Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Ban and the Fatwa Teesta Setalvad

The Ban and the Fatwa

Teesta Setalvad

`What I do, eat, drink or pray is none of your business,’ says Rishi Kapoor.`I am angry. Why do you equate food with religion?? I am a beef eating Hindu. Does that mean I am less God fearing than a non eater? Think!’

The fact that the (anti) social media trolls an icon and celebrity like Rishi Kapoor for expressing his freedom of choice, and the fact that he sticks to his guns (principals, not literally meant!!)  reflects not just the times we live in, but the width and scope of the resistance needed to overcome India’s new brand of authoritarianism.

Any number of arguments can and must be made to vociferously question, and resist the authoritarian diktats of this government, at the Centre with it’s mini-face(s) in the states: these are Constitutional, cultural and economic. In a modern, democratic, secular state, the state exists not to ‘purge India and Indians of cultural pollution’ (read rationality, Dakit literature and analysis, Islamic culture and Christian values not to mention socialism, communism, humanism and Marxism) but to uphold constitutionally provided legal rights, Article 14, 19 and 21 that guarantee freedom of choice. The majority of Indians, regardless of what the corridors of powers at Race Course Road that is linked to the Gandhinagar highway would like us believe, are meat and fish eating. Former Prime Minister Atal behari Vajpayee was famously non-vegetarian and ‘secular’ ‘nationalist’ Muslims in the country’s capitals proudly tell tales of how they served biriyani to his home when he reigned between 1999-2004 ! But RSS has the remote control today over Lutyens Delhi and those RSS Brahmins who founded this outfit may be vegetarian but Maharashtra as a whole is almost entirely meat and fish eating. No wonder, one hand (albeit weakened) of the alliance that rules Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena and it’s cousin, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have provided the prooto-resistance to the Mumbai-Maharashtra ban!!

Bengali and Kashmiri brahmins are nonvegetarian as are coastal Brahmin castes like the fish eating Saraswats. In fact studies by reputed institutes in the capital show that not only are a whopping 69% Indians non-vegetarian but 55% of the ‘upper’ (sic) brahmins are also non-vegetarian. So why is this narrow hegemonistic worldview of just a section of the Brahmins being imposed, pan-India?

I recall the India of the 1980s and 1990s, an India that needs re-visiting if we need to understand and locate NDA II under Modi. It was LK Advani’s led rath yatra of the period that paved the way, literally for a ‘cleansing’ of the public sphere (read the spaces dominated by India’s burgeoning ‘middle’ classes that have little or no connect with the comforting term ‘middle class values’ that the fish and vegetable buying Maharashtrian male in Pune, Kolhapur or Mumbai once represented) and mind. It suddenly become legit to spew venom and hate, be exclusivist and prejudiced, a new Indian (read Bharatiya) fashion. At the first press conference that LK Advani, the clever architect of this cultural re-positioning (Modi is an obvious high-end and high-cost product, as their non-existent relationship shows) held in a battered Bombay after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, he began his address, not with what had transpired in full public view at Ayodhya, not at the transgression of law and the Constitution,not at the body blow to faith and allegiance to a large section of Indians, that that action had dealt. He referred, not a word to the grotesque nature of the murder and mayhem that ruled Bombay’s streets.

No. He began the address to the media with a tiny story of how Indians, quiet, god fearing idol worshipping Hindus are treated on their entry to Saudi Arabia. Not to the rest of West Asia, specifically Saudi Arabia. The man has come here, for his livelihood. Advani drew a visual image of a Saudi police prototype, who cruelly and with military precision scans that poor Hindu’s personal belongings for any signs of kafir-dom, the small murthi, the idol or whatever. The god fearing entrant into Saudi has one faithful calendar with the picture of the Hindu deity most precious to him and this is in his little pocket diary. Since, we are told by Advani, that this Saudi prototype is relentless and precise in his fanatic duty (and also God fearing, except this God is the almighty Allah), this three-four inch printed calendar does not escape his preying hands. Triumphantly locating this sign he pulls it out with a florurish and tears it to shreds. Welling tears and bitter hatred, we are then told remain as migrant memory. Of Saudi Arabia. Of Islam.

Of what relevance was this take to a battered Bombay? I remember the response of my colleague, photographer Pankaj at Business India, where I worked at the time. Decent and God-fearing, he found an echo in what Advani said and whispered to me, this is just what happened to my brother in law when he went to work in the Gulf. Journalists had more spine them. So many of us sprung up and asked what the relevance of this take was when an anti-minority pogrom of horrific proportions had been unleashed on the back of the demolition. To legitimize the killings?

How is this relevant in the here and now? The pollution of the public sphere by a non-Constiutional value that legtimises the superiority of the ‘us’ versus ‘them’, that privileges one section in rights and citizenship and worst of all seeks to fashion culture and history to suit this authoritarian project began first with the Hindu mahasabha and then concretely with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since 1925. For close to sixty years, Indians gave this worldview that drew inspiration from Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany (and in fact was proto-modern not traditional) scant attention and treated it wit the contempt that it deserved. Today 31 per cent of us Indians support its political avatar even if we do not understand the culturally hegemonistic underpinnings.

One beautiful response from a young Muslim that I saw and shared on facebook when he said that during Ramzan I too would like everyone ‘to starve and stay thirsty’ from sunrise to sunset for a month. He obviously meant this sarcastically and there lies our hope. A whole lot of youngsters today are thinking and reacting out of the box and this is the huge energy and resource on which we need to build.A meaningful resistance.

I want to end this week’s sharing with my readers with a beautiful quote from music director AR Rahman over the music he created for a recent film. He asks in a beautifully drafted open letter, responding to a controversy that it had caused “What, and if, I had the good fortune of facing Allah (Sbt), and he was to ask me on Judgement Day: “I gave you faith, talent, money, fame and health...why did you not do music for my Beloved Muhammad (sals) film? A film whose intention is to unite humanity, clear misconceptions and spread my message that life is about kindness, about uplifting the poor, and living in the service of humanity and not mercilessly killing innocent in my name”…..”Today there is a blur between the real world and the virtual world and I have taken aback to see that, for some years now, unethical, unacceptable and unkind remarks are made online concerning the Holy Prophet. These abhorrent comments are no doubt due to the lack of understanding. I have always felt that we must counter this reaction with love and kindness, and through the audio-visual media reach out to people who wish to broaden their understanding…We are indeed fortunate and blessed to live in a country like India where religious freedom is practiced and where the aim of all communities is to live in peace and harmony sans confusion and violence……Let us set a precedent in clearing conflict with grace and dignity and not trigger violence in words or actions…..Let us pray for forgiveness, and from our hearts bless those who suffer in the world and bless the country that we live in. To so pray is to reflect the noble and enlightened nature of our Beloved Muhammad (PBUH)."

What wise wonderful, re-juvenating  words, in this era of bans and fatwas.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Humanitarian or Inhuman? (September 4 2015)

Humanitarian or Inhuman?

Teesta Setalvad

When the photograph of a young, innocent Syrian boy, dead, face down in the sand as his body was washed to a beach in Europe, shook the world, there were mixed reactions on the social (anti, sic) as always. Wisely many asked whether we would or are moved when we see pictures of a poor, hungry, almost dying Indian child. Not so pretty, not in jeans, not in the West. Others commented why Muslims go to the Arab countries when they want to pray but to the West when they want rights (and dignity).
The City of Vienna had a wonderful, dignified message for the refugees, put up on a plaque “We have prepared for supporting you during your stay and as you continue your journey.Members of the Austria Federal Railways, Caritas [Christian charity], the Vienna paramedics and the police are here at the railway station to meet you. You can recognise all members of the assistance team by their special clothing. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask them. Many Viennese are supporting us as we distribute food and water to you. Interpreters (translators) are available. Any medical assistance you may need can be provided on site. We are doing our very best to organise assistance. You are safe. The City of Vienna.” The Pope too had a wonderfully compassionate message. And even as the critical thinkers reminded us that it was US Foreign Policy and its greed for oil and its cynical play on politics that had caused the havoc and misery in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, South Sudan, Afghanistan…  where people’s lives are at risk; there is no food or healthcare, no access to education; sexual violence is an everyday reality; and forced slavery is rampant. When an overcrowded shanty little boat at sea is safer than the land you have called home, desperation gets a new context, there is another question that also needs to be asked.
Blame as we will and must the West for its dark designs through foreign policy what about the well heeled Shaikhs in the wealthy Arab World ? Will they escape censure or comment altogether? And why?
Britain must be criticised for its narrow minded cold heartedness, Germany and Austria praised. But why is almost nothing said about another set of stakeholders who almost certainly should be doing more: Saudi Arabia and the wealthy Arab states along the Persian Gulf. As had been pointed out, the "six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees."
Jordon is a wonderful exception. Iraq has also housed many. The crisis began in 2011. Every year of the conflict has seen an exponential growth in refugees. In 2012, there were 100,000 refugees. By April 2013, there were 800,000. That doubled to 1.6 million in less than four months. There are now four million Syrians scattered throughout the region, making them the world's largest refugee population under the United Nations' mandate. At this rate, the U.N. predicts there could be 4.27 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 — the worst exodus since the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago. Jordan’s Za'atari, the first official refugee camp that opened in July 2012, gets the most news coverage because it is the destination for newly arrived refugees. It is also the most concentrated settlement of refugees: Approximately 81,500 Syrians live in Za'atari, making it the country’s fourth largest city. The formerly barren desert is crowded with acres of white tents, makeshift shops line a “main street” and sports fields and schools are available for children.
A new camp, Azraq, opened in April 2014, carefully designed to provide a sense of community and security, with steel caravans instead of tents, a camp supermarket, and organized "streets" and "villages." Because Jordan’s camps are run by the government and the U.N. — with many partner organizations like Mercy Corps coordinating services — they offer more structure and support. But many families feel trapped, crowded, and even farther from any sense of home, so they seek shelter in nearby towns.
Iraq has set up a few camps to house the influx of refugees who arrived in 2013, but the majority of families are living in urban areas. And in Lebanon, the government has no official camps for refugees, so families have established makeshift camps or find shelter in derelict, abandoned buildings. In Turkey, the majority of refugees are trying to survive and find work, despite the language barrier, in urban communities.
So its a problem of huge proportions where the world, and us need to address it from the prism of humanitarianism, not identity. Yet, when I raised the issue on facebook, I was asked what should be done when ‘Muslim migrants go on the rampage at the Austria/Italy border and behave like savages?’ There is a link to a particularly rabid piece that says this is a ‘savage take over of a civilized West.’

And just a few days before this news, Khaled-al-Asaad, an 81 year old world renowned archaeologist who studied, wrote and documented the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria for 40 years was cold-bloodedly beheaded by Islamic State (IS) militants. He had been held for about a month by the group, which seized the Unesco World Heritage site in May this year. The 81-year-old's family informed Syria's director of antiquities Maamoun Abdul Karim that he had been beheaded after being tortured. He was killed and a spectacle made of it, at a square outside the museum in the modern town next to the ruins, also known as Tadmur, in front of dozens of people. Mr Karim said IS militants had tried to extract information from Mr Assad about where some treasures were hidden. He described Mr Asaad as "one of the most important pioneers in Syrian archaeology in the 20th Century".
The murder has been denounced as a "horrific act" by Unesco, the UN cultural organisation."They killed him because he would not betray his deep commitment to Palmyra," Unesco Director General Irina Bokova said in a statement. IS has demolished several ancient sites in Iraq, and there are fears that it will destroy Palmyra, one of the archaeological jewels of the Middle East. Photos apparently showing Mr Asaad's body tied to what appears to be a lamp-post adjoining a main road have been circulated online by IS supporters. His severed head was placed underneath it. A sign attached to the body accused him of being an apostate who was in regular communication with and supported the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.He was also accused of representing Syria at overseas conferences with "infidels", in addition to being director of Palmyra's "idols".  The summary killing was one of several that have been carried out by IS in and around Palmyra since they took the city in May.
Mr Asaad spent most of his life working to promote and protect Palmyra. He died died trying to protect it. Since overrunning Palmyra, IS has destroyed a second century statue of a lion and two nearby Islamic shrines, which it described as "manifestations of polytheism". Syrian government forces have sought to drive IS out of the Palmyra area in recent months and there has been fierce fighting in nearby towns. UNESCO’s statement said that Mr Asaad's death was part of two intense blows within a week that had been endured by Syria's cultural heritage community. It said that Qasem Abdullah Yehiya, a senior member of the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums, was also reported to have been killed in a rocket attack on the Citadel of Damascus last week.
In 1990-1991 as the Gulf was plunged into an endless cycle of war of the USA’s making, the first brute assault on the region’s history and culture had taken place. US forces destroyed, without remorse, the Museum(s) and sites housing and symbolising ancient Iraq, Mesopotamia’s treasures, which in fact are the world’s history. There was little acknowledgement, and remorse from the West.
Yet as today we see signs of this growing intolerance and violence, raising its vile head in our own land, what should be our response?
Babri Masjid was destroyed in full public view on 6th December of 1992. The ideological descendants of that crime ensured over 270 Durgahs and Masjids were reduced to rubble in 2002. Yet the rich shaikhs of the UAE welcomed those culpable even as week’s later one road in our capital was purged of Aurangzeb and re-named Kalam. Dr Kalgurgi was shot dead, what possible threat could a 78 year man be except through his ideas? Before that, this year Govind Pansare and even before that Narayan Dabholkar..
When I gaze at the awesome structure of Humanyun’s tomb in New Delhi I wonder what will be it re-named to? But then I wonder whether I should also see the powerful temple structures at Hampi in south India as mine as much as anyone else’s?
Our history is all history, not just the Hindu or Islamic or Christian part.
It is these labels that have brought out the bloodthirsty mob in us.


Glancing Back, 2002 until 2015, In a Nutshell Teesta Setalvad 2002 Gujarat and the Desecration of Religious and Cultural Shrines Part II

Glancing Back, 2002 until 2015, In a Nutshell
Teesta Setalvad
2002 Gujarat and the Desecration of Religious and Cultural Shrines 
Part II
Gujarat High Court, 2012 :
State has a Duty to Protect Fundamental Rights of Freedom of Faith and Worship
Para 22. Thus, the State has a duty to protect those fundamental rights of the citizens conferred by the abovementioned Articles and if by any inaction or inadequate action, which is nothing but inaction, a person suffers for no fault on his part resulting in injury to his life and property, he can approach the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution for appropriate remedy.
Para 23. If in the above situation, huge numbers of persons have suffered injury for such inaction of the State Government but they are unable to come to Court for various reasonable grounds, a public-spirited person can surely espouse their cause and pray before this Court for appropriate remedy.
“ Para 33. After taking into consideration the enormity of the situation where more than 500 religious places of worship of only one community have been destructed, even if we do not take into consideration the number of such destructed places belonging to other community, the State Government cannot shirk its responsibility by asserting that it had no negligence or inaction in protecting the life and the property of the citizen. According to the affidavit filed by the State, the most of the above places of worship have been repaired and thus, the present application has lost its significance.
Absence of Adequate Preventive action by State in 2002
Para 34: If the State Government had disclosed the number of place of worship of the other community destroyed during the riot in its affidavit, we could comprehend in a better way the vastness of the damage arising out of the incident. For the reason best known to the State, it has not disclosed such number. However, the facts remain that the anarchy continued unabated for days. When according to the State, the riot broke out as a general reaction from the unfortunate incident of Sabarmati Express at Godhra as disclosed in its affidavit, such fact should have been known to the police intelligence and they should have taken appropriate preventive action well in advance.
Failure of Governance, Home Department, Police and Intelligence in 2002
“Para 35. Failure on the part of the police intelligence to gather such general reaction in time and to take appropriate timely action definitely come within the expression “negligence of the State” even if we for the sake of argument accept the defence of the State that the cause of riot was the “general reaction from the incident of Sabarmati Express”. Similarly, the fact that the riot continued for several days itself suggests lack of appropriate action or adequate action, if not inaction, on the part of the State in handling the situation.
Deliberate Design by GOG ion Not Placing NHRC Report before the State Assembly
“Para 36. Moreover, the fact that the annual report of National Human Rights Commission on this serious incident of violation of human right has not been placed before State Legislative Assembly for discussion is not in dispute. Such inaction is a grave defiance on the part of the State Government of the provisions contained in Section 20 of the Protection of the Human Rights Act, 1993 which is couched in mandatory form. The State Government has not given any explanation in its affidavits as to why the said report was not placed in the State Legislative Assembly in spite of the fact that the same was received at least in the early part of the year 2005.
Inadequate Efforts by the State to Handle the violence
“ Para 37. Once we hold that there was inadequate endeavour on the part of the State Government in effectively handling the situation resulting in destruction of more than 500 places of religious worship throughout the State belonging only to the one religious community, we are left with no other alternative, but to conclude that it is the duty of the State Government to restore all those religious places, irrespective of the religion, to its original position as it existed at the time of destruction. If those are already restored, the State Government should compensate the persons in charge of those places of worship by reimbursing the amount already spent by them.
Can the Courts Rule on Government Policy when it comes to Protecting the Religious Rights of Minorities?
Yes says the Gujarat High Court
Para 41: It appears from the affidavit used by the State Government that it has already taken decision to restore the places of residence and the business, which were destroyed during the period of communal riot. Such fact indicates that the State Government has virtually accepted its liability to compensate the affected persons for its failure to protect the residence and the place of business. The aforesaid failure to protect the right of the citizens under Article 21 having prompted the State Government to take decision to compensate the citizens whose fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution has been impeded, there is no reason why the same failure to protect the right of citizens to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion as also the freedom to manage religious affairs as protected by Articles 25 and 26 will not enable the persons who are in charge of the religious places including those of worship to get compensation for its restoration.
Preposterous Attitude of the Government of Gujarat (GOG)
“Para 43: In spite of the fact that the above rights are protected as fundamental rights in the Constitution of India, it is preposterous to suggest that the State Government, in spite of its failure to protect such rights, is lawfully entitled to take a policy decision only to restore the places of residence and the business destroyed in the riot but not the religious places including those of worship which are also protected in the same way with that of the place of residence and the place of business.
Para 44. The above policy rather would give a wrong signal to the citizens that for the protection of the religious places including those of worship from the attack of the ruffians, they should take up arms in their own hand because in the event of destruction of those places, no financial help would come from the Government. The above policy will also encourage the religious bigots to destroy the religious and other places of worship of the economically weaker section of the other community for the purpose of establishing their superiority over the others being well conscious that the economically weaker community will not be able to reconstruct the selfsame structure in future from their own resources. The mere fact that the damaged property has already been restored at the cost of the person wronged is of no consequence on the fate of this writ-application because there cannot be any waiver of fundamental right…. (The High Court then quotes from other judgements) Similarly, the policy decision taken in tackling an incident of earthquake, which is an act of God, cannot be applied in handling a situation arising out of the culpable inaction, inadequate action or negligence on the part of the State Government in protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed by our Constitution.
GOG Avoiding Constitutional Responsibility:
“ Para 45. In our opinion, the above policy of the State Government taken in defence is one of evading the constitutional responsibility and will bring anarchy in the society, and thus, is detrimental to the establishment of the principles and the tenets of our Constitution.
Strictures by HC:
“Para 54. We are unable to accept the said decision as a precedent in support of a proposition of law that the policy decisions of the State not to give compensation to the victimized religious places including those of worship by restricting the compensation only to the places of business and residences involved in the riot was not violative of the fundamental right to maintain and run the religious and other places of worship and to protect from being attacked by people of different community.
Inability and Negligence of the State Caused Destruction: Gujarat HC
“Para 56. On consideration of the entire materials on record we, therefore, hold that for the inability or negligence on the part of the State Administration, the religious and other places of worships in this State having been destroyed during the riot of the year 2002 mentioned above, the policy adopted by the State Government, not to spend any money from public exchequer for the restoration of the religious places which were destructed during the said period, but restricting the compensation only to the places of residence and the business, is violative of the fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India.
GOG Explanations on Thwarting Statutory Body like the NHRC Inadequate: Gujarat HC
“Para 57. We further find that no explanation has been given by the State Government for not placing the annual and other reports given by the National Human Rights Commission on the incident before the State Legislative Assembly till today in spite of receiving the same in the early part of the year 2005 and such grave lapse on the part of the State Government amounts to clear violation of Section 20 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
Direct Compensation for Religious Places Destroyed : Gujarat HC
“Para 58. We, accordingly, pass direction upon the State Government to give compensation in favour of the persons in charge of all the religious places including those of worship, which were damaged during the communal riot of the year 2002 for restoration to the original position, as those existed on the date of destruction.
Reimburse Costs of Repair, Appoint Principal Judges of Districts to Assist Process: Gujarat HC
“Para 59. We find that during the long pendency of this litigation, many of those places of worship have been repaired. Nevertheless, the persons in charge of those places would be entitled to get reimbursement of the amount spent for restoration of those places by production of evidence of expenditure incurred by them for the above purpose, as there is no waiver of fundamental right. We, however, make it clear that if at the time of repair, further additional construction has been made in excess of the one existed at the time of damage, for such additional construction, no amount should be payable by the State Government.
“Para 60. For implementation of our order, we appoint all the Principal District Judges of the various districts in this State and in the area under the jurisdiction of the City Civil Court, the Principal Judge, City Civil Court as the Special Officers for deciding the amount of compensation for the restoration of those religious and places of worship situated within the territorial limit of their respective court.
“Para 61. The aggrieved persons should lodge their respective claim with those Special Officers within two months from today supported by the documentary evidence they propose to rely in support of their claim of damages. It is needless to mention that they will be also entitled to give oral evidence to prove the exact position of the structure as it stood at the time of causing damage. The State Government will also be entitled to give written statement and oral and documentary evidence in support of its defence. Such written statement must be filed within one month from the service of the claim-application. The learned Special Officers on consideration of the entire materials on record will decide the matters and fix the amount of disbursement, if proved to have been incurred by them. In the cases where the religious places including those of worship are still lying in un-repaired condition or partly repaired condition, the learned Special Officer will pass not only the order of payment of the amount already spent by them for such repair, but also pass necessary order for repair or the balance amount of repair, as the case may be, to be made by the State Government.

Glancing Back, 2002 until 2015, In a Nutshell (PArt 1) August 26 2015

Glancing Back, 2002 until 2015, In a Nutshell
Teesta Setalvad
2002 Gujarat and the Desecration of Religious and Cultural Shrines
Time Line February- April 2002 Shrines Destroyed across Gujarat
April 2002
National Human Rights Commission had visited the State of Gujarat. In its report dated April 1, 2002, it recommended:-“The Commission recommends that places of worship that have been destroyed be repaired expeditiously. Assistance should be provided, as appropriate, inter-alia by the State.”
The National Minority Commission also visited the State of Gujarat and it has recommended to the State Government to repair and restore all religious places of worships, which have been damaged and or destroyed during the period of riots.
In June 20, 2002, the Government of Gujarat (GOG) Makes this Assertion to the NHRC:
 “As indicated earlier, the State has not failed in fulfilling its constitutional obligation of protecting the lives, liberty and dignity of all its people. The State did its best with available resources to protect the lives of its people. For every incident of violence there have been innumerable instances of lives saved, property saved and protected by the State administration.”
State Government Circulars Exclude Shrines
The revenue department issued several resolutions, resolution dated 20.3.2002 bearing number RHL/232002/513/ (5)/S and resolution number RHL/232002/513/S-4 dated 5.3.2002. The Industries and Mines Department also vide resolution dated 16.3.2002 number RLF/102002/760/CH provided for financial assistance to the communally riots affected industries, shop owners and self-employed persons.
However, surprisingly, the Government of Gujarat did not issue any scheme/resolution regarding the reconstruction and repairs of the religious places (mosques).
Petition by the Islamic Relief Committee filed in 2003 under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution with the legitimate grievance that, since the State Government has not considered the said representation and has taken a peculiar stand (reparation for homes and businesses is valid but for cultural and religious sites is not) this amounts to a violation of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Besides the overall attitude and stance of the Government is arbitrary and is therefore violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Islamic Relief Committee (IRC), Petitioners: Pointed out to the petitioners that as per the available information, there were complaints about damage caused to approximately 535 religious places and that about 294 religious places there from had already been repaired as on December 31, 2002. Subsequent meetings took place on January 7, 2004 and January 16, 2004. During the said meeting, the modalities for inspection of records were also discussed. On that date, there was a dispute. IRC clearly made out that the protection of places of worship was the duty of the Government,which the Government had failed to perform, and, therefore, it was advisable to undertake the repair of such religious places by the Government immediately. The government of Gujarat through the Principal Secretary (Revenue) differed and insisted that the community should take the responsibility for the repair work and the repairs to historic monuments would be looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India.

GOG (government of Gujarat) Position in the Gujarat HC
Denied there was discriminatory governance and stated that the state government had done all it could towards the restoration of normal human life from several points of view, leaving the task of restoration of religious places on the shoulders of the organizations like the IRC.
Moreover the GOG denied that there was failure, connivance, or negligence on the part of the State Government to control the situation during the riots, which broke out as a general reaction from the unfortunate incident of Sabarmati Express at Godhra. The state contested the argument that the provisions of Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. It was also denied that unless the damaged religious places of worship were repaired or restored and the concerned citizens were fully compensated, or that the Gujarat Government failed to perform its constitutional obligation as alleged or otherwise.
The state government chose to rely on the provisions of Rules 45, 46, 53, 54, 55 and 57 of Chapter II of Bombay Police Manual and the provisions of Sections 295 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code have always been regarded by the State stating that it did best in bad circumstances, the poor availability of paramilitary forces etc and: all available manpower was put to the best use according to the circumstances and the priority as the given situation demanded.
IRC (Petitioners) in Response to the GOG:
When the GOG has admitted that approximately 535 places of worship had
been damaged in the violence after February 27, 2002 (and, according to them
through their survey which is disputed by the IRC, 294 places of worship had
been repaired as on December 31, 2002) there is an admission by the state
that 241 places of worship had remained unattended even according to the
Government of Gujarat.

Observations of the Court in Its Final Judgement delivered on 8.2.2012 by Justice
Bhaskar Bhattacharya and JB Pardiwala in Special Civil Application No 3023/ 2003 with CA 6115/2004)

High Court of Gujarat (HC): The GOG contention that 294 places of worship had been
repaired and rehabilitated, was not supported by any Survey or Report. The
HC also observed that “the respondents have also failed to identify the repaired and rehabilitated places of worship and thus, the aforesaid contention is a false one According to the direction given in this matter, although series of meetings were held between the petitioners and respondents No. 1 and 2, all those meetings remained unfruitful since the respondents never made any serious efforts for coming out with a policy decision to provide financial assistance and/or compensation for damaged, desecrated and destroyed places of worship. From the affidavit of the State Government, it is apparent that the Government has not taken any policy decision To repair the damaged religious places or to reimburse the trusts or institutions of the religious places with the expenses incurred by them.”
Gujarat HC Observations on the Attitude of the State: “ Para 5.3. The State has not framed Any policy for such restoration and/or repair by the Government itself since the State Government had never undertaken before the National Human Rights Commission to do so by itself.
HC Observations on the Attitude of the State: “ Para 6. Pursuant to order dated December 28, 2010 passed in this matter, the State Government had given further affidavit and stated that after considering all the aspects of the matter, it had taken the decision not to provide any financial aid to the religious places affected or in any way damaged in view of Godhra incident or post-Godhra incident.”
GOG’s Defence: even at the time of earthquake of 2001 although various places of worship were destroyed, by following the same policy decision, the State Government did not spend even a single farthing for restoration of places of worship but gave priority to the places of residence and places of business which, according to the State Government, is of prime importance.
Gujarat High Court’s Clear Findings :
[[The Court makes a distinction between individual acts of vengeance and “….when due to incidents not arising out of any personal vengeance but solely based on religious beliefs or sentiments, persons belonging to two communities involve in riotous acts and cause destruction of property belonging to the innocent members of the other community”.
Gujarat High Court: “Para 20. In the latter type of cases, the State Government has, however, a constitutional obligation to take all possible steps to stop such illegal activities lest for its inaction or inadequate action, the life and the liberty of innocent citizens of this country are jeopardized in any way only because they belong to one of the communities of the persons involved in the riot.
“Para 21. A conjoined reading of Articles 14, 15, 16, 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India leaves no doubt that a citizen has, subject to the restrictions contained therein, a right to lead a meaningful life based on his faith on any religion and also the right to practise, profess and propagate any religion. He has also the freedom to manage religious affairs and maintain places of worship of his choice. Those Articles have found place in Chapter III of the Constitution enumerating the fundamental rights of a citizen.

(To be Continued)