28 April, 2012

Arms manufacturer met Rahul Gandhi?



Above: An itinerary of foreign officials of Sig Sauer, a firm which manufactures small arms, lists their meeting with Rahul Gandhi, ‘the scion of Gandhi family’, at his residence on 6th December, 2011. 

24 April, 2012

Critique on Justice Aftab Alam's thoughts on Secularism



Anand Mathur's note on Justice Aftab Alam’s presentations on International Forum’s on Minority Matters and the Supreme Court of India. View - Paper 1 / Paper 2

1. Justice Aftab Alam presented a lecture at 'The Gandhi Foundation' in 2009 and contributed an almost similar paper in the series 'PLURALISM WORKING PAPER' in 2010.

2. In the above presentations he says that the Indian judiciary is stifling cultural diversity by increasingly overturning the Constitutional protection granted to minorities. He cites contradictions in judgments that he thinks affect minority rights. He comes out pro-conversion and pro-minority propaganda, sounds mostly anti-Hindu (uses “mono-culturalism” as the word to define SC’s secular leanings) but sounds pro-reform in the Islamic community (extent unclear) although he does seem to believe that Islam’s political role may not be negated.

3. He explains that “the Indian Constitution, unlike the First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not have any provision proscribing (prohibiting) the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion. It recognizes religion as a source of law. With a view to protect minority rights, it confers affirmative social and cultural rights on religious groups...The Court is called upon, in a variety of ways, to oversee and regulate the principled distance that the State ought to keep from religious establishments and the nature of State intervention permissible in religious affairs.”

4. He states that various SC judgments have established Secularism of the State as an “unamendable” part of the Constitution.

5. His criticism covers 3 areas:
a) concerning community based rights or minority rights and how in recent years the Court has tended to give priority to individual rights and freedoms over community based rights;
b) how the Court has perceived secularism and how in some of its later decisions it has tended to take a mono-culturist rather than a pluralist view of secularism and
c) How the Court has tried to regulate the State’s intervention in religious affairs and in the process has itself assumed a highly interventionist role. (He criticizes the SC judgment in Harry Stainislaus case where the Court held that the right to propagate one’s religion, protected by the constitution, did not include the right to convert others to one’s own religion.)

6. One of his main concerns is the curtailment of educational rights that minority institutions enjoyed. However, he made these Presentations before the current RTE Bill was passed. With RTE it seems that again Majority Community run schools in backward areas will come under tremendous pressure and may have to close down due to requirements on Qualifications of teachers etc. The RTE Bill seems to have a strong pro-minority agenda and may need to be challenged appropriately.

7. He cites 4 cases in education area where Minority rights were compromised in past decade by SC viz. Delhi’s St. Stephens college forcing it to admit 50% non-Christian students; In Pai …. “it was for the first time the question of minority rights was not considered independently……..Pai blurred the line between a minority institution and a non-minority private institution.”; Islamic Academy in order to clear the doubts and anomalies arising from the Pai decision; and two years thereafter another seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court assembled to hear the case of Inamdar to clear the confusion arising from Pai and Islamic Academy.

8. He states that at the end of the exercise Article 30 all but lost its independent identity. “The position that emerges from the 3 decisions may be summarized thus:
a) The right to set up educational institutions and impart any kind of education at any level is available to every Indian citizen under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution as the right “to carry on any occupation, trade or business” (Justice Unni Krishnan overruled! He said education was a noble undertaking.)
b) Article 30 does not give to the religious minorities any additional or separate right. The religious minority has no special right that the majority does not have under the Constitution. Articles 29 and 30 do not confer any rights but afford certain protections to the minorities. The two Articles can be better understood as a protection and/or a privilege of the minority rather than an abstract right. (View of Venkatarama J. in minority of 1:6 in Re. Kerala Education Bill resurrected!)
c) The right under Article 30 is not absolute. It is subject to Article 29(2) and other laws. It can be restricted in public interest and national interest. (Sidhraj Bhai expressly overruled!). The decision in Inamdar also laid down guidelines relating to the manner of admission and composition of students that render the minority status of an institution quite precarious. It also needs to be pointed out that the three decisions indeed brought about a basic shift in the Court’s position in regard to the right of the religious minority to establish educational institutions but the greater and equally significant shift was towards privatisation of education.

9. He says, “To sum up, for about forty or forty five years the Supreme Court held that though the Constitution did not permit community specific political rights, it recognized community specific social rights. But in the last fifteen years the court seems to have come to the view that under the Constitution there cannot be any community specific rights either political or social...”

10. He criticize SC’s 1994 “Bommai decision” on Secularism calling it “mono-culturist” wherein it had stated “if the Constitution requires the State to be secular in thought and action, the same requirement attaches to political parties as well” because, “political parties are formed and exist to capture or share State power.” He never explains why he is critical! But it seems that he is pro-Islamisation albeit with certain reforms.

11. He also cites 1998’s SC rulings in the “HINDUTVA DECISIONS” upholding the election of one Manohar Joshi from Maharashtra. In his election speeches Manohar Joshi, had said that “The first Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra”. The court, observed that “a mere statement that the first Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra is by itself not an appeal for votes on the ground of his religion but the expression, at best, of such a hope.” The Court went much further and using the words “Hindu”, “Hinduism” and “Hindutva” interchangeably observed that those terms were not amenable to any precise definition and no meaning in the abstract would confine the term “Hindutva” to the narrow limits of religion alone. ..”

12. He says that the Hindutva decisions came under severe criticism for mixing up “Hindutva” with Hinduism and thereby stating that nothing in it is at all contradictory to secularism! He also explains “But at the same time those decisions were greatly applauded by the supporters of free speech and democratic liberalism.”

13. He states, “The Hindutva decisions seem to have inspired the Court to take the mono-culturist view of secularism…….etc.” He criticizes SC quashing a 2002 PIL against NCERT for including religion, Sanskrit, Vedic Mathematics, Vedic Astrology etc. in the courses of study for the schools was contrary to secular principles. Further, “In Aruna Roy the Court held that though the curriculum mentioned the subject as Vedic Astrology its contents were actually in the nature of Vedic Astronomy and hence, its inclusion in the school course was not unjustified. Two years later it upheld the teaching of Vedic Astrology (Jyotir Vigyan) …..in different universities.

14. He then discusses SC’s intervention in religious affairs where he seems to support a reformist side of Islam. He criticizes the SC upholding the ex-communication of a Dawoodi Bohra as correct and also supports the Shah Bano case although is very critical of the SC’s approach to the problem.

15. He accepts, “An over-emphasis on community specific rights does not seem to do any good to anyone, not even to the minority groups. It is argued that it only serves to strengthen the walls separating the minority from the majority and acts as a barrier for the members of the minority community to join the national main stream education and the avenues that open up from there.”

16. He again reiterates, “Far more important, it is contended that the Court in its earlier reading of the minority rights treated the minorities as monolithic blocs and thereby gave the elite within the minority groups complete control over those rights…. It is pointed out that social surveys show that an over protection of the community specific rights was of very little, if hardly any, use to the weaker sections within the minority groups. But on the other hand a complete denial of community based rights evokes within the minority groups the fear of being subsumed by the majority and that is a source of social tension on a greater scale….”

17. On secularism he claims, “As to the nature of Indian secularism……. In India secularism cannot be seen or used as a means for doing away with all the differences of creed and caste and region and language and for developing a more homogenized society laying undue stress on “Indianness”. A position where the idea of secularism is applied to make all the religious and linguistic minority groups and the tribals and the Dalits within the Hindu fold to lose not only their identities but also their national aspirations would, to my mind, negate not only what the Constitution of India stands for but also what Gandhi stood for.”

Justice Aftab Alam is a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court of India 

Also View: Keep 'Communal Mindset' Justice Aftab Alam away from Gujarat cases: Justice Soni to Chief Justice of India

10 April, 2012

Hafiz Saeed 's deep ideological bond with Zakir Naik


(Click on above image to Enlarge)

Above: Zakir Naik's organisation, the IRF featured extensively on the website of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the parent and religious and political organisation of the notorious Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). A screenshot of Hafeez Saeed's Jamat-ud-Dawa website from 24th December 2008 shows a link to Zakir Naik 's IRF website.

Source

09 April, 2012

49 million Hindus missing from Bangladesh: US Congress Testimony



Above: Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission - United States Congress hearing on 'Challenges Facing Religious Minorities in South Asia'. Testimony by Sachi G. Dastidar, Ph.D., Distinguished Service Professor, Politics, Economics and Law Department, State University of New York, Old Westbury.

06 April, 2012

The hymn Prophet Muhammad's uncle wrote in praise of Lord Shiva



Above: The poem etched on a column at the Lakshmi Narayan Temple

Prophet Muhammad's uncle (Chacha) Umar-bin-e-Hassham (also known as Abu Hakam or Abu Jahl) was a renowned poet whose famous Arabic poem in praise of Lord Shiva, included in Sair-ul-Okul and cited on a column in the (fire worship pavilion in the rear garden of the) Lakshmi Narayan Temple in New Delhi, runs as under:

Kafavomal fikra min ulumin Tab asayru
Kaluwan amataul Hawa was Tajakhru - 1
We Tajakhayroba udan Kalalwade-e liboawa
Walukayanay jatally, hay Yauma Tab asayru - 2
Wa Abalolha ajabu armeeman MAHADEVA
Manojail ilamuddin minhum wa sayattaru - 3
Wa Sahabi Kay-yam feema-Kamil MINDAY Yauman
Wa Yakulum no latabahan foeennak Tawjjaru - 4
Massayaray akhalakan hasanan Kullahum
Najumum aja- at Summa gabul HINDU - 5

The man who may spend his life in sin and irreligion or waste it in lechery and wrath - 1
If at least he relent and return to righteousness can he be saved? - 2
If but once he worship Mahadeva with a pure heart, he will attain the ultimate in spirituality - 3
Oh Lord (Shiva) exchange my entire life for but a day's sojourn in India where one attains salvation - 4
But one pilgrimage there secures for one all merit and company of the truly great - 5

Source: Sair-ul-Okul, P. 235

04 April, 2012

Robert Vadra .. And The Tip Of The Iceberg



Rohini Singh & Sruthijith KK, The Economic Times

Vadra Makes Low-Key Entry into Real Estate

Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law ties up with DLF, buys tracts of land in tier-3 cities in Haryana & Rajasthan

New Delhi-based entrepreneur Robert Vadra, married into the country’s most powerful family, has made a quiet and relatively unheralded entry into the real estate business, including a partnership with DLF Ltd, India’s largest realty firm.

Vadra, the son-in-law of the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has stayed away from electoral politics, maintaining that he wants to be known as a businessman. In interviews he has said that his focus is on Artex, a small company specialising in jewellery and handicraft exports.

That seems to be changing as 42-year-old Vadra, known for his punishing fitness regime and love for fast bikes, has sought to scale up and diversify his business activities since 2008, acquiring tracts of land in Haryana and Rajasthan, a 50% stake in a leading business hotel in Delhi, and attempting an entry into the business of chartering aircraft.

Regulatory filings available in the public domain and reviewed by ET reporters reveal the changing graph of Vadra’s business interests. These include wide-ranging transactions with the DLF Group. Several of his companies have received loans, some unsecured, from DLF group companies, including the Bombay Stock Exchange-listed flagship DLF Ltd.

A JOINT VENTURE AND SOME LOANS

Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd, a company wholly owned by Vadra and his mother Maureen Vadra, is a partner, along with DLF Hotel Holdings and others, in a partnership firm that owns the business hotel Hilton Garden Inn in the upscale South Delhi business district Saket. The hotel is located within the DLF Place mall, also known as DLF Courtyard.

“The Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Saket is a small business hotel. I have interest in hospitality and am happy to be part of the hotel,” Vadra told ET, speaking on the phone from Europe, where he is travelling presently. He said the business association with DLF stemmed from a long-standing friendship with the family that controls the realty giant.

“I have known the DLF people for a long time and they are friends of mine. I had wanted to invest in real estate and one thing led to another. Right now, I can only be part of a small hotel. If I were taking favours from people I would be doing far bigger things. But I am doing this on my own. I can’t expand immediately but I hope to expand a few years down the line,” he added.

DLF HAS GIVEN LOANS TO VADRA'S COMPANIES

DLF has also extended loans to various companies owned by Vadra. Some of these are unsecured loans or debt without any collateral. As on March 2009, Sky Light Hospitality had received unsecured loans amounting to 25 crore from DLF Ltd. As on March 2010, only 10 crore remained. It's unclear from the statement of accounts if the rest was paid back or written off.

Sky Light Hospitality has, in turn, loaned money to other Vadra-owned companies such as Blue Breeze Trading Pvt Ltd, North India IT Parks Pvt Ltd, Real Earth Estates Pvt Ltd and Sky Light Realty Pvt Ltd. Blue Breeze Trading, a company incorporated in 2007 with Vadra and his wife Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as first directors and equal shareholders, is in the business of chartering aircraft. The company, however, seems to have done little business, apart from acquiring agricultural land.

Priyanka Gandhi ceased to be a director as on July 2008. She is no longer a shareholder. Real Earth Estates Pvt Ltd also had a 5 crore loan directly from DLF on its books as on March 2010. The joint venture firm Saket Courtyard Hospitality had received 3.58 crore of unsecured loans from DLF Hotel Holdings Ltd, the group company that owned 50% stake in the JV.

"The business relationship of DLF Group with Robert Vadra has been in his capacity as an individual entrepreneur and on a completely transparent and arms-length basis. DLF has always respected and complied with Mr Vadra's explicit directions and wish to not utilise his name or association in any manner whatsoever. The business relationship has been conducted to the highest standards of ethics and transparency," a DLF spokesman said in a statement. The company said it intended to respond to a detailed questionnaire sent by ET on March 9. At the time of going to press, no response was received.

LAND IN TIER-3 TOWNS

Vadra’s companies have also been acquiring tracts of land in recent years. Sky Light Hospitality acquired 5 bighas in Sohna, Haryana, for 7.9 crore during the first year of operation - 2007-08. In 2008-09, the company's fixed assets included land acquired in Manesar for 15.3 crore and by the next fiscal, the company also had bought land in Bikaner for 79 lakh. The acreage of land is unknown.

Vadra's company, North India IT Parks, has been the most prolific acquirer of land. During 2009-10, the company acquired 160.62 acres (including 85.62 acres of agricultural land) in Bikaner for 1.02 crore. Another Vadraowned firm, Real Earth Estates, acquired varying quantities (undisclosed) of land in Hayatpur, Bikaner, Hassanpur, Mewat and New Delhi's pricey Greater Kailash (Part II) neighbour-hood, during 2009-10. The company paid a total of 7 crore.

Sky Light Realty has bought an undisclosed amount of agricultural land in Palwal, Haryana, and Bikaner, Rajasthan, which collectively cost the company 89 lakh. The company also has land in Hayatpur, Haryana, which cost 1 crore. The company has also paid 5.2 crore to DLF for buying seven flats at DLF's Magnolia apartment complex in Gurgaon.

Another 5 crore has been spent on flats at the Capital Green complex owned by DLF Estates Pvt Ltd. This might be related to a 'Booking of Flats' business under a joint venture between Sky Light Realty and Sky Light Hospitality, both Vadraowned companies. Vadra said he could explain the details of these transactions after he returns and reviews the documents on which this newspaper has based its questions. However, he said buying up land in tier-3 cities was part of a deliberate strategy akin to value investing.

“I've been investing in real estate every time I make money from my other businesses. I make investments in tier-3 towns because it is cheaper to invest there. I usually liquidate my real estate assets whenever I can, but I have no intention to develop. I invest like anyone else, in remote areas," Vadra told ET.

However, at least one of his companies has expressed its intention to enter the construction business. The directors' report accompanying the audited accounts of Real Earth Estates for 2009-10, says: "During the year, the company has purchased land in the state of Haryana and Rajasthan. A plot in Delhi has also been purchased during the year. The company has entered into joint venture arrangement with Sky Light Realty. Very soon the company hopes to enter into the field of construction. Necessary legal formalities are being completed in this respect."

There have been murmurs in the past about Vadra's interest in realty. Vadra's lawyers served a legal notice on the realty firm BPTP Ltd in 2006, alleging the firm has been "intentionally, falsely, and fraudulently claiming that several of their projects were part-owned by Robert Vadra and that he was helping them in their Real Estate Development Business”.

Vadra told ET that BPTP has been exploiting his name. "BPTP has been exploiting my name for a long time. In the past I have served them legal notices as well," Vadra said. "I've been married for 14 years but I keep away from politics. I am still grounded. I am because of my own talent and I have to prove myself. I do not try to benefit from my family. I never take obligations from people because if I do then they will ask me for something bigger in return,” he said.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

But DLF was different. "I have a good understanding with DLF. Our children are friends, we are friends. They are seasoned businessmen. They are not daft. They are educated, sensible people and are reasonable and shrewd in their business. They don't need me to enhance them. They've existed for years," he said. DLF, founded in 1946, has enjoyed spectacular commercial success and built much of Gurgaon, a suburb of Delhi.

Moradabad-born Vadra, whose mother is Scottish, rose to national prominence when he married Priyanka Gandhi in 1997. Because he is married into the Nehru family, Vadra's life and activities attract a great deal of interest.

Vadra maintains a small group of friends in Delhi and is known for his interest in fitness, cycling and aviation. He has been forthcoming in recent interviews about his fitness regimen, cycling and the motorcycles he own. He is often seen at public ceremonies and state events with Priyanka Gandhi. The couple has two children - Raihan and Miraya. "People can imagine all kinds of things about me but people who matter to me know me and know how I am," Vadra said.

01 April, 2012

Francois Gautier's open letter to John Dayal



Dear John Dayal,

A few years back, you wrote a letter to Jenab Mohammad Hamid Ansari, then Chairman, National Commission for Minorities, where you complained of harassment of nuns and Christian workers at Bus Stops, Rail Stations in Tirupati government-owned areas and objecting to a request to have the Constitutionality of the Seven Tirumala Hills being made out of bounds to Christians.

Do you really think that for instance the Government of France would allow Hindu proselytizers in Lourdes, one of the most sacred places for Christians? Never. The French Government even has a branch of the Home Ministry looking into what they call ‘sects’. Amrita Anandamayi of Kerala is on that list. Although she has not committed any crimes except embracing people and although her followers are doing remarkable social work, as good as any Christian organization in India, she is being harassed in France, the accounts of her group are being scrutinized, she faces difficulties in buying land and she has to keep a low profile.

Tirupati is one of the most sacred places for Hindus. Why should nuns and missionaries go there to convert innocent Hindus? It’s an affront to the majority community of this country who have always respected the Christian faith. Remember that the first Christian community of the world is the Syrian Christian in Kerala?

Do Christians in India realize how much freedom they have here? Any preacher from abroad can come to India, rent huge grounds, organize prayer meetings, advertise in the national press, get media coverage… Just try to do this in Saudi Arabia, or even China and see what will happen to your preachers …

Then you go on complaining of a "sustained hate campaign by the religious fanatics" of the so-called Sangh Parivar in Andhra Pradesh. But you must be knowing that thanks to Chief Minister Rajshekhar Reddy, who died in an helicopter accident, nearly 20% of Andhra Pradesh has converted to Christianity. His son Jagan Reddy is very much a Christian too - he has even erected a cross over his massive new house in Hyderabad. Yet his name sounds Hindu. Do Christians in high places need hindu names to fool the gullible masses of Hindus?

Come on, Mr John Dayal, you are the one who is waging a systematic campaign of hate against Hindus. As a born Christian, I can see how Christianity is evolving slowly in the West, where it is becoming more and more accepted in the masses that there are other religions, such as Buddhism or Hinduism which have their own values. Yet in India, Christianity is becoming more and more rigid, more and more of a proselytizing spirit, like it was fifty years ago in the West. Christians in India represent only 2.5% of the population, yet they make so much noise, they occupy so much space in education, health care, journalism that you would think that they constitute the majority of this country.

Again recently, you have targeted Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, respected not only by millions of Hindus, but also by many Christians in western countries and even by Muslims (he was received warmly last month in Pakistan). By doing this, you are showing that you are practicing a Christianity that is obsolete, aggressive and maybe even dangerous.

It is time Christianity in India becomes a little more humble and quieter. Nobody is contesting your faith, but please leave alone ancient places of worship like Tirupathi and great sages such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. And remember: Sonia Gandhi may not be here forever…

Yours

Francois Gautier