeted individuals on the doors of mosques – for combatants to take action against. They then issued press releases announcing in advance which specific categories of people (10) they would kill (they used the term ‘execute’, for they claimed to be both judges and executioners). The
declared categories were as follows: ‘journalists’, ‘artists’, ‘intellectuals’, ‘foreigners’, ‘women’... Yes, in the fundamentalists’ own words, in their
published ‘communiqués’: ‘women’. This is not a profession anyone could
leave, as journalists or artists could; nor would there be a country to flee to, as foreigners could. In other words, as in Algeria, fundamentalists everywhere condemn to death women for who they are, not for what they do.

Armed fundamentalists did implement their plans as announced and then went on to publicly claim responsibility for the murders and assassinations they had perpetrated within the said categories. Among the estimated 200,000 victims during this period, there was a substantially high percentage of women (some say more than 50% but I do not have reliable figures) who were mutilated, killed, beheaded, slit, burnt, raped and taken to the fundamentalist camps to serve as domestic and sex slaves (11).

Can the demand that women be secluded, forbidden to learn or to work (as under the Taliban, then and now) or else executed if they transgress the orders, and that democrats, secularists and religious minorities be physically eliminated – can this be considered an ‘opinion’ at all? Does voicing this ‘opinion’ falls under ‘freedom of speech’? Is it not hate speech?
Can a human rights organisation promote – in any way – anyone who publicly supports political movements holding these ‘opinions’ (12)?
Clearly, women’s rights came last in their list of rights to be defended, long after ‘minority rights’, ‘religious rights’ or ‘cultural rights’.

Whose freedom of expression?

So, should we stand for freedom of expression, knowing that political forces, including human rights organisations that dare pretend that they are apolitical, will selectively apply it in ways that have been quite dissatisfactory? Human rights principles were designed as tools for greater social justice. Tools in and by themselves are neither good nor bad: it depends on whose hands they rest in.
Various political forces (including the religious fundamentalist ones) invariably succeed in monopolising rights for themselves to achieve their political aims, while denying similar rights to their political opponents.

Catholic fundamentalists not only oppose reproductive rights for their followers, but they also deny these rights to others who don’t share their faith; moreover, they also deny others the right to even speak about contraceptive methods and abortion. When they are in command in a country, they make laws in accordance with their beliefs and deny others who don’t share these beliefs the right to even discuss the issue. For example, the law of 31 July 1920 in France (13) – a law passed under a government eager to comply with demands of the church to boost population growth after WWI – forbade not only the use, but also access to knowledge of contraception and abortion. Sharing this knowledge was deemed ‘incitement’ to a crime (the law: ‘réprime la provocation à l’avortement et à la propagande anticonceptionnelle’). Anyone
contravening the law could be sentenced to death. The last execution took place in 1943, during WWII. This law plagued French women’s rights and freedoms until 1967, when it was abolished.

When in power Muslim fundamentalists also prevent free discussion of issues they deem ‘un-Islamic’ and severely punish by law those who exercise their right to have different opinions (freedom of conscience) and to express them (freedom of speech). Both can be punished by death sentence. They routinely reflect on their ‘right’ to kill the unbelievers, Jews, gays, atheists and others for blasphemy and apostasy. Ali Belhadj, vice president of the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut or FIS) announced in advance on the eve of the 1991 elections in Algeria that should his party win the elections, there will be no more elections. He argued: ‘If one has the law of God, why should one need the law of the people? One should kill all these unbelievers.’ The FIS won the first round of the elections, but the second round of elections was cancelled by the then government for fear that the FIS coming to power through legal means (elections) will end of democracy in Algeria.
Many dictators in history, such as Hitler, came to power through elections and one could barely say it was for the greater benefit of democracy and human rights.

However, in the case of Algeria when elections were cancelled after Ali Belhadj’s statement, it was the government that was deemed undemocratic by international human rights organisations. Meanwhile women’s organisations, worker’s unions and all democratic and progressive people in Algeria were taking to the streets, begging the government to urgently take this politically difficult decision.

In all circumstances and places where they exist, Muslim fundamentalists say and write that they have a right and duty to eliminate the untermensch (namely Jews, communists, free thinkers and gays). When they are in power, they issue edicts that officially allow for their physical elimination and murder. When they are not in power, they still perpetrate killings according to their doctrine, as has been seen – apart from within our own countries – in the UK and France again and again. Priests and churches have been attacked, synagogues and Jewish schools, secularists, writers, cartoonists, journalists and women who did not conform to their dress and behaviour codes.

Muslim fundamentalists preach in advance what they later act upon and/or inspire others to act. By doing so they exercise their freedom of expression but deny others the same right and all other human rights as well.

In France, both the massacre of Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris, the attack on a Jewish primary school in Toulouse (where three children and an adult were assassinated within the premises) and the murder of Professor Paty near Paris are good illustrations of the fact that the murderers were sometimes tutored by long-distance-Islamist writings and statements, and thus incited to take action against people – their victims – they had never seen before. The actual crimes are a direct consequence of their instigators and sponsors’ freedom of expression.

Does this make me an opponent of freedom of speech? No. But it is increasingly hard for me to understand how honest liberal intellectuals continue to defend free speech unconditionally, refusing to even reflect on the fact that words – written or spoken – do have serious consequences in real life.

I do think we all have to take our responsibilities in the present situation where we cannot plead naiveté any longer, and we cannot rely on official human rights organisations to acknowledge the difficulties of the actual situations and think of ways to negotiate conflicting rights. The concept of hate speech is an attempt to limit the damages: someone cannot invoke rights to freedom of expression when they are publicly using it to incite violence against a person.

Rights are for protecting persons, not ideas or beliefs

French law makes a clear-cut distinction between attacking a person and attacking an idea: one cannot insult (hate speech) or attack a person; this will be dealt with in court. But one can insult, belittle, criticise or ridicule all the ideas and beliefs (including religious beliefs) of any given person.
For secularism oblige, the state is no longer (since the 1789 French Revolution) in charge of protecting religions and negotiating with their representatives. The state’s charge is its citizens and not their ideas and beliefs, which can be freely debated and contested.

This is different from the UK where a person’s ideas and beliefs must be respected, regardless of their absurdity. This has led to an unbelievable confusion towards what friends in India call ‘the industry of hurt sentiments’. In the UK and its former colonies, which inherited the British concept of secularism as equal tolerance by the state of all religions, this redefinition of secularism is breeding communalism. This involves unequal rights for different categories of citizens through specific laws of personal status, and representatives of different religions competing for more recognition and privileges from the state. This breeds communalism.
Further, it is not ideas and beliefs that are debated any more, but exclusively the sentiments and feelings of those who hold these ideas or beliefs dear to their hearts and cannot take the fact that others don’t share them and dare to say so. How far have we gone that hurt sensitivity can now lead to murder and justify it? And that this is done for the alleged furtherance of rights? As Kenan Malik wrote in ‘Forgetting the Lessons of Free Speech Struggles’:
One of the ironies, though, is that many arguments used today to defend speech restrictions as protections for the powerless are often the same as those once used by the powerful to protect their interests from challenge. When the US abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy was murdered in 1837 by a pro-slavery mob in Illinois, a southern newspaper blamed him for his own death, as he had “utterly disregarded the sentiments of a large majority of the people
of that place”. A century and a half later, we heard the same arguments in calls for the banning of The Satanic Verses or in claims that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were responsible for their own deaths, because they, too, had “disregarded the sentiments” of many Muslims
 (15).

In Salman Rushdie’s ironical words, in an interview with the New Yorker entitled ‘On Censorship’:
...to say nothing of poor, God-bothered Charles Darwin, against whom the advocates of intelligent design continue to march. I once wrote, and it still feels true, that the attacks on the theory of evolution in parts of the United States themselves go some way to disproving the theory, demonstrating that natural selection doesn’t always work, or at least not in the Kansas area, and that human beings are capable of evolving backward, too, towards the Missing
Link
 (17).

As a conclusion, denouncing an apocryphal quote from Voltaire

We love and cherish freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, which is a precondition to freedom of expression:
Imperfectly free, imperfectly breathable, but when it is breathable and free we don’t need to make a song and dance about it. We take it for granted and get on with our day. And at night, as we fall sleep, we assume we will be free tomorrow, because we were free today,’ Salman Rushdie also said in ‘On
Censorship
’ (above source).

However, we have to face the fact that free speech, this wonderful effort towards human emancipation, is only a tool. And it is now being appropriated, misused and perverted by political forces that aim precisely to do away with human rights for all. We see this with Muslim fundamentalists in Algeria attempting to win elections while intending to abolish them in future as soon as they take power.

What is to be done against the enemies of liberty when they use the very tools one designed to set everyone free?

French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire is known for his criticism of the Roman Catholic Church – as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state. He is often quoted as saying: ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will fight until death for you to have the right to say so’. This quote is apocryphal; British author Evelyn Hall’s unfortunate misuse of quotation marks in her 1906 publication entitled The Friends of Voltaire, attributed to him her own appreciation of his writings...

No doubt that liberals and blind supporters of freedom of speech love this false ‘quote’: for them all ideas are equally respectable. Not for me. Not for those who die because young men and now sometimes women read or listen to terrifying ideas that deny the human rights of others – especially the right to live.

But Voltaire was too intelligent and witty to ignore or underestimate the damage done by the spreading of inhuman ideas such as ethnic or creed
superiority over untermensch. We cannot plead naiveté. We know that the fiercest opponents to freedom of speech are using this very concept as a tool to spread their ideas in order to come to power – and then silence others.

Saint Just (1767-1794) – a very young French revolutionary, political philosopher, member and president of the French National Convention, Jacobin club leader – was a major figure of the French revolution. He was a close friend of Robespierre and served as his most trusted ally during the period of Jacobin rule (1793–94) in the French First Republic. Sitting in the Committee of Public Safety, he sent many opponents of the revolution to their deaths by decapitation, defending the use of violence against opponents of the government. His motto was: ‘no freedom for the enemies of freedom’ (pas de liberté pour les ennemis de la liberté). He was executed at age 27, just after the anti-revolution coup of 9 Thermidor (27 July 1794).

How does one negotiate between liberal freedom for all – whatever the costs and interests that it serves – a concept wrongly attributed to Voltaire, and the drastic silencing of the enemies of human rights advocated by Saint Just?
Is there a space in today’s thinking for going further in limiting hate speech?

At the very least, one should definitely be aware that human rights are nothing but a tool that can have devastating effects in the wrong hands, opposite to its intended effect.

I do not blame anyone for not having the perfect solution to this dilemma, but I do resent the good conscience with which, all in the name of human rights, some people are thrown to the beasts, left to die and rot under the boot of others.

Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian sociologist, taught epistemology in the social sciences in Algiers University for 12 years. She is the founder of the international solidarity network “Women Living Under Muslim Laws” (wluml.org - no longer alive) and of the network "Secularism Is A Women’s Issue » (siawi.org).

References:

1. Drafters of the Declaration https://www.un.org/en/about-
us/udhr/drafters-of-the-declaration
2. Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo_Declaration_on_Human_Rights_in_Isl
am
3. My personal testimony submitted along with others
4. Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic and Women Living Under Muslim
Laws, in Shadow Report on Algeria (2000) Available at:
https://www.nodo50.org/mujeresred/argelia-shadowreport.html
Feminist Dissent
197Lucas. Feminist Dissent, 2022, Issue 6, pp. 182-198
5. Karima Bennoune (October 1997) WLUML Dossier 18: SOS Algeria –
Women’s Human Rights Under Siege. Available at:
http://wrrc.wluml.org/node/295
6. Compare the number of pages devoted to crimes and violations
committed by the Algerian state to the number of pages devoted to crimes
committed by fundamentalist armed groups in any of the annual reports
published by Amnesty International during the 1990s.
7. Marieme Helie Lucas and Sabrang India, ‘Conscientious Objection’. (1
March, 2010) Available at: https://sabrangindia.in/node/1787
8. Press release (2020), ‘Muslim intellectuals, activists condemn Paris
beheading, demand abolition of apostasy and blasphemy laws’. Available
at: https://dilipsimeon.blogspot.com/2020/10/press-release-muslim-
intellectuals.html
9. ibid
10. Thoughout the 1990s, Rassemblement Algérien des Femmes
Démocrates (RAFD) kept a record of these statements.
11. RAFD underground publications.
12. Marieme Helie Lucas, ‘The power of words and ideology: is preaching
of Nazi-like ideology a human right?’ (20 July 2017) Available at: siawi.org
13. Loi du 31 juillet 1920 réprimant la provocation à l’avortement et à la
propagande anticonceptionnelle JORF du 1 août 1920. Available at:
https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/jorf/id/JORFTEXT000000683983
14. Canadian Woman Studies (2018) ‘Women’s Rights, Secularism, and the
Colonial Legacy’. Available at: http://www.yorku.ca/cwscf/
Feminist Dissent
198Lucas. Feminist Dissent, 2022, Issue 6, pp. 182-198
15. Marieme Helie Lucas, ‘Stand and be Counted’. (19 October 2020)
Available at: https://www.workersliberty.org/story/2020-10-19/stand-and-
be-counted
16. Kenan Malik, ‘Forgetting the Lessons of Free Speech Struggles’.
Available at: https://kenanmalik.com/2022/02/02/forgetting-the-lessons-
of-free-speech-struggles/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email
17.Salman Rushdie, ‘On Censorship’. Available at:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/05/on-censorship-
salman-rushdie.html#ixzz1uxR5YuAd
18. ibid
19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Friends_of_Voltaire
20. https://fr.wikiquote.org/wiki/Louis_Antoine_de_Saint-Just
21 Begg, Moazzem and Brittain, Victoria, (2007). ‘Enemy Combatant: The
Terrifying True Story of a Briton in Guantanamo’. Simon & Schuster UK


First published on https://www.siawi.org

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Shakira spotlights Iran’s footballer Amir Nasr who faces death penalty

The 26-year-old Iranian football player Amir Nasr-Azadani is facing the threat of execution

19 Dec 2022

shakira

Colombian singing sensation Shakira on Sunday highlighted that Iran’s footballer Amir Nasr is facing the death penalty over participation in an anti-hijab row.

Minutes before the beginning of the FIFA world cup final match, Shakira wrote, ‘Today at the final of the World Cup, I only hope the players on the field and the whole world remembers that there’s a man and fellow footballer called Amir Nasr, on death row, only for speaking in favor of Women’s rights.’

 

 

Earlier, she declared her support for the footballer and said, ‘The fight for equality and human rights should be praised not punished, I stand in solidarity with Amir Nasr’.

 

 

Why Amir Nasr faces death penalty?

The 26-year-old Iranian football player Amir Nasr-Azadani is facing the threat of execution because of his association with the ongoing protests movement in the country following the death of Mahsa Amini.

He was sentenced to be hanged to death for allegedly killing Colonel Esmaeil Cheraghi and two Basij members on November 17.

Protests after death of Mahsa Amini

Since September 16, Iran is witnessing violent protests due to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She died three days after the morality police detained her in Tehran because of the country’s strict dress code.

As per Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), 502 protestors lost their lives from September 17 to December 18. Those who died also includes 69 children.

 

 

In the protests, a total of 144 universities and 161 cities are involved.

Who is Shakira?

Born and brought up in Colombia’s Barranquilla, the 45-year-old pop singer is referred to as the “Queen of Latin Music”.

It is due to her fifth album Laundry Service that was released in 2001, she entered the English-language market.

One of her songs that become popular all over the world is “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)”. This song was the official song of the FIFA world cup 2010.

As both Shakira and Amir Nasr are associated with football, she highlighted the death penalty ahead of FIFA world cup 2022.


Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

Shakira spotlights Iran’s footballer Amir Nasr who faces death penalty

The 26-year-old Iranian football player Amir Nasr-Azadani is facing the threat of execution

shakira

Colombian singing sensation Shakira on Sunday highlighted that Iran’s footballer Amir Nasr is facing the death penalty over participation in an anti-hijab row.

Minutes before the beginning of the FIFA world cup final match, Shakira wrote, ‘Today at the final of the World Cup, I only hope the players on the field and the whole world remembers that there’s a man and fellow footballer called Amir Nasr, on death row, only for speaking in favor of Women’s rights.’

 

 

Earlier, she declared her support for the footballer and said, ‘The fight for equality and human rights should be praised not punished, I stand in solidarity with Amir Nasr’.

 

 

Why Amir Nasr faces death penalty?

The 26-year-old Iranian football player Amir Nasr-Azadani is facing the threat of execution because of his association with the ongoing protests movement in the country following the death of Mahsa Amini.

He was sentenced to be hanged to death for allegedly killing Colonel Esmaeil Cheraghi and two Basij members on November 17.

Protests after death of Mahsa Amini

Since September 16, Iran is witnessing violent protests due to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She died three days after the morality police detained her in Tehran because of the country’s strict dress code.

As per Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), 502 protestors lost their lives from September 17 to December 18. Those who died also includes 69 children.

 

 

In the protests, a total of 144 universities and 161 cities are involved.

Who is Shakira?

Born and brought up in Colombia’s Barranquilla, the 45-year-old pop singer is referred to as the “Queen of Latin Music”.

It is due to her fifth album Laundry Service that was released in 2001, she entered the English-language market.

One of her songs that become popular all over the world is “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)”. This song was the official song of the FIFA world cup 2010.

As both Shakira and Amir Nasr are associated with football, she highlighted the death penalty ahead of FIFA world cup 2022.


Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

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Evidence planted on Jesuit-activist Stan Swamy's laptop: Arsenal US Report

The report blasts a hole in the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) charges against Stan Swamy; before this similar plants had been found in Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling’s computers

14 Dec 2022

Stan swamy

One more report by an American forensic firm, arsenal, exposes how multiple incriminating documents were planted in the computer of Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old activist-priest who was arrested for alleged terror links in 2020 and who died in custody a year later. The tragic death of Stan Swamy, after delayed medical health attention has been termed as a murder in judicial custody by the human rights movement.

The latest Arsenal report blasts a hole in the National Investigation Agency (NIA)'s charges against Stan Swam. These charges centre around alleged electronic correspondence between the priest and supposed Maoist leaders to make the case that he was part of an explosive Naxal conspiracy.

In its detailed findings, Arsenal Consulting, a Boston-based forensic outfit hired by Swamy's lawyers, says close to 44 documents, including the so-called Maoist letters, were planted by an unknown cyber attacker who gained access to Swamy's computer over an extended period of five years, starting from 2014 to the point when he was raided in 2019.

Both NDTV and Washington Post broke this story on Tuesday, December 13.

Arsenal Consulting also says it has extensive experience of working in digital forensics and has investigated multiple high-profile cases like the Boston Marathon bombing case.

Stan Swamy, a Jharkhand-based Jesuit priest who worked among tribals, was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case, a move that sparked wide condemnation. For decades, Stan Swamy worked and lived among Jharkand adivasis (indigenous peoples) and extended legal aid to those criminalised fort demanding land and livelihood rights. The criticism against the authorities escalated when he died within a year of his incarceration due to Covid-related complications. The UN and the EU both reacted strongly to the news of Father Stan Swamy's death. A UN official called the news "devastating," and added that the priest had been imprisoned on "false charges of terrorism".  

Despite this, he NIA, however, claimed he was part of a conspiracy along with 15 others to instigate riots in the village of Bhima-Koregaon in Maharashtra in 2018, when scores of Dalits had gathered to commemorate a historic battle in which Dalits defeated an upper caste army.

Based on “documents retrieved from their computers”, the NIA had also charged Swamy and the others – mainly left-leaning activists, academics, and human rights defenders - with scheming with Maoists to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a video recorded just before his arrest in 2020, Father Swamy had completely rubbished the purported Maoist letters found on his computer, saying he "denied and disowned every single extract that was put before me" by investigators.

Now, close to 17 months after his death, Arsenal Consulting's report shows that the hacker used a malware called NetWire to gain access to Father Swamy's computer on October 19, 2014, for both highly invasive surveillance and "document delivery".

According to Arsenal, one such document "delivered" by the attacker to Stan Swamy's computer and part of the NIA's chargesheet against the priest, was an alleged letter sent by one "SS" - presumed to be Father Stan Swamy - to a "Vijayan Dada" on October 2017. In the letter, "SS" asks "Vijayan" to take action "to capture senior leaders of ruling BJP in the state and demand that the oppressive laws be done with."

stan swamy

'Maoist' letter, part of chargesheet against Father Stan Swamy, was planted on his computer as per US report.

Another document in the NIA chargesheet against Swamy, detailing the manpower and weaponry of a Maoist outfit called People's Liberation Guerilla Army in different Indian states, is also among the planted documents, Arsenal says.

According to Arsenal, they "found no evidence which would suggest that the... documents were ever interacted with in any legitimate way on Fr. Swamy's computer. More specifically, there is no evidence which would suggest any of the (planted) documents, or the hidden 22 folders they were contained in, were ever opened" by Swamy.

Earlier reports (2020, 2021) by Arsenal Consulting had found proof of similar planting of evidence on the systems of at least two other co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon case - activists Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling. The reports found an unknown hacker had planted over 30 documents on the computer belonging to Rona Wilson and at least 14 incriminating letters on Surendra Gadling's computer.

All three – Stan Swamy, Surendra Gadling and Rona Wilson – have been targeted by the same hacker, according to Arsenal.

While Arsenal has not speculated on the identity of the attacker, the report says the attacker made frantic attempts to "perform an extensive clean-up of their malicious activities" on June 11, 2019 - a day before the Pune Police seized Stan Swamy's computer (June 12). The timing raises the question of whether the hacker even had prior knowledge of the impending police action.

NDTV wrote to the NIA requesting for comments on the findings of Arsenal Consulting. However they , did not receive a response till the time this article was published. The story will be updated if any response is received from the agency.

 

Related:

Bhima Koregaon case: Was evidence planted to implicate activists?
Primary goals were surveillance and incriminating document delivery: Arsenal Report
Rona Wilson moves Bombay HC, demands probe into ‘planted evidence’
Probe claims of Rona Wilson’s laptop being hacked: Sudha Bharadwaj's family and friends
Former Professor Shoma Sen moves Bombay HC against UAPA charges
Bhima Koregaon case: NIA attempts to dismiss Arsenal’s findings about Rona Wilson’s laptop

Evidence planted on Jesuit-activist Stan Swamy's laptop: Arsenal US Report

The report blasts a hole in the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) charges against Stan Swamy; before this similar plants had been found in Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling’s computers

Stan swamy

One more report by an American forensic firm, arsenal, exposes how multiple incriminating documents were planted in the computer of Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old activist-priest who was arrested for alleged terror links in 2020 and who died in custody a year later. The tragic death of Stan Swamy, after delayed medical health attention has been termed as a murder in judicial custody by the human rights movement.

The latest Arsenal report blasts a hole in the National Investigation Agency (NIA)'s charges against Stan Swam. These charges centre around alleged electronic correspondence between the priest and supposed Maoist leaders to make the case that he was part of an explosive Naxal conspiracy.

In its detailed findings, Arsenal Consulting, a Boston-based forensic outfit hired by Swamy's lawyers, says close to 44 documents, including the so-called Maoist letters, were planted by an unknown cyber attacker who gained access to Swamy's computer over an extended period of five years, starting from 2014 to the point when he was raided in 2019.

Both NDTV and Washington Post broke this story on Tuesday, December 13.

Arsenal Consulting also says it has extensive experience of working in digital forensics and has investigated multiple high-profile cases like the Boston Marathon bombing case.

Stan Swamy, a Jharkhand-based Jesuit priest who worked among tribals, was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case, a move that sparked wide condemnation. For decades, Stan Swamy worked and lived among Jharkand adivasis (indigenous peoples) and extended legal aid to those criminalised fort demanding land and livelihood rights. The criticism against the authorities escalated when he died within a year of his incarceration due to Covid-related complications. The UN and the EU both reacted strongly to the news of Father Stan Swamy's death. A UN official called the news "devastating," and added that the priest had been imprisoned on "false charges of terrorism".  

Despite this, he NIA, however, claimed he was part of a conspiracy along with 15 others to instigate riots in the village of Bhima-Koregaon in Maharashtra in 2018, when scores of Dalits had gathered to commemorate a historic battle in which Dalits defeated an upper caste army.

Based on “documents retrieved from their computers”, the NIA had also charged Swamy and the others – mainly left-leaning activists, academics, and human rights defenders - with scheming with Maoists to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a video recorded just before his arrest in 2020, Father Swamy had completely rubbished the purported Maoist letters found on his computer, saying he "denied and disowned every single extract that was put before me" by investigators.

Now, close to 17 months after his death, Arsenal Consulting's report shows that the hacker used a malware called NetWire to gain access to Father Swamy's computer on October 19, 2014, for both highly invasive surveillance and "document delivery".

According to Arsenal, one such document "delivered" by the attacker to Stan Swamy's computer and part of the NIA's chargesheet against the priest, was an alleged letter sent by one "SS" - presumed to be Father Stan Swamy - to a "Vijayan Dada" on October 2017. In the letter, "SS" asks "Vijayan" to take action "to capture senior leaders of ruling BJP in the state and demand that the oppressive laws be done with."

stan swamy

'Maoist' letter, part of chargesheet against Father Stan Swamy, was planted on his computer as per US report.

Another document in the NIA chargesheet against Swamy, detailing the manpower and weaponry of a Maoist outfit called People's Liberation Guerilla Army in different Indian states, is also among the planted documents, Arsenal says.

According to Arsenal, they "found no evidence which would suggest that the... documents were ever interacted with in any legitimate way on Fr. Swamy's computer. More specifically, there is no evidence which would suggest any of the (planted) documents, or the hidden 22 folders they were contained in, were ever opened" by Swamy.

Earlier reports (2020, 2021) by Arsenal Consulting had found proof of similar planting of evidence on the systems of at least two other co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon case - activists Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling. The reports found an unknown hacker had planted over 30 documents on the computer belonging to Rona Wilson and at least 14 incriminating letters on Surendra Gadling's computer.

All three – Stan Swamy, Surendra Gadling and Rona Wilson – have been targeted by the same hacker, according to Arsenal.

While Arsenal has not speculated on the identity of the attacker, the report says the attacker made frantic attempts to "perform an extensive clean-up of their malicious activities" on June 11, 2019 - a day before the Pune Police seized Stan Swamy's computer (June 12). The timing raises the question of whether the hacker even had prior knowledge of the impending police action.

NDTV wrote to the NIA requesting for comments on the findings of Arsenal Consulting. However they , did not receive a response till the time this article was published. The story will be updated if any response is received from the agency.

 

Related:

Bhima Koregaon case: Was evidence planted to implicate activists?
Primary goals were surveillance and incriminating document delivery: Arsenal Report
Rona Wilson moves Bombay HC, demands probe into ‘planted evidence’
Probe claims of Rona Wilson’s laptop being hacked: Sudha Bharadwaj's family and friends
Former Professor Shoma Sen moves Bombay HC against UAPA charges
Bhima Koregaon case: NIA attempts to dismiss Arsenal’s findings about Rona Wilson’s laptop

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