Justice Rare for Victims of Minority Persecution in India

NEW DELHI, INDIA — For the first time an all-India picture has emerged of anti-Christian violence from a people’s tribunal.

Victims of Christian persecution from across India shared their horrific stories and highlighted the denial of justice to them before an independent people’s jury.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the depositions were part of « The Independent People’s Tribunal against the Rise of Fascist Forces in India and the Attack on the Secular State, » a three-day program which concluded here on March 22.

In its report, ICC said the independent jury was organized by non-profit organizations Anhad and Human Rights Law Network, and supported and attended by a plethora of rights groups, including Christian organizations, like the All India Christian Council (AICC) and the Christian Legal Association.

Of the 100 victims who submitted their statements, about 40 were Christian. The rest were mainly were from Gujarat state, which witnessed a wide-scale killing of members of the Muslim minority community in 2002.

Impunity of perpetrators of gang-rape

« I was gang-raped by my fellow tribal villagers, including the brother and father of the local legislator in January 2004, and I named everyone in my police complaint, but no one has been arrested till today, » lamented Taramani, a school teacher from Madhya Pradesh state’s Jhabua district.

Taramani’s village, Alirajpur, was one of the worst affected villages during the spate of anti-Christian violence that followed the infamous January 11 incident, in which a young girl was found dead in the compound of a Catholic school in Jhabua district. Hindu fundamentalist Hindu Jagran Manch (Forum for Revival of Hindus) blamed the murder on the church, and instigated a series of attacks on Christian individuals and their institutions. This was despite the fact that a non-Christian admitted to the crime.

« A crowd of about 250 people first launched an attack on my house and set it on fire and then some of them took me to a jungle and outraged my modesty, » said, Taramani, a widow.

With tears in her eyes, she added that when she returned she found the house completely gutted. “Even the police initially refused to register my complaint which they did only later and reluctantly.

« All that I have received from the government is Rs.30,000 ($700 USD), but no arrests. The perpetrators still tell me that nothing will happen to them, as they are very powerful, » she said.

Attackers remain at large

Another victim, Shobha Onkar, also from Alirajpur, could not help crying as she narrated how she was attacked by a mob in the aftermath of the January 11 incident. « About 300 people surrounded our house in the presence of the local police inspector and started breaking in. I thought I should open the door before they vandalized my house, but when they entered into the house, one of them hit me with a stick on my head. I started bleeding profusely, » she said.

« My son ran to the police and bent on his knees to plead them to rescue me, saying, ’They will kill my mother,’ but they did not budge, » she added.

Onkar also said that relatives of the local legislator belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were among the crowd.

Onkar’s house was badly damaged and completely looted. « The government gave me only Rs.6,000 ($140 USD) as compensation. And justice, which matters the most, was denied, as the perpetrators were not brought to justice, » she added.

There were also victims from the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir.

Lessons for the church

Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the AICC who was one of the jury members, told ICC, « From the Christian perspective, the hearings were memorable and important. Christians of all denominations, and both men and women, came forward to depose for the first time in a major way. In my experience this is also the first time that an all-India picture has emerged of anti-Christian violence from a people’s tribunal. »

The all-India pattern of violence has lessons for everyone, and particularly for the church whether it is Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical, he said, adding that urgent steps needed to be taken. « Clergy and church workers have to be trained in human rights and basic law. »

Another memorable witness, said Dayal, was the compilation by the Rev. Madhu Chandra of AICC to prove the massive activity of Hindu extremists in the north-eastern Hindu majority states of Manipur and Assam.

« For me, the most heartening testimonies were of women — Muslim and Christian. »

Madhya Pradesh a daylight church

He also said it was obvious that « Hindutva pressure » was working. « The church in Madhya Pradesh is fast becoming a ’daylight church’ with mission activity in the evening and after sun down — which is how outreach programs can work in forest villages when people return home after sunset — has stopped. Only in full daylight can some work be done. And yet, the church hierarchy seems not too worried. »

In other areas, church activity is now confined to tribals alone, who constitute just a third of the population even in the so-called tribal belt of central India, he said. « This has serious ramifications. »

Dayal thanked the civil society, including « well-meaning Hindu Activists, » for their « unstinted support » to the Christian community.

No help from the State

Based on the statements of the victims and presentations by human rights activists, the tribunal noted that « demonization of minorities, both Muslims and Christians, and their consequent marginalization and physical attacks have been noticed all over the country, particularly in the states where the BJP is in power, like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. »

In these cases, the victims have failed to get any help from the State. The role of the police is particularly dubious, as in most cases, the victims were not even able to file an FIR (first information report). It is often noticed that the victims are turned into perpetrators of crime. As a result, there is a sense of helplessness that the minorities feel.”

Rights activists also deplored the role of the media, mainly local newspapers in vernacular languages, in inciting anti-minority violence.

The tribunal was an initiative of Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad and attorney Colin Gonsalves of the Human Rights Law Network.

By Michael Ireland, Journal Cheiritan  , Sunday, 01 April 2007

Muslims in the Indian army, only 2% ?

Muslims in Army : Hiding what`s well-known 

The reason for the Muslim under-representation in the Indian army, or the Sikh over-representation, is something that lies partly in history, and its public disclosure would harm nobody.

There’s something surreal about India’s debate on Muslim under-representation in the Indian army. If the defence minister says the army has done no head-count of its Muslims, how did the army give an exact Muslim figure of 29,093 last month? The figure is backed by a retired lieutenant-general who says the Muslims are 2 per cent.

Whatever the exact percentage, a huge Muslim under-representation in our army is a fact. So is a huge Sikh over-representation. See the contrast. Sikhs form 1.86 per cent of India’s population but number around 8 per cent in the Indian army. Muslims form 13 per cent of India’s population but are 2 per cent in the army. Why should this truth about Muslim under-representation be suppressed? Or that of Sikh over-representation? But an irrational love of secrecy causes Indian rulers to hide information whose public disclosure would harm nobody.

Just as Muslims are under-represented in the army, so are the Bengalis, Biharis, Oriyas, south Indians or Gujaratis. And just as Sikhs are over-represented, so are the Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Gurkhas, Marathas, Pathans and Punjabis.

The reason for this disparity lies in history. The Indian army’s recruitment pattern was set 150 years ago by India’s 1857 uprising. Traumatised by the rebellion, the British army adopted a recruitment policy that punished the groups which rebelled and rewarded the ones that stayed loyal. Because Muslims of Awadh, Bihar and West Bengal led the uprising, the British army stopped hiring soldiers from these areas.

Also blacklisted from these places were high-caste Hindus whose regiments in Bengal had also mutinied. In contrast, the British raised the recruitment of castes that had stood by the British to put down the uprising. These castes were the Sikhs, the Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Gurkhas, Marathas, Pathans, plus Punjabis, both Hindus and Muslims. Honoured as martial races, they received preferential treatment in army recruitment for the next 90 years. Like any institution, the Indian army’s a prisoner of the past.

Even today, it favours enlisting men from the martial races. Their over-representation in the Indian army is huge. Figures bear this out. Of 2.87 lakh jawans hired by the army in the last three years, a disproportionate 44,471 came from three “martial” states, Punjab, Haryana, and the mountain state of Uttaranchal. So these states which account for 5 per cent of India’s population provided 15 per cent of India’s army jawans.

In contrast, the fewest recruits came from “non-martial” West Bengal, Bihar and Gujarat. These three states account for 30 per cent of India’s population, but they provided only 14 per cent of army jawans in this three-year period. So the Indian army has not only a religion-based disparity in recruitment, but also one based on caste and region. A glimpse of this discrimination was provided by a press release issued by a defence office in Jammu five years ago. Seeking recruits for the Indian army, the press release said: “No vacancies for Muslims and tradesmen.” Meaning that martial Dogras were welcome to apply, but not Hindu business castes like the Baniyas and the Khatris.

About the Muslim under-representation in the Indian army, the reasons are three. One was Partition. Before Independence, Muslims were around 25 per cent of the Indian army and 25 per cent of undivided India. But when India broke up and Muslim soldiers were asked to choose between India and Pakistan, they joined Pakistan en masse. So Muslim numbers in the Indian army dropped so drastically that they were only 2 per cent in 1953, according to India’s then minister of state for defence. Jawaharlal Nehru himself expressed concern that “hardly any Muslims” were left in the army. And Muslim numbers never really picked up in the last 60 years for a well-known reason.

India’s military establishment hesitates to hire Muslims as soldiers because it suspects Muslim loyalty to India. This discrimination is a natural outcome of India and Pakistan’s bitter hostility over 60 years. In similar situations, the same thing happens all over the world. The Israeli army doesn’t trust its Arab soldiers in jobs related to defence security. The Buddhist Sinhalese army under-recruits its Hindu Tamils lest their sympathies lie with the Tamil Tigers. After 9/11, US army recruiters would probably screen a Muslim American volunteer more thoroughly than a Christian American. Thanks to our four wars with Pakistan, the same anti-Muslim animus works here in army recruitment.

Proof of it lies in an enormous mass of documentary and other evidence which expresses distrust of Muslims. Otherwise, why does India have separate regiments for the Sikhs, Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Mahars, the Nagas, even the Gurkhas, but not a single Muslim regiment? This is tragic but it’s a truth which shouldn’t be suppressed. It should be acknowledged and dealt with.

Events have consequences. Muslim under-recruitment in the Indian army is a consequence of Partition. India and Pakistan’s hostility is seen in both countries in Hindu versus Muslim terms. So it’s natural for India’s Hindu army establishment to distrust a Muslim who wants to join as a soldier.

This prejudice itself discourages qualified Muslim youths from applying, which drives down Muslim numbers even more. Another reason for Muslim under-recruitment is the relatively poor education of Muslims. When they try to enlist as soldiers, they are simply out-competed by better-educated Sikh, Hindu, and Christian youths. So Muslim leaders are quite right that Muslim under-recruitment in the army deprives the community of a good, life-long source of employment. It’s a sad situation not so easy to correct.

In life, however, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. The under-representation of Muslims and other caste or regional groups benefits the over-represented ones. The composition of the Indian army is totally askew numbers-wise. West Bengal’s population is eight times that of Uttaranchal. But Uttaranchal provided almost the same number of army recruits as West Bengal last year. Compare a “martial” Punjab with a non-martial Gujarat. Punjab’s population is half that of Gujarat. But it provided four times as many people to the Indian army as Gujarat. The Indian army hired far more recruits in Rajasthan than in Tamil Nadu though Tamil Nadu’s population is higher. Essentially, the Indian army is dominated numbers-wise by Sikhs and Hindi-speaking Hindus of north India. The current status quo suits them perfectly.

Arvind Kala / New Delhi March 04, 2006, Business Standard

www.business-standard.com

Armed forces are not a Holy Cow

Armed forces are not a Holy Cow

It is extremely unfortunate that the government has dropped the move to collate data on the status of Muslims in the armed forces. This follows an uproar over the steps taken by the Prime Minister’s High-Level Committee — PMHC — on the social economic and educational status of the Muslim community headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar to approach the defence forces for such data.

The Bharatiya Janata Party sought the President’s intervention in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces to stop this ‘misguided’ survey. Former army officers held dharnas against the ‘divisive’ move, which they believe, would weaken a robustly secular institution. And former defence minister George Fernandes termed the PMHC’s work a ‘seditious act’ aimed at ‘communalising’ the armed forces!

After this, much of the media simply renamed the PMHC the Sachar Committee. The Congress defensively pleaded that its survey would be ‘purely a data-gathering and fact-finding exercise.’ The Prime Minister’s Office quickly distanced itself from the committee. Chief of Army Staff General J J Singh said: ‘It is not the army’s philosophy to disseminate or maintain (community-wise) information’; ‘we are not concerned with the faith or language’ of the people employed or ‘where they come from.’ And the defence ministry, which had sought the relevant data from the armed services, assured them it won’t forward it to the PMHC.

In the heat of emotion, it was all but forgotten that in our Parliamentary system, the President is not the court of last resort. He is the defence services’ Supreme Commander in a figurative sense. He does not possess the executive authority to start or stop a survey. Since then, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General R S Kadyan has approached the Supreme Court to ask that the survey be stayed. He argues the survey would help to ‘sow the seed of communalism in the defence forces.’

Numerous arguments were advanced by opponents of the move. These old that the very conduct of the survey would tarnish the armed forces’ image as a professional force; that words like caste, creed, religion and reservation are unheard of in regimental messes; that the army is one of the few reliably secular institutions in India, which is fully trusted by the religious minorities — unlike the police or paramilitary forces; it has an enviable record of protecting the lives of the minorities in communally charged situations.

Some of these arguments are undoubtedly valid. For instance, no one can seriously question the army’s secular credentials and its impartial role in protecting the life and property of the minorities when called upon to do so. The Indian Army represents a remarkable achievement. It is one of the few apolitical militaries in the Third World to function fully under civilian control.

And yet, the anti-survey arguments miss one essential paradox: namely, that the army does not fully reflect the rich diversity and plurality of Indian society. It suffers from under-representation of certain ethnic, religious and social groups, and from over-representation of some others, most notably the so-called “martial races” favoured under the colonial system of recruitment, including Sikhs, Gorkhas, Dogras, Jats, Rajputs, etc.

We are an apolitical and secular force: Army chief

Among the under-represented groups are people from the Northeast, Dalits, OBCs, and Muslims. We know from a note sent on January 9 by the army to the defence ministry that in 2004 it had only 29,093 Muslims among a total of 1.1 million personnel — a ratio of 2.6 percent, which compares poorly with the Muslims’ 13 percent share in the Indian population. Similarly, there have been complaints of under-representation from Dalit and Adivasi leaders and smaller linguistic groups.

To demand that their recruitment be increased is not to advance an anti-national, communal or divisive agenda, but to ask for diversity and balance. None other than then defence minister Jagjivan Ram raised the demand for greater Dalit recruitment in 1971.

Indeed, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s greatest prime minister, who cannot even be remotely accused of a communal bias, noted in 1953 that ‘in our Defence Services, there are hardly any Muslims left. What concerns me most is that there is no effort being made to improve this situation, which is likely to grow worse unless checked.’ This concern was reiterated by Mahavir Tyagi, then minister of state for defence, who disclosed that ‘the percentage of Muslims in the armed forces, which was 32 percent at the time of Partition has come down to two. I have instructed that due regard should be paid to their recruitment.’

The PMHC was not being wayward in asking for information about the recruitment and status of Muslims in the army. It’s vital to collect ‘authentic information about the social, economic and educational status’ of Muslims in different government departments. Without such a data bank, we won’t know whether there is under-representation of different groups, what its extent is, and what its causes might be. Collating such information is also the best way of countering prejudices about ‘minority appeasement’.>

True, such information is relevant not just for Muslims; it is necessary for other groups too. But the PMHC’s brief pertains to Muslims. It was perfectly legitimate for it to solicit information about Muslims. This is in keeping with the National Common Minimum Programme of the UPA, which promised to promote the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities.

The issue of Muslim under-representation in the defence forces must be situated in context. As MIT-based scholar Omar Khalidi argues in his Khaki and the Ethnic Violence in India (Three Essays, New Delhi, 2003), the army embraced the discredited colonial ‘martial races’ theory which favoured certain ‘Fixed Classes’ like Gorkhas, Sikhs, Dogras and Rajputs in recruitment. Muslims were excluded from these, except for groups such as the Qaimkhani community of Rajasthan and UP, and units like the Grenadiers, Armoured Corps, Bombay Engineers Group and the J&K Light Infantry. It Is only in 1984, after the ‘revolt’ by some soldiers of the Sikh Regiment following Operation Bluestar, that the army adopted a better mix in what’s called the ‘All-India Class.’

Yet, the proportion of Muslims in the army remains under 3 percent. In the case of officers, this may be explained by educational backwardness among Muslims. But this cannot explain the community’s low representation among Other Ranks. We need to know whether this is because of a reluctance of Muslims to join the army, skewed distribution of recruitment, or because of unacknowledged barriers to entry, including prejudices.

General Kadyan’s petition is wrong to allege that if such information is collated, ‘it will create very illogical and unnecessary data which might create… in the mind of the minority communities… a feeling of their being less in number in the defence forces… giving them cause for… fear of the majority community.’ This presumption is fundamentally mistaken. There’s nothing ‘illogical’ about documenting the status of different communities in national institutions. The United States army, for instance, regularly compiles publicly available data on Muslims, Blacks, and other ethnic groups.

More generally, the armed forces cannot be an exception to the concept of citizenship in a multi-ethnic society. Nor can they demand to be shielded from scrutiny just because they perform a role in India’s defence. All citizens have a valid role to play in our national life. Real security derives not just from military defence, but other things including human security, justice, social cohesion and human rights. The armed forces are not a Holy Cow.

A data bank on the ethnic-religious composition of all our public institutions is a precondition for measures to promote the welfare of citizens, including affirmative action in favour of the underprivileged and under-recruited. It goes without saying that this should not take the form of quotas and job reservations. But that’s not an argument against diversifying recruitment or promoting equality of opportunity. There’s no reason why the government cannot unilaterally announce that it will endeavour to recruit more and more under-represented groups without embracing a quota system. A caring-and-sharing society must have adequate room for such measures.

Two other points are in order. In many countries, promotion of inclusive multi-cultural policies and diversity became possible only when they abandoned ostrich-like attitudes and confronted reality. For instance, the British police began an internal evaluation after the race riots of the early 1980s. An extensive survey was undertaken of the ethnic composition of the force and prevalence of race and ethnicity-related biases. This prepared the ground for diversity sensitisation programmes, retraining, and positive discrimination.

Second, there is disturbing evidence that certain Indian security and intelligence-related agencies simply don’t recruit Muslims. These include the Research & Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau and National Security Guard. This is totally unacceptable and unworthy of a plural society that aspires to a degree of equity. Even the CIA would be embarrassed if it were to exclude African-Americans. The PMHC should thoroughly probe such institutions. Exclusion, and attitudes that rationalise it in the name of ‘security’, are the surest recipe for alienation of our own citizens. We cannot afford this if we want a minimally decent and self-confident India.

Praful Bidwai, February 27, 2006, Rediff.COM

Nearly 70,000 killed in 17-year Kashmir insurgency: rights group

SRINAGAR, India: Nearly 70,000 people have died in the 17-year conflict in India’s portion of Kashmir, a local human rights group said Friday, a figure markedly higher than the latest police count.

The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society came up with the death toll after reviewing news reports and conducting door-to-door surveys in every district in Kashmir, Khurram Pervez, the head of the group, told The Associated Press. Most of dead were civilians.

Pervez said his group’s survey of news reports alone shows about 50,000 people have died, but he added, “We don’t subscribe to this figure as newspaper reports are mostly based on police handouts. Neither do we accept the government figure of 41,000.”

The latest police estimate said 19,987 rebels, 16,253 civilians and 4,982 security forces’ personnel were killed between January 1990 to November 2006.

However, Kashmir’s inspector-general of police, S.M. Sahai, acknowledged that many deaths went unreported in the early years of the violence.

“The initial years (of Kashmir insurgency) were chaotic … and hundreds of incidents went unreported,” Sahai said.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the main separatist political alliance in the state, says more than 100,000 people have been killed in the nearly two decades of violence. A combination of police and human rights figures compiled by AP have previously put the death toll at 68,000.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but both claim it in its entirety. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.

More than a dozen Islamic groups in Kashmir have been fighting for independence or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan since December 1989.

International human rights groups have accused both the rebels and the Indian army of abuses in Kashmir. India says Pakistan arms and supports the Islamic insurgents, but Pakistan says it only gives the rebels diplomatic and moral support.

The Associated Press  IHT , December 8, 2006

NRIs sent $20 billion from Arabian Gulf Countries

* India recieved $23 billion remittance during 2005-06 from NRIS
* Non Gulf NRIs contributed only $ 3 billion
* A whopping amount of $ 20 billion was from Arabian Gulf
* Kerala recieved  the huge portion
* FDIS from GCC exceeded $ 2 billion this year
* India calls for more Arab investment

Nov 13, 2006,

New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) India Monday reiterated its solidarity with the Arab world, home to over a four million strong Indian diaspora, and called for converting longstanding historical and civilizational ties into a vibrant economic partnership.

‘We should use attitudinal ties between people to enhance trade linkages between India and the Arab world. Oil-exporting countries of the Arab world, in particular, should increase investment in India,’ Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said in his inaugural address at an international conference at the Vigyan Bhavan convention centre on promoting India-Arab economic relations.

The two-day conference, which is being attended by ministers, diplomats, academics, business and opinion leaders from India and Arab countries, has been organised by the Indo-Arab Economic Cooperation Forum and the Institute of Objective Studies.

Underlining India’s centuries old multi-faceted ties with the Arab world, Chidambaram spoke about geographical proximity, long-standing cultural and trading ties and ‘unbroken relation of cordiality’ between the two sides.

He, however, rued that the foreign investment from Arab countries in India are much below potential. Even rich Arab countries are not investing in India enough, he said.

To further accelerate bilateral trade and investment, the minister said that India will be signing bilateral investment protection agreement with more Arab countries and discussions are already going on for negotiating a free trade area (FTA) between the two sides.

Calling Indian workers in the Gulf countries ‘an investment of human capital in the Arab world,’ Chidambaram said remittances from Indians working in these countries worked out to a whopping $20 billion. In the first quarter of this year alone, remittances have exceeded $6 billion, he said.

Bilateral trade between India and the Arab world has been growing steadily and will scale new heights in the future, he said. FDI from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries has exceeded $2 billion this year.

Besides the continuing cooperation in energy sector, the Arab countries supply nearly 30 per cent of India’s crude oil needs, IT, infrastructure, biotechnology, nanotechnolgy, and financial services are key future areas of bilateral cooperation between India and the Arab world.

Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, lauded the rise of India on the global stage and praised the strong fundamentals of India’s economy as exhibited in its high economic growth and its increasing attractiveness as a hub of investment for the world.

Alluding to Indian Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s concept of ‘development is freedom,’ Ibrahim, who was the guest speaker, said that the Arab countries should take a ‘closer look’ at India and called for balancing economic growth with a more humane social order.

‘In India and the Arab world, we have to maximise the opportunities that globalisation is creating to ensure that there is inclusive and all-round growth in our regions,’ said Mohammad Manzoor Alam, president of Indo-Aran Economic Cooperation Forum.

India received the highest inbound remittance estimated at $23 billion in 2005-06, while China received $21 billion. In 2004-05, China received $20 billion and India received $18 billion.

Interestingly, India received the highest inbound remittances with only 22 million non-resident Indians, while there are about 40 million Chinese residing outside China. Western Union managing director (South Asia) Anil Kapur said this was primarily due to the social and family structure in India.

Interestingly, India received the highest inbound remittances with only 22 million non-resident Indians, while there are about 40 million Chinese residing outside China. Kapur said this was primarily due to the social and family structure in India.

“The number of Indians going abroad is increasing every year and the money coming into the country in the form of remittances is also swelling,” MoneyGram International country manager Harsh Lambah said, adding the industry is all set to witness further growth. As per an estimate, about half a million Indians migrate annually.

Kapur also said this industry needs to be more organised as it would directly add to the foreign exchange kitty. Remittances are high in all the southern states, apart from a few in the north like Punjab.