Saffron Dollar January 2004
Campaign To Stop Funding Hate
January 20, 2004
Wish you all a Happy New Year. In the first issue of Saffron Dollar this year,
we highlight the chilling hate campaigns unleashed against three writers
--Salman Rushdie, James Laine and Paul Courtwright-- by different religion-based
militant organizations, examine the contexts in which recent communal
disturbances in the old city of Hyderabad occurred and also share information
about a new documentary on the Gujarat carnage, "Final Solution" by
Rakesh Sharma. We have received some helpful suggestions concerning the size
this newsletter. We will do our best to make it as concise as possible, a
daunting task given the pace and extent of unfolding events. We will also make
Saffron Dollar available on our website soon for your convenience. Thanks for
your valuable feedback; we encourage you to write to us at
firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts and concerns about the issues
raised in this issue of the newsletter.
1) A Season of Hate Against Authors and Books
2) Communal Violence in Hyderabad
3) Film Announcement-- 'Final Solution' by Rakesh Kumar
A SEASON OF HATE AGAINST AUTHORS AND BOOKS
Salman Rushdie was driven out of Bombay on Jan 13 2004 after three days of
controversy when a group of Muslim organizations -- including the All India
Sunni Jamiatul Ulema, the Raza Academy, the Anjuman Barkaate Raza, the Tanzeem
Aimmae Masjid amongst others-- announced a reward of a lakh rupees for anybody
who would blacken the Indian-born British author’s face. Simultaneously,
organizations staged a protest at the Azad Maidan in South Bombay to bring
their deep hated for Rushdie for the supposedly blasphemous narrative of his "
Satanic Verses." An organizer of the anti-Rushdie campaign said that "[t]he
writer is a 'white collared terrorist' " and the government should “respect
feelings by sending him out of the country".
A mirror image of the anti-Rushdie campaign unfolded in the United States,
the Hindu Students Council (HSC), the student wing of the VHP of America,
targeted Professor Paul Courtright of Emory University for his book "Ganesa:
Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings." The Hindu Student Council of the
University of Louisana in Lafayette started a petition demanding that the
publisher (Motilal Banarsidass) withdraw the book and that Courtright stop
the book in his teaching. Writing in support of the petition one respondent
opined that Courtright must be "tortured alive until he turns to ash,” while
another suggested that all copies of the book must be thrown "in the ocean
with the author, or that the author be hung in front of the White House.
Hindutva's campaign against Courtright is prompted by allegedly "insensitive"
depictions of Ganesha. In a pyschoanalytic reading of the god that uses the
Oeidepal myth as a frame, Ganesha's trunk and the Shiv linga are posed as
the limp and erect phallus respectively in the book.
It is indeed unfortunate that the god so commonly associated with the arts
creative spirit is himself being used to stifle thought. Indian mythology
abounds with numerous images of Ganesha -- as the remover of obstacles and
genius behind art, as the eternally playful and the cleverest of all gods.
can only wonder as to how the god himself feels about this controversy -- maybe
he would, given his wit, creative energies and outright irreverence to
authority, have enjoyed the interpretation! Meanwhile, the publisher, Motilal
Banarsidass, has withdrawn the book from the Indian market.
The Hindutva brigade had further success in their hate- books-and-scholarship
campaign. The Shiv Sena forced another book out of the Indian market when Jim
Laine's book "Shivaji: A Hindu King in Islamic India" was withdrawn
University Press following backroom negotiations with Shiv Sena leader Bal
Thackeray. Two weeks later, a mob of 150 under the banner of the Shambaji
Brigade of the Maratha Seva Samiti, ransacked and destroyed countless ancient
manuscripts and writings at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI).
Earlier on, on December 22, Sena activists in Pune had "blackened" the
Shrikant Bahulkar, a scholar associated with BORI and acknowledged by Laine
his book. The book is deemed controversial by the Sena and the Brigade because
it allegedly casts aspersions on Shivaji's parentage. While it is true that
Shambaji Brigade does operate independent of the Sena and other Hindutva forces,
the issue is the same whether it is the Sena's thuggery against OUP or the
Brigade’s destruction of the BORI -- that open scholarship has become
more difficult under the fascist environment that now pervades India. What
more, the Maharashtra government has banned the book and the State police have
lodged a case against Laine and OUP! Lets face it -- the fascists have won
COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN HYDERABAD:
After several years of relative communal peace, the southern city of Hyderabad
saw a spate of communal violence over the last two months. CSFH members
visiting Hyderabad spoke extensively with various activists who were on the
when trouble erupted and filed this report.
Three separate incidents of communal violence rocked the city of Hyderabad
the last several weeks -- the first in November during the month of Ramzan,
the remaining two incidents in early December. Of these, the last event --
December 6th and 7th was the most serious simply in terms of the number innocent
lives that were lost. In November, a land dispute in the Karvan area of the
city reached a resolution with the High Court upholding a lower court’s
to grant a stretch of disputed land to the Muslim claimants in a three way
-- the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad and a set of local Hindu residents
being the other interested parties. As soon as the boundary marking and wall
construction activity began trouble broke out. Finally, on the day the wall
construction was to be concluded this tension blew up into open violence. The
result was the destruction of 12 Lodha and Pardi (two lower caste Hindu
communities that have significant presence all across the old city of Hyderabad)
houses in the vicinity. Both, the State and a segment of the voluntary
associations, responded at once to this escalation of violence and the situation
was brought under control fairly quickly. What is more, the local Jamaat, in
association with a bunch of secular organizations, took on the responsibility
rebuilding the burnt houses and a neighborhood peace committee was established.
The second incident -- in Kishangunj -- involved a drunk vagrant (rumored
a common thief) who decided to pull down a flag with religious significance
small Sikh community of the area, and use it to set fire to a bunch of firewood
he had gathered, presumably in an effort to warm himself on a cold night.
Surprisingly, no one appears to have attempted to stop the fellow from carrying
out this elaborate act. The next morning, when the Sikh community learnt of
incident, there was much tension, which finally led to a brief but relatively
brutal attack by a bunch of young Sikhs. One person died, four were injured
around 6 to 8 shops and/or houses were burnt down. Once again, the State police
and local groups responded very quickly to this incident and a relative peace
was restored almost immediately.
These two incidents provide the context for the last round of violence. On
December 6, the local RSS in Sultanshahi and Gowlipura started the morning
a show of strength -- the declaration of the day as Vijay Divas - followed
much celebration, sloganeering and the distribution of sweets. The police had
been deployed in full force and large scale pickets were in place for large
parts of the old city. After a round of activity in the morning it seemed as
the day would pass peacefully. The pickets withdrew in most part by around
P.M. However, a little after 8 P.M the local RSS/VHP cadre returned and began
round of celebration and provocative slogan-shouting again. This culminated
a clearly calculated dismantling of three electrical transformers in the one
km area, throwing the whole area into relative darkness. A stabbing spree began
in the cover of this darkness. The local police reacted quickly, reaching the
spot within 15 minutes from when the transformers were dismantled. They
responded to the growing melee by opening fire.
When the crowds had been cleared from the streets the local RSS/BJP's first
reaction was a statement that the police response was not adequate. It sought
protection for the local Hindu population from the State police. However, as
the bodies of the dead and the injured reached the hospitals, the situation
changed rather dramatically. Most of the dead and injured who fell to police
bullets -- were Hindu. Of the six dead, five were confirmed as Hindu. The last
victim remains unidentified to date. Of the approximately 25 odd injured either
in police firing or with stab wounds, 19 were confirmed as Hindus. What is
is the possibility that a large number of those who either died or were injured
were uninvolved bystanders. For instance, one victim who fell to police bullets
had coming running out of his home because somebody had set his car on fire.
Another victim -- an Ayyappa devotee who was fleeing the area in fright, also
fell to police bullets.
From a claim that the police had failed to act, the BJP changed its tune
next day -- holding a "Stop Police Brutality" dharna. The return
of the RSS/VHP
cadre after the police pickets had been withdrawn and the simultaneous taking
down of the transformers indicates some degree of planning. The only question
is: who did the planning and who executed the plans? Apart from the strong
presence of the RSS/VHP cadre all through the day, the only other person to
surface in the middle of the violence was Tiger Narendra -- the sitting BJP
from Medak and a senior member of the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) party
seeking seperate statehood for Telengana. Narendra joined the TRS while he
a BJP MP and is yet to be suspended or expelled from the BJP, thus retaining
seat but also leading to speculation that he is a BJP plant inside TRS. Both
Narendra and his son were prominently visible in Gowlipura and Sultanshahi
night and the next day.
Some commentators believe that this was a joint BJP-TRS exercise to take a
at CM Naidu's relatively good record at ensuring communal peace in the city
startup in the battle around the upcoming elections. The Gowlipura and
Sultanshahi area is dominated by a strong anti-MIM sentiment and is seen as
growing Telegu Desam base in the old city. Whatever be the specifics of the
creation of violence, two things are clear: first that yet again a large number
of innocent persons lost their lives and second that this is a skirmish that
only be understood within the context of the upcoming elections.
FILM ANNOUNCEMENT: FINAL SOLUTION BY RAKESH SHARMA
CSFH has been informed by film maker Rakesh Sharma of the completion of his
on the Gujarat carnage titled Final Solution. As many of our readers might
interested in this documentary, we are providing a brief synopsis of the film
below. Further information on the film may be obtained by contacting the
filmmaker at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final Solution is a study of the politics of hate. Set in Gujarat during the
period Feb 2002- July 2003, the film examines the aftermath of the genocidal
violence that followed the burning of 59 Hindus in the Sabarmati Express at
Godhra on Feb 27, 2002. Over 2500 Muslims were brutally killed in 'reaction',
over 200,000 families displaced; it left an impact on the entire population
over 4 million Muslims in Gujarat.
The film is in four parts--Pride and Genocide, The Terror Trail, The Hate
Mandate and Hope and Despair, each just under an hour long. The film starts
by examining the exploitation of the Godhra train incident by the right-wing
propaganda machinery and then goes on to document the various acts of brutality
that marked the violence that followed. It brings many voices to the
screen--that of the ambulance driver who transported injured men, women and
children; the eyewitnesses to the massacre at Naroda Patiya; rape victims as
well as the perpetrators of the crime and their defenders; the family members
the Hindu victims at Akshardham and the Sabarmati Express.
It travels with the election campaign during the Assembly elections in Gujarat
in late 2002, and documents the spread of hate and fascism that accompanied
It traces the process of ghettoization, as students are forced from the Don
Bosco school to join a new school, and as a formal call for economic boycott
Muslims is issued at the Karsevak death anniversary meeting. Finally, we hear
voices speak of a final solution to the Hindu- Muslim divide, from among a
cross-section in Gujarat - right-wing political workers, families of deceased
Ramsevaks, victims of the pogrom and the ordinary citizen.