Weekly Letter to the President
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ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 14, 2020 (posted February 19, 2020)
Mr President: It is not uncommon for colonial governments to enact sedition laws with
the purpose of stifling dissent; it is, following independence, for democratic
governments to be enforcing them to quell critics. It is also exactly what the Modi
government and party encourages in India.
And it is what landed a 26-year old mother and her daughter's teacher in jail in
Karnataka (a state now notorious for conservative politicians viewing porn at work).
All for a play critical of the new Citizenship Amendment Act and the government's
plans for a National Register of Citizens, the NRC on which Mr. Modi has been caught
modifying the truth. These have stoked fear among India's Muslims in that they may
be required to produce documents to prove citizenship -- an impossible task in a poor
country where few register births, or have any other documents like passports or
What did the play do? Not much. An elderly woman is told that Narendra Modi wants
Muslims to produce documents to prove citizenship. The woman responds that her
family has been in India for generations, and she would have to dig up the graves of
her ancestors to produce those documents, adding that a boy who used to sell tea
(reference to Modi) is now demanding them. "I will ask him for his documents," she
continues, "and if he can't show them to me, I'll beat him with my sandal."
The play was streamed on Facebook by a parent and quickly went viral. One of Mr.
Modi's ardent supporters, a certain Neelesh Rakshal, chanced upon it and promptly
registered a complaint with the police "for abusing the prime minister and also for
spreading hatred," To most citizens of western democracies, the charge would
appear ludicrous. For example, President Trump is lampooned much more severely
and fairly regularly on ofthisandthat.org in the Porcupine's Quill satire column.
But then it was just before Valentine's Day and Mr. Rakshal, the greatly offended
self-proclaimed social activist, expected garlands of marigolds for his idol.
Nazbunnisa, the 26-year old mother is not sure how she came to be jailed. She said,
she simply heard her daughter rehearse her part at home. She also says she never
even went to the play. A domestic worker, she has few resources at her disposal.
Farida Begum the 52-year old teacher suffers from high blood pressure, and fears
what the future holds for her family. Her husband, Mirza Baig, is also greatly
concerned about how his wife's time in jail will affect the marriage prospects of their
daughter. He says what has been been done "is not right."
The complaint also named the school management and the president of the school,
who the police have not been able to find. So they told the court at the preliminary
Dr. Thouseef Madikeri, the school's CEO, says, "We do not know for what reason
sedition charges have been invoked against the school. It is beyond the imagination
of any reasonable person. We will fight it in court."
India is full of travesty these days, but should the courts dismiss the complaint, Mr.
Neelesh Rakshal could face a lawsuit for defamation, at the very least. He would most
certainly in the US, where he could also be liable for damages and legal fees running
into six figures.
Karnataka is not the only state where Muslims are being abused. The city of Kanpur
in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has a large community of Muslims that
is under constant abuse by police, but this year has seen the brutality having fatal
consequences. Earlier Human Rights Watch reported (Feb 2019) killings of Muslims
across twelve states.
Such is life for poor minorities in Modi's India.