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Is this really fascism of Modi Government?

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Suleiman Khan returned to India from Saudi Arabia last week. He was apprehensive. Suleiman confided his fears to his friend Anwar Shaikh: “Nayantara Sahgal, Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece, says that things in India are worse today than they’ve been since the partition riots in 1947.”

Anwar replied grimly: “Yes. They are. The government tells us what to eat, what to read, what to watch. They even blackened Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face before Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch. What next? It’s intolerable.”

The two friends turned to the local newspapers. The headlines shocked Suleiman. “Everyone is returning their awards and resigning from the Sahitya Akademi,” he exclaimed.

“And,” Anwar added pointedly,” the Shiv Sena didn’t let Ghulam Ali Saab perform in Mumbai. It’s good we have secular politicians like Akhilesh Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee who’ve invited Ghulam Ali Saab to sing in Lucknow, Delhi, Patna and Kolkata.”

Suleiman spent the next week in trepidation. Was India, as Nayantara Sahgal said, even worse than the 1975-77 Emergency when her cousin, Indira Gandhi, then prime minister, had stifled dissent, thrown the entire opposition, including Jayaprakash Narayan, in jail, censored newspapers and locked up activists and journalists?

Suleiman had left India in 1976, at the age of 21, during the Emergency. He remembered Sanjay Gandhi’s forced sterilisation campaign of Muslims in Turkman Gate in Delhi where he used to live.

The next morning, in Mumbai, Suleiman scanned the newspapers for signs of the imminent collapse of Indian democracy. He was surprised to read the headlines. “Everyone is condemning the prime minister!” he told Anwar. “I thought Modi was stifling dissent. But in every newspaper editorial and column, his government is the target of mockery and criticism. How can that be? Nayantara Sahgal said this was the worst period for Indian democratic discourse since partition in 1947. Worse than the Emergency when you couldn’t criticise the PM, much less abuse her. Lalu Prasad Yadav even called Modi a demon and monster the other day. And Ruchir Joshi abused Modi in The Economic Times last Wednesday in vile language. Why hasn’t Modi acted against them? “

Anwar tried to explain to his friend: “Suleimanbhai, you left India during the Emergency nearly 40 years ago and have never returned to India until now. Mrs. Gandhi was kind enough to revoke the Emergency in March 1977. She freed all the prisoners – journalists, opposition leaders, activists. Everybody. After 1980, we’ve had 28 years of Congress or Congress-supported governments. They gave us complete cultural freedom. Our Sahitya Akademi and other cultural bodies were filled with those who backed the secular, liberal and pro-poor ideology of Nehru and his extended family.”

“Ah,” said Suleiman, his face lighting up. “That’s why Indians are still so poor and the media is so liberal and Hindus are so secular. What a legacy!”

They were now in a bus passing by Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum where the movie Slumdog Millionaire was shot by Danny Boyle. “See how the BJP government has packed the censor board and the FTII with RSS types,” Anwar said. “They want to ban movies, books, everything. Even eating beef.”

Suleiman was puzzled. “But, Anwarbhai, I saw a DVD of Haider and PK. They make fun of Hindu idols and criticise the Indian army in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). Yet both movies were shown in Indian theatres and were huge hits. Why didn’t this government censor them?”

Anwar changed the subject. “Hungry, Suleiman?” he asked his friend. They were passing an al fresco restaurant. They sat down and ordered a burger. On the next table they saw a couple tucking into a hot dog, mayonnaise dripping out of the bread-encased sausage.

Suleiman’s eyes opened wide.”They are eating pork, Anwarbhai! We are eating buffalo meat in our burger. Back home in Saudi, pork is hard to come by. You might get 100 lashes for eating it in public.”

Anwar shook his head. “Don’t compare Saudi Arabia with India. Look what happened to that poor Indian woman who had her arm chopped off in Saudi. Backward country. We’re not like that. We’re a liberal, secular democracy.”

The two friends discussed the horrific murder of a young Muslim man in Dadri over beef. “Modi’s statement was inadequate,” said Anwar. Suleiman agreed. “He should have condemned it directly and set an example.”

That evening, Suleiman and Anwar put on their TV set. Surfing English and Hindi news channels, they heard guests and anchors in debate after debate condemning the Modi government. One elderly gentleman called Anand Patwardhan was spewing venom on the Modi government, in effect calling it fascist. “I recognise him,” exclaimed Suleiman, pointing excitedly to

Patwardhan. “I’ve seen his films – have they been banned after he abused Modi?”

Anwar shook his head slowly.

“But why is he allowed to say such things on national TV?” Suleiman asked Anwar in genuine bewilderment. “Nayantara Sahgal said dissent was being stifled. If Patwardhan had said such nasty things about Indira Gandhi in 1976 when I left India during the Emergency, he’d have been jailed. And Nayantaraji says that things are worse today than during the Emergency. Is Patwardhan in jail?”

Anwar was embarrassed. “Actually, he’s right now in another TV studio saying the same things.”

The two friends returned to Delhi the next morning. The newspapers were full of the attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni before Kasuri’s book launch in Mumbai and of writers returning awards or resigning from the Sahitya Akademi. “Who gave them these awards or appointed them on the Akademi?” Suleiman asked Anwar.

“Well, most like Ashok Vajpeyi, Nayantara Sahgal and Satchidanandan were awarded or appointed by the Congress. Some like Sarah Joseph are members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).”

Suleiman nodded. “But Anwarbhai, did so many artists and writers return their awards when 4,000 Sikhs were killed in 1984 or when four lakh Kashmiri pandits were driven out of the Valley in 1989?”

Anwar shook his head again. “No, they didn’t,” he said. “You see, the Congress was in power in 1984 and 1989. It’s a secular party, after all.”

That evening the two friends strolled down Lodhi Gardens in Delhi. It was Sunday. The muggy monsoon heat had given way to a pleasant early-October autumn. Suleiman spotted familiar faces jogging or walking in the tree-lined park. One was a famous lawyer who, Anwar told Suleiman conspiratorially, “charges Rs 40 lakh per appearance in the Supreme Court. He’s currently defending top Congress leaders in a case involving the alleged National Herald scam.”

Another portly gentleman trotted by. “That’s also a senior lawyer,” said Anwar. “He’s fighting a case in the Supreme Court against the government over the Aadhar biometric card whose use the court wants to restrict.”

Suleiman was now thoroughly confused. “How is this possible, Anwarbhai? Can’t this fascist government just throw all these people in jail like Indira Gandhi did when I was last in India in 1976? All of them should be in jail – opposition leaders, activists and journalists who condemn the government in newspapers and on TV, lawyers who file cases against the government, writers and filmmakers who call the government fascist. How is such leniency allowed? Why isn’t dissent being stifled like Nayantaraji said?”

Anwar suddenly spotted a café. “Let’s get us a beef sandwich,” he told Suleiman. “And don’t worry. Like in Mumbai, it’s buffalo meat. We won’t be breaking the law.” Suleiman sighed. He’d come all the way to his beloved country to see for himself how fascism had overtaken India, how dissent was been strangulated, liberal thought censored and media handcuffed.

Sensing his friend’s discomfiture, Anwar said animatedly: “Look at Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. After Ghulam Ali Saab, he was also targeted by the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally. How can you even try to stop a former foreign minister of Pakistan, who served in Pervez Musharraf’s government, from marketing his book in Mumbai?”

Suleiman was puzzled. “Isn’t Kasuri the same fellow who justified Musharraf’s Kargil attack on India? Wasn’t he in Musharraf’s cabinet when the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai was being planned?”

Anwar nodded reflectively, taking another bite on his sandwich. As they worked their way through their Cara beef sandwiches, Suleiman said to Anwar thoughtfully: “In America, Christian politicians like Donald Trump and Ben Carson call Muslims terrible names. Here all our Hindu friends say such nice things about Muslims. I suppose that’s the difference between American democracy and Indian fascism.”

Anwar looked at Suleiman quizzically but let that pass. “Come,” he said brightly, “let’s see if we can get tickets for Ghulam Ali Saab’s show. He’s performing in Delhi in December. We should book seats in advance.”

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Doosra Pehlu

All About The Bhainsa Riots

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Bhainsa Riots Expainer | News Aur Chai

Communal riots broke out in the town of Bhainsa in Telangana after altercations between Hindu and Muslim youth-led to stone pelting on March 7, 2021. Thirty-eight people have been arrested in connection with these riots, the majority being members of the right-wing nationalist organization Hindu Vahini. The police are on the lookout for 70 more people whose parts in the riots have been established.

What Happened In Bhainsa

Two, two-wheeler bourne youths named Thoth Mahesh and Dattu Patel attacked a Rizwan in Zulfiqar Gali. Rizwan and his friends went looking for the two attackers in Batli Gali. There they were beaten up by Mahesh and Dattu and their friends. Stone pelting followed between people of the two communities after one of the friends of Mahesh and Dattu again went to Zulfiqar Gali to buy alcohol and picked up a fight with members of the other community. A constable who tried to intervene and stop the fight sustained head injuries. Section 144 was imposed in the riot-affected areas.

Y. Nagi Reddy, the inspector general of the north zone, has said that 26 cases have been registered about the violence. The 38 people that have been arrested also include four minors. Twelve people, three of which were police officers, were injured in the stone-pelting. Four houses, thirteen shops, four rickshaws, six cars, and five two-wheelers were set on fire riots.

IGP Reddy said, “People belonging to one group were informed, gathered, and were sent to places under the guidance of Abdul Khabeer alias Baba, AIMIM party’s Counsellor from 15th ward.” He added, “The second group was led by Thota Vijay, Counsellor from 8th Ward and ex-president of Hindu Vahini. Some of the arsons committed on the second and the third day and night…..were led by Santhosh, who is the district president of Hindu Vahini.” He also clarified that the investigation was being conducted in an unbiased manner and that the instigators were identified using CCTV footage and Nenusaitham initiative geotagged cameras.

The Other Side Of The Story

Bandi Sanjay Kumar, the state BJP chief, alleged that the police were torturing Hindu Vahini members. He said that the party would complain to the central government against the state police’s third-degree interrogation methods. He also wrote to Telangana’s governor accusing Muslim “infiltrators” from Maharashtra of causing communal tensions in Bhainsa.

“AIMIM leader Mohammad Jabir Ahmed is the cause for communal violence in Bhainsa. They have been involved in land grabbing for a time now and when the local Hindus…… have been spreading the news via social media, communal violence has begun,” BJP MP Dharmapuri Arvind told news agency Asian News International.

The official spokesperson of the ruling TRS Krishank pushed back criticism of the State Government by saying, “Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has always been very serious against the communal violence in the state.” He assured action against the riot perpetrators and said, “Strict action will be taken against the people resorting to communal violence in the state and also those who are spreading rumours across social media and are creating disturbances in the society.”

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Why is Nodeep Kaur Making Headlines?

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Nodeep Kaur | News Aur Chai

Nodeep Kaur is a 23-year-old Dalit Labour Rights Activist from Punjab. She is a member of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sanghatan, an organization based in the Kundli Industrial Area of Haryana which works for workers’ rights. She was involved in a protest with labourers at Kundli, on the border of Haryana and Delhi. The protest was about demanding higher wages for workers. It was also in solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ protests against the new farm laws. She was arrested on January 12. A string of charges was made against her following her arrest, including Section 307 (Attempted Murder). Her sister Rajveer Kaur alleged that the police have tortured and sexually abused Nodeep.

Her Background

Nodeep Kaur comes from a Dalit family from Gandera Village in the Sri Muktsar Sahib district of Punjab. Her family is one of the activists, her parents are associated with a farmer’s union, and her sister is a member of the Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch. After the lockdown restrictions eased, she started working at a factory in Sonipat, Haryana. She also joined the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan around this time.

In a video shared by Canadian Poet Rupi Kaur, Nodeep Kaur can talk about Farmer-Labourer Unity. She speaks in support of the farmers’ protests and says that it is not a sole cause, and everyone needs to come out in support of the farmers.

Why Was She Arrested?

Nodeep is a dedicated Labour rights activist. She was involved in a protest, and her associates at the Kundli border demanding higher wages for workers. The protest coincided with the ongoing farmers’ protests and was in solidarity with them. On January 12, a team of Sonipat Police went to the Kundli Industrial Area (KIA), acting on the information of alleged manhandling of management and the staff of a unit and extorting money from them. The police said Kaur and her associates attacked police with sticks and injured seven personnel. Her associates managed to flee, but she got arrested following the incident. She was produced before the court and sent to jail the same day.

The police say they did not seek remand. Sonipat Superintendent of Police said there were prior complaints of extortion against Nodeep Kaur, and a case was registered on December 28 2020. A slew of charges was pressed against her, including Murder, Extortion, Theft, Rioting, Unlawful Assembly, Extortion and Criminal Intimidation and other offences under Sections 148, 149, 332, 353, 186, 384, 379-b, 307. She was sent to the Karnal Jail in Haryana following her arrest.

Allegations Of Sexual Abuse And Torture In Custody

Rajveer, Nodeep’s older sister, visited her in Karnal Jail after her arrest. There, Nodeep told her of the alleged assault by police in Custody. She has alleged that there were no women police officers, and she was taken aside by male cops and beaten black and blue. Rajveer said that she was beaten publicly by male officers, dragged by her hair to the police van. She also said that Nodeep was beaten with sticks and shoes, including her private parts, which caused heavy bleeding. There are also allegations of sexual abuse by male police personnel.

The police vehemently deny these allegations and said that she was kept in the ladies’ waiting room and was accompanied by two female police officers for the entire duration of her stay.

Nodeep claims no medical examination was conducted following her arrest, violating Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code. She also claimed that she was made to sign blank papers in Custody. On the contrary, police say that she was taken to the civil hospital to undergo a general medical examination and special medical examination for sexual assault by a lady doctor. But Nodeep did not undergo a medical examination, and she gave a written statement to the doctor stating that she did not want to be examined since she wasn’t assaulted. Denying these allegations, the police said that Kaur did not speak about any assault in front of the magistrate. They called these allegations “an afterthought”.

Her advocate Arshdeep Singh Cheema questioned the statement and asked why the police made two separate requests for medical examinations in the first place.

On January 15, she applied for a medical examination before the magistrate. The magistrate ordered the examination had to be done on January 18. However, her medical examination happened only on January 25, 13 days after her arrest. Cheema claimed that this delay was done to allow her injuries to heal. The medical report later produced before the court pointed out that she did have purplish bruises on her body caused by blunt objects or weapons. Cheema said that these were indicative of the torture she was subjected to by the police.

International Attention For The Case

This case received very little attention before February 6. It was brought to the spotlight by Meena Harris, niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris.

Her tweet came in response to the hate she received from Right Wing Hindutva elements alongside American and Canadian celebrities like Rihanna, Mia Khalifa and Rupi Kaur for speaking in support of the farmer’s protests.

Rajveer expressed her disappointment in the media about the little coverage it got before Harris’s tweet. Following sustained international recognition, many people domestically started speaking actively about the case and demanding Nodeep Kaur and other jailed activists’ release.

Progression Of Court Proceedings

Three First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed against Kaur, FIR numbers 26, 649 and 25. On February 2, a local court denied her bail application. However, the Government authorities were quick to act after international and domestic furore about her arrest picked up post-February 6. On February 8, the Punjab State Commission for Scheduled Castes asked the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to provide relief.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognizance of Kaur’s illegal confinement and alleged police torture on February 12 after receiving complaints of the same via email on 6th and 8th February. The court posted this matter to be heard on February 24 (also the initial date of Kaur’s third bail plea hearing).

On February 12, she got bail on one of the cases, FIR no. 649, which dealt with rioting and other charges. On February 15, she got bail on the second case, FIR no. 26, which dealt with extortion. Her third and final bail application for the case registered under FIR no. 25, which dealt with murder and other charges, was filed on February 15. It was supposed to be heard on February 24, but the court adjourned the case after finding that the state’s medical records were not put on record. The matter was heard finally on Friday, February 26, where she finally got bail.

Justice Avneesh Jhingan also heard the suo motu matter along with the bail plea. This matter will now be discussed in April. Now that Kaur has received bail in all three cases, she got released from jail.

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Julian Assange’s Extradition Rejected by UK Court

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Julian Assange Wikileaks News Aur Chai

On January 4, the UK Court ruled that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States of America to face criminal charges including breaking a spy law, as his present mental health complications suggest the risk of suicide attempt.

However, USA has stated that it would pursue the extradition and US prosecutors are ready to appeal the decision to London’s High Court.

Who is Julian Assange?

The 49-year-old Australian-born Assange has been accused of 18 offences regarding the release by WikiLeaks of a wide range of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables that may endanger the safety of lives. Assange, who spent a significant part of the last decade either in prison or self-imposed confinement, has been denied bail and remains in jail.

The US Justice Department claims that it has won on all the legal points, including political motivation and freedom of speech-related arguments, and thus, it would continue to seek Assange’s extradition.

USA’s government take:

The Obama administration did not prosecute Assange due to concerns about the precedent the case could set in free speech and journalism. Assange’s legal team has held the outgoing US President Donald Trump responsible for pressuring the concerning launch of the US effort for extradition, which could cause a grave threat to press freedom.

However, the White House has not issued any immediate comment on the ruling and Trump administration has given mixed messages. In contrast, the President-elect Joe Biden’s side has refrained from commenting.

Trump had shown his approval to WikiLeaks shortly before the 2016 presidential election for releasing hacked emails which landed his opponent Hillary Clinton in an embarrassing position. However, after Trump took office, his first CIA director Mike Pompeo stated that WikiLeaks was “a non-state hostile intelligence service”.

Ruling of UK Judge and further deteriorating condition of Julian:

Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that her judgment was based only on the possibility of Assange attempting suicide if kept in a US maximum security jail as he suffered from severe depression at intervals and had been diagnosed with autism.

In May 2019, half a razor blade had been discovered in his London jail cell. Assange also told the medical staff that he was having suicidal thoughts and making plans for the same. Baraitser also said that Assange made regular calls to the Samaritans suicide-prevention charity from prison.
According to Baraitser, “I find that Mr Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial. The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future.”

For Assange’s supporters, the ruling was a victory, but the threat of extradition still looms large over his head. His partner Stella Moris said, “I call on the President of the United States to end this now: Mr President, tear down these prison walls, let our little boys have their father. Free Julian, free the press, free us all.”

People in support considers Julian as “Hero”:

Assange supporters consider him to be an anti-establishment hero, a victim for exposing US wrongdoings in Afghanistan and Iraq. Supporters claim his prosecution is to be a politically motivated assault on the press and freedom of speech.

However, the US prosecutors and Western security officials regard him to be a dangerous enemy of the state whose reckless actions in leaking classified information, has imperilled the lives of the agents, named in the material.

On the other hand, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that his country would extend political asylum to Assange and he is in favour of pardoning him.

History of Legal trails with different governments:

Assange’s legal battles began when Sweden sought his extradition from Britain over alleged sex crimes. He lost the case in 2012 and fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London and stayed there for seven years. In April 2019, Assange was finally dragged out from there and imprisoned for breaching British bail conditions. The Swedish case has been dropped till that time. The US Justice Department formally asked Britain last June to extradite him.

However, Baraitser has rejected Trump’s team’s claims for pressuring the US prosecutors due to lack of evidence of hostility on Trump’s part and shunned the claims of the case being political and threatening freedom of speech.

She also said that Assange’s chances of getting a fair trial in the USA were adequate though she believes that Assange had breached investigative journalism boundaries. But she also feels that if Assange is found guilty, he would be sent to ADX Florence maximum security prison (SAM) in almost complete isolation where he could devise a plan of committing suicide, despite their preventive measures.

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