Within a week of the RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha threatening human rights and peace activist Harsh Mander of a probe into the source of funding for his “NGOs”, the latter has been slapped with an Income Tax notice.
“Our government does not believe in wasting time,” Harsh said, adding that “our struggle to place flowers at Pehlu Khan's lynching spot saw Rakesh Sinha on NDTV threatening me with an investigation into the funding of 'my' organisations. Sure enough I return to office today to find an Income Tax notice to the Centre for Equity Studies dated September 19. This is for complete scrutiny.”
“They can cancel our FCRA. Shut down the organisation. How does it matter? This would be an infinitely small fraction of the suffering that we bore witness to in the Karwan,” he said resolutely.
On September 14, during a talk show on NDTV Nidhi Razdan anchored a debate if it was a gross miscarriage of justice and were the police trying to protect the accused after all six accused persons named by Pehlu Khan in his dying declaration were let off by the police. The debate had RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha, Congress leader Pawan Khera, PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava and senior journalist Javed Ansari as participants. Harsh Mander joined the discussion over phone when Rakesh accused him of being an anti-Hindutva, anti-RSS and anti-BJP activist, saying that there should be a thorough investigation into the funding and functioning of Harsh’s organisations.
Pehlu Khan, 55, and his son Irshad were waylaid on the Jaipur-Delhi national highway near Alwar in Rajasthan on April 1, when they were on their way to Haryana after purchasing cattle. They were allegedly targeted by Hindu vigilante groups for being Muslims while they were taking home cows bought at a cattle fair in Rajasthan's Alwar.
During the discussion in which concerns were raised by some participants over threats to Harsh over Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Rakesh blurted: “Harsh Mander is poisoning….he is running an NGO (which is ) anti-Hindutva, anti-RSS and anti-BJP.” When Nidhi countered that he (Harsh) didn’t need his certificate, questioning if Bajrang Dal had a right to threaten him to stop speaking his mind, Rakesh retorted: “They (right wingers) can ask that such a person should not be allowed as he could disturb the communal harmony. If he has the democratic right to protest, I too have a democratic right to question Harsh Mander. I am questioning him…let there be a probe in the foreign-funding for Harsh Mander’s NGO and its functioning.”
“Harsh Mander is attacking entire RSS. I am RSS. My integrity is under threat. And you are saying don’t launch personal attack,” he retorted when Nidhi asked him to refrain from personal attacks.
When allowed to speak, Harsh politely but firmly responded to Rakesh, saying that: “I am passionately opposed to the ideology of RSS. (Their) ideology is against the idea of India and what the Constitution stands for…equal rights of minorities. I am opposed to the RSS’s idea of Hindu Rashtra. I have a right to do so.”
While Rakesh earlier shouted that Harsh Mander doesn’t deserve to be called a human rights activist, he brazenly told Kavita that she was talking like a police inspector and not as a human rights activist.
Kavita had pointed out that Home Minister’s statement that Gaurakshaks had done a good job in Rajasthan was indeed encouraging cow vigilantism. “The police and the Rajasthan government have been ensuring that the guilty get away,” she said and lamented that the police were registering criminal cases against victims of cow vigilantism.
Pertinently, Karwan-e-Mohabbat or the caravan of love—an initiative of peace activists under which they set out on a month-long journey across India, to counter a growing wave of intolerance—is the target of right wing radical organisations. The journey—during which activists have been visiting the family members of victims of lynching—is scheduled to conclude at Porbandar on October 2.