Saturday, March 17, 2018

The truth behind the story engulfing Canada's Sikh politicians

March 15th 2018

Sandy Garossino


Top: Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi from World Economic Forum. Top right: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau photo by CP (February 21, 2018). Bottom right: Canadian Press file photo of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. Bottom left: NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

So, the Trudeau India debacle just keeps on spreading, and is now engulfing Jagmeet Singh. This thing isn't over yet. Not by a long shot.

Unexpectedly, Trudeau's India expedition ripped open the wounds caused by the 1985 Air India bombing when it was revealed that Jaspar Atwal, convicted of attempted murder for his role in a 1986 attack on an Indian politician, was photographed with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau at a Canadian government reception in Delhi.

It was all too much for Canadian media and the public. Prior to Trudeau's trip, Indian media had unleashed a blizzard of criticism of the Liberal government, essentially accusing it of complicity in Sikh terrorism. On February 12, Outlook India said of the Trudeau visit: "A new real threat of Khalistani ­terror, fuelled and funded by foreign gurudwaras patronised by liberal white politicians, has revived memories of a blood-drenched era of Punjab’s history."

For a convicted terrorist to be found at a Canadian government reception in India was unthinkable.

Fresh on the heels of that news comes the coverage of Jagmeet Singh's appearances and public statements regarding Khalistan.

Emotionally and intellectually, this sent Canadians and our media reeling. We instantly transported back to exactly where we were when Air India Flight 182 blew out of the sky, killing all 329 aboard.

For Canadians old enough to remember that bombing, with its ghastly media coverage of cold little bodies being scooped from the sea, it's as if we are all trapped in the amber of those days. It turns out, that after all these years, we have not moved on. We won't ever move on. Killers walk our streets, free and fearless. They are unforgiven and unforgivable.

That will never change. It should never change.

For Canada, the Atwal fiasco was so shocking that it eclipsed our own media's ability to see the contemporary international context of these events, and to be more skeptical about why this issue is suddenly front page news.

When the Modi government's friendly media voices cast aspersions against Canadian Liberals and Sikhs, we saw nothing else. We didn't see that he made the same allegations against British Sikhs three years ago. Or that UK national security experts investigated those claims and dismissed them. We didn't see that Sikh violent militancy has not been a major security threat in Canada or India for over 20 years (it exists, but at a low-level). We didn't see that the Indian government, supposedly so fearful of Sikh militants, had zero problem with Atwal.

We certainly didn't see that Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has a clear pattern of violent persecution of minorities, that he himself has been implicated in extremist violence, or that his government routinely accuses its political adversaries of terrorist sympathies as a political ploy. According to the BJP, political foe Sonia Gandhi is responsible for terrorism. Rahul Gandhi sides with terrorists. Muslim Bollywood stars Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are terrorist sympathizers. British Sikhs are terrorists.

We didn't see Modi's game, because we were the pawns.

Perhaps the most striking feature of this controversy is the vast gulf that opened between a largely Caucasian media's perception and that of South Asian journalists who are much more familiar with key Indian subtext. Those voices are routinely, and often very rudely, dismissed and shouted down by reporters in social media.

By and large, the major media reporters who dominate commentary on Sikh issues today are Caucasian veteran journalists who covered Air India. Broadly speaking, they have fixated on whether gurdwaras display pictures of militants. We'll get into that.

Their tunnel vision on posters, Air India and the events as they stood in 1985 has obscured the larger arc of Indian politics that governs current events. If Canadians are to make any sense of what's going on in the Sikh community today, they desperately need the context of India's profoundly altered political reality since its election of a Hindu supremacist in 2014.

No coincidence that sudden inflammatory accusations arrived with the election of Hindu extremist Modi

While older Canadians have not moved on from Air India, the world has. The issues and circumstances of Sikh militance and terrorism, separatism and the more evolved movement for human rights and democratic freedoms in India have fundamentally changed over the last thirty years. It is no coincidence that the suddenly inflammatory accusations and rhetoric arrived with the election of Narendra Modi, an extremist Hindu supremacist.

More on Modi later, but keep this in mind. His own personal extremist background is so serious that he was denied a diplomatic visa by the U.S. government for many years. The ban on his travel to the U.S. was only lifted after he was elected prime minister. Suddenly, the issue of Sikh terrorism, which had been a closed file in India for over twenty years, turns into a major diplomatic feud. And not just in Canada, but the UK too.

I've followed the issue of Sikh extremist violence quite closely for over 30 years. As a young prosecutor, I was working in the Crown office when Air India Flight 182 was bombed. Although I wasn't on assigned team, I was there during its initial investigation. I vividly recall in the 80's when the Crown office was informed of the worst law enforcement bungling in Canadian history: CSIS had erased all the wiretap tapes—all evidence of phone calls and recorded conversations were gone as evidence.

Everyone's blood ran cold that day. In our bones, we knew then how this would all turn out.

I later married into a family of mixed Hindu and Sikh heritage, who immigrated to Canada almost a century ago. We do business with India every day—with people of all religions. We sponsor and host Indian artists, writers and political figures who appear in Vancouver. One of those visitors now serves as India's minister of state for external affairs.

So albeit through a glass darkly, I've learned about the labyrinth of Indian politics only enough to understand this: whatever you think you know about India, you probably don't. Yet getting very basic facts right goes a long way in explaining what's happened here. Media have a responsibility to widen their sources and rely less heavily on individuals with a personal interest in local political entanglements. Repetition of opinion from the same sources is not reporting.

Sikh extremist terrorism, like the IRA and FLQ, burned out decades ago

If you go to the same well every day, you'll get the same water. But not necessarily the facts.
The fact is, despite what most of the media has led Canadians to believe, Canada doesn't have Khalistani terrorists under our beds or in our cabinets.

Overwhelmingly, Sikh activism today centres on justice, human rights, democratic freedoms. There is a something of a trend in some diaspora communities favouring a Sikh homeland, but to be obtained through democratic means. There is no popular support for violent militancy.

This chart, published by the Journal of Punjab Studies at UC Santa Barbara, tells the story. It tracks Sikh insurgency-related fatalities since 1981. Journalists reporting on contemporary Sikh politics should be telling Canadians this one fact: Sikh terrorism ended as a significant threat from this community by 1995. More than 20 years ago.


Chart reproduced from Economics of Civil Conflict: Evidence from the Punjab Insurgency, Journal of Punjab Studies, UC Santa Barbara

This is not the first time that the Modi government falsely raised alarm bells over Sikhs abroad.

In 2015, Modi himself made similar inflammatory claims of dangerous radicalization among British Sikhs. Those allegations were investigated and discredited by the UK Centre for Research on Evidence and Security Threats (CREST). CREST found:

  • "There is no threat to the British state or to the wider British public from Sikh activism... Instances of Sikh on Sikh violence are most often a consequence of a) the contested nature of religious authority within the Sikh tradition, or b) local power politics most often as a consequence of personal and familial disputes."
Modi or his henchmen have similarly accused a host of other real or perceived opponents of terrorism or terrorist sympathies. [More on that later] For starters, Canada has had no repeat incidents remotely resembling the Air India bombing. Indeed, contrary to Western perceptions fanned by Modi, experts widely identify 1983-93 as the period of the violent insurgency, terrorism, and confrontation which took an estimated 20,000 lives. A period which had a well-defined beginning and end.

What you need to know is that Sikhs comprise just a sliver of a minority in Hindu-dominated India today—only 1.7 per cent out of a population of 1.3 billion. There are more Christians than Sikhs in the country, which is 80 per cent Hindu and 14 per cent Muslim. Sikh extremist violence was not a long-established pattern. It emerged quite suddenly in the 1980s in response to specific events in India. It caught fire in 1984 then was resolved as a significant public safety threat by 1993, over twenty years ago.

Just as many Québécois hold fast to the dream of an independent Quebec and always will, so do many Sikhs. It is especially common for millennials in the diaspora to dream of a homeland to call their own.

Yet on the ground in India itself, it is settled public opinion that Sikh separatism is finished as a serious political project. The great majority of Sikhs there are reconciled to a future within India. The Indian Sikh public today is far more occupied with economic prosperity, education for their kids, human rights and democratic freedoms than with violence or an independent state.

The practical challenges of separatism simply proved too daunting an aspiration to sustain.

Google can tell you why Khalistani separatism died

Five minutes on Google will tell you why the separatist movement died in India.

The tiny landlocked Indian Punjab state, roughly the size of Maryland, resides in a dangerous neighbourhood, packed between two nuclear-armed mortal enemies: India and Pakistan. India's tiny Sikh population is overwhelmingly concentrated in Punjab, but their majority there is much too small to achieve independence. Sikhs form only 58 per cent of the region's 28 million inhabitants, and are surrounded by an Indian subcontinent of 1.5 billion Hindus and Muslims. By comparison, francophones in Quebec number almost 80 per cent of that province.

In this globalized world, Khalistan wouldn’t last long enough for the ink to dry on its declaration of independence. Years of violence and political instability have exacted a heavy toll, and Punjabis know every rupee and drop of blood. They watched their economy and civil society crumble during the insurgency, and have no desire for a sequel. While separatist impulses and even radicalization persists in some circles, the pro-Khalistani movement today has evolved primarily into a human rights movement, pressed internationally by centrist and left-wing activists in the diaspora. Human rights activists are very inconvenient to authoritarian governments. Discrediting them as terrorists or terrorist sympathisers is right out of the tyrant's playbook.

Those who aspire to independence are not terrorists, nor are they even extremists. So long as they are peaceful, they are as free in Canada as anyone to support a religious homeland for their community, whether India likes it or not.

All of this is what Sikhs and others tried vainly to tell Canadians over the din of bombast by a media that has seems to have closed its ears to evidence. There could hardly be a better argument for an Inclusion Rider in media and journalism than the chasm between veteran Caucasian journalists with large media platforms and younger journalists of colour who are generally published in smaller outlets. Excellent analysis has come from many, notably Supriya Dwivedi of Global News, the UK writer, Sunny Hundal, writing in iPolitics, and Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver's Georgia Straight.

Media has a special duty of care respecting claims that visible minority groups are a threat

There's a very painful human cost to getting a story like this so wrong. It tears at Canada's social fabric when a community of colour is singled out for harbouring or excusing terrorists. Fear is an extremely effective means of isolating and excluding minorities.

We do not need to fear our Sikh neighbours. If anything, we should hear them out, because their story matters.

While risk of radicalization is a persistent and legitimate concern to authorities, it's important to keep the perception of danger in perspective. Minority populations that are perceived as dangerous to the public are particularly vulnerable to attack and abuse. Canada saw ample evidence of this during the 2015 election, which inexplicably featured the niqab (a face veil) as a major campaign issue. Violence against Muslim women wearing the niqab, or even the hijab (headscarf) spiked sharply over that period.

That's why it's so important for Canadians to understand that in historical context, the era of Khalistani terrorism flared white hot for a decade, then ended almost as suddenly as it had emerged. Pro-Khalistani terrorism is not now and has not been a major public safety threat in Canada, the UK or India for over 20 years.

As I stated previously, to know why this issue has suddenly burst onto the scene, it's important to understand Modi.

Modi, Hindu nationalism, and exploiting Sikh politics

There is no understanding the undercurrents of this issue without understanding the rise of Narendra Modi, who was considered in diplomatic circles to be a controversial and dangerous figure. Modi rose to power advocating an overtly hard-line right-wing Hindutva doctrine of Hindu racial purity and supremacy. Its closest parallel in the West is unvarnished, state-sanctioned white supremacy.

Press intimidation is central to the Modi governing style. All India was shocked by the murder of journalist and well-known Modi critic, Gauri Lankesh, shot in the head on her doorstep in prosperous middle class Bangalore. Lankesh was but one murder among many that prompted the International Federation of Journalists to place India high on its list of most dangerous countries for journalists. An editorial in the South China Morning Post describes India's situation as the "murder of journalism" itself.

In I Am A Troll, a 2016 book, former BJP party IT volunteer Sadhavi Khosla outlines explosive allegations that she was part of orchestrated online campaigns of hatred, intimidation and harassment against perceived government critics.

“It was a never-ending drip feed of hate and bigotry against the minorities, the Gandhi family, journalists on the hit list, liberals, anyone perceived as anti-Modi,” said Khosla in the book. It was even claimed that in 2015 the troll team targeted a corporate sponsorship of Bollywood star Aamir Khan, who had expressed concern over rising intolerance under Modi. After sustaining a blizzard of BJP-organized troll attacks, Khan's sponsor dropped his contract. The BJP denies Khosla's allegations.

Sound familiar?

Modi's rule today is marked by the rise of Hindu mob violence against Muslims and minorities. Mob lynchings, especially of Muslims, have suddenly exploded in India, with little international attention.

All of the signs have been present from early days of Modi's ascent. On his path to power in the 2014 general election, Modi’s greatest obstacle was his own record as chief minister of the Gujarat state government during communal mob violence that killed thousands—primarily Muslims. Credible accounts raised questions about whether Modi tacitly condoned the murderous swarms, or maybe far worse. These accounts, taken very seriously in diplomatic circles, led to the suspension of his US visa.


Cars set on fire in Ahmedabad, India, on February 28, 2002, during a riot in Gujarat state. Photo by AP.

In a classic act of political genius, Modi shielded himself from controversy by accusing his opponent, Rahul Gandhi, of the same thing. In a pure, Donald Trump-style, Crooked Hillary manoeuvre, Modi distracted from his own record in the anti-Muslim killings by attacking Gandhi for his party’s complicity in the anti-Sikh massacre of 1984. "You're the puppet," he would say. It was brilliant. It was cold-blooded, exploitive. It worked.

It worked because Modi trapped Rahul Gandhi, grandson of Indira Gandhi, in the web of history and the events that destabilized India, plunged Punjab into chaos, and blew a planeload of Canadians out of the sky off the coast of Ireland. It was exploitive because Modi doesn't have the slightest intention of making Hindus pay for their slaughter of Sikhs.


The prologue and clues for Canada's Indian misadventure lie in Modi's ascent on the backs of Sikhs.There's no untangling that diplomatic debacle without understanding 1984, the year that galvanized the pro-Khalistani rebellion virtually overnight. India in the early eighties saw the emergence of a ruthless and charismatic Sikh nationalist, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Then-prime minister Indira Gandhi had once cultivated the religious zealot for her own political purposes. Now Bhindranwale directly challenged her authority by violently seizing and occupying Sikhism's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

In June 1984, Gandhi resolved to flush him out and imprison him. She authorized Operation Bluestar, the Indian army's brutal assault on the temple. It was a military, strategic, and political disaster of historic proportions. Operation Bluestar, headed by Sikh members of the Indian army, not only killed Bhindranwale and hundreds of his followers, it also killed hundreds of innocent religious pilgrims. It would be as if the government authorized a massacre of priests and visitors in the Vatican.

The Golden Temple assault electrified the entire Sikh faith. By slaughtering innocents along with Bhindranwale, Gandhi legitimized his cause and gave a face to Sikh religious persecution.

Bhindranwale's transformation from ruthless thug to religious icon and the face of Sikh religious persecution was complete. He became Sikhism's own Che Guevara. That is his power and symbolism within the Sikh communities. He is venerated today not because of his violent thuggery, but because he represents resistance to oppression and persecution.

Within days of Operation Bluestar, Sikh soldiers mutinied en masse from the Indian army in at least seven states. Gandhi paid with her own life, assassinated on October 31 by her own Sikh bodyguards. The next day and for days after Gandhi's death, India erupted in an orgy of murderous retribution by Hindus against Sikhs, carried out mainly in the government’s seat in Delhi. While police looked the other way, mobs of Hindu killers hunted Sikhs down in the streets. Thousands were hacked to death or doused in kerosene and burnt alive, while unspeakable atrocities were committed against women and children.

It was a massacre, known euphemistically today as the "1984 riots."

Gandhi’s own Congress Party voter lists and government school registration forms were used to pinpoint and mark Sikh homes and businesses for targeted attacks. Congress party government leaders and officials, particularly two high-profile public figures who went on to successful political careers, were directly implicated in planning and organizing the onslaught.

Counts of the dead run from 2,000 to 8,000 or even higher. Many non-Sikhs were cut down as they tried to intervene or offer sanctuary to their friends and neighbours.

At a rare sentencing of low-level attackers in 2009, the presiding judge ruled: “Though we boast of being the world's largest democracy and the Delhi being its national capital, the sheer mention of the incidents of 1984 anti-Sikh riots in general and the role played by Delhi Police and State machinery in particular makes our heads hang in shame in the eyes of the world...”

To this day, none of the state-level organizers have been convicted.

The bombing of Air India in June, 1985, falling close to the one year anniversary of Operation Bluestar, was a bloody answer to the slaughter that preceded it. All the killers on both sides now walk their home streets free and fearless, a repugnant affront to justice and their many victims.
Violence begets violence begets violence. The militant Khalistani insurgency lasted another eight years, eventually collapsing under its own weight. Ultimately, it was crushed from outside and de-legitimized from within by its indiscriminate violence and criminality.

Murders, rapes, kidnappings, extortion and common corruption by both insurgents and authorities were rampant. No one could be trusted. The whole thing was a tryst with disaster that nobody wants repeated.

2014 election: "Lock them up!"

Yet Modi found 1984 to be fertile ground in the national election of 2014. Promising Sikhs justice and retribution for 1984, Modi consolidated the BJP alliance with Punjab’s powerful pro-Sikh party, the SAD. Having reopened the wounds of 1984 for political gain, Modi now faces a growing chorus of calls, domestically and internationally, to follow through. High profile demands have come for the 1984 riots to be recognized as genocide, and for perpetrators to be punished. TIME magazine called for this recognition, as did the Hindustantimes editorial board and so did Modi's own Home Minister.

So did Modi's powerful Sikh political ally, the SAD.

But having opportunistically opened the Pandora's Box of Sikh grievances for political gain, the Modi government is now openly hostile to calls for justice. To date the condemnation that has provoked the strongest and most emotional response from India's leadership is Canadian criticism. An April 2017 motion by the Ontario legislature condemning "the Genocide" of 1984 came as a stunning diplomatic rebuke to India. As if its own cabinet ministers, allies, judiciary and major media had not themselves condemned the events in 1984 in exactly the terms of the Ontario government, the Indian government expressed shock and disbelief: “We reject this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process,” the external affairs department told the Hindustan Times.

Notwithstanding that this was an Ontario legislature motion, the Hindustan Times also reported that an unnamed Indian official blamed Trudeau. "A senior Indian official said this matter could have a negative impact on bilateral ties. Frustrated over the lack of action by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s lieutenants, an official said, “If they can’t manage their own party…they have to own the responsibility."

Well, whaddyaknow?

Diplomatic trouble from UK and Canada

Meanwhile, Sikh dissidents and activists in the UK have also upped the diplomatic pressure on India by refusing the use of gurdwaras by Indian diplomats over the 1984 issue. British PM Theresa May was drawn into the fracas over allegations of torture by India over its detention without charge of the British national, Jaggi Johal, currently held on suspicion of murder. The hard line Modi, who has no love for justice-seeking liberal Sikh dissidents, was already feeling pressure ahead of Trudeau's visit.

Now critics are attacking Modi's Sikh political allies as dupes for lending their support to a leader who unapologetically espouses the very Hindu supremacy that produced the bloodbath of 1984 in the first place. The last thing Modi and his Sikh allies needed was for a charismatic and photogenic Canadian prime minister to bring his entourage to the Golden Temple.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India on February. 21, 2018. Photo by the Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick

So perhaps it wasn't at all surprising when Indian media took up the charge that Canada nurtures terrorists. The surprise is that, instead of demanding substantiation of such a shocking allegation, Canadian media widely repeated and amplified it.

In India, the retired Canadian terrorist Atwal can come and go at will. Muslims are lynched in the streets. Critics are targeted by online mobs hired by their own government's party. Journalists are murdered, or shot and left for dead. Minority film stars are targeted and attacked. Political opponents are accused of terrorism.

Why should anyone be surprised that popular Sikh politicians from Canada get the same treatment?

Yet only someone with virtually no literacy in current Indian politics could suspect Canadian Sikh politicians like the NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Defence Minister Harjeet Sajjan of extremism. They are from different parties and hail from different parts of the country. Of the two, Singh is probably more supportive of an independent Sikh homeland, but this is decidedly not militant or extremist.

Yet they share one characteristic that's anathema to Modi and conservatives alike: they are progressive liberals.

Singh, like many other liberal and left-wing musicians, artists, scholars and intellectuals, is a challenge to Hindu supremacy. His public statements on 1984 fundamentally aligned with those of Modi’s mainstream political allies in Chandigarh and Delhi. For his part, Harjit Sajjan has made no public statements whatsoever supporting Sikh independence. He had a distinguished career as both a Vancouver police detective and decorated Canadian combat veteran.

It's an absurd fiction that Modi fears violence from Sajjan or Singh.

India, like every other country, is a mystery that never makes complete sense. As Churchill astutely observed of Russia, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key." In India, that key is stamped with a question: Cui bono—who benefits?

Turn that key, and solve the riddle.

Sources: nationalobserver


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Andhra Special Status Row: What Are the Demands and Why Are They Being Turned Down

With the Centre and state government sparring over the terms under which the bifurcation took place, a Joint Fact Finding Committee (JFC) was formed last month to clear the air. The panel said that the Centre should compensate the Andhra government for a revenue loss of Rs 74,542 crore that was caused due to the bifurcation.

Sakshi Khanna | CNN-News18Updated:March 9, 2018, 5:31 PM IST


File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N Chandrababu Naidu. (PTI Photo)

Hyderabad: After weeks of tense moments, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu finally withdrew his ministers form the Narendra Modi government on Thursday, saying the Centre has failed to respect the sentiments of the people of Andhra Pradesh by not granting the Special Category Status.

With the Centre and state government sparring over the terms under which the bifurcation took place, a Joint Fact Finding Committee (JFC) was formed last month to clear the air. The 20-member team constituted Jana Sena President Pawan Kalyan, intellectuals, experts like Jayaprakash Narayan, K Padmanabhaiah, IYR Krishna Rao and others.

The committee, after extensive research, arrived at the conclusion that Andhra Pradesh deserved the Special Category Status, apart from what it has been promised in the AP Reorganization Act.

The panel recommended Special Railway Zone in Vizag, alternative port in Dugarajapatnam Port, Kadapa Steel Plant, special finance assistance to backward regions of Rayalaseema, Uttar Andhra and national-level institutions that were promised.

The JFC also said that the central government should compensate the Andhra government for a revenue loss of Rs 74,542 crore, caused due to the 2014 bifurcation.

Echoing Chandrababu Naidu's claim, the independent committee also questioned the fact that 11 other states are still enjoying the Special Category Status while the Centre has repeatedly said that such a category does not exist anymore.

Contrary to what Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday, the committee also concluded that there was no recommendation in the 14th Finance Commission report that the Special Category Status for states should be abolished — the ground on which the Centre has denied Andhra Pradesh the special category status.

According to JFFC’s report, “The Finance Commission had merely stated that: ‘We did not make a distinction between special and general category states in determining our norms and recommendations. In our assessment of state resources, we have taken into account the disabilities arising from constraints unique to each state to arrive at the expenditure requirements’, which was purely a procedural matter in arriving at the expenditure requirements of the states.”

The panel also expressed shock at the second reason cited by the Union government to deny Andhra Pradesh the Special Category Status. They said that the government thinktank NITI Aayog’s decision to do away with the category. They questioned how a non-statutory body can overrule a Cabinet decision.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had not only given assurance on the floor of the Rajya Sabha on February 20, 2014 that Andhra Pradesh would be given the Special Category Status, but a subsequent Cabinet decision was also taken to bestow the status on Andhra Pradesh.


The Andhra Pradesh government had agreed to the suggestion of a “special package” of assistance that was made by the Union Finance Minister on September 8, 2016. The two governments mutually agreed on a financial aid of Rs 16,447 crores, in respect of the centrally sponsored schemes component alone. This balance amount yet to be paid in this category is a matter that the state is yet to resolve with the government of India.

The Accountant General also worked out an amount of Rs 16,078.76 crore as revenue deficit for 2014-15, which included agricultural redemption of Rs 3,068 crore, financial assistance to Rythu Sadhikarika Samstha of Rs 4,000 crore, financial assistance to Discoms of Rs 1,500 crore and old age pensions of Rs 3,391 crore.

However, the Government of India disallowed the four categories on the grounds that they are new schemes and would substantially increase the expenditure. The Centre has arrived at a net deficit of Rs 4,117.89 crore (Rs 16,078.76 minus Rs 11,960.87) and of this, it has already released Rs 3,979.50 crore and promised to release the remaining Rs 138.39 crore.

The JFC, on the other hand, has recommended that the financial assistance to Discoms, old age pensions and PRC arrears are legitimate revenue expenditures and should be met by Union government.

According to its report, Andhra Pradesh is bound to suffer revenue deficit at least for another 5 years and it is the only state (other than the Special Category Status states), which is saddled with a revenue deficit every year from 2015 to 2020. Almost 95% of the assets of the united Andhra Pradesh have gone to Telangana after the bifurcation as they were located in Hyderabad, rendering Andhra Pradesh a non-viable state.

Of the 11 institutions that were promised, 9 have so far been sanctioned by the central government, while two other institutions, central universities at Anantapur and a tribal university at Vizianagaram, are yet to be sanctioned. The approximate cost to be borne by the Government of India for all of these projects is estimated at Rs 11,672.95 crore.

Total funds released by the Government of India till now is Rs 576 crore with an additional provision of Rs 277 crore made in the 2018-19 Budget.

In case of the Kakinada Petrochemical Complex — a PPP model project — the estimated cost is Rs 32,900 crore. While the state government had requested the Centre to meet the viability gap of Rs 5,000 crore, there has been no response from them.

Similarly, the matter of the Special Railway Zone for Andhra Pradesh is also pending with the Government of India.

Again, according to the AP Reorganization Act 2014, the tax arrears are to be collected at the place of assessment and liabilities have to be divided in a 58:42 ration with Telangana. This, too, has resulted in a loss to the Andhra Pradesh government, as most of the company headquarters in Hyderabad went to Telangana, where they pay the taxes. The losses are quantified at Rs 3,820.36 crores, which the Centre should compensate.


On the other hand, the benefits that the Special Category Status would bring to Andhra, include: Funding of Centre-sponsored schemes in a 90:10 basis; funding of EAP scheme on a 90:10 ratio; fiscal incentives like concession in excise duty up to 10 years; 100% income tax exemption for 10 years; 15-30% capital subsidy on plant and machinery; rebate on insurance premium on capital investment; interest subsidy on working capital loans and transport/freight subsidy; infrastructure support like growth centres scheme, integrated infrastructure development centres, integrated textile parks and mega food parks.

Source: news18


Friday, March 09, 2018

When will there be a film on Winston Churchill, the barbaric monster with the blood of millions on his hands?

Opinion - Star Columnists

Imperialistic pop culture has enshrined Churchill only as a military great, a fun drunk, a loyal monarchist with a penchant for fine speech and a flair for loquacious prose. But the British PM lacerated the world with tragedies, profiting from plunders and mass murders, writes Shree Paradkar.


Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. In his Oscar acceptance speech for playing the role, Oldman said, “I would just like to salute Sir Winston Churchill.” He might as well have danced on 3 million dead bodies, writes Shree Paradkar.   (Jack English / Focus Features)

By Shree Paradkar Race & Gender Columnist

Fri., March 9, 2018

By the time I came across the ledger at the Bangalore Club with Winston Churchill’s name on it in the late 1990s, British rule in India had been sanitized; airbrushed to present a picture of overall benevolence with a few violent splotches.

The entry in the ledger is dated June 1, 1899 and names one Lt W.L.S. Churchill as one of 17 bill defaulters. He owes the club 13 rupees from a time when a whisky cost less than half a rupee.

Had we then heard that Churchill once described our beloved city as a “third rate watering place … without society or good sport,” we would have probably laughed it off as the irascibility ever only indulged in the great. Jolly good, old chap.

Colonialism of the mind lingers long after the land is free.

And if we had heard that he once said, “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion,” meh. He was dead. We were thriving.

There are flawed heroes. Lincoln, MLK and Gandhi to name a few — men who inflicted injustices on individuals.

Then there are monsters.

Powerful men who lacerate the world with tragedies. Adolf Hitler, certainly, but his nemesis Churchill, too.

It was only in 2014 that I first got a glimpse of genocidal mania in the man so lionized for leading his nation through its finest hour.

It was a piece titled Remembering India’s forgotten holocaust, in Tehelka magazine that detailed the ghastly origins of the Bengal famine of 1943 that killed an estimated 3 million people in one year.

Historians have easily traced it back to Churchill who had diverted the bountiful harvest from Bengal to Britain and other parts of Europe. When the locals began starving, he steadfastly refused to send them food. He said no to rerouting food that was being shipped from Australia to the Middle East via India. No to the 10,000 tons of rice Canada offered to send to India, no to the 100,000 tons of rice America offered. The famine was the Indians’ fault, he told a war-cabinet meeting, “for breeding like rabbits.”

In his Revisionist History podcast, Malcolm Gladwell delves into how the historian Madhusree Mukerjee, author of Churchill’s Secret War, dug into Britain’s shipping archives to uncover evidence that Britain had so much food at the time that the U.S. had become suspicious they were stockpiling it to sell it after the war.

In India, she wrote, “parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains.” Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers were fighting alongside the Allied forces.

Yet, what did the actor Gary Oldman who portrayed Churchill in Darkest Hour say last Sunday when he received an Oscar for Best Actor? “I would just like to salute Sir Winston Churchill who has been marvellous company on what can be described as an incredible journey.”

Salute. Sir. Marvellous. Incredible.

Oldman might as well have danced on 3 million dead bodies, many of whom were too weak to cremate or bury their loved ones.

Such tributes for a heinous white supremacist who once declared that “Aryan tribes were bound to triumph.”

Words as hollow as the tunnel-visioned ideals on which people fashion this man, but they can’t stem the drip of blood from his hands.

They can’t hide tens of thousands of Kenyans who were rounded up in concentration camps called “Britain’s Gulags” under his orders, where thousands were tortured and killed for rebelling against British rule.

They can’t hide the bodies of the Greek civilians who were celebrating German withdrawal in 1944, but were killed by the British army because Churchill thought the communist influence on the Nazi resisters — who had allied with Britain — was too strong. And we haven’t even got into his treatment of Iraqis or the wiping out of entire Indigenous populations of Tasmania.

Churchill was not the first Western leader to profit from plunders and mass murders. Remember John A. Macdonald? But imperialistic popular culture continues to enshrine him, despite the Gallipoli disaster, only as a military great, a fun drunk, a loyal monarch with a penchant for fine speech and a flair for loquacious prose.

Churchill tried to manipulate history with the six volumes of his memoirs. Indeed he succeeded so well that even today the Bangalore Club thumps its chest about his membership there. “Many a past great … including Sir Winston Churchill” have been members, says its website.

This compounds the tragedy. Erasing his crimes pronounces his victims worthless, deems their lives undeserving of acknowledgement, and leaves their deaths but a footnote in history.

On Twitter @shreeparadkar

Source: thestar

Additional Read:

Remembering India’sforgotten holocaust

British policies killed nearly 4 million Indians in the 1943-44 Bengal Famine

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

A man, an ideology: The importance of EV Ramasamy Periyar

The universal condemnation of BJP leader H Raja’s remarks underlines the enduring iconic status of E V Ramasamy Periyar in Tamil Nadu and beyond. Why is an iconoclast, rationalist social reformer who died 45 years ago still so dear to so many people?

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Updated: March 8, 2018 1:09 am


Periyar is seen as an icon of OBC political assertion. Any attempt to deride him will be seen as an attempt to undermine the gains made by OBCs even beyond Tamil Nadu. (Illustration: Shaym)

To those looking for “Hindu” symbols of religiosity, Tamil Nadu would appear to be deeply religious: people wear vibhuti or kumkum on foreheads, deities and temples are everywhere from street corners to government offices, vehicles are decorated with colourful gods and offerings, even the lives of the minority communities are splattered with the colours of religious ritual. Why is an iconoclast, rationalist social reformer who died 45 years ago so dear to the people of such a state?

E V Ramasamy ‘Periyar’

Born in 1879, Periyar is remembered for the Self Respect Movement to redeem the identity and self-respect of Tamils. He envisaged a Dravida homeland of Dravida Nadu, and launched a political party, Dravidar Kazhagam (DK).

Periyar started his political career as a Congress worker in his hometown Erode. He quarrelled with Gandhi over the question of separate dining for Brahmin and non-Brahmin students at Gurukkulam, a Congress-sponsored school owned by nationalist leader V V S Iyer in Cheranmahadevi near Tirunelveli. At the request of parents, Iyer had provided separate dining for Brahmin students, which Periyar opposed. Gandhi proposed a compromise, arguing that while it may not be a sin for a person not to dine with another, he would rather respect their scruples. After failing to bend the Congress to his view, Periyar resigned from the party in 1925, and associated himself with the Justice Party and the Self Respect Movement, which opposed the dominance of Brahmins in social life, especially the bureaucracy. The Justice Party had a decade earlier advocated reservation for non-Brahmins in the bureaucracy and, after coming to power in the Madras Presidency, issued an order to implement it.

Periyar’s fame spread beyond the Tamil region during the Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924, a mass movement to demand that lower caste persons be given the right to use a public path in front of the famous Vaikom temple. Periyar took part in the agitation with his wife, and was arrested twice. He would later be referred to as Vaikom Veerar (Hero of Vaikom).

During the 1920s and 30s, Periyar combined social and political reform, and challenged the conservatism of the Congress and the mainstream national movement in the Tamil region. He reconstructed the Tamil identity as an egalitarian ideal that was originally unpolluted by the caste system, and counterposed it against the Indian identity championed by the Congress. He argued that caste was imported to the Tamil region by Aryan Brahmins, who spoke Sanskrit and came from Northern India. In the 1930s, when the Congress ministry imposed Hindi, he drew a parallel with the Aryanisation process, and claimed it was an attack on Tamil identity and self-respect. Under him, the Dravidian Movement became a struggle against caste and an assertion of Tamil national identity.

In the 1940s, Periyar launched Dravidar Kazhagam, which espoused an independent Dravida Nadu comprising Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada speakers. The Dravidian linguistic family was the foundation on which he based his idea of a Dravida national identity. These ideas had a seminal influence on the shaping of the political identity and culture of the Tamil speaking areas of Madras Presidency, and continue to resonate in present-day Tamil Nadu.

Periyar died in 1973 at the age of 94.

His work and his legacy

For the average Tamil, Periyar today is an ideology. He stands for a politics that foregrounded social equality, self-respect, and linguistic pride. As a social reformer, he focused on social, cultural and gender inequalities, and his reform agenda questioned matters of faith, gender and tradition. He asked people to be rational in their life choices. He argued that women needed to be independent, not mere child-bearers, and insisted that they be allowed a equal share in employment. The Self Respect Movement he led promoted weddings without rituals, and sanctioned property as well as divorce rights for women. He appealed to people to give up the caste suffix in their names, and to not mention caste. He instituted inter-dining with food cooked by Dalits in public conferences in the 1930s.

Over the years, Periyar has transcended the political divide as well as the faultlines of religion and caste, and come to be revered as Thanthai Periyar, the father figure of modern Tamil Nadu.

C N Annadurai, who was Periyar’s dearest pupil at one time, broke with him, split the DK, and formed the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1949. Anna, a man of the masses, recognised the value of electoral democracy and accepted that Tamil separatism had no future. He used the new medium of cinema to spread the ideals of the Dravidian Movement and established himself as the successor to Periyar. In 1967, the DMK won office in Tamil Nadu. Since then, Tamil Nadu has been ruled by parties who trace their origin to the Dravidian Movement and swear by its ideals. They may have diluted Periyar’s ideals in office, but both the DMK and the AIADMK proudly claim to be inheritors of Periyar’s social and political vision.

If Periyar was an iconoclast, Anna was a moderate reformist. On the pedestal of one of Periyar’s many statues in Tamil Nadu is the inscription: “There is no god, and no god at all. He who created god was a fool, he who propagates god is a scoundrel and he who worships god is a barbarian.” His successors moderated this radicalism — R Kannan recounts in Anna: The Life and Times of C N Annadurai, that Anna, who under the influence of his atheist mentor once broke Ganesha figures, would later say, “I would neither break the Ganesha idol nor the coconut (the offering).”

During the Emergency, a petition against “offensive” inscriptions on the pedestals of Periyar’s statues came before the Madras High Court. The court dismissed the petition, saying Periyar believed in what he said, and there was nothing wrong in having his words as inscriptions on his statues. In a judgment passed in another case on June 2012, retired Madras High Court Justice K Chandru said: “The installation of the Periyar statue in the school premises will not automatically covert the children into an atheist outlook… Ultimately the understanding of the philosophy of such a personality will only help them from having scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform as enshrined under Article 51-A(h) of the Constitution.”

Fallout of the attack on Periyar

The universal condemnation of BJP leader H Raja’s social media remarks — he has since removed the post and apologised — underlines the iconic status Periyar enjoys in Tamil Nadu. DK now has limited political influence in Tamil Nadu, but Periyar has grown beyond the DK and even Tamil Nadu. While caste discrimination continues to be prevalent in the state, every political party pays at least lip service to Periyar’s ideals of social and political justice.

In a way, Raja was right to compare Lenin and Periyar — Periyar is to the Dravidian Movement as Lenin is to Communism. Raja’s rejection of Periyar was construed as a rejection of his ideals. The BJP, which is trying to wear down the image of a Hindi-Hindutva outfit in Tamil Nadu, could find it difficult to live down Raja’s comments.

Periyar is seen as an icon of OBC political assertion. Any attempt to deride him will be seen as an attempt to undermine the gains made by OBCs even beyond Tamil Nadu.

Source: indianexpress

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

We’re not all Hindus, but we’re all Indians

So, if today we’re Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, animists or atheists then that’s precisely what we are and its fatuous, mistaken and even offensive to insist that, actually, we’re Hindu because that is the ancient link that once connected us. It’s not.

Updated: Mar 04, 2018 10:47 IST

Karan Thapar


Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat (PTI)

The argument that we’re all Hindus because, once upon a time, Hinduism was the original and only religion of the subcontinent doesn’t cut much ice with me. Because if you really want to dig back in time and find a common feature that unites all of us, the truth is before everything else we were all monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans or whatever Charles Darwin would have had us to be. In fact, push back further and, no doubt, we all started off as protozoa. Indeed, even further back and we all emerged from the same big bang. But so what?

What matters is not how or where we originated but what we have become, what we believe ourselves to be and what we hold dear as our identity. This is, after all, how we describe ourselves. Indeed, it could even be the centre point of our curriculum vitae.

So, if today we’re Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, animists or atheists then that’s precisely what we are and it’s fatuous, mistaken and even offensive to insist that, actually, we’re Hindu because that is the ancient link that once connected us. It’s not. As I have just pointed, out the anthropological bond goes far further back and way beyond religion or, possibly, even human existence.

Which brings me to the Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. I’m not sure he is aware how hurtful is his claim that all Indians are Hindus. Even if he hasn’t realised it, this assertion refutes and denies the individuality of those who think and feel differently. For them it’s more than a snub. It’s an insult.

Consider carefully what he said last Sunday in Meerut. First: “Every Hindu is my brother.” But what about those Indians who are not Hindus? Does brotherhood for the Sarsanghchalak stop at the borders of religion? What, then, are the rest? Not enemies, I hope.

Next: “In India, one may follow a different eating habit, way of worshipping gods, philosophy, language and culture. But all are Hindus.” And then he added: “There are many who are Hindus but they are not aware of it.” This is particularly offensive for it suggests that those who identify as non-Hindus are, in fact, Hindus whether they like it or not. It’s a case of force majeure. Second, if they think carefully they’ll realise the Sarsanghchalak is right and they’re wrong. Which, of course, denies them the right to think and decide for themselves.

However, it’s the last bit of the Sarsanghchalak’s statement that’s particularly disturbing because he has the gall to narrowly define who is or isn’t a Hindu. “Only those who consider Bharatmata his own mother are true Hindus.” Now, I consider India my motherland but not my mother. No one is going to replace mummy. So where does that leave me? Am I not a true Hindu? Frankly, if the Sarsanghchalak is, so am I!

Perhaps the Sarsanghchalak doesn’t realise there’s a difference between mother and motherland? The former implies an inseparable and undeniable biological connection. The latter is simply your native country. Of course, feelings of patriotism bind you to it, but love of mummy is an altogether different thing.

Finally, Indian Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, animists or atheists look upon this land as their mother country. Yet they’re not Hindus and they don’t need to be. But they are Indian and that’s all that matters. If only the Sarsangchalak could appreciate that.

The views expressed are personal

Source: hindustantimes

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