Posts Tagged ‘Gujarat’

Gujarat: All’s Not Well With Your Home, Chief Minister Modi

May 29, 2010

Tehelka Magazine, Vol. 7, Issue 22, June 5, 2010


Present continuous TEHELKA has persistently tracked the unraveling of the ‘encounter’ killings by Gujarat Police

IS THE noose tightening around Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over his administration’s alleged complicity in the 2002 massacre of Muslims? Is nemesis, as the cliché goes, finally catching up with him for a string of allegedly fake encounter killings of “terrorists” by his police? It may be too early to call curtains for arguably India’s craftiest politician that Modi has turned out to be over the last eight years. Yet, the arrest of a top police officer in Gujarat by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may well begin to unravel the Modi era.

Indeed, so thoroughly alarmed are the Bjp, Modi, and others implicated in the Muslim massacres and the encounter killings, that there is a clear last-ditch attempt at preventing the CBI from establishing the truth. The latest round started on january 12 this year when the supreme Court ordered the CBI to reinvestigate the 2005 encounter killing of Gujarat businessman sohrabuddin shaikh, his wife Kauserbi, and an associate of his, tulsi prajapati. sohrabuddin, a small time extortionist, was killed in a joint encounter by the Gujarat and Rajasthan police in November 2005 when he was travelling with his wife Kauserbi, on charges of being a Lashkar-e-tayyeba member on his way to Gujarat to assassinate Modi. A similar theory was given at the time of the Ishrat jahan encounter a year before and later proved as fake by the justice tamang Committee.

Continues >>

India: Brutal Attacks on Protesters- Mahuva Gujarat

February 25, 2010

Message from human rights activist and lawyer, Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feb 25, 2010

Peace activists from Gujarat need our help in correcting another wrong. If you will read the note and see the photographs, you’ll realize how once again, the state has bypassed the public they are supposed to represent and taken a decision on their own that will turn 50,000 people into paupers instantly, taking away their source of fertile livelihood. Worse, the Gujarat Government, whose human rights track record is already in tatters, is treating these affected people like criminals, beating them up and treating them as if they are not citizens of a Democratic state, but of a Fascist, Police state. They are, aren’t they?

Tomorrow, these Gandhians are holding a peace march from Sabarmati Ashram to Gandhinagar in Gujarat. The state is already working overtime to prevent people from going to Ahmedabad to attend this padyatra. Loads of people who wanted to go from Mahuva to Ahmedabad were prevented from boarding buses.

Call up the different people, whose numbers are given below. Talk to them and ask them questions about this issue. Make them accountable for their actions. Force them to be democratic. Let them know that another scream of pain will not go unheard, just because its been shouted out in the wilderness. And yes, be prepared to hear lies. Like if you ask them about the lathi charge, the SP of Bhavnagar will tell you that one of the protestors bit up a policeman’s finger. Firstly, it is false and the policeman’s finger got stuck in his own van. But even for an instant let us assume that it is true, is it enough to file an FIR (I asked him are there any other complaints, and the SP said no)? Is it enough to brutally lathi-charge thousands of people that leaves 10 in the hospital? Is this really a democracy?

Democracy is sadly never guaranteed, it has to be fought for and achieved as most of us have seen time and again. If we can’t be there in person with these people who are simply asking to be heard peacefully, we can at least be there in spirit, make a few calls and ensure the safety of these people. That is indeed, the least we can do.

Mahuva area in Bhavnagar district has among the most fertile lands in Gujarat. Unlike most of Gujarat and especially Saurashtra region farmers grow three crops, and exports mangoes, coconuts and other fruits. Moreover, the numerous onion dehydrating plants & cotton gins provide employment to at least 10 000 people. That is the region the Government hardsells as the ‘silver corridor’ of industrial development.

People of this fertile & prosperous region were naturally shocked to discover that the Government of Gujarat sanctioned a cement plant by Nirma Ltd. And 288 hectares (720 acres) for the factory + 3000 hectares (7500 acres) for limestone mining, that would employ all of 418 people for an investment of Rs. 2500 crore (Rs. 25 billion). The cement plant will devastate land owners, rob farmers & farm labourers of their livelihoods, pollute the air and destroy the pristine coastal & inland ecology. It was only in the last few years that the Government invested tens of millions of public money to construct structures for water conservation & prevention of salinity ingress in this very area.

People of at least 15 villages have steadfastly & nonviolently opposed this project over the last one year. The government was forced to appoint a committee to consider people’s opposition. The committee without either visiting the area or listening to the affected people has now given the the company the ‘go-ahead’. This is likely to destroy the lives of around 50 000 people.

Such destructive projects can only be foisted on people using threat & violence. People’s nonviolent resistance has been met with terror unleashed on affected villagers, especially women. On 13th December ’09 the local legislator, Dr Kanubhai Kalsaria, 92 year old Gandhian Chunibhai Vaidya, Sagar Rabari, Anirudh Jadeja, Lakhan Musafir and Anand Mazgaonkar were prevented from holding a public meeting in Vangar village. Two local leaders Shri Wamanbhai and Pravinbhai Kathiria were beaten up apparently by hired goons, and other villagers were manhandled by the police.

The police rather than maintaining law and order and facilitating the public meeting acted as company agents. The situation is grim. The company has started pre-construction activities. Affected people have been forced to try to protect their land & livelihoods and it is their firm resolve to nonviolently resist displacement & dis-employment.

After a year long nonviolent protest & efforts to make the Government see reason failed 11,500 (yes more than eleven thousand people) people signed a petition with their blood requesting it to desist from dispossessing them. On Saturday, 20th February around 8-10 000 people took out a silent march along with the local legislator, Dr Kanubhai Kalsariya. They were attacked by police. At least 10 people were wounded and needed medical attention. Three of them are still ( as of Monday, 22nd Feb) in hospital. Seven have been arrested and will probably be charged with crimes police have actually committed. Then on Sunday, 21st Feb, Dr Kanubhai Kalsariya was attacked by a gang who are suspected to be company goons / security men. both Kanubhai & his wife are in hospital.

This is clearly a State sponsored backlash to scare & prevent people from going ahead with the massive march they have planned from Sabarmati Ashram to Gandhinagar (State capital) on 25th Febraury.

We request you to:

i) be with us, in person those who can, others in spirit on 25th Feb
ii) be on alert to send out protest letters, make phone calls to police, Govt. authorities if there is State violence on 25th (will send out contact details soon)
iii) turn our updates into press releases, news items, stories for the local media
iv) if you are outside India do send your protest letters, news releases, stories to the local India embassy, consulate, public relations office, & if you discover a funding or technology-transfer connection between your local agency & Indian ‘targets’ do create ruckus!
v) we may ask some of you to send solidarity messages or make phone calls to those arrested, injured etc. should some of our worse fears come true

Activists to talk to for more details on the ground reality:

Michael Mazgaonkar 9427188044

Swati Mazgaonkar 9429556163

Sagar Rabari 9428825927

Kapil 9427054132

People from the administration to talk to for more details on the official version of the story:

1) Dist. Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar, (91) 99784 05067, (0278) 252 0050 / 256 6333, (R) (0278) 256 3333

2) Collector, Bhavnagar District, (M) 9978406206, (R) (0278) 256 88 66, Fax (0278) 242 7941

3) Shri Amit Shah, Minister of State for Home, Gujarat State, (M) (91)98240 10090, (R) 079-2322 1874 / 2323 2453 / 2325 9661

Something Rotten in the State of Gujarat

September 12, 2009

By Badri Raina, ZNet, Sep 12, 2009

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page

I have supped full with horrors;

Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,

Cannot once start me.
(Macbeth Modi)


Indeed, great is the temptation to write this account wholly in Shakespearean quotation.

Four new skeletons now rattle for justice in the Modi cupboard. And well might he be saying to himself:

the time has been,

That, when the brains were out, the man would die,

And there an end; but now they rise again,

With twenty mortal murders on their crowns;

A judicial magistrate in Ahmedabad, one good man Tamang, has held that the killing of the nineteen year old college girl, Ishrat Jahan, and four others in June, 2004 was , after all, yet another “fake encounter” executed by high-ranked police Modi loyalists to curry favour with him and obtain preferment.

This on the heels of the earlier murder of one Sohrabuddin and his wife, Kausar Bi, acknowledged in court by the Modi government to have been “fake encounters.” And by the very same police personnel as well, two of whom are now in the slammer for that killing. At least for now.

Speculation is rife as to how many official murders may have been effected by the Gujarat state since 2002, when the Gujarat massacre took place.

Continues >>

Narendra Modi, the Anti-Muslim Politician of India

March 30, 2009

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By Abhay Singh |

March 30 (Bloomberg) — As Narendra Modi, chief minister of the state of Gujarat, walks into a cavernous tent filled with 20,000 investors and business leaders in western India, he’s greeted like a Bollywood movie star. Conference goers surround the politician to shake hands, snap photos and touch his shoes — a show of reverence in India.

After the January conference gets under way in the city of Ahmedabad, billionaire Anil Ambani, whose empire ranges from telecommunications to financial services, steps to the lectern. He praises Modi, 58, for turning Gujarat into India’s top destination for investors before paying the Hindu nationalist the ultimate compliment: He should be prime minister.

Since Modi became head of Gujarat in 2001, he’s lured investors with a rapid approval process for developments, a network of roads and ports and uninterrupted power supply — a rarity in India.

“If Narendra Modi can do so much for Gujarat, imagine the possibility for India by having him as the next leader of India,” Ambani says.

Some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the conference, in a Muslim ghetto called Juhapura on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Modi’s name isn’t celebrated. He’s a top official in the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or Indian People’s Party, which opposes special treatment from the government of any one religious group, including Muslims.

Contaminated Food

For the 700,000 residents of Juhapura, the water runs only 15 minutes a day, potholed asphalt roads are lined with rubble and government-subsidized shops sell contaminated flour and rice that make people sick, says Mohammad Ishaq Sayed, a tailor who lives with his family of six in a one-room, 100- square-foot (9.3-square-meter) apartment.

“We live in Gujarat and still we get nothing,” says Sayed, 53, sitting in a plastic chair outside his apartment, where naked electrical wires snake along the walls. “Why is there no development for us? What enmity do they have with us? We are Muslims, that’s why.”

As India continues to tally the economic costs from the terror attacks by Islamic militants that killed 164 people in Mumbai in November, Modi stands out as a symbol of a nation that, 62 years after independence, has yet to come to grips with a sectarian divide that’s fueled decades of violent riots and the marginalization of Muslims.

Shut Out

The 158.6 million Muslims, which account for 13.4 percent of India’s population of about 1.2 billion, are among the poorest people in the country. They are shut out of jobs and unable to get equal access to education, according to a 2006 government-sponsored report. At state-run companies such as banks and railways, Muslims make up only 4.9 percent of the workforce.

Thirty-eight percent of them live in such deprivation that they consume less than 2,100 calories of food a day, the report says. By comparison, 20 percent of Hindus living in cities don’t receive proper nutrition.

Alakh Sharma, director of the Institute for Human Development, a New Delhi-based group that studies labor markets, development policy and education, says India’s exclusion of Muslims from the mainstream hampers its economic growth.

“If 13 percent of the population is alienated and doesn’t become part of the economic process, how will the country continue to grow?” Sharma says. “It’ll affect demand for goods and become a source of conflict and strife.”

‘Scary Prospect’

In more than two decades in the BJP, during which time he’s ascended to the position of general secretary, the third- highest rank, Modi has been in the middle of the sectarian conflict whose origins go back centuries.

Modi helped organize a campaign in 1990 for the BJP leader to drum up support for building a Hindu temple at the site of a Muslim mosque in the state of Uttar Pradesh, according to his Web site, In Gujarat alone, the BJP campaign spurred 1,520 violent incidents between Hindus and Muslims from April 1990 through April ‘91, according to a report by the New Delhi-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

“Modi’s rise is a very scary prospect for India,” says Shabnam Hashmi, an atheist who runs Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, a group started to counter sectarian politics in India. “He polarizes people by promoting the ideology of hate.” Jagdish Thakkar, Modi’s public relations officer, didn’t respond to several requests for an interview.

Rampaging Mobs

In February 2002, four months after Modi took control of Gujarat, Hindu mobs went on a rampage against Muslims after a fire on a train claimed 58 lives, among them Hindu pilgrims. In the riots that followed, more than 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims, while Modi allegedly instructed police to stand down and allow the violence to continue, according to an investigation by the eight-member Concerned Citizens Tribunal. The group, with no legal standing, was made up of former judges, professors and a retired police officer.

“If you are a minority you are pushed to the brink and treated like dirt in this state,” says Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest who runs a human rights center in Ahmedabad.

Modi has denied the allegations from the citizens group and critics.

“My future will be determined by the people of Gujarat,” Modi said at a conference sponsored by the Hindustan Times newspaper in October 2007. “In a democracy, criticism is welcome, but I am against the allegations.” The Supreme Court of India is still investigating the riots.

Holy War

The killings in Gujarat partly inspired Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan, to launch its holy war against India, according to a study on the Web site of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, a U.S. Department of Defense institute in Honolulu.

In November, 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked two luxury hotels, a Jewish center, a cafe and railway station in Mumbai, according to Indian officials. In a massacre that shook India, the terrorists killed 164 people, including 26 foreigners. Earlier in 2008, the Muslim group Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in three Indian cities.

The spate of violence weighs heavily on Indians as they elect a new prime minister starting in mid-April. The BJP is attacking the ruling Indian National Congress party for being soft on terrorism. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, has delayed the hanging of a convicted Muslim terrorist sentenced to death in 2002 — a fact that the BJP’s candidate, Lal Krishna Advani, 81, rails against on the campaign trail.

Slowing Economy

The BJP is trying to return to power after a six-year term from 1998 to 2004, during which time it stiffened prison penalties for terrorists and lengthened the maximum detention period for suspects who hadn’t been charged to 180 days.

“People lived under six years of a BJP government, but the end of terrorism was not one of its achievements,” says Mahesh Rangarajan, a professor of modern Indian history at Delhi University. “The terrorism card that the BJP could cash in on is gone.”

India’s economic downturn may be an even bigger election issue in a country where voters have regularly rejected incumbents, Rangarajan says. The economy grew 5.3 percent from October through December, the weakest pace since the last quarter of 2003. The recessions in the U.S. and Europe, combined with the terrorist strikes in 2008, are taking a toll on India’s tourist industry.


The number of visitors to the country plunged 12 percent in February compared with a year earlier. A February poll by an Indian affiliate of CNN showed that neither party would gain 50 percent of the vote, forcing the winner to cobble together a coalition government.

The divide between Hindus, who make up 80.5 percent of the population, and Muslims runs deep. In the 16th century, the Mughals, an Islamic dynasty, took over and ruled the land until the British made the subcontinent a part of its empire three centuries later. Before Britain relinquished control of India in 1947, it partitioned the nation into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-majority India to buffer historical conflicts.

Eleven million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were uprooted, seeking refuge in one of the two countries and clashing along the way. The violence took 500,000 lives. Since the 1960s, there have been at least four major sectarian battles each decade in India, spurred by everything from a Muslim’s cow entering a Hindu’s house to conflicts over religious sites.

‘This is Not Our Country’

Muslims, fearing violence, tend to live together in small clusters in places like the Byculla area in Mumbai and the neighborhood of Nizamuddin in New Delhi, according to the 2006 report sponsored by the Singh government, “Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India.” In Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, where investors have backed new malls with big grocery and electronics stores and movie multiplexes, some apartment complexes are off-limits to Muslims, according to the rules of occupancy set by building owners.

Activist Hashmi says her family, because of its Muslim name, has felt unwelcome in parts of New Delhi. In 2003, her daughter, then 7 years old, came home from school after being verbally attacked.

“Another girl told her that we should go live in Afghanistan, this is not our country,” Hashmi says.

Finding Jobs

Muslims also face obstacles in finding employment at state-run companies, which provide 70 percent of the full-time jobs with benefits in India, the report says. At Indian Railways, one of the country’s largest employers, with 1.4 million workers, Muslims make up only 4.5 percent of the total. Among civil service officers — bureaucrats, diplomats and police — 3.2 percent are Muslim. At banks such as State Bank of India, the No. 1 lender, the figure drops to just 2.2 percent. Of the 30 companies in the Bombay Stock Exchange’s benchmark Sensitive Index, only one — software services provider Wipro Ltd. — is led by a Muslim, billionaire Azim Premji.

The report recommends that employers include Muslims in hiring to increase their numbers.

“A very small proportion of government employees are Muslims, and on average, they are concentrated in lower-level positions,” the report says. “While no discrimination is being alleged, it may be desirable to have minority persons on relevant interview panels.”

Drop Outs

Dev Desai, an economics undergraduate student at GLS College in Ahmedabad, encountered discrimination recently when trying to get a Muslim friend and fellow student a job.

“I spoke to some people and told them she was from my college and studies with me,” says Desai, a Hindu. “On hearing her name, they asked if she is Muslim. When I said yes, they told me to let it be.”

The minority group lags behind in education as well, partly because of a shortage of schools that teach in Urdu, a language used by Muslims. As many as 25 percent of Muslim children ages 6-14 never attend school or drop out. Muslim kids in the Juhapura ghetto face another issue: Their school is in a Hindu area.

“Some children are afraid and don’t go,” says Niaz Bibi, a resident and mother. “Their thinking is, we’ll never get a job so why study? Might as well learn a vocation like fixing cars.”


In top colleges offering science, arts, commerce and medical courses, only 1 in 25 undergraduate students is Muslim.

“This has serious long-term implications for the economic empowerment of the community and consequently for economic development of the country,” the report says.

India has put aside its sectarian differences in a few areas, such as its movie industry. Muslim film celebrities Shah Rukh Khan, a romantic leading man also known as “King Khan,” and Aamir Khan often top the box office. Aamir Khan starred in Bollywood’s biggest hit of 2008, Ghajini. While Indians have never elected a Muslim prime minister, lawmakers have selected three Muslim presidents, the titular head of government, including A.P.J. Abdul Kalam from ‘02 to ‘07.

Modi mocked the government report, which was chaired by retired judge Rajindar Sachar, at a conference sponsored by India Today magazine in March 2008.

Spiraling Investments

“Mr. Sachar came to see me and asked, ‘Mr. Modi, what has your government done for Muslims?’ I said, ‘I’ve done nothing,’” Modi said. “Then I said, ‘Please also note that I’ve done nothing for Hindus either. I work for the people of Gujarat.’”

As head of the state, Modi has spurred a construction boom by attracting a slew of investors, including Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of e-mail service Hotmail. Investors pledged $243 billion to Gujarat at the 2009 Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit in January, a 60 percent jump from the previous event in 2007. In a country infamous for bureaucratic red tape, Gujarat lures investors with a streamlined process requiring developers to get approval for major projects at only one agency, the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board.

Tata Group, the $62.5 billion conglomerate that owns everything from salt to software companies, got permission from the state to build a plant to produce the $2,500 Nano, the cheapest car in the world, in three days.

Hindu Nationalist

“Most of us in India have come to regard a time frame of six months or three months as an average time to get clearances,” Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Group, said from the stage at the January conference in Ahmedabad. “In this particular case, that tradition was shattered, and we had our land and most of our approvals in three days. That, in my experience, has never happened before.”

After Tata’s speech, Modi walked toward the lectern and gave the executive a hug before addressing the crowd himself.

“Even in a recession, companies aren’t going to stop manufacturing,” he said. “They will prefer a destination where low-cost manufacturing is possible. This is a chance for a country like India, if we can provide a low-cost manufacturing environment, to grab this opportunity.”

Modi joined the burgeoning Hindu nationalist movement as a teenager after growing up in a family of modest means; his father ran a tea stall at Vadnagar railway station in Gujarat, according to a 2007 article in the Times of India.

Ideological Fraternity

After completing his master’s degree in political science at Gujarat University in the 1970s, he became a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or National Volunteers Corps, his Web site says. The RSS advocates that Hinduism is central to Indian culture and life.

At the time, northern India was recovering from a famine and sectarian violence was rising: 500 people were killed in Ahmedabad in 1969. Members of the still active RSS take part in regular military-style parades, drills and exercises dressed in white shirts and khaki shorts. The RSS, which hatched political groups that would coalesce into the BJP in 1980, remains the fount of the party’s ideas.

“The RSS ideology is all about cultural nationalism,” says Prakash Javadekar, spokesman for the BJP and a member of India’s upper house of parliament. “We are an ideological fraternity.”

Babri Mosque

The BJP built itself into a national power starting in the late 1980s with a campaign to construct a temple where a mosque stood in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Modi, who joined the BJP in 1987, helped organize a 10,000-kilometer journey for Advani, now the BJP’s candidate for prime minister, to rally support for the temple and the party. Advani’s trip in a truck, with the bed trussed up to resemble a chariot from Hindu mythology, was scheduled to end at the site of the mosque.

Hindus believe the site was the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram and that a temple once stood there until Muslim invaders destroyed it in the 16th century and built the Babri Mosque.

Advani’s journey was cut short when authorities arrested him in the state of Bihar in October 1990. According to Advani’s Web site, he was arrested by political foes who opposed a resurgence of nationalism in India. Two years later, Hindu mobs tore down the mosque, fomenting riots in Mumbai that claimed more than 1,000 lives, mostly Muslims.

Train Fire

The temple campaign catalyzed Hindu support across India for the BJP, which won its first national election in 1996 and its second in ‘98.

“Communal violence in the last two decades is a result of the manipulation of religious sentiments by Hindu right- wing organizations for political gains,” according to the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies report. “The politicization of the temple-mosque issue and the subsequent demolition of the mosque gave the BJP the opportunity to consolidate its vote bank.”

Javadekar rejects that claim, saying the Congress Party’s sectarian politics and favoritism toward minorities poses the biggest danger to India. Javadekar says the BJP supports the equal treatment of all religious groups in India.

“That means you do justice to all and appeasement of none,” he says.

The 2002 riots in Gujarat began with a fire in a train coach carrying Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya. A commission set up by the Gujarat government said that Muslims set the fire after an altercation at the station between some pilgrims and Muslim vendors.

Lost Everything

The report of the citizens tribunal, which was released in October ‘02 and based on about 2,000 interviews, shows the fire started within the coach and was not deliberate, says Ghanshyam Shah, a social scientist who was a member of the tribunal.

As news of the fire spread through the state, Hindu mobs surrounded Muslim neighborhoods, destroyed houses with homemade bombs, raped and killed women and butchered men, according to the three-volume report of the citizens tribunal.

“We escaped with just the clothes on our backs,” says Sayed, the tailor in Juhapura. “Everything was destroyed. Our house was torn down, and all our possessions were stolen.”

Sayed, his wife and three sons were rescued by a Muslim police officer and taken to a camp outside Juhapura.

“The Muslim officer risked himself and brought us to the camp,” Sayed says.

Police Don’t Arrive

The police didn’t respond to calls for help from many Muslims, according to the report. It details the murder of Ahsan Jafri, a former member of parliament from the Congress Party.

The attack on the neighborhood where Jafri lived in Ahmedabad began on the morning of Feb. 28, 2002. A high- ranking police official visited Jafri at 10:30 a.m. and assured him that police reinforcements were on the way to quell the riots. The police never came even after Jafri’s desperate phone calls to Modi’s office and the police. Jafri was dragged out of his home and killed in the afternoon, as were others who had taken shelter in his house, the report says.

Three years later, in 2005, the U.S. State Department denied Modi a diplomatic visa and revoked his existing one under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that bars entry of foreign officials who are complicit in severe violations of religious freedom.

‘Absence of Healing’

“The violence in Gujarat in 2002 was extremely serious; it went on for months,” says Delhi University’s Rangarajan. “If you travel in the hinterland of Gujarat, what is more serious is the absence of a healing process.”

In 2008, six years after the riots, the Supreme Court of India formed a special team to investigate the violence. In February, the team arrested Deputy Superintendent of Police K.G. Erda, the officer in charge of the area where Jafri lived, for dereliction of duty and abetment of murder, according to Mitesh Amin, Erda’s lawyer. Erda has been released on bail, and the Supreme Court has halted the trial, Amin says.

In March, investigators submitted their confidential report to the court, which asked the Gujarat government to file a response by April 13.

The 2002 riots shouldn’t taint Modi’s reputation as a good administrator, says Ajit Gulabchand, managing director of Mumbai-based Hindustan Construction Co. The company is building an $8 billion waterfront development in Dholera, an industrial and business hub.

Carnegie Mellon University

“What happened was terrible,” Gulabchand says. “The question is, Are we moving on? Here is somebody who welcomes people and creates an atmosphere for business and other investments to thrive.”

Yogesh Patel and his business partner, Hotmail’s Bhatia, are also bullish on Gujarat. They’re building university campuses in Dholera and have partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to open a graduate school there.

During a meeting last year, after Patel told Modi about the potential for generating solar energy in northern Gujarat, the chief minister immediately called in a bureaucrat and asked him to get working on a plan.

“It’s like dealing with a private enterprise and talking to a CEO,” Patel says.

‘Modi Has to Evolve’

While political analysts say Modi is a possible future candidate for prime minister, he would face hostility from Muslims. “God will bring Modi down one day,” Sayed says.

In states with large Muslim populations, where they comprise more than 15 percent, Modi would have to soften his anti-Muslim image.

“Modi’s problem is very real,” Rangarajan says. “Modi has to evolve.”

In Ahmedabad’s Juhapura ghetto, Hindus built a 10-foot- high wall with barbed wire at the top to separate themselves from Muslims. The wall is a reminder of the issues confronting Modi and his party as they vie to rule India again.

To contact the reporter on this story: Abhay Singh in New Delhi at

Last Updated: March 29, 2009 17:00 EDT

The High-Minded Illiteracy Of the Indian Elite

March 1, 2009

No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”

(Article 21, Constitution of India)


The atavistic blood-lust of India’s corporate-media elite has again been to the fore.

Same “premier” English channel; same “top-billed” programme (viz., Face the Nation), same uninterruptibly high-pitched compere, shriekingly anguished about the State’s less-than-murderous response to terrorist crimes.

Question posed for the day: should the lone Pakistani terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, now in Indian custody and duly chargesheeted, be given a fair trial? To wit, does he deserve to be so given etc.,

Argument: since everyone saw the chap on video going about his terrorist business, do we not need only to find the most convenient lamp-post to hang him by?

Indeed, does it matter what the Constitution of the Republic of India stipulates in matters of life, liberty, or death? And, in any case, should not an elite mob have the privilege to consider the Constitution amended through high-minded soundbyte? A self-evidently patriotic procedure that would save the state much money, and peremptorily assuage the damaged prestige of the wounded clan of celebrities who, after all, speak for the whole nation—slumdog and all; at the least those slumdogs who have now become celebrities.

Interestingly, we have not heard such lawless bloodthirstiness expressed in relation to the accused in the Malegaon terrorist blast case. Recall that those accused are also in custody, and have equally made admissible confessions with regard to their guilt. Indeed, in the latest of those confessions, Dayanand Pandey has averred that the money for the Malegaon terrorist act came from the ISI of Pakistan (no less), and through the agency of two senior leaders of the RSS, under the patronage and protection of the top man himself, namely, Shri Mohan Bhagwat.

A senior advocate on the programme clearly had a hard time balancing his soundbyte on the question posed about Ajmal Kasab, since he happens to be defending the accused in the Malegaon case.

Much as he would have liked to concur with the compere, he must have known how indefensible his defence of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur— allegedly, one of the chief perpetrators of the Malegaon blast—would have instantly become had he been tempted by the force of his cultural sympathies to argue that the Constitutional provisions of due process and fair trial need not apply to Kasab. After all, what is sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander as well—at least for a practicing lawyer!


The instructive inference from all this is the following: India’s fattened, free-market elite never tire of singing praises of India’s democratic system, and of cocking a snook at the poor relations next door in Pakistan and Bangladesh where democracy never seems to take root.

But to this day, some sixty years after the Republic came into existence via the adoption of the Constitution, the further thought that its founding stipulations with regard to freedom and equality are compellingly grounded in the rule of laws and in their impartial and non-partisan application has not sunk in.

Or the fact that even when the rights of people are circumscribed, that too must happen through the enactment of legislative procedures. Something that Indira Gandhi did during the infamous Internal Emergency of the seventies.

And remember what howls that raised among precisely the sorts of people compering the programme I have talked about!

So that when our no-nonsense elite laud the no-nonsense confinement of “vicious” people in Guantanamo, they do not stop to think why the now thankfully bygone Bush had to find a place for them outside the juridical limits of them United States of America.

Because had they been confined within the territory of the State, they would have automatically, as per American law, become eligible to all the procedures and privileges that American laws furnish to its own citizens.

And that circumstance would have disallowed both torture and kangaroo justice of the kind that our own madam compere seemed to think warranted in the case of Kasab.


Indeed, a further compliment is due to American democracy.

Study any American election post the dismantling of racist discrimination and segregation, and you will find that it is never a matter of debate whether laws should apply differently to different people. What those laws should be invariably is the crux of the contentions, in relation either to domestic or foreign concerns.

Alas, we are not there yet.

Thus, in law, white-skinned Americans or Britons or others who have gone over to the Al Qaeda are as much terrorists as those whose skin colour is different, or who espouse a different faith. Those that did the Oklahoma killings found few voices that claimed that they could not be terrorists because they were white and Christian-born. Certainly, no TV channel spoke for them.

India is a different matter altogether: do we not hear from honourable right-wing leaders who aspire to lead the governance of the Republic that Hindus cannot be terrorists, because, being Hindus they must ipso facto be regarded as “nationalists”?

The sort of reason, after all, why no mention of the Malegaon accused—all Hindus—came up at all in the programme I have alluded to.

Or why the killers of the Bombay pogrom of 1992-93 or of Gujarat, 2002 are sought to be viewed through glasses of another make.

Imagine that even after the Special Investigation Team (SIT) mandated by the Supreme Court of India to reinvestigate some of the more unconscionably gruesome episodes of the Gujarat pogrom has reported on affidavit how the state machinery upto its eyebrows was complicit in the pogrom, how a senior minister of Modi’s cabinet, one thought especially close to him, was on the scene of the carnage, distributing swords to the mob and firing from her own pistol, how two of the most upright police officers swore to being asked by Modi personally to lay off the Hindu leaders of the pogrom, none of India’s premier channels has squeaked even to ask for the concerned minister to resign, not to speak of Modi to be indicted! Do recall that during the Gujarat pogrom, among the rapes and hackings, a woman’s womb was cut up and the foetus flung from the point of a sword.

To this day, no one, least of all Modi, has expressed regret, not to speak of owning up responsibility. Even as the chief perpetrators continue to roam free, the state has sought at every step to subvert the procedures and reach of the law—all that testified to by the SIT.

If anything, don’t you know, the same Modi is the cynosure today of some of India’s leading industrialists, and of TV channels busily projecting him as the most desirable candidate to be India’s Prime Minister.

Let it be said that even under the Bush regime, this would never have happened in America.


The Hindu-elite-Indian’s take on the regime of laws and jurisprudence is illustrated literally everyday, of course, in one circumstance or the other But here is another notable instance, also pertaining to Gujarat.

Some months ago, the POTA Review Committee examining the cases of some 135 Muslims who have been rotting in Gujarat’s jails for seven long years as persons allegedly culpable in the Godhra train-burning episode under provisions of that draconian Act (since repealed by the current Indian government), determined that the Act did not apply to these persons, since the train-burning event did not qualify as a “terrorist” Act in the first place! The Committee held that the violence ensued as a consequence of an altercation between the karsevaks (the goons who were returning home after demolishing the Babri mosque, and traveling ticketless as well), and the vendors on the railway station at Godhra.

A finding that has since been upheld first by the Gujarat High Court, and now by the Supreme Court.

Any Gujarat heads rolled for this perfidy? Not a one. Any TV channel ask for such a head or two to roll? Forget it. They are all Muslims, after all! And Modi is the engine of a projected Hindu Rashtra (Theocratic Hindu State), one that promises much to billionaire fat-cats out to make further killings in socially neutered conditions.

Futile to recount what screams go up among the channels here when some elite suspect is held by the police just overnight in confinement, provided of course he is not Muslim.


India thus, in truth, is a democracy-in-the-making. Thankfully, a vast enough civil society remains fully engaged in ensuring that in addition to voting every five years, this democracy learns to recognize and accept that unless Indian democracy is also to descend to the arbitrary cronyisms of those that it fatuously derides, it must learn to embrace without question the tenets of citizenship, of universal human rights, and the dispassionate and egalitarian principles of equality before the laws, regardless of caste, creed, gender, language, or class which the Constitution mandates.

All this while many well-to-do Indians who have milked Indian democracy to the hilt thus far seem hell-bent to make of it a handmaiden to hate-filled, sectarian agendas, in addition to the interests of the class they represent and speak for.

Consider that everyday some right-winger or other is heard to scream why Afzal Guru, sentenced to death in the Parliament attack case, is still alive; but never asks the same question about Murugan, sentenced to death for the Rajiv Gandhi murder several years prior to the Parliament attack!

Simple enough reason: the one raises the possibility of causing an electorally fruitful sectarian divide among the polity, the other does not. So much for justice. And so much also for the corporate channels who never mention Murugan, even as Afzal is pressed into the service of talk shows and such-like intended to favour the communalists.

That the NDA government, led by the Hindu right-wind BJP (1998-2004) never did anything to carry out the Afzal or the Murugan sentences is of course another matter that concerns the media but scantily.

The fact is that even some Rajas and Mughal Kings of old had a more non-partisan devotion to the dispensation of justice than many of those who fulminate on behalf of Indian democracy in our day. Who more memorable than Jehangir as a dispenser of impartial justice?


Germany, 1933 / Gujarat, 2009

January 23, 2009

the Triumph of Positivism

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page


“what matters today is to preserve and disseminate freedom rather than to accelerate . . . the advance towards the administered world”

(Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment)


Just the other day, at the “Vibrant Gujarat” conclave in Ahmedabad, two of India’s leading industrialists, Anil Ambani and Mittal, speculated from public platform what a radiantly developed country India could become were Narendra Modi to be made the “next leader of India” (read Prime Minister).

At which memories of a similar conjuncture in the Germany of 1933 came rather rushingly to the fore.

Jackson J. Spielvogel tells us how Hitler “knew that to fulfill his foreign policy goals he needed the technological skills of the industrialists and capitalist industry itself.”

Thus he was to appoint Reichsbank Schacht as the new president of the Reischbank, “staunch defender of capitalism, which certainly reassured business and industrial leaders about Hitler’s economic direction. Fortunately for Hitler, Schacht was also an astute financier willing to use his many talents to benefit the Nazis” (Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History, Prentice Hall, 1988).

Sure enough, the Krupp family and a bevy of other industrialists were drafted to set Germany on the autobahn course, leading eventually within a year to a massive attention to rearming the Reich, and everything that followed, as Jews came to be seen to constitute the sinister fifth column of the Bolsheviks, threatening to capture the German economy and the state.


In our own Gujarat, it is not so much foreign policy that Modi has in mind as the domestic ascendance of a Fascist pattern of development that might in course of time yield him the position of the chief CEO of the country.

And, although such thinking has come to permeate the whole Indian state, what makes Gujarat stand out for the captains of industry is the social ground that Modi has prepared since the pogrom of 2002.

Briefly, a graveyard of peace where Modi’s administration faces no opposition from any quarter—other political parties, labour organizations, tribals, what-have-you; and where the least voice of dissent from within his own party, the BJP, is put down with no-nonsense repression. Add to that a totalitarian control over investigative agencies, state apparatus, and large sections of the judicial apparatus—the sort of objective conditions that have led the Supreme Court of India repeatedly to intervene in their maladroit operations and to refer both the investigation and juridical determination of cases related especially to the Muslim Gujaratis to agencies outside the state, or to special task forces directly under its own aegis.

As to the media, Gujarat is one place where the most puissant of them can be put into the doghouse: for example, when recently the Times of India did an expose on the Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad, charges of sedition—no less—were slapped on the those who ran the local edition of the newspaper.

State agencies like the Collectorate of Police, the Charity Commissioner, not to speak of party fascios, are used to terrorise individuals and groups who show the gumption to work on behalf of the poor, the minorities, or the other marginalized sections. Not to speak of the intimidation meted out with full state support to artists, film-makers, other cultural practitioners whose work is seen to transgress or question the preferences of a traditional, high-caste Hindu order of things.

Modi’s satraps routinely take recourse to the argument that having won elections, Modi has proved his legitimacy—an argument that is denied to the repeated and impressive victories scored by the Left in West Bengal, Lalu Prasad in Bihar, Shiela Dixit in Delhi, and so on, victories that have not had the underpinnings of a fascicised, majoritarian produce of hate to propel them. Yet the world knows that Modi’s electoral victories have resulted from a Hitlerite polarization of the majority Hindus against, not the Jews but the Muslims?

Nowhere in India, for these reasons, does the road to “development” and profit-maximisation seem as smooth to the industrialists as it does in Gujarat. As to the living indices of common Gujaratis, and of the relegated sections and victims of communal pogroms especially, how are they material to the story of “vibrant Gujarat”?


Adorno and Horkheimer, seeking in 1944 to understand what could explain the transmogrification of Europe from Enlightenment reason to Fascism, were to theorise how a “tireless self-destruction of enlightenment hypocritically celebrated by implacable fascists and implemented by pliable experts in humanity” had taken place—a process calculated to to turn “thought into commodity” and “language into a celebration of the commodity.”

Indeed, in a whole section devoted to the media. A&H were to show brilliantly, long before Marshall McLulan, how that decline of Enlightenment humanism into reified class interest was to turn the message into the substance, thus scoring a mythical and fraudulent triumph of “communicative reason” to which such votaries of that reason as Habermas have remained cruelly oblivious.

Given that the Indian bourgeoisie that supported the anti-colonial freedom movement, far from producing any European-Enlightenment moment of opposition, not to speak of sustained opposition, to the social/mythical weltanshuuang of the old feudal classes, simply incorporated the past into both their own lives and into the political manipulations of the anti-colonial movement, the Gujarat variety of fascism could the more easily marry instrumentalist positivism with social stasis and rootedness.

A structure of inherited prejudices and organized corporate religion have, thus, been brought to buttress commodified reason rather than thwart its virulently benumbing operations.

A & H were to point out that “if enlightenment does not assimilate reflection in this repressive moment, it seals its own fate,” as “motorized history” furthers the “oblivious instrumentalization of science.”

And, with uncanny pertinence to the contemporary Indian situation: “in the mysterious willingness of the technologically educated masses to fall under the spell of any despotism, in its self-destructive affinity to nationalist paranoia. . . the weakness of contemporary theoretical understanding is evident.”

This decline of the Enlightenment into an unreflective and despotic positivism ensures that “the flood of precise information and brand new amusements make people smarter and more stupid atonce.” Brilliant formulation if ever there was one.

Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944,1947,1969,2002, the last in Edmund Jephcott’s excellent translation) was thus intended as a “critique of enlightenment…to prepare a positive (rather than “positivist”) concept of enlightenment which liberates it from entanglement in blind domination.”

Put another way, this project was to liberate the enlightenment from the extensions it was to find in the work of Kant, Sade, and Nietzsche—all of that leading to Fascism and Nazism.

In our own case, the event in Gujarat suggests the long road still to be taken first to arrive at the Enlightenment moment, and then to disabuse that moment of its instrumentalist, anti-democratic hegemony, both tasks ominously coterminous rather than sequential. And all that almost exclusively the onus of a weak organized Left and civil society organizations that often find both the state and the classes that kow-tow to it in concerted antagonism.


Imagine that even as India’s leading industrialists think it mouth=wateringly desirable that Modi be set-up as the Prime Minister (by which term they intend really the CEO of the state reconceived as a Corporation), here are some facts about common life in Gujarat:

–one of the lowest gender ratios in demography in terms of females to males;

–one of the highest rates of female infanticide;

–girls raped by teachers for better grades, and in govt., hostels;

–boys mysteriously murdered in religious ashrams;

–vigilante violence against young people wishing to cohabit or marry across communities or castes, all duly ignored by state agencies;

–a “freedom of religion” law that infact punishes change of religion;

–denial of ordinary civic rights to Muslims who are denied both trade rights and housing in up-market areas dominated by Hindus;

–organised lying about developmental indices: e.g concealment of the fact that it is one of the most indebted states in the country; that industrialists are attracted by government subsidies given to them; that no more than some 23% of MOUs signed with them since 2003 are actually in the pipeline; that the waters of the Narmada still do not reach the most needy regions of the state; that thousands have been displaced from the banks of the Sabarmati river to make way for the Sabarmati River Front Development Project; that fisher folk find themselves ruthlessly dispossessed without alternative recourse;

–that Dalits continue to live in inhuman conditions;

–that massive numbers of children remain enslaved in the labour force;

–that official school text books continue to be full of distortions of history and other myths and inaccuracies;

–that in contrast to a national average of 66%, only some 59% of rural children can read;

–that right-wing Hindutva groups may put up bill-boards anywhere proclaiming “Hindu Rashtra”;

And so on.

(see “Vibrant” Gujarat: Lies, Half-Truths and Illusions, The Gujarat Reality Today,” by Fr.Cedric Prakash, Director of Prashant, Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

Yet none of this figures in the calculations of the big-wigs who celebrate “vibrant” Gujarat.


True to this pattern of cutting-edge technological development nestling next to areas of abysmal social darkeness are neighbourhoods like Noida and Gurgaon in the National Capital Region.

These are areas that have some of the highest crime rates in the country, such as include daylight abductions, rapes, robberies, road-rage killings, honour killings of young women—and men—who dare defy the traditions laid down by caste groups and panchayats, and other forms of violence engendered by a culture of new affluence married to the prejudices of a feudal world-order.

A pattern entirely to the convenience of investors and industrialists who wish for great leaps in technological development but think any application of the scientific ways of thinking about social and cultural issues first a nuisance and then a potential threat to the flow of their operations.

As Marx had foreseen, the bourgeoisie may have, in Europe especially, made ruthless use of science in dethroning the regressive weltanshuuang of the feudal classes, but once in power, the last thing they desired was to see science carried further forward to scrutinize the weltanshuuang of their own class.

From about the end of the eighteenth century, science had to have but one use: the exploitation and mastering of natural resources for the ploughing of surpluses at whatever social cost. And the chief source of surplus being wage labour.

Gujarat under the Narendra Modi dispensation offers just about the most perfect scenario for so doing. It also boasts one of the lowest rates of wage labour!

What fitter candidate for India’s Prime Ministership?


Indian Police Accused Of Using Undue Force On Terror Suspects

September 29, 2008

Muslims Bear Brunt of Zeal to Solve Bombings

By Rama Lakshmi | Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 29, 2008; A13

HYDERABAD, India — A week after two bombs rocked an amusement park and a restaurant here in September 2007, plainclothes policemen barged into the home of Abdul Raheem, an auto-rickshaw driver. Throwing a black cloth over his face, they shoved him into their vehicle.

“I kept asking them if I had jumped a red light by mistake or parked my auto-rickshaw at the wrong spot. I had no idea they were picking me up for the bomb blasts,” said Raheem, 27, a bearded man with a thick mop of oiled hair.

For three days, the police questioned him nonstop: Had he driven the bombers to the scene? Had he heard suspicious conversations among passenger? They beat him with straps made from truck tires, he said, and “tied my ankles . . . and gave me electric shocks all over my body.”

In the end, authorities found no evidence to charge him in the bombings but kept him in jail for six months on unrelated allegations of distributing DVDs of the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat state and possessing “jihadi literature.”

In the past three years, 12 Indian cities have been hit by bombs in crowded places. About 580 people have died. Police have secured no convictions in the attacks, but they have arrested and reportedly roughed up countless people during their investigations, building ill will among many of the country’s 130 million Muslims.

In interviews in three states, investigating officers offered a different view, saying the laws prevent them from going after the perpetrators with full force. At the same time, they said, every new bombing triggers a public outcry that officials are soft or incompetent and demands for tough action and stronger anti-terrorism laws.

“The public pressure on the police is enormous. Everybody wants quick results, and nobody has patience. The TV news channels question the police every day,” said Shailendra Srivastava, inspector general of police in the central Indian city of Bhopal, who has interrogated some alleged members of a banned group called the Students Islamic Movement of India, or SIMI. His city is on a publicly announced hit list of a new group called the Indian Mujahideen, which has asserted responsibility for the recent bombings in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and New Delhi.

“But how can we crack down on the supporters and sympathizers of these groups?” he said. “The various human rights and minority rights groups are watching every step and questioning the way we police, detain, interrogate. It is very difficult.”

In Hyderabad, police have detained about 100 youths in the past year and formally arrested 28. “But we have not charged a single person in the bombings,” said B. Prasad Rao, the city’s police chief. “We examined many men but could not make much headway. We only have some vague leads. Our intelligence network in the Muslim community is weak.” He denied that detainees have been tortured. “Maybe they were examined for a longer time,” he said. “The police were under tremendous pressure.”

Families of the suspects say that, charges or not, their sons’ reputations are permanently scarred from having their faces and names featured in newspapers and on television. About two dozen men have emerged from detention since February, and many are questioning the police in public hearings.

“The police in Hyderabad have been acting with total impunity and no accountability, resorting to illegal detention, torture and intimidation,” said Lateef Mohammad Khan, a human rights lawyer who represents the youths. “There is a lot of anger in the society, which strengthens extremist groups. I am not saying these boys are innocent, but I want the police to stop using extralegal measures. Just follow the law of the land.”

Despite all their work, the police have yet to identify a theme or group that weaves the bombings together.

Until last year, officials said groups based in Bangladesh were training Indian Muslims to carry out attacks. But after the bombings in the northern city of Jaipur in May, the Indian Mujahideen started asserting responsibility for the violence. Police are still largely uncertain about the origin and structure of this group.

Police in Gujarat, the scene of bombings in July, pinned all the blame on SIMI and said that group and the Indian Mujahideen were the same. But the New Delhi police investigating the bombings that killed 21 people in the capital Sept. 13 said the Indian Mujahideen is separate, assembling and planting the bombs with peripheral support from SIMI.

There is similar disagreement among police on who the blasts’ architects were. In August, the Gujarat police said they had found the “mastermind” of the bombings in that state, a SIMI member known as Abu Basher. A week ago, the New Delhi police said a software engineer named Abdul Suban Tauqeer was the chief conspirator in all the blasts. On Sept. 19, police officers in New Delhi broke into a small apartment in a Muslim neighborhood and gunned down two suspects, including Mohammad Atif, whom they declared the real “mastermind.”

“Atif, a 24-year-old graduate student of human rights, coordinated the bombings in at least three Indian cities. He used to go on reconnaissance missions before the blasts,” said Karnail Singh, joint commissioner of police in New Delhi. He said authorities were examining the contents of a laptop computer and a memory stick seized from the apartment and are interrogating 13 people suspected of having worked with Atif. “We have the mobile phone with which they shot the clips of blast sites and attached to their e-mails claiming responsibility.”

Yet, on Wednesday, police in Mumbai arrested five Indian Mujahideen suspects, one of whom they said was Atif’s boss.

The last e-mail from the Indian Mujahideen after the New Delhi blasts ridiculed what it called the “false claims” of police. If officials boast “of arresting masterminds and key terrorists all over India, then which mastermind executed today’s attack?” the message said.

For now, the investigation is focusing on the 13 Indian Mujahideen suspects. Police describe them as middle-class, educated and technically savvy young men who led dual lives.

One of them, Zeeshan Ahmed, was a graduate student of business management. His school said he scored high in subjects such as commercial law and organizational behavior. Another was a graduate student in business and had won a gold medal in his undergraduate degree in economics.

Residents and families protested the arrests last Monday and produced school records to argue that the men could not be terrorists.

In Hyderabad, even after Raheem and others are out of jail and fighting their cases in court, the terror tag follows them. “I lost my auto-rickshaw, my fiancee and my honor. Nobody wants to hire me anymore, although I tell them I was not booked for the bombing. Friends have deserted me, relatives don’t invite us over anymore,” he said. “I carry the stigma all day.”

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