Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Pakistan trip

Ram Puniyani

The invitation

Ram Puniyani

The invitation to attend the seminar on South Asian Minorities in Islamabad, Pakistan  and other meetings in Karachi, promised to be an exciting affair, as apart from other things it might have been an opportunity to see the ‘enemy country’ in person. I thought of combining the visit to Islamabad and Karachi with a trip to Jhang, the place where I was born, slightly before the tragedy of partition. I realized VISA to Pakistan is quite a difficult task as VISA for each city is to be obtained separately so I dropped the idea of going to Jhang and restricting my visit to Islamabad and Karachi for which I had the invitations. The discussion about the proposed trip to Pakistan with friends and relatives had a standard response, ohh… you are going to Pakistaaaaaan… be careful! The impression being given was not only that it is Pakistan, which is masterminding all the terror operations in India, not only that it’s a country with terrorists strolling the street and killing people at will but also that it is an ‘enemy country’ due to its wars against India, its meddling in the issues of India and it harboring the terror dens by the dozen.


Islamabad sounded like an exclusive ‘Capital city’ with non Government employees being a small fraction of the population in the city. We could see the Raval Lake, from the nearby beautiful hill. The lake separates this capital city from the nearby Ravalpindi. What came as a pleasant surprise was the feeling of being at home in the city, the language spoken, the people, the warmth and affection and the food all gave the pleasant feeling of being very much at home. While one learnt that the plight of minorities is dismal in most of the South Asian countries on which the papers were presented in the seminar, one also realized that the human rights activists in Pakistan are very vocal and are keeping the torch of democratic values aflame with great courage and sincerity.

The banquet hosted by organizers was an occasion to interact with the well known names in Human Rights movements from Pakistan, like I.A. Rahman. Could lay my hands on Rahman’s booklet, ‘Pakistan: Neither A State nor a Nation’ which gives a very accurate understanding of the state which came into being more due to the machinations of colonial powers than for the aspirations of average Muslims. Incidentally majority of Muslims and particularly the poorer lot, the artisans, farmers stood against the idea of Pakistan.
The banquet dinner was a surprise for another reason also. In the middle of the lovely food and equally engrossing conversation, I had been so lost in the homeliness of milieu and the accompanying songs from my favorite old Hindi films that I had to tell myself oh I am not in India but am in Pakistan. The singing troupe playing the music was very good and the choice of songs from old Hindi films was a real treat of the day.

India’s Soft Power in the Region

Staying in Karachi was a different ball game. Here one was in the middle of different communities staying in different localities. The segregation of communities along geographical lines is a bit different than what is the phenomenon of ghettotization of Muslim community in many a cities in India. Karachi with its broad roads and slow traffic reminded me of our own Mumbai nearly five decades ago. Conversation with taxi derivers’ is so much revealing about the things in a city. My driver was a young man from Peshawar. He had to come to Karachi due to the Taliban nuisance. Taliban, in a true fundamentalist fashion, are imposing dress-beard code on the people and are killing people for any slight disobedience. This young man told me that they used to organize Music and dance, week long celebrations at the wedding times. Now Taliban has put a sort of ban on that. The Taliban intimidation is forcing large segments of population to shift from Peshawar to Karachi in particular. He also informed about what many Indian writers are calling as soft power of India, the Bollywood. For this young man, three Khans of our Bollywood are semi gods, like he celebrated when Shah Rukh Khan’s team won in IPL and he sported Mangal Pandey moustache and kept the hairs like Mangal Pandey as depicted in the film. It’s no secret that Hindi films and Indian music are a craze there.

Malyalee Comrade in Karachi

I happened to meet innumerable friends who are struggling it out not only to strengthen democracy but also to build bridges with India. One remarkable Comrade from our Kerala, B.M. Kutty is a very popular figure in Karachi. Kutty Sahib, as he is generally addressed there is part of most of the progressive campaigns and movements, shaping and guiding the younger lot into the values needed for a democratic society and secular sate. This Malyalee doyen is there from last six decades and his autobiography is aptly titled, ‘Six Decades of exile: No regrets’. Other friends and comrades from media, trade unions and Karachi University were not only warm but also expressed how much they long for the state of affairs where military can be packed off to the barracks and civilian society is able to have its say through the democratic government.

The very concept of Islamic state also meets its nemesis in the form of Mohajir Qaumi Movement, supported by many Muslims who left for Pakistan from India. They could not get due rights in Pakistan and are now organized enough to get represented in Pakistan Senate and corporations. The legendary Karachi press club has been able to maintain its independence, despite the pressure of military and it keeps inviting the diverse speakers to speak about their views on matters controversial, on the lines which may be against the ideas of ruling cliques. One of the favorite themes of talks there was, ‘Shared heritage: Common aspirations’, where the commonality of our cultural past was highlighted and a need for broad cooperation between these two so called ‘enemy nations’ is articulated in a very positive manner.

'She's as guilty as her rapists': Guru Asaram Bapu sparks outrage by blaming girl for the gang rape that killed her .

PUBLISHED: 22:26 GMT, 7 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:41 GMT, 7 January 2013
Controversial spiritual guru Asaram Bapu has sparked outrage by suggesting that the Delhi gang rape victim was equally responsible for the crime as her attackers.

Asaram said the victim should have called the rapists her brothers and begged them to stop. This would have saved the life and honour of the girl, he said. 

Addressing his followers, Asaram said that when the girl encountered the six drunk men she should have taken God's name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said "I consider you as my brother" and should have said to the other two "Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother".
'Taken God's name' 

"She should have taken God's name and held their hands and feet... then the misconduct wouldn't have happened." 

He also went on to say, "Mistake is not committed from one side.
"The accused were drunk. If the girl had chanted hymns to Goddess Saraswati, then she wouldn't have entered the bus..."  

Putting the blame equally on the girl, Asaram said that one cannot clap with one hand.
He added that he was against harsher laws against the rapists as he feels these laws will be abused.
"We have often seen that such laws are misused," he said, adding that the Dowry Act was the biggest example of such misuse.


The remarks drew widespread condemnation. Slamming Asaram, the male friend of the gang rape victim said the guru should be punished for his dirty remarks. 
"What does he mean... He should be punished as making such comments is also a crime," he said.
BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said Asaram's remark was "regrettable, deeply disturbing and painful". 
The Congress asked Asaram to withdraw his remark. "It is unfortunate that responsible people are making such statements. Some strange statements are coming from some quarters. They should refrain from making such remarks," Congress spokesman P.C. Chacko said in New Delhi.


(Click the following links)


Asaram is no stranger to controversy. He was named in an FIR after one of his devotees, Raju Chandok, was shot at in Ahmedabad after he deposed before the Justice D.K. Trivedi Commission.

The commission is probing the mysterious deaths of two pre-teen boys at Asaram's ashram in Ahmedabad in 2008.

Chandok had levelled various allegations against Asaram and his son, including sexual immorality. It was before the same commission that Mahendra Chawla, one-time personal assistant of Asaram's son Narayan Sai, alleged he had seen Sai performing gory rituals over corpses on at least three occasions in Jhabua, Ranchi and Himmatnagar.

Chawla alleged that Sai, clad in a black outfit, used to perform these macabre rituals over corpses with a human skull kept over them. Chawla parted ways with Sai and settled in Thane in 2005.

Asaram's ashram was also served notices for land-grabbing in Ahmedabad, where it had encroached upon 67,000 sqm land in Motera, which the government admitted in the assembly in February 2009.

The ashram also embarrassed the state government by grabbing the land of one Anil Vyas in Surat, where the ashram was built.

Vyas took legal action, and the court ruled in his favour.

Last year, Asaram called for February 14 to be designated as a day for worshipping parents. 

Inquiry into PCR response
 The ministry of home affairs has ordered a probe into the allegations of the friend of the Delhi gang rape victim that police response to their distress call after the incident was slow.
A joint secretary-level officer of the ministry will investigate the claim by the software engineer that even after reaching the spot on the night of December 16, the police were arguing over the jurisdiction of the case and were hesitant to lift the 23-year-old girl, losing crucial time.

The probe will also look into the counterclaim by the Delhi Police and check the logbooks of the Police Control Room vans which came to the spot, where the girl and her friend were dumped by the six men after the gang rape.

Ironically, it was Union home secretary R.K. Singh, who earlier in a joint press conference with Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, had praised the police for doing an outstanding job.

He had said the PCR van reached the spot within four minutes of the call. The Delhi Police have denied the allegation about any time being wasted over jurisdictional issues since PCR vans are controlled centrally and do not have a jurisdiction unlike police stations.
Home ministry sources said they do not want any controversy over the issue, hence a probe to look into all claims and counter-claims has been set up.

Sources also indicated that the probe will be wound up at the earliest.
"There will be no delay and we will ensure that the correct facts come out. If anybody is found wanting strict action will be taken," said a senior official of the ministry. 

In-camera rape trial

By Sana Shakil in New Delhi

Irked by rowdy protests and nuisance created by some lawyers in the courtroom, a Delhi court on Monday ordered in-camera proceedings in the gang rape and murder case of a paramedical student, thus banning the media from reporting the case.

Metropolitan magistrate Namrita Aggarwal passed the order after police asked the court to invoke in-camera proceedings in the case citing fears over the safety of the accused in the case, if they were produced in an open court.

Five of the six suspects were to be produced in court on Monday afternoon, but the proceedings were delayed by two hours with a massive crowd of lawyers, onlookers, police and scribes jam-packing the courtroom.

The magistrate asked the crowd to make room for the accused to enter, but despite some space being made the police refused to bring in the accused until the court was completely cleared.

The police's stand, and commotion created by the lawyers present, compelled the judge to pass a restraining order which said: "An unprecedented situation has arisen where members of the bar and public persons even unconnected with the case have started converging in the courtroom. The courtroom has become jam-packed with lots of disturbance from different nooks and corner. It has become extremely impossible to proceed with the case. I'm invoking Section 327 (2)(3) of CrPC. Hence, all public persons and everybody present in the courtroom are directed to vacate the court room."
The court duly barred the media from reporting any matter in the case saying, "It shall not be lawful to print or publish any matter or content in this case except with the permission of this court."

The court witnessed high drama when lawyers volunteered to defend the five accused.
Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma showed his willingness to defend the accused. Another lawyer V.K. Anand, who claimed to be a Supreme Court lawyer, said, "To ensure a fair trial, I be appointed as amicus curiae and be allowed to defend the accused."
Meanwhile, the proceedings related to the sixth accused, who is reportedly a minor, was heard separately by the Juvenile Justice Board. According to sources, the board asked the principal of the minor's school to produce more documents to corroborate that the accused is a minor.

Including Photos: 

Retrograde torrent: The Hindu,Editorial

Tuesday,January 8,2013
Asaram Bapu’s statement that the 23-year old woman who died after being gang-raped in Delhi last month was as much at fault as her offenders is shameful coming from a spiritual guru who is seen as a role model by his huge fan following, both in India and abroad.
Asaram Bapu’s statement that the 23-year old woman who died after being gang-raped in Delhi last month was as much at fault as her offenders is shameful coming from a spiritual guru who is seen as a role model by his huge fan following, both in India and abroad. Indeed, the epidemic of sexist outbursts that has followed the gang-rape is all the worse for originating from men and women in leadership roles who are self-avowedly committed to public service and the betterment of society. Tragically, their notions of what constitutes an ideal society appear rooted in the very prejudices that have engendered a culture of violence against women, the Delhi incident being its most recent and horrific manifestation. This illiberal pack — made up of politicians, social leaders and now godmen — has expressed itself with gusto, with no regard for the young life that was so cruelly and so needlessly extinguished. Not surprisingly, these “leaders” are also impervious to the anger and revulsion their views have generated.
Up until now, it was the political class speaking as if there was no tomorrow: from the President’s son Abhijit Mukherjee  and Andhra Pradesh Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana to Bharatiya Janata Party minister from Madhya Pradesh Kailash Vijayvargiya and chairperson of the Chhattisgarh State Women’s Commission Vibha Rao, each has spoken in an idiom more in sync with patriarchal definitions of the woman’s place than reflective of their own supposed status as enlightened leaders.

 For his part, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Mohan Bhagwat gave a predictable spin to the gang-rape, setting it as an urban phenomenon that conflicted with the pristine ethos of Bharat. The divide between India and Bharat is a piece of fiction because violence against women is endemic to rural India with its worst victims drawn from the lowest rungs of the economic and caste ladder. And yet, incredible as it might seem, the explosion of regressive thoughts has paled in comparison to the atrocious suggestion made by Asaram Bapu that the Delhi woman virtually invited the rape. “A mistake is not committed by just one side,” he said, adding that she should have sought refuge in prayer and begged her offenders to stop. For anyone to speak so disparagingly of women is unacceptable, and it is a disgrace when a man of religion stoops so low. Asaram deserves to be condemned in the strongest words by the community of religious leaders and it is heartening to note that a number of godmen have indeed spoken out. Sadly, we have yet to hear the high command of the Congress and the BJP publicly condemn those from within their flock who have made the most offensive anti-women statements over the past three weeks.

Godman’s unholy sermon on rape sparks outrage:"The Hindu"

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Tuesday,January 8,2013

Mahim Pratap Singh 

Bindu Shajan Perappadan

Despite the continuing national outrage over the brutal gang rape of the 23-year-old student in Delhi, a small minority on the fringe has said, in a case of blaming the victim, that women are also responsible for the sexual crimes against them. The latest to join their ranks is self-styled spiritual leader Asaram Bapu with his suggestion that the gang-rape victim should have prayed to god and begged with her attackers to let her go. Infuriated over the comments, social and women activists called for legal action and social boycott of Bapu. His comments, however, sparked quick criticism from several women’s organisations and religious leaders.
On Monday, speaking at an event in Tonk, about 90 km from the capital of Rajasthan, Bapu was quoted saying that the woman would not have suffered the fate had she taken `Guru Diksha’ and chanted the Saraswati Mantra.

A recording of the discourse on his official website had him saying: “Those who were at fault were drunk. Had she taken guru diksha and chanted the saraswati mantra, she would not have boarded any random bus after watching a movie with her boyfriend. Even if she did, she should have taken god’s name and asked for mercy. She should have called them brothers, fallen at their feet and pleaded for mercy. Had she said, I am a weak woman, you are my brothers”, such brutality would not have happened (Agar us kanya ne saraswati mantra liya hota, … toh boy friend ke saath picture dekh kar jis kisi bas mein ghusti nahin. Agar ghus bhi gayi.. toh 6 sharabi the.. Bhagwan ka naam leti aur ek ka haath pakadti “Tere ko toh mai maanti hoon. Galti ek taraf se nahi hoti).

While leaders of women’s organisations such as CPM’s Brinda Karat condemned the remarks with Ms. Karat calling them “bizarre and insensitive”, some religious leaders were also critical of Asaram Bapu.

Religious leaders upset
Karnataka Bureau reports
The strongest response came from Channamalla Veerabhadra Swamiji of Nidumamidi Math in Karnataka who described it as “the height of ignorance and idiocy.” He said: “The Delhi incident shows male cruelty and arrogance at its worst. Is there any point in the victim pleading for mercy?”
The seer said that while statements of Bapu could be ignored as “too absurd,” more dangerous were those from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who “has greater faith in Manuvada rather than Manavatavada [humanism].”

Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji of Pejawar Math in Udupi on Monday said: “It is not right to compare or see both the victim and the rapists in equal terms. Can the robber and the robbed be ever seen equally? Here the matter is even more serious.”

Speaking to The Hindu, he said Bapu’s statement that the victim should have begged before the rapists and called them “brothers” was “illogical.” “When someone is about to be raped, the woman only thinks of her defence. Besides, what is the guarantee that the rapists would have left her even if she had requested them?” he asked.

In an email response to The Hindu, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living, said: “I do not agree with this [Asaram Bapu’s statements]. These hypotheses do not lead us anywhere. In fact, no sense or reason prevails when someone is drunk.”

In Coimbatore, Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and Jaggi Vasudev of Isha Foundation refused to comment on the issue.