We did not get the most joyful season “the Spring” this year. I am scared to believe that this may be repeated next year too. This season’s greatest offspring have defined music, poetry, songs, and dances, splashed brightest colours in festivals and community ceremonials nonetheless nature’s strongest wilderness singers forming cupid brigades for pollination such as the bees, moths, beetles and wasps are endangered today. We are proud that we did it all! Where would a man stand in the midst of this barren habitat, without food, water and safety when powerful gangs would masquerade with guns to control scarce resources in government storehouses. Today we encounter repeated heatwaves as temperatures rise even before spring starts. Cities become heat chambers and clueless cupid brigades working for us drop dehydrated and dead over cemented furnaces of cities. The privileged shut themselves indoors triggering a vicious cycle of increased air-conditioning and CFC emissions leading to power shortages and outages to deprive the poor of their single fan relief too. Would this be a beginning of an end of mankind’s scripted statuette of development being etched in environmental interference and destruction? Would disaster management sentinels rise up to the occasion and get their teeth back on defiant and careless states yet to implement heat action plans and also put in place a more holistic and coordinated climate change action plan in track with Sendai commitments. This piece discusses that while a plan on heat control is much needed, any delay in devising a coordinated strategy of environmental and disaster governance with infrastructure builders, town planners and Panchayats (local governance) may kill the action plan.
Why should we be scared of a heatwave when we have encountered it since our childhood when we consumed grandma’s inexpensive recipes of unripe mango juice(Aam Panna), roasted ground barley juice (Sattu) and onion in our pocket while walking back home from school. Every home retained a complete armoury against heatwaves. However, the current one is different as the ground and greens which balanced the season’s stroke are missing. From 2000 onwards several scientific studies had started warning that man’s interference with nature has gone so brutal that these normal heatwaves would become uncontrollably intense and more frequent. The disaster management guidelines suggest that one should start worrying only when temperatures start rising beyond 40 degrees Celsius. A decade ago it wasn’t even a worry that this could lead to our extinction, today it is. On 15th May, the temperature crossed 50 degrees Celsius in many areas of Delhi and the country’s neighbourhood of Pakistan, the Jacobabad from where dropped the kid hero of Kabir Khan’s film Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The film proved a subtle prelude to the fact that we remain and ought to remain together in our mutual efforts for alleviating human suffering. Now, that the region is on fire we would be roasted together over the furnace of our land.
Most of us are aware of the 2003 heatwave when thousands of people died in not just the northern states but also Odisha and beyond where ocean winds are said to cool the environment. In Delhi, many animal NGOs such as People for Animals (PFA) and Frendicoes SECA and in its neighbourhood Gurgaon the Walk for Animals and Habitat (WAH) were overworked in advocating and working upon a need for roadside water pots around the city and providing medical rescue teams to support dehydrating animals and birds. WAH reported to DLF and Gurgaon administration an unprecedented death of more than 1800 cattle in just two summer months within the segments of the new city alone. Their disposal and burial done with the help of DLF Security confirm the shocking numbers. The Commissioner of Gurgaon as well as the DG Haryana Police issued official orders to provide water pots for neelgais and roaming homeless cattle but finally very few actually got placed and the sensitive commissioners were transferred out. However, this administrative sensitivity was in response to belligerent animal welfare teams as it’s a stated fact that on their own no official is ever trained to respond to anyone’s suffering which falls within their powers to address. One night at around 11 pm as I was driving back home on what is known as Maulsari Avenue of DLF Gurgaon today, a poor, tattered weeping man with a small child in arms approached me. He wanted a lift in the car to bury the dead baby, he was a migrant labourer who knew nothing about the city and the next morning the contractor would whip them to a tractor for a construction site. He could not even wait till the morning to bury his dead child. This was one of the many heatstroke deaths which went unaccounted for in the city’s records. The district administration left developers free to exploit these magnificent builders of the millennium city.
In 2008, during an indispensable summertime research trip to the Bundelkhand region, I was introduced to a structural malaise that prevented development. The district office was located almost 100 kms from villages, connected through a single potholed and rocky road, passing through massively deforested areas and over a drying Betwa river through a dangerously dilapidated 8 ft broad bridge. I saw the single bus that helped travelling was mostly over-stuffed and drivers often asked villagers to get off and walk as they cautiously drove over the fragile piece over the river. The villagers mostly compromised to fate, and silently followed these instructions. I found them numb even what appeared ghastly and brutal for any civilized society. These were corpses of dead animals and also a few humans who died of heat and lack of water while walking through this heat. It was 50 degrees on the day when my team drove to the interior of this arid dry rocky forest and saw foot travellers gasping for breath and water. No official ever cared for this heat as the district office had coolers, drinking water, and refrigerators. Moreover, it was an accepted season-specific aberration and officials accepted local village residents from the Madhya Pradesh side of Bundelkhand as highly resilient people who could beat the heat. The dead were never on records as neither the officials or the news reporters ever reached there during summertime. There are innumerable tales of heatstroke deaths that relate to decision maker’s apathy and lack of vision for environmental management. Denotifying forest areas, license to cut trees, cementing water bodies, and construction of avoidable roads continue unabated even today. Nature’s early warnings have gone unheard resulting into much longer and more frequent heatwaves. Climate change was happening but it’s a shame that the country’s administration despite the knowledge could do nothing against the conceitful greedy eyes of a politician, on the contrary, most administrators join the politician in the loot and then blame local people. One can confidently cast serious doubts on the selective nature of scientific data that defines a heatwave in India? A social scientist’s data which is effectively suppressed by governments reveals ground reality. Climate change has exacerbated the impact of heatwaves manifold only due to administrative negligence, apathy, corruption and their inability to take just one step beyond a call for duty.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) initiated ‘Guidelines on preparing action plans against heat waves’ as late as in 2016. The Paris Pact under the aegis of UNFCCC in 2015 was a major initiative to combat dangerous human interference with the climate by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and bringing global warming down to a preferred 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The heatwave was still to be considered a disaster even though the rising frequency of heatwaves was an indicator that unless Sendai priorities were taken along with the Paris Pact commitments, no country could ever turn development in its favour and achieve the SDGs by 2030. The NDMA revised its heatwave action plan in 2017 and again in 2019 produced a Report ‘Beating the Heat’ which admitted that despite more than 24,223 deaths across the country between 1992 and 2015, country lacked a national-level strategy or vision to tackle heatwave as a disaster. This annual toll due to heatwaves is rapidly rising every year and countless non-human species who fall victim to it are not even accounted in records. The government however agreed that with effective planning, coordination and implementation much damage and loss could be avoided. Yet, where is this coordinated effort?
Pollution of air and water need to stop on a war footing if heat waves are to be tackled in a mission mode. A 2021 Lancet Planet Health Study on ‘Health and Economic Impact of Air Pollution in the States of India: Global Burden of Disease Study 2019’ reports a very high increase of 115.3% and 139.2% in ambient particulate matter and ambient ozone pollution respectively in the preceding two decades. Nonetheless, a total of USD 36.8 billion or almost 1.36% of India’s GDP was lost due to premature deaths and morbidity to air pollution which in fact was highest in low per capita GDP states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Another study by Lancet Commission on pollution and health 2017 mentions 9 million deaths and USD 4.6 trillion losses globally due to pollution in 2015 but 92% of it occur in low and middle-income countries. To tackle heat waves, one needs to primarily put a stop to tree felling and constructions over green areas and water bodies. Water harvesting exercises need to go on a wider national scale and filling up ravines, natural ponds or wilderness and wasteland rechargesheds by government, developers or individuals should be treated as environmental crimes with strict penalties by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The District Town and Country Planner in cities and Panchayat Pramukh in villages should be accountable directly to the NDMA. The Disaster Management Act 2005 has provisions to adopt this design in implementing decisions.
As far as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) is concerned it sees no problem, it is like a monk distracted from its cell of contemplation which sees no evil in any inaction! It displays an increasing tree cover in its data but ground reports are different. The northeastern states have undergone a massacre of their forest wealth, especially Nagaland and Mizoram yet the government is not ready to engage in debates related to forests and climate change in international forums and considers deforestation as part of its domestic priorities. The Global Forest Watch has already exposed government claims to present data that suggests a loss of 349 Kha or 3.4% of humid, pristine, primary forests by 2020. The expert committee of the UNFCC also found the government data to be “not accurate”. It is also mind-boggling to know that during Covid when people were shut indoors due to lockdowns, India lost 14% of its tree-cover but more shocking is the loss of 12% of primary rainforests in 2020 alone. Experts suggest that this amounts to 2.64 Gt CO2 of carbon emissions equivalent to an annual emissions of 570 million cars. Then, what heatwave are we planning to prevent? The government will keep giving Grandma advice like it did during Covid for banging utensils, such as to stay indoors, drink water, and stay cool. What advice can we find for the homeless millions as humans and animals who need our urgent attention?
Any action to prevent heatwave has to work in the direction of a Climate-resilient development which is possible only when governments, civil society and the private sector work in a symbiotic relationship based upon equity and justice. The SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters (SAARND) 2011 should be revived by putting every other neighbourhood displeasure or conflict aside. These regional partnerships should be strengthened by enabling political leadership, institutional cooperation, and raising financial and other resources, including climate services, early warning research and development. Structural vulnerabilities of heat waves can be reduced by an inclusive climate change framework in law and governance. A locally appropriate solution is always sustainable but the communally divisive environment of today prevents decentralization, trust, and confidence-building measures through panchayats and local communities in partnerships. Government should focus on an agenda of harmony and faith.
On this Environment Day, let us not talk about data and statistics, the load of which is already sinking our ship. Let us craft a practical theology of wilderness. With theology I do not mean religion or communitarian or structural, aspects of policies but a study of divine in nature, an authentic individual in a natural world by drawing a relationship with humanity, immortality, and salvation not orthodoxy of mono-cultures of beliefs which are fatal to any diversity or opposed to the wilderness. As Thoreau wrote, “what do we do with a man who is afraid of the woods, their solitude and darkness?” “What salvation is there for him”? The philosophy of wilderness is a realization of eclectic living that melts orthodoxy, divisiveness and hierarchies which kill nature. For such a person God is Nature and this belief helps humans to stay away from most soul-wearying, debilitating vices which nibble our natural self. Of all the knowledge we truly stand forth, we remain mournful of our existence simply because we do stand forth beyond the frontier of knowledge, and so we need to find out more than ever before where we stand forth in this big earth which is our habitat. Most humans have selected the option of ‘eternal death’ by being cut off from nature. Immortality comes in learning to live with nature. Everytime, such a person is born, to quote my favourite author of wilderness, Henry Bugbee, “It seems to me that ….. the wilderness is born anew: and every time I am born it seems to me that, then, …..I could be content to die.”
The author is president of Network Asia Pacific Disaster Research Group, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, and former Professor of Administrative Reforms and Emergency Governance at JNU. The views expressed are personal.
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IN A HUGE SETBACK FOR AAP, SIMRANJIT SINGH MANN WINS FROM SANGRUR
Former IPS officer and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) leader, Simranjit Singh Mann wrested the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat from the Aam Aadmi Party thus paving the way for his entry into Parliament for the third time. The Sangrur constituency was represented earlier by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann, who won from there both in 2014 and 2019. In fact, the loss so soon after the AAP’s massive Assembly victory indicates that there is disillusionment that has set in the State over the style of functioning of the government. S.S. Mann’s victory is being attributed to the perception that the AAP dispensation in the state was being remote controlled from Delhi and the Chief Minister was a mere puppet who had little time for governance but was busy with the campaigning both in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Therefore, it would be very essential for AAP to correct this perception which would go against them in the long run. Punjab has always been a unique province and does not like interference from any quarter. The impression that the government was spending more on publicity rather on core issues is another factor that has contributed to the outcome. Simranjit Singh Mann, who is a maverick politician exploited the sentiments which have emerged in the rural belt over the deaths of both Sidhu Moosewala and Deep Sidhu. He also contested the polls on the plank of getting Sikh prisoners who have been overstaying in jails released. His victory can further be interpreted as the assertion of the Panthic agenda though the Shiromani Akali Dal owing allegiance to the Badals also took up the same issues but this time polled lesser votes than even the BJP candidate, Kewal Singh Dhillon. Simranjit Singh Mann had won his maiden election from Tarn Taran in 1989 after he had been jailed for being a sympathizer of the Khalistan movement and had gone underground after Operation Blue Star and other events of 1984. Simla born Mann is the son of former Punjab Speaker Joginder Singh Mann and is married to Captain Amarinder Singh’s sister-in-law, Geetinder Kaur. An avid follower of western classical music, Simranjit Singh Mann had refused to take oath as the Lok Sabha member in 1989 after being disallowed to go with a sword inside the Parliament house premises. He had won the second time from Sangrur in 1999. Political observers of Punjab were also hoping that his victory would be viewed merely as the rejection of the AAP model of governance and not as the re-emergence of radical politics. The selection of candidates for the seven Rajya Sabha seats in the State has also gone against the AAP and therefore corrective measures to re-set the agenda for the region shall also have to be taken by Bhagwant Mann and Arvind Kejriwal. Punjab is a border state and its politics has huge ramifications in other parts of the country as well. The outcome has several lessons for the Akalis (Badal), the Congress and the BJP besides AAP. In Sangrur it is not just one Mann replacing another Mann but the narrative appears to be changing.
Gujarat riots: Narendra Modi vindicated
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court with Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and CT Ravikumar, while dismissing the plea,noted that the claim of criminal conspiracy in the Gujarat riots by the then CM of Gujarat (Narendra Modi) and other State functionaries was absolutely false. “The structure of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level has been erected. The same stands collapsed like a house of cards, after thorough investigation by the SIT,” the bench said,in a landmark judgment that has blown to smithereens, the allegations of those, who driven by nothing but visceral hatred for Narendra Modi, peddled vicious lies and anti-Modi propaganda for 20 long years.During the course of the hearing, Kapil Sibal and others appearing for Jafri, had essentially argued that the special investigation team (SIT) had not conducted a thorough probe into the matter and had ignored crucial evidence including certain sting operations by Tehelka, which suggested a larger conspiracy of complicity in the highest echelons of the Gujarat State’s power structure. Sibal’s frivolous arguments, sans any credible proof, were resoundingly and rightfully dismissed by the top Court. Dismissing the plea filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of Congress leader Ehsaan Jafri, the Court raised questions over the credibility of the petitioner and said, “Appellant in filing the protest petition had the gumption to assert that the list of persons was not exhaustive besides naming new persons as offenders. In the name of protest petition, appellant was also indirectly questioning the decisions rendered by the Courts in other cases, including sub judice matters, for reasons best known to her. She was obviously doing so under dictation of someone. In fact, the sizeable contents of the protest petition are founded on the affidavits filed by those persons, whose versions have been found to be replete with falsehoods,” the Supreme Court bench stated.
The top Court also noted that the SIT had formed its opinion after considering all the materials collated during the investigation. “The question of further investigation would have arisen only on the availability of new material/information in connection with the allegation of larger conspiracy at the highest level, which is not forthcoming in this case,” the Supreme Court order read. “We uphold the decision of the Magistrate in accepting the final report dated 08.02.2012 submitted by the SIT as it is, rejecting the protest petition filed by the appellant (Zakia Jafri). We don’t countenance the submission of the appellant regarding infraction of rule of law regarding investigation and the approach of the Magistrate and the High Court in dealing with the final report. Accordingly, we hold the appeal is devoid of merits and deserves to be dismissed in aforementioned terms” – with those words, the Supreme Court of India put paid to yet another sinister plan of PM Narendra Modi’s detractors & persecutors to fix him in what is famously known as Gujarat riots’ case.
Leaders like Narendra Modi are born once in a millennium. The Supreme Court upholding the clean chit given to Modi by the SIT, brings to an end the vicious propaganda of the Congress and it’s family retainers, the durbaari Lutyens’ media, the corrupt, Leftist ecosystem, the Modi hating self styled NGOs and an entire battery of national and international players, who tried their level best to halt Modi’s politically meteoric rise, but failed completely. PM Modi deserves unabashed applause because he bore every insult, every canard, every humiliation with a stoic dignity, that is rare. Not once did his faith in India’s judicial process waver or falter. Not once did he use State power to defeat his detractors. Not once did BJP karyakartas take to the streets to protest against the probe against Modi.
This is in sharp contrast to the shameful vandalism and thuggery that was on display, with Congress workers taking to the streets, when jaded Congress scion, Rahul Gandhi was being probed by the enforcement directorate (ED), recently, for his reported involvement in the National Herald related scam. Modi, like any law abiding citizen, allowed the law of the land for almost two decades,to take its course, without once using his status, power or privilege to stymie the judicial process. And do not forget that Modi has wielded unparalleled clout, after having been CM and then PM, in the last 20 years. They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But in the case of Narendra Modi, the power that the electorate bestowed on him repeatedly and relentlessly was never abused or misused and that is essentially what separates Modi, the karmayogi, from the routine paraphernalia of Opposition leaders who have allowed success to get the better of them. Today, Modi stands vindicated, with the legal process finally giving him an unconditional clean chit,leaving his detractors exposed, shamed, pulverized and marginalised.
The ceaseless persecution of PM Narendra Modi, initiated at the behest of Congress and its ecosystem saw more than 60 investigations by government appointed commissions, self-proclaimed activists’ headed tribunals, media bodies, various national and international NGOs and Supreme Court appointed SIT. While every impartial probe gave clean chit to Modi, the Modi-hating lobby opposed to him didn’t stop trying–not even when he is into the 9th year of his tenure as Prime Minister of India,after spending more than 12 years as Gujarat’s Chief Minister. No wonder the Supreme Court was forced to make an observation that, “the proceedings have been pursued for the last 16 years to keep the pot boiling, obviously for ulterior design.” Going a step further, the Supreme Court held that “all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”
It is said revenge is a dish, best served cold. Well, in Modi’s case, his exoneration by the highest Court of the land, is surely sweet revenge against an entire “Congressi-fied” ecosystem that was served a damning indictment by the Supreme Court, which called out the bluff of this anti-Modi lobby. In its severe indictment of the petitioner (Zakia Jafri) and her backers, India’s top Court said, “it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others, was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge.” This observation of the top Court is evident in the way malicious proceedings were initiated against Narendra Modi in 2002 by vested interest groups like Teesta Setalvad, Rahul Sharma & Mukul Sinha and with active financial and institutional backing provided by the UPA government headed by the Congress Party, then. It is important to mention here that Zakia Jafri became a petitioner in the Gujarat riots’ case for the first time in 2005-06, three to four years after Gujarat riots. The Supreme Court had appointed an SIT for investigation into the Gujarat riots much earlier, in 2003-04 and this SIT was submitting periodic reports to the top Court.
The “Teesta” gang used Zakia Jafri as cannon fodder, exploiting her emotionally and using her as a pliable tool for their nefarious designs against Modi. Teesta and her husband Javed Anand claim to be social activists but it is now widely known how this duo used their NGO to funnel funds for illegitimate purposes. Money raised for victims of Gulbarg society were used by Teesta and Javed to fund the duo’s foreign vacations and to buy expensive champagne and lingerie. What can be more shameful than usurping money meant for riot victims and then splurging it on hairdos at beautysalons,which is precisely what Teesta did. The dubious antecedents and mala-fide motives of the highly corrupt Teesta Setalvad are in the public domain and not based on hearsay. In fact,the apex Court has castigated Teesta in no uncertain terms, on how she used Zakia Jafri to abuse the judicial process, only because she wanted to hit back at Modi. The long arm of the law finally caught up with this devious, repeat offender, Teesta, with the Gujarat ATS arresting her on June 25,2022. Teesta’s case will be investigated by ATS DIG of Gujarat, Deepan Bhadran.
Teesta has done it all–from embezzling funds meant for charity, to raising foreign funds for her NGO CJP,by flouting FCRA norms, to using Zakia Jafri as cannon fodder,for her ulterior designs. Former IPS officer RB Sreekumar, arrested by Gujarat Police too on June 25,2022, for fake and misleading information on post-Godhra Gujarat violence, was also involved in framing scientist Nambi Narayanan in the fake ‘ISRO spy case’. RB Sreekumar, Sanjiv Bhatt and Teesta Setalvad have been booked under sections 468, 471, 194, 211, 218, and 120B of the IPC, for various criminal offences including forgery, perjury and wilfully lying under oath. Congress Party’s unbridled support for Teesta is evident from the fact that she was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavna award in 2002 and with a Padma Shri, no less, in 2007.Tainted former cop Sanjiv Bhatt was directed to undergo life-imprisonment by a Sessions Court in Jamnagar in June 2019 for involvement in custodial death of Jamjodhpur resident, Prabhudas Vaishnani in November 1990.It does not take much to realise that Teesta,Bhatt, Sreekumar and others like them are all people who were propped up by the Congress leadership at 10 Janpath and all these dubious characters are either in prison or facing a probe as they sought to derail and abuse India’s judicial system, in their hatred for one man–Narendra Modi. And the common glue that binds all these criminal elements is that they were generously gratified by the Congress, in lieu of their ceaseless hate propaganda against Modi.
The Godhra train burning occurred on the morning of 27 February 2002, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims and karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, were set on fire by a frenzied Muslim inside the Sabarmati Express train near the Godhra railway station in Gujarat,as noted in the joint report of former High Court judge K.G Shah and former Supreme Court judge, G.T.Nanavati. It is shameful that ex judge U C.Banerjee ( a Lalu Yadav acolyte) had the gall to call the Godhra train murder of 59 innocent people as just another accident. Taking a cue from Banerjee, till this day, the very lobby that has used every trick in the book to sully,malign and demonise PM Modi,did not have the basic decency and humanity to even express regret and remorse about the horrific Godhra train burning. And then these selfish, Leftist lobbies and urban naxals have the audacity to call themselves human right activists! The Godhra train burning incident set in motion the Gujarat riots. Violence can never be a solution. Retributive justice cannot be rationalised, but to demonize Hindus and a CM who later became PM and to brazenly ignore that 59 Hindus were burnt alive by a deracinated, Muslim mob, needed to be called out. And the Supreme Court’s historic judgement of June 24,2002,did precisely that.
Amidst extremely provocative and open calls for treating Modi like a pariah by the likes of Siddharth Varadarajan, Modi, exhibiting a rare degree of boldness, courage, transparency and faith in rule of law, appeared before SIT for 9 hours, without so much as a whimper. Varadarajan repeatedly exhorted the international diaspora to cancel out Modi and Modi was even denied a US visa. But as they say, Karma always comes a full circle. In a befitting reply to the likes of Rajdeep, Burkha and Varadarajan and all his nefarious naysayers, after Modi became PM in 2014,since then he has not only addressed quite a few joint session the US Congress, but has been awarded with some of the highest civilian awards from a large array of countries across the globe. While 5 other Indian PMs before Modi also addressed US Congress in their stints abroad, PM Narendra Modi has the highly rare honour of getting 9 standing ovations and 33 applauses during his 48-minute-long speech, to the US Congress, in June 2016.
Coming back to Teesta, the Supreme Court on June 24,2022,made an observation that the SIT which gave a clean chit to PM Modi in 2010-11 had “fully exposed the falsity of the appellant’s claims after a thorough investigation. Terming Zakia/Teesta’’s submission as “far-fetched and an attempt to undo and undermine the industry of the SIT”,SC called it “questioning the wisdom of the Supreme Court,” in a scathing reply to Zakia, Teesta and her cronies on how they had wilfully abused the judicial process, simply to target Modi.
It is clear from the events of past 20 years and latest SC judgment that the endless saga of Narendra Modi’s persecution by his detractors to propagate Gujarat riot falsehoods as truth and continue their tirade against Modi, not only hardened his personal resolve, but also helped unmask the ugly game of Gujarat riots’ cottage industry anchored by the Congress. But what is bizarre is that the alibi of delivering justice for the riot victims of 2002 got transmogrified into the pursuit for political vengeance against Modi. The whole saga is a tell-tale commentary of how anti-Modi NGO activism by Leftists, Leftist academia, urban naxals and Leftist media has sustained itself as an industry for over a decade, with help from notorious elements both at home and abroad.
The naked attempt to internationalize Gujarat riot was already on but victimization of Narendra Modi began on March 19, 2005, when Shabnam Hashmi wrote an email on behalf of her NGO, ANHAD, to a broader ecosystem of Leftist activists and NGOs across the globe to mount a signature campaign against Modi, then sitting CM of Gujarat. More than 8 years on, Shabnam Hashmi on August 24, 2013, wrote on her facebook page about the launch of a website to expose alleged ‘lies’ of Narendra Modi. In the intervening period is a saga of how a well networked group of Leftist activists in India and spread across the globe have obsessed over every minutiae to do with Narendra Modi in their pursuit of political retribution against him for the 2002 riots, while showing little faith in the Indian Courts. and an Indian Court ordered Investigation. So blatant was the internationalization of Modi’s victimization that, the SC in January 2011, reprimanded activists and NGO lobbies for their report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the proceedings of the 10 cases related to the Gujarat riots, being monitored by the Supreme Court. The lobbies didn’t stop at merely writing reports and emails but they even lobbied with multilateral bodies and brought Christof Hendrik Heyns, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary execution, to Gujarat for investigations. They even ran a signature campaign to petition Obama for continuance of visa ban on Modi.
In the final analysis, going by the historic Supreme Court verdict of June 24,2002, there was no State sponsored pogrom in 2002,as claimed by many. Period. Not just Muslims, but Hindus too lost their lives in the 2002 Gujarat riots and hence to paint the 2002 riots as a pogrom against Muslims is nothing but divisive politics that was played brazenly by the then Congress led UPA government. The good part is, truth has finally prevailed and desperate attempts by the Congress, Leftists and the Lutyens’ establishment to tarnish the image of Narendra Modi, have flopped and failed miserably. PM Modi was earlier exonerated by the SIT, Magistrate’s Court, Metropolitan Court, Gujarat High Court and even by the Supreme Court on two earlier occasions.
“We hasten to add that it is only because of the ultra-sensational revelation projected by Mr Sanjiv Bhatt and Mr Haren Pandya, who unabashedly claimed to be privy to the utterances made by the then Chief Minister in an official meeting, the constitutional functionaries and this Court was required to move into action, taking serious note of the same. But, after thorough investigation by the SIT, the falsity of such claim has been fully exposed on the basis of credible indisputable materials collated by the SIT during the investigation in that regard,” the Court noted,
in a damning indictment of both Zakia Jafri and those like Teesta Setalvad who had been instigating Jafri in petition after petition, to frame false charges against Modi.
The latest judgment by the Supreme Court – that came in the 9th year of Modi’s tenure as Indian Prime Minister, is not the first time; various Courts in India gave Narendra Modi the clean chit in the past 20 years too, even when he served as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. No leader anywhere in the world has been subjected to so much scrutiny, so much public glare, so many false allegations, so much unwanted, baseless and needless criticism for actions that were never his to start with and yet emerged taller, stronger, more confident and more invincible than ever before. Modi’s integrity has been validated by India’s highest Court–the Supreme Court. The top Court’s judgment on June 24, 2002,giving a clean chit to the indefatigable Modi, is also a validation of India’s judicial system and the democratic ethos of this great nation.
SanjuVerma is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘The Modi Gambit’.
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DROUPADI MURMU POISED TO BE THE PRESIDENT AFTER BJP CHOOSES HER
It is virtually certain that Droupadi Murmu, former Jharkhand Governor and Odissha’s Ex-Minister is going to be the next President of India after she became the unanimous choice of the NDA constituents as also some regional parties such as Biju Janata Dal and YSR Congress. The lady would also be the first tribal and the second woman to be the Head of the State and thus the country’s first citizen. Although the Opposition parties have fielded former Finance Minister and veteran politician Yashwant Sinha for the coveted post, it is most unlikely that the highly competent member of the Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Cabinet stands a chance given that it is all about the numbers game and they are heavily stacked against him. There is no doubt that Sinha would have been a very capable President but in choosing Droupadi Murmu, the BJP has made sure that the message of the Saffron Brigade’s commitment towards the tribals and economically depressed sections was reiterated. The tribals in large parts of the country have been voting for the BJP but under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party has learnt the art of consolidating its support base. It would have been an ideal situation if the next President had been chosen through a consensus instead of a symbolic fight that would ensue. Yashwant Sinha has been a part of the BJP and may have many admirers in his previous party. However, it is not expected that any of his erstwhile colleagues would vote in his favour and even his son and former Union Minister, Jayant Sinha, the sitting MP from Hazaribagh, has made it clear that he would be voting as a member of his party and not in any other capacity. Droupadi Murmu would no doubt be the next President in the current scenario but she will have to face enormous challenges which could be very new to her. The President is the supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and is also a part of the Parliament in our system. She would have a large set of advisers to see her through difficult times, but in the end, it would be her own discretion and understanding of the entire system that shall stand by her at all junctures. Many Opposition leaders are apprehensive about her capacity to deliver and are unfairly undermining her choice. However, they must understand that in a democratic set up like ours, everyone has the right to aspire and occupy the highest office of the land. She is not being foisted but shall be duly elected by members of the legislatures and Parliament. Therefore, her rise to the esteemed position would be completely legitimate and it would be totally unnecessary to find any kind of fault in her. In fact, once she gets elected, the entire Nation should solidly back her and wish her well for a promising tenure. It would have been unthinkable many years ago that a tribal would ever be the President but if the BJP and its allies are making it possible, it is a tribute to their vision and acceptance of the need to promote economically depressed and socially deprived sections of our society.
The endemic of gun violence: An American tragedy
The Senate passed a bill on Thursday aiming at overhauling the existing laws on firearms.
The debate over the unimaginable carnage due to gun violence and privation of stricter gun control laws in the United States has grown and faded over the years and gets stirred frequently by incidents of gun violence. Last month the mass shootings at the Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, again reignited the fierce debate over gun control legislation in the country. Amidst the political divisions over how to address gun violence, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday to strike down a New York Law limiting gun-carrying rights of American citizens has expanded the existing gun rights in the United States. President Joe Biden was extremely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, as it “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should trouble us all”.
Guns have been woven into the fabric of American culture and politics since the Second Amendment (1791) to the U.S. Constitution affirmed that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. Gun legislations in the United States are built on the judicial interpretations of the Constitution and it was on the grounds of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments (1868) that in the case of District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court, in its landmark decision, declared the ban on handguns as unconstitutional, therefore, reaffirming the individual right to possess firearms and use them for self-defence.
According to the National Firearms Survey of 2021, more than 81.4 million Americans above the age of 18 years own firearms, which makes up for almost 32 per cent of the adult American population. But the actual numbers are believed to be much higher as the prerequisite for a permit or registration to purchase guns is not a necessary requirement in all American states. America’s problem with gun violence is not limited to mass shootings, although the use of firearms is disproportionately higher in incidents of mass shootings compared to other forms of shootings, they are still relatively rare. In 2021, mass shootings accounted for less than 2 per cent of the nearly 40,000 fatalities resulting from gun violence in cases of homicides, police shooting, domestic violence, accidents and suicides which make up the highest number of gun-related deaths in the country.
Over the years, the National Rifle Association of America (NRA), the US gun rights advocacy group has played a big role in pushing forward the idea that guns are necessary for self-defence. They believe that owning a gun is a basic right similar to their right to free speech, and gun control legislation is an effort to deprive law-abiding American citizens of their fundamental right to protect themselves. The NRA continues to oppose any effort to implement gun control policies and initiatives that override constitutional due process protections. It has shifted the narrative of gun politics where gun ownership is paralleled to patriotism and has become a political identity. Gun violence has taken more lives than any other public crisis in the US. Compared to other western countries, the US does not have an overall crime problem, but it certainly does have more lethal violence attributable to the prevalence of guns.
Over the years, the subject of gun rights has become an intensely partisan issue, with the Republicans voting in favor of protecting the gun rights and the Democrats voting against them and placing more importance on gun regulations. There are federal gun laws that apply uniformly across the whole United States, which ban convicted felons, people with mental illness and kids under the age of 18 years from buying guns. But the gun laws are not uniform across all states as there are state laws, and each state law has its own leeway to enforce their own regulations that are wildly at variance with one another. For instance, in Massachusetts which is a strong Democratic state, police permit and a background check to buy a gun is a legal requirement, whereas in Texas with a strong Republican state, there are laws that permit citizens to carry concealed hand guns without any permit. There are more than 20 states that do not require any permit for purchasing firearms. These differences reflect the underlying partisan divide which has grown wider in the last three decades and is the greatest political and ideological split between the Republicans and the Democrats compared to any other issue in the American political life.
The US Congress has repeatedly failed to pass tougher gun laws and legislative reforms even as public opinion strongly pushes for it, but the issue of gun control is a political battle than it is a public opinion battle. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2021, only 52 per cent of the Americans believed in making stricter gun laws, a drop from 67 per cent in 2018. The United States is vastly divided on political partisan lines and gun ownership and these two divisions have created barriers making it difficult to move forward and overcome policy change at a national level.
President Biden considers gun violence as a public health epidemic and his plans to tackle gun control include investing in evidence-based community violence interventions to address the root causes of gun violence. After the mass shootings in Uvalde, the Biden Administration wants to toughen guns laws and make sure the ones that already exist are actually applied including zero tolerance policy for gun dealers who flout the rules. He also called for stricter laws to be imposed on ghost guns as these weapons are sold in parts and without a serial number so they cannot be traced. These are easily available kits which can be purchased online without a background check and can be turned into a fully functional firearm. Biden also wants to bring back the ban on assault weapons, mostly used in mass shootings. He himself authored the assault-weapons ban, which was in place for a decade until 2004.
Given the political climate and a divided Senate, President Biden has few realistic avenues to pursue gun control legislation without congressional action. The Democratic push for more gun control and regulation is often met with voters and politicians in Congress who believe that guns are not the problem and perceive it as an attack on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. There is always a promising consensus on potential legislation, but usually the prospects of a bipartisan action on gun control fades within weeks of mass shootings. The Senate on Thursday (23 June) passed a Bipartisan Gun Control Bill in a 65–33 vote, which will next have to clear through the House of Representatives before going to President Biden’s for his signature. The bill is considered to be an important legislation as it revises the measures such as expanding background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21 years and offering funding to states that have emergency programmes in place to seize guns from people deemed dangerous by a judge. But as the Senate worked towards this gun safety legislation, the Supreme Court overturned a handgun restriction.
Through the influences of culture and politics, the United States has a very powerful gun-centric movement where both gun rights and gun regulations have been respected, but at the moment gun violence is a public health issue. Gun homicides are number one cause of deaths for all youth in America, the No. 1 cause of deaths for Black men and the highest rate of firearms deaths among the world’s wealthy nations. Mass shootings in other western countries like New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada and UK have prompted these nations to enact gun reforms by imposing measures such as bans on semiautomatic firearms, stricter background checks and national registry requirement. To tackle the tragedy of America’s accelerating epidemic of gun violence there is need to address the divide on gun control regulation and find a common ground between Democrats and Republicans for a bipartisan outcome, which respects the Second Amendment, makes a significant headway into preventing gun crimes, ensures public safety and earns a wide support in the Senate.
The author is a doctoral candidate at the centre of Canadian, US and Latin American Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Reforms needed to overcome ills of representative democracy
The first basic question is how many of us understand the difference between representative democracy and participatory/direct democracy? For the record, we are a representative democracy where selected representatives are expected to debate, provide inputs from their constituencies and enable passing of legislations that push India into the next century.
The question that repeatedly haunts us is what is wrong with India when there is so much The question that repeatedly haunts us is what is wrong with India when there is so much right happening around us. Why are path breaking reforms that were pending for decades, resisted after they are legislated? The back lash to the most recent much needed Military reforms, preceded by farmers bill, labour reforms etc. are perhaps symptoms of a disease that is yet to be fully understood.Its contours are obliquely discussed in debates both in print and social media.
The first basic question is how many of us understand the difference between representative democracy and participatory /direct democracy? For the record, we are a representative democracy where the elected representatives are expected to debate, provide inputs from their constituencies and enable passing of legislations that push India into the next century. That the Parliament does not function and that all political parties play to the gallery are there for all to see. But there is no angst, peaceful marches or even vandalism to show our rejection of petty politics on display. But repeatedly one hears seasoned journalists, academics and the educated commentators state that not enough consultations with the people have been done and hence the backlash. Really? On a variety of complex social, economic, industrial, military legislations or executive decisions, can we have open consultations with a billion people-largely uninformed due to literacy/education related constraints? No.
That is why we have a representational form of democracy. Here lies the next challenge. Due to the very nature of politics right from independence, sane, educated, well meaning and knowledgeable citizens do not wish to be in the money-muscle power driven elections. Even the most talented, patriotic, and affluent citizen cannot hope to win an election. Criminals and those who impress the poor with material or political promises of freebies will ensure that outstanding technocrats never succeed.Hence the preferred route of Rajya Sabha for the truly deserving.
Now, coming to “we the people.”Those of us who are educated, comfortable and well-endowed while participating incessantly on the social media and rarely in print, do not bother to vote, The only means to eliminate criminals and frauds from being elected is to participate with the EC to stem the tide of self-serving, corrupt or even dynastic politicians.Holding the political party accountable for noncompliance with manifestos and rejecting freebies with severe fiscal and financial liabilities on much needed public funds are essential features for reforms at the people’s end. We have a responsibility that we have will fully shunned, as we the people do not necessarily wish to participate in the process of finding the right people to represent us. The media does not believe in exposing our politicians to well informed debates.
The latest reform concerning the Military are being debated with elected representatives who neither know the ranks and structure of the Military nor even the difference between recruitment of soldiers and the selection process of officers. Just recently an educated politician referred to the former Army Chief Gen JJ Singh as Major. But he vaxed eloquent on the reforms per se.
Veterans who participate in debates are guilty of indirectly accusing the present military Veterans who participate in debates are guilty of indirectly accusing the present military leadership (who are the only accountable people for operations), of the most elementary consequences of such reforms: as if the knowledge resides only in them. By so doing in public, they are casting aspersions on the competence of the serving community. For the record they all begin their argument with how timely such a bold reform is. But……and this is precisely the first red flag for creating confusion that could affect the morale of the serving community, when the serving Chiefs have repeatedly assured that they will plug loop holes as they progress.
That the Parliament does not function and that all political parties play to the gallery are there for all to see. But there is no angst, peaceful marches or even vandalism to show our rejection of petty politics on display. But repeatedly, one hears seasoned journalists, academics and the educated commentators state that not enough consultations with the people have been done and hence the backlash. Really? On a variety of complex social, economic, industrial, military legislations or executive decisions, can we have open consultations with a billion people-largely uninformed due to literacy/education related constraints? No.
Perhaps such senior veterans were too busy in their careers and forgot to mentor and train their subordinates who now occupy decision making positions. You reap as you sow.
The most important lesson is that, when a decision is taken, after consultations with stake holders and the details are not available with the veterans, the best way is to communicate with the current military leadership directly. That would be of immense value than debating with an anchor on a TRP hunt and a panel of bumbling politicians.
Mr K Subramanyam, the doyen of the strategic community till the 1990s and the Chairman of the Kargil Review Committee, once said, “ the politician enjoys power without responsibility. The bureaucrat wields power without accountability and the Military assumes responsibility without direction.”
The recommendations of the Arun Singh committee report were to specifically address this lacuna by integrating the services with the MOD and creating a single point adviser to the RM/PM on matters military through CDS. It took 18 years to begin the process and create structures. We must learn to be patient with this new born set up. The new CDS is likely to assume duty soon. We are moving along the right path.
But India needs major reforms in administration, police and judicial sectors, along with labour, land and agriculture to to take her to the next level of eminence in international politics. There are enough lessons learnt to attempt all of these, if there a will.
Vice Admiral SCS Bangara, PVSM, AVSM (Retd.)
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