Archives  >  2019  >  December  >  13th

Secular (?!) Democratic Republic

1. What’s the story?

Rajya Sabha has passed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, and parts of India have erupted into violence. As 6 Things had covered here earlier, ordinary citizens do not seem to be buying the Government’s official line — that the CAB is a bill that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees who escaped religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan — with no malice towards people from a particular community. On Thursday night, two people died in Assam over protests against this bill, while many others were injured. As the President gave his approval to the bill, other states also saw widespread unrest. According to experts, the protests are not set to end anytime soon.

Tell me more.

“In Guwahati, where an indefinite curfew was imposed, the administration has snapped broadband internet services as anti-Citizenship Amendment Bill protests in Assam intensified. Two protesters succumbed to bullet injuries at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital. Officials confirmed both of them were shot at, in two separate parts of the city.

Meanwhile, an indefinite curfew was imposed in Meghalaya’s Shillong on Thursday, with immediate effect. The areas where the curfew is imposed include Jaiaw, Mawkhar, Umsohsun, Riatsamthiah, Wahingdoh, Mission, Mawprem, Lumdiengjri, Lamavilla, Qualapatty, Wahthapbru, Sunny Hill, Cantonment, Boucher Road, Mawlong Hat, Police Bazar, Jail Road, Keating Road, and Polo. On the other hand, mobile internet and messaging services were also withdrawn in Meghalaya for 48 hours.

While mobile internet services remain suspended in 10 districts of Assam, Guwahati, the epicentre of the protests, is under indefinite curfew. Army has been deployed in Assam and Tripura, and railway and air traffic are severely hit. On Thursday, Assam BJP MLA Binod Hazarika’s house was set ablaze by protesters in Chabua, PTI reported. The protesters also burned down a circle office, according to PTI, even as Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal appealed for peace and urged people to “not get misled” on the Bill. In Guwahati’s Lalung Gaon, police opened fire at protesters, injuring at least four people.”

According to RTI activist Akhil Gogoi, arrested by Assam Police in Jorhat, more than 300 protesters have been detained by the state police till date — with more to follow. 

“As the winter sun set on the city, Guwahati had turned into a war zone. Angry protesters stood vigil at every street corner, marking their presence with the red flames and the black smoke of burning tyres. Security forces fired blanks and lobbed tear gas. The state government put the city under indefinite curfew and cut off mobile internet. Two Army columns stepped out of the cantonment on the eastern fringe of the city and flag-marched in sensitive localities.”

In neighbouring Meghalaya, mobile services were suspended, and curfew imposed in the state capital of Shillong. 
 
So, what now?

In the meantime, some protestors have been protesting the legal way
On Thursday, “… the Indian Union Muslim League moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the amendments to the Citizenship Act. The amendment bill was passed in Parliament this week following lengthy debates and amid protests in the North East. It explicitly excludes Muslims from three neighbouring countries from applying for Indian citizenship.”

It seems to be a long road ahead for protestors. Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.



2. What else should I be keeping my eyes on?

The Nanavati-Mehta Commission, that’s what. The Gujarat Government has tabled the final part of the report by this Commission, created to investigate the 2002 Godhra riots in the state. In an unsurprising turn of events, the report has given a clean chit to the then-Narendra Modi-run state Government. 

“The Gujarat government tabled the final part of the Justice Nanavati Mehta Commission report by of the Justices (retired) GT Nanavati and AH Mehta Commission that probed the 2002 Godhra riots in the state Assembly on Wednesday. The report has given the then Narendra Modi-led state government and others a clean chit in connection to 2002 Godhra train carnage.



The Nanavati-Mehta Commission is the commission of inquiry appointed by the government of Gujarat to probe the Godhra train burning incident of 27 February 2002. It later went on to include the investigation of the 2002 Gujarat riots under its mandate. It was appointed on 6 March, 2002, with KG Shah, a retired Gujarat High Court judge, as its only member. It was later re-constituted to include GT Nanavati, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, after protests from human rights organisations over Shah’s closeness to then-Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Following Shah’s death in 2008, Justice Akshay Mehta was appointed in his place.



The panel gave a clean chit to then chief minister and current prime minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet in connection with allegations of complicity in the 2002 Godhra train carnage case, and subsequent statewide riots. The commission held that the riots were not organised and the State administration had taken all necessary measures to control the situation, observing that it was the police that was ineffective and lacking competence and eagerness to control the mob violence.

“There is no evidence to show that these attacks were either inspired or instigated or abated by any minister of the state,” the commission said in its report.”



3. What more?

In an expected (albeit important) move, the Supreme Court of India has dismissed all the petitions seeking review of its November 9 verdict in the Ayodhya land dispute case. (As 6 Things had covered here earlier, the highest court of the country had opined that the disputed site occupied by the Babri mosque was to be used to build a Ram temple. The review pleas in question were all pleading with the bench to reverse this judgment.) 

“The five-judge bench headed by chief justice S A Bobde and comprising justices D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, S Abdul Nazeer and Sanjeev Khanna, which took these review pleas for consideration in-chamber, rejected them after finding no merits.”

Further review pleas by other parties are expected to go the same way.



4. Anything else?

In a bizarre development, communities in Bhopal have just banned pre-wedding photo shoots (of all things!), claiming that they are “not our culture.” Even state ministers have expressed their support for this ban.

“… if you live in the capital city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and belong to the Jain, Gujarati or Sindhi community, your pre-wedding photoshoot could end up costing you more than a photographer’s fee. Some groups in these communities have now issued a diktat declaring that pre-wedding photoshoots are prohibited and any community member caught engaging in this act will be boycotted mercilessly.

“Pre-wedding shoot is wrong,” Sanjay Patel, who identifies himself as the President of the Bhopal Gujarati Community told NDTV. “It has been felt that many marriages break even before they take off, so our executive body has decided to stop this tradition.” Because of course, it’s the photographs that affect the marriage and not the people fake-smiling in them. But more infuriatingly, the Madhya Pradesh public relations minister PC Sharma has backed this ban, saying that such pre-wedding photoshoots are apparently “not our culture.” According to this wise man who spoke with ANI on how to make a marriage work, “If people start following old trends and cultures again, their marriages will become more successful and joyful.””



5. Is that all?

On Thursday, the UK held arguably its most important election of this century — with the showdown between Tory party’s Boris Johnson and Labour party’s Jeremy Corbyn being billed as the final end to the three-year-long “Brexit stalemate”.

“For the second time since Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union, and with the country still deeply divided over the outcome, voters head to the polls today for a General Election.

With the future of Britain’s status in Europe still undecided after years of haggling, Brexit has inevitably been high on the agenda, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vow to “get Brexit done” at the core of his Conservative Party’s campaign.

But the Opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has put healthcare at the centre of its pitch to voters, framing itself as the defender of Britain’s revered National Health Service. Labour pledges to increase spending. It is also arguing that Johnson could further privatise the service, or accept a trade deal with the United States that might lead to a steep increase in drug prices — claims that Johnson disputes.”

Early exit polls show a clear majority for the Johnson-led Tory Government. However, exit polls have been proved wrong in the past.

Fingers crossed y’all.



6. Before you leave…

Take a look at the supertree — the “Amazonian giant that helps the rainforest make its own rain”, and that might just help us escape the devastating juggernaut of climate change.



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