Who killed Swami Lakshmanananda Maoists OR Christian missionaries

29 08 2008

Maoists deny role in VHP leader’s murder

Staff Reporter

Source: The Hindu

‘Some wayward cadre lured by some committed the crime’

Copy of the letter sent to VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders

Maoists also deny role in the murder of VHP activists at Jalaspata


BERHAMPUR:

The letter claimed that some wayward cadre of the Maoist outfit were lured by nefarious elements to commit the crime. Meanwhile naxal sympathizers of Orissa have also claimed that Maoists had no hand in the murder of the VHP activists at Jalaspata in Kandhamal district.

A copy of the letter was sent to the State joint secretary of the VHP and the State joint coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, Ramakant Rath. The letter was claimed to be written by the Kotgarh unit of the CPI-Maoist party.

Government sources tell NDTV that their assessment is that Christian groups did not kill VHP leader Swami Lakshmanand Saraswati.

In an Orissa daily, Maoist leader Azad has claimed responsibility for killing of the VHP leader.

As Kandamal continues to simmer with sporadic incidents of violence, 20 companies of CRPF have already reached the area.

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Who killed Swami Lakshmanananda?

29 08 2008

August 28, 2008 17:38 IST
source: Rediff.com

Who killed Swami Lakshmanananda?

Not the Maoists, everyone except some senior state government authorities maintain.

Even the top brass of the state police say it is improbable that Maoists were responsible for the murder of the Swami and four others at his remote ashram in Orissa’s Kandhamal district on Saturday night. A senior state police officer said the modus operandi of the murders do not provide substantial evidence that the Maoists may be involved.

Here are the facts of the murder after preliminary investigations:

  • On Saturday, the ashram was celebrating Janmashtami, when around dinner time, a group of 30-40 armed assailants surrounded the place.
  • Eyewitnesses said about four of the assailants carried AK-47s and many others had country made revolvers.
  • Two of the four home guards stationed for security had gone to eat and only two of them were guarding the premises.
  • The assailants tied down the two guards, and gagged them.
  • They then sought out the Swamiji within the premises and opened fire on him.
  • The recovered bullets show they were from an AK-47, the police said.
  • The assailants then warned the guards not to raise an alarm and fled the scene.

Within minutes of the reaching the crime scene, the district authorities made a statement saying it was suspected Maoists who killed the Swami.

“Isn’t it far fetched? District authorities blaming a particular outfit within minutes of arriving at a crime scene?” asked Ashok Sahu, a retired IPS officer, who specialises in left wing extremism.

There are two reasons given as to why the state could have taken the Maoist line. The first is obvious, observers say.

“In December 2007, the area witnesses some of the bloodiest violence Orissa has even seen after the Swami was attacked by Christians. The state might have wanted to avert a repeat of the communal clashes and therefore could have pinned the blame on the Maoists,” one of them said.

Sahu said there could be more to the government’s action than this.

“Elections are coming in a matter of months. The state has failed miserably in tackling the Maoist insurgency. A government that has been terrorised by the Maoists may in turn be trying to terrorise the people in the name of the Maoists” he said.

Why are so many people ready to debunk the government’s Maoist attack theory so readily? The main reason is modus operandi of the execution.

“The central committee authorises the killings and the outfit issues statements owning up to the murders they commit. So many days after the murder, there has been no statement from the Maoists,” a senior police officer said.

Sahu points out the following: “The five attackers who the locals caught and handed over to the police are not Maoists. They are from the region.

“Moreover, I see no reason why the Maoists will spare the policemen on duty. They would have killed them. Then, there are the leaflets that were thrown around the ashram in a very amateurish way. The Maoists are very organised. If somebody is carrying an AK-47 he must be at least a commander. And if there are four commanders to marshal the mob, there wouldn’t have been indiscriminate firing like what we saw. And last but not the least, I have never heard or seen Maoists wear masks and hoods.

“They see themselves as revolutionaries. They never care about whether they are seen or not. In fact, I would say, they would very much want to be seen,” Sahu said.

Then, the most important question? Did the Swami’s activities in the jungle in any way make him an enemy of the Maoists? “Chances are very less. He was working for the welfare of the tribal people and against forced conversions in the region. There is nothing that suggests the Maoists would see him as a class enemy,” a senior officer said.

A local outfit, the Hindu Jagran Manch said the Swami had mentioned to an office bearer that some Maoists had joined him in a program he had organsied for the tribal people. “One day last year, I was talking to the Swami on phone, and that time there was a lot of concern about his security. So, he said, don’t you people worry. The Maoists are not a threat to me. In fact some of them are here with me,” said Lakshmikanth Das, an officer bearer of the HJM.

But do these factors clearly rule out the role of the Maoists? It is tricky, say many experts who have been following left wing extremism. “The best way this could be phrased is: ‘We do not rule out the involvement of the Maoists’.” Sahu said.

There are many reasons why the experts are undecided. “After the December 2007 clashes, even the Hindu outfits agreed that the Maoists are working in tandem with militant Christian outfits,”

Sahu agreed: “A lot of Maoists were converts to Christianity and were involved in the December violence. But this attack does not look like their work,” Sahu said.

The Maoists have long claimed that most of Orissa falls under the ‘liberated zone’. Kandhamal district with its desnse forest cover is a haven for them. In fact, the police had claimed that the recent attack on a police party in Nayagarh, where the Maoists dealt a spectacular blow to the Orissa police, was planned and coordinated from Kandhamal.

If not the Maoists, who could have killed the Swami? The needle of suspicion swings towards the militant Christian outfits. “Let’s face it, said Sahu, “even in times when the Maoist-militant Christian nexus was a possibility, there were numerous attacks and attempts on the Swami’s life.”

“There is a high possibility that this is the handiwork of militant Christian outfits. How they got such sophisticated weapons is something for the government to figure out,” said Sahu.

“The government’s responsibility to bring those responsible to book increases when you take into account the fact that the Swami received an anonymous threat only a week before he was killed. The local SP did not even register a case after the Swami lodged a formal complaint. They have to answer a lot of questions or this issue will snowball into a bigger issue than the December violence,” Das concluded.

The onus now rests on the government, which has been boxed in from almost all sides.

It has been shown up with regards to tackling Maoists, with consecutive attacks. It’s inadequacy in putting a lid on communal tension in Kandhamal have been exposed by the on-going violence in the district. And with elections looming, how it tackles the current crisis will go a long way in deciding its political future.





Why Kashmir is up in flames ?

29 08 2008

Source: Rediff.com

Colonel Dr Anil A Athale (retd)
August 29, 2008

As someone who has been active in resolving the Kashmir issue since 1990, recent events did not come as too much of a surprise. Many observers have commented that the situation is back to the days of 1989-1990. They are only partially right, on the surface it does appear so, but there are major differences. How the situation is similar and yet different is an important issue since the Indian response has to be based on sound analysis lest we repeat our past mistakes. Public memory is short but it is the job of analysts to remember the past and bring it to public notice.

Rollercoaster public opinion in the Kashmir valley

The first thing to understand about the people of the Kashmir valley is that their views are fickle and can see radical changes.

In 1947, in the wake of the tribal invasion led and masterminded by Pakistan, the valley welcomed the Indian Army [Images] with open arms. One of INPAD’s members, retired Lieutenant General Eric Vas remembers that the soldiers were showered with rose petals. It was thanks to Sheikh Abdullah’s secular leadership as well as the Sufi tradition that Kashmiris rejected the poisonous Muslim League propaganda. In 1965, when Pakistan repeated the 1947 feat and sent in infiltrators, there were very few takers for the idea of merger with Pakistan and the infiltration failed to achieve the goal of engendering an insurrection.

In 1975-1976, when Sheikh Abdullah was the chief minister, there was a widespread movement in Pakistan occupied Kashmir to march to Indian Kashmir — an exact opposite of the present Kashmiri slogan of ‘Chalo Muzaffarabad’.

On April 1, 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by military dictator Zia-ul Haq. His hanging sparked off large-scale violence in the Kashmir valley. Those owing allegiance to the Jamaat-i-Islami, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, were the main target of attack. Their houses were destroyed by firebombs. The provocation: The Jamaat had distributed sweets to celebrate Bhutto’s hanging. It was the Indian Army that rescued Geelani and his people.

On April 4, 1979, Kashmiris held a massive congregation in Hazratbal to thank Allah that they were a part of India and paraded a donkey with a placard that read ‘I am Zia-ul Haq’.

The flip side

Post-1947 support for India vanished in a few years. In the late 1950s when Nehru sent Haribhau Pataskar to gauge public opinion in the valley (in order to hold the referendum he had promised), Pataskar told him that the valley was all for joining Pakistan.

Sheikh Abdullah, who was elevated to the status of ‘Pir’ (holy man) by Kashmiris, fared no better. He died in 1982. Within seven years, his birth and death anniversary became occasions to burn his effigy. A police guard was placed to protect his grave from vandalism. He now became the ‘great betrayer’ from his erstwhile position of ‘Lion of Kashmir’.

Zia-ul Haq, the Pakistani dictator, saw a total reversal of fortunes. His bemedalled photographs began to adorn the homes of Kashmiris.

The late Hamid Dalwai, a Muslim reformist from Maharashtra, recounted his encounters in Kashmir that aptly sums up the reasons for Kashmiri flip-flop. He asked several people as to why they were unhappy in India. The answer given to him by one shikara owner was that they had everything going for them in India, “but after all, must we not care for the flag of Islam?”

Understanding the present crisis

The year 2008 till July was extraordinarily peaceful by Kashmir’s standards. Pakistan was so embroiled in its internal crisis that it had no time to devote to Kashmir.

The present crisis in Kashmir erupted when an innocuous transfer of land to build temporary facilities for Amarnath pilgrims was made an issue by politicians like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. The usual Srinagar [Images] protests by unemployed youth and crowds on hire so rattled the government that it revoked the land transfer. At that stage, a little firmness and explanation that the land was being given to a statutory body established by the state legislature and that too for temporary structures should have doused the fires in the valley. But with an eye on upcoming elections, the People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference jumped into the fray and made allegations about attempts being made to change Kashmir’s demography!

When the land order was revoked, the government thought that like countless other surrenders earlier, it will get away with this one too. In any case the prime minister was busy sewing up the nuclear deal with the US and the supreme leader of the ruling combine was enjoying the Beijing [Images] Olympics [Images] in the company of her family! Nobody had much time to devote such trifling matter as a major crisis in Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

The reaction in Jammu came as a surprise to one and all (including the ineffectual Bharatiya Janata Party which later tried to jump on the bandwagon). Frankly, the protests in Jammu had very little to do with the Amarnath land transfer issue. It was a spontaneous outburst of pent-up anger at the last 60 years of mollycoddling of the valley and discrimination towards the region. Other hilly states like Himachal Pradesh [Images] or Uttarakhand [Images] are marching ahead of J&K.

It is the obduracy of the valley — that sees demons in any and every attempt at economic development as ‘Indian imperialism’ — that has got the people of Jammu agitated.

The measure by former governor retired Lieutenant General S K Sinha to extend the Amarnath Yatra [Images] saw a bonanza in the shape of over 500,000 pilgrims making the arduous trek. Even at an average spending of Rs 2,000 per pilgrim, it meant over Rs 100 crore was pumped into the state’s economy, directly benefiting the common man. That this was opposed surely takes the cake, as the world over religious tourism is being encouraged.

To be continued…

Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retd) is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow at the United Services Institution, Delhi [Images], and coordinator of the Pune-based Institute for Peace and Disarmament





Chinore wakes up to terror 28 Aug 2008, 0157 hrs IST,TNN

28 08 2008
source:TOI
JAMMU: “I wonder why political parties and human rights proponents insist on the human rights of terrorists while common people don’t even seem to have the right to live” — this from Sohan Lal Sharma, who witnessed the encounter between security forces and fidayeen that jolted Chinore on Wednesday.

“I’ll never forget this black Wednesday. I was on a morning walk around 5.30am with friends when we heard what sounded like gunshots,” recalls Sohan, a student of MSc (Information Technology). Perplexed, they looked in the direction from where the shots were heard. When they couldn’t quite get a hang of what had happened, they returned to their morning exercises, thinking it could have been crackers.

Half an hour later, Sohan says his mobile phone rang. “It was for a friend. His mother had called on my phone and, sounding distraught, asked us to get back to our homes quickly. Apparently, she had heard the news that terrorists had sneaked into the area and were engaged in a gunbattle with army jawans.”

Within a minute of her call, the father of another friend phoned, Sohan said, scolding them for strolling around in a place that was far too dangerous. “We realised at once the danger we were in. Terrorists had hit our locality. It left us cold for a minute,” he says.

It was barely a few months ago, in May, that infiltrators had struck at Samba. “While the two terrorists were killed, the photographer, Ashok Sodhi, along with five others was killed during that encounter with terrorists,” Sohan recalls with a shudder.

They immediately turned back and began walking away from the rattle of gunshots, making sure not to run and attract the attention of the army or the police. As they walked, the entire area was cordoned off. “We stopped there. Soon, the security forces began retaliatory fire. We knew it was dangerous to be there but couldn’t help it. Those who had been called by their parents returned home while I hung around,” says Sohan.

“Between deathly silences, there were these crackles of gunfire. Army vehicles kept moving in. Around 9 am, heavy firing began and continued until afternoon. I thought the idea was to ensure that the terrorists ran out of ammunition. But the terrorists were able to sustain by periodic firing. One of them was apparently shot. That’s what we heard,” he says.

Mediapersons, he remembers, were asked to enter the cordoned off area only in bulletproof gear. The security forces were not going to take any chances after the Samba encounter. As the day came to an end, Sohan recalls with expectation, the army and other paramilitary forces had tightened their noose around the house in which they had holed up.

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Jammu: Rescued hostages recount incident

28 08 2008
Jammu: Rescued hostages recount incident
28 Aug 2008, 0943 hrs IST,AGENCIES
sources:TOI

Hostage

One of the hostages and the surviving child, recollecting the fearful incident.

JAMMU: It was a trauma they would have never imagined to came across. Fear could be seen on the faces of the seven hostages, including four children, who were held captives by the suspected LeT militants for 19-hours before being freed in a military operation on early Thursday. ( Watch )

Billu Ram, the owner of the house in which the terrorists were holed up, and his family members were rescued following the gunbattle that lasted till late Wednesday. However, a neighbour, his son, and a teacher present in the building were killed by the three terrorists, who were later shot dead by army personnel.

“The first to be brought out was Sarita, the wife of Billu Ram. She was injured. After that, his four children were rescued,” a police officer said.

The youngest of the children was Vipin Kumar, 2, while the other three were Kajal, 4, Ishant, 6 and Sheetal, 9.

“Later, Billo Ram, his brother Tarsem and his wife Ritu were rescued. Some of the hostages are still in shock,” the officer added.

Billo Ram, the father of the children, said, “I had lost hope. I had given up. It was God’s grace that they (the children) are safe. I am also thankful to the army for getting them out.”

“The operation is over. Our Special Forces have killed third militant early today,” army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel S D Goswami said.

Earlier TIMES NOW spoke to the mother and her children, who were holed up inside the house by the militants and were witness to the brutal killing of three other hostages, including the teacher of the children.

Mother Ritu, describing the entire episode, said, “They (militants) said ‘we will kill you’. We pleaded with them not to kill us and said take all the belongings and cash but please spare us. We have small children.”

She further said: “We were trapped inside the house. They came inside the house and started firing. We went out of the kitchen, into the bedroom and they again started firing. We kept screaming. They warned us not to go out of the room, or they will fire. They did not even give water to the children.”

Sheetal Kumar, one of the hostages and the surviving child, recollected the fearful incident and said, “We were in the kitchen. Somebody was at the gate and we thought it was the Army. But they broke the door and started firing.”

Meanwhile, Nishanth Kumar, another hostage child, said, “They killed one boy. They asked us to come out of the kitchen. We came out. They started firing. I was scared.”

“Three unidentified people came into the house. When they came, they killed three people. We were in another room, and locked the door. They tried to break the door. But couldn’t. We did not talk to them. We were in one corner of the room. They were just firing. There were totally nine of us inside,” the paternal uncle said.

‘We’re woken up by gunfire,” added the uncle. An eyewitness to the incident said that they were sleeping when the firing started. The eyewitness also added that the Army came in, and told them that there were militants in the next house, and at that time his parents were still inside in one of the neighbouring houses.

Three terrorists had crossed into Jammu and Kashmir from the Kanachak sector of the border with Pakistan Tuesday morning. They were intercepted at the police check post of Chinore, about 20 km north from the centre of Jammu, Wednesday morning.

The three militants, dressed in police uniforms and carrying AK-47 assault rifles, shot dead a junior commissioned officer (JCO) and then hijacked a three-wheeler. They then fired indiscriminately, killing Shabeet Hussain, a milkman, and motorcyclist Naseeb Singh before killing the three-wheeler driver, Vijay Kumar, police said.

The guerrillas then entered Billu Ram’s house. Police and army personnel cordoned off the area and had a gun battle with the militants. Grenade explosions and gun shots were heard in the area as the single-storey building was perforated with bullet marks. By late Wednesday, the army personnel managed to kill all three militants.

This was the second major gun battle in Jammu region in less than three and a half months. Six people were killed in Samba town, 40 km southwest of Jammu May 11.

According to defence sources, militants had infiltrated May 8 from across the international border in Samba sector before they surfaced May 11 morning and killed civilians and soldiers. Three militants were killed in that battle.





Accused bombers led dual lives

28 08 2008

Accused bombers led dual lives
28 Aug 2008, 0458 hrs IST, Prashant Dayal,TNN

source: TOI
AHMEDABAD: When a team of crime branch of city police reached Tavdipura of Bharuch to nab Sajid Mansuri, in connection with the 26/7 serial blasts, he had one wish – not to be arrested in front of his wife and children. Sajid is emerging as the key strategist in the Ahmedabad, Surat and Jaipur bomb plots.

The terror accused who have been arrested till date had been living a double life. In most cases, the police found that their family members were completely in the dark about their Jihadi sides.

Sajid’s apparent shame for his arrest may seem in sharp contrast to his terrorist activities, but his wife seemed unaware about her husband’s mission. Just 45 days ago, Sajid had come to stay in Bharuch. He hid his past and lived under the cover of a dealer of phenyl and floor-cleaner acid.

On the day of his arrest, Sajid had gone out to treat his wife and children to some ice-cream in the evening. “His wife said, when they returned home, she noticed that Sajid was frightened. When she asked him why, he said there is heavy police presence on the road and that he feared he would be arrested for his involvement with SIMI. Sajid was wanted in the crackdown on SIMI at Surat in 2001,” said a police official .

When police came knocking on his door, Sajid wanted to flee. But, the cops warned that they would open fire if he does not open the door. To ensure that his wife and children are not hurt, he gave himself up and was arrested in front of his children.

Shahbaz Hussain, who was arrested on Sunday night from Lucknow, too has a similar tale. “Family members of Shahbaz , who used to run computer classes in Lucknow, were taken aback when UP and Rajasthan police reached his house in the night. They seemed genuinely surprised by his arrest, as they had no inkling of his involvement with subversive forces. We have spoken to our counterparts in Rajasthan and they say Shahbaz had not disclosed his terrorist face to his family members,” said police officials investigating the serial blasts.

Another key terror operative, Zahid Shaikh of Juhapura, who had provided shelter to Mufti Abdul Bashar Kasmi and planted the car bomb at Civil Hospital too had kept his family in the dark about his dual role.

After Zahid was arrested and produced before court, his old mother stood bewildered and kept asking mediapersons, “Will my son get released in a week? I hope he has not been booked for something serious.”

Zahir’s family claims he is innocent:

Even as Gujarat police announced that they had cracked the case of planting of bombs in Surat, the 300-odd residents in the Muslimdominated slum at Natraj compound in Ghastipura – home of Zahir Patel, one of the two accused – were glued to their television sets. Most watched in disbelief as Zahir Patel’s name was flashed across all news channels. A cramped chawl in Natraj compound leads to a small tin shed where Zahir, a small textile vendor, lived with his family – his parents, wife, oneyear-old son. Zahir’s family insists he was picked up by the police on August 9. Some four to five days after his detention, his younger brother, Zakir was summoned by the Prevention of Crime Branch (PCB) sleuths for questioning. Zakir was released after nine days of rigorous questioning. “Lagta hai Allah hamara imtihaan le raha hai (It seems God is testing us),” says 23-year-old Zakir. “My brother is innocent. I have never seen him hitting anyone. How can he be part of a terrorist plan to kill hundreds of innocent people?”





Exiles in ghettos keep fire blazing SANKARSHAN THAKUR Agnishekhar Muthi (Jammu), Aug. 24: They live eight, often ten or twelve, to a room. To call th

25 08 2008
Exiles in ghettos keep fire blazing

Muthi (Jammu), Aug. 24: They live eight, often ten or twelve, to a room. To call them rooms is a stretch; hovels is more appropriate — barely six by eight, the asbestos ceilings knocked low over them, a vast and suffocating narrow-laned warren. They do with temporary power pulled on illicit lines, they have little access to water, they share unsanitary community bathrooms. They live marooned in the putrid discharge oozing from them, amid foraging pigs and pie-dogs.

These are Kashmiri Pandits uprooted from their Valley moorings two decades ago, and Muthi, on the forsaken outskirts of Jammu, is their home — a blistered tinderbox of frustration and rage, spewing communal pus. In Muthi, and other similar “migrant camps” littered around Jammu, could lie some of the clues to why this crisis has caught fires that refuse to die.

It’s so angry, it doesn’t even want to talk. “Go away, just go away,” protests P.N. Dhar, a former government employee and community leader. “What have you come here now for? To use us to douse the fires those (expletive deleted) Kashmiri Muslims are lighting up? Too late, now it’s our turn to light the fires, to get some notice from this country.”

Men from the ghetto have gathered around Dhar and it is instantly evident they have unspent payloads of fury and hatred accumulated over the years; they are now letting it off.

“This country has only been bothered about (expletive deleted) who carry Pakistani flags and spit on patriots,” says Sahabji Chrungoo, originally from Baramulla. “Nobody came when we were thrown out, nobody bothered when we were killed, nobody listened when we warned secession had gripped Kashmir. But how long could you have ignored it? This had to happen. If we have to light fires now to get attention, so be it. But this time, we will have it our way.”

As an unprecedented regional-communal conflict consumes the state, the Valley’s ousted Kashmiri Pandits have become Jammu’s sword-arm in battle. It’s a sword smelted in decades of unassuaged grievance and of rancour and prejudice. It’s a sword that has verily stabbed the celebrated and inclusive notion of “Kashmiriyat” to death and invoked in its place a ghoulish spectre of intolerance that threatens to extend the current rift.

Agnishekhar, convener of Panun Kashmir, the umbrella body of ousted Pandits, isn’t even remorseful or apologetic about pronouncing “Kashmiriyat” dead.

“What about it?” he asks combatively. “Where is composite culture when all Hindus have been driven out of the Valley, out of their homes and farmlands? They killed Kashmiriyat, not us. Don’t expect secularism of us when you are pandering to all shades of Islam and anti-nationalism in the Valley. Who is secular in the Valley that Jammu is being called communal in contrast? Those who are unleashing cries of Nizam-e-Mustafa (Islamic rule)?”

The Panun Kashmir leader won’t openly admit it, but the strident “Bam-Bam Bole” movement across Jammu is an hour of vindication that he is loath to let go of.

“We have been waiting for this for long,” he says. “Jammu didn’t exactly welcome us when we were driven out of the Valley in 1989-90, we haven’t had it easy here. But now Jammu seems to have understood what the problem with Kashmiri Muslims is, it has risen and we are with Jammu. This is not about land in Amarnath, this is about a deeper malaise of which Amarnath is only a symptom. Kashmir has held India to ransom for too long, now it is our turn. Half the Kashmiri leadership deserves to be put behind bars for sedition, we deserve to be reinstated to our homes.”

Does he realistically believe, though, that he and his fellow Pandits can make their way back to the Valley laden with such loathing? That they can even, in this surcharge, visualise the “yatra” to Amarnath proceeding next year?

“That is for the government to ensure,” Agnishekhar says. “Why does the law of the land not run in Kashmir, can Indians not go there? The government and secularists of this country have nothing to say of the anti-national Islamists of Kashmir, all they can do is blame us. What for? For agitating with the national flag?”

As his Muthi compatriots gather, a little clutch that has mushroomed in minutes, Agnishekhar, also a Hindi writer of fair renown, crossly throws off the burden of bigotry from his doorstep.

“I was once known as a progressive writer, until they threw me out for protesting the ouster of Pandits and began calling me a religious zealot. But should I not even protest my circumstances? Won’t you if you were thrown out of home? Hum aah bhi karen to ho jaate hain badnaam, woh katl bhi karen to charcha nahin hota (I get defamed if I so much as complain, they commit murder and yet get no blame).”

Agnishekhar claims no allegiance to the BJP or the Hindu rightwing, he’s been a Congressman all his life, paid obeisance to Nehru. He does concede, though, that today his worldview is closer to the Hindu rightwing.

“Where are Nehru’s children, where is the Congress, feeding the Muslim communalists of the Valley?” he asks. “It’s the BJP that helped us in crisis, if anybody did, we have to be grateful. And now we have to fight its battle to the very end.”

The assemblage behind him, virulently anti-Muslim and sporting saffron bandannas, is ominously nodding approval.