IAMC Weekly News Roundup – July 22nd, 2013

by newsdigest on July 23, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Enough evidence to put Modi on trial for 2002 riots: Zakia (Jul 19, 2013, Indian Express)

Challenging the clean chit given to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others in 2002 Gujarat riots, complainant Zakia Jafri, widow of ex-Congress parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri, argued in the court Thursday that there was enough material evidence to chargesheet Modi and set the case for trial. Mumbai-based lawyer Mihir Desai, appearing on behalf of Zakia, orally submitted before the court that there was enough evidence against Modi and other accused officers and politicians to chargesheet against them and start trial in the case. For nearly two hours, Desai’s argument revolved around the meeting on the night of February 27, 2002 when Modi allegedly told his officers to “let Hindus vent out their anger”.

It was the same day when 59 kar sevaks, who were retuning from Ayodhya, were burnt alive in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra. The incident led to statewide riots in which hundreds of people, mostly from the minority community, were killed. Desai cited the statements of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, retired Director General of Police R B Sreekumar, slain BJP leader Haren Pandya and his father Vitthal Pandya, among others, which were submitted before Nanavati Commission which probed the 2002 riots. In their statements, they had claimed that “Modi had ordered to go soft on Hindu rioters and let them vent their anger”.

“The merit of these statements will be tested during the trial. At this stage, if the statements are true, it would amount to abetment and conspiracy. If these statements are correct, there is no option but to file the chargesheet,” Desai told the court. While reading out Modi’s statement given to SIT in 2010 during the investigation, Desai hinted that Modi knew about the contents of Bhatt’s affidavit even though the latter had deposed himself in secrecy and had requested anonymity. Bhatt had given his statement saying that he was present at the meeting at Modi’s residence.

“When SIT questioned Modi (without specifically asking him about Bhatt’s presence) about the said meeting, he said that Bhatt was not present at the meeting as he was a junior officer. Why did Modi say that when he was not even questioned about Bhatt?” Desai argued. He further added that whether Bhatt was present at the meeting or not would be tested during the trial.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1143918/

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Don’t want Modi as my PM: Amartya Sen (Jul 22, 2013, Hindustan Times)

As an Indian citizen, he does not want Narendra Modi to be the Prime Minister because the Gujarat chief minister hasn’t done enough to make minorities feel safe, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said. The noted economist not only questioned the Gujarat strongman’s secular credentials but also criticised Modi’s model of governance, saying he didn’t approve of it.

“As an Indian citizen, I don’t want Modi as my PM… He has not done enough to make minorities feel safe,” Sen told CNN-IBN in an interview. On being asked why he did not want the Gujarat chief minister as the prime minister, Sen said, “He could have first of all been more secular and he could have made the minority community feel more secure.”

On whether he approved the highly debated Modi model of governance, the economist replied in the negative. “I don’t think the record is very good. I don’t have to be a member of the minority in order to feel insecure. I could be a member of the majority.” Sen said according to him Indians did not want a situation where the minorities “could legitimately think that there was an organised violence against them in 2002. That’s a terrible record”.

Sen, however, agreed that Modi had achieved significant progress in building infrastructure in his state. When asked to compare Modi with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Sen said, “That comparison is slightly unfair. Nitish is dealing with the poorest in India, Modi is dealing with a relatively richer state… I think in his condition Nitish is showing a great vision. In a way that will be very important for the future of Bihar.”

Recently named the chief of the BJP’s campaign panel for 2014, Modi is being seen as the party’s prime ministerial candidate which has once again put the spotlight back on his role during the 2002 violence. His critics accuse him of not doing enough to contain the worst communal violence Gujarat has seen.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1096480.aspx

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Blow to Modi: SC rejects review of Lokayukta’s appointment (Jul 19, 2013, Rediff)

The rejection of the Gujarat government’s curative petition seeking a review of the judgment upholding the appointment of Justice R A Mehta as the Gujarat Lokayukta is a big blow to Chief Minister Narendra Modi. But the Congress leaders in the state capital Gandhinagar are not celebrating this huge legal victory yet. Justice Mehta, a sauve and mild-mannered retired judge, has neither accepted nor rejected the Gujarat governor’s governor offer to become Lokayukta. Congressmen are keeping their fingers crossed as the ball is in now in Justice Mehta’s court.

On his last working day, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and four other brother judges Justices P Sathasivam (who has become chief justice on Friday), G S Singhvi, B S Chauhan and Ibrahim Kalifulla dismissed the Gujarat government’s petition saying it has no merits. The Modi government’s argument was that in appointment of the Lokayukta primacy wasn’t given to the opinion of the state government. The Gujarat government alleged that Governor Kamla Beniwal appointment of Justice Mehta was ‘illegal’ as it was done without going through the proper consultation process.

Earlier this year, the SC ruled that the opinion of the Gujarat high court chief justice was most important and the governor could appoint the Lokayukta without the state government’s advice. Justice Mehta is in America at the moment and is expected to return on August 5. When he was appointed despite Modi’s strong objection, he lay low and didn’t accept or reject the offer from the governor. Reportedly, when Justice Mehta was requested to take charge of the job he expressed a desire to let legal battles over his appointment get over.

A senior Congress leader from Gujarat told rediff.com, “Since he didn’t reject the appointment we believe he will finally accept the offer and be sworn-in on his return from aboard. Since he hasn’t rejected the governor’s offer, we take it as acceptance. Still we are not sure what he will finally decide.” “In the unlikely case that Justice Mehta refuses to become Lokayukta then the whole process will have to start again with the state chief justice looking for a suitable candidate.” Congress leaders are keen that after the clearance of all kind of legal hurdles Justice Mehta should accept the job.

The Congress leader said, “We have already published the long list of corruption by the Modi government. We will expose the Modi government’s corruption in land allotment cases to rich industrialists in the name of development in the coming election.”

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/blow-to-modi-sc-rejects-review-of-lokayuktas-appointment/20130719.htm

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BJP, RSS behind communal tensions in Rajasthan, says Brinda Karat (Jul 22, 2013, Times of India)

CPM politburo member Brinda Karat on Sunday alleged that the BJP and the RSS were responsible for the communal tensions that occurred in Rajasthan during the past four years. She accused chief minister AshokGehlot also of being a mute spectator while these tensions were being ‘orchestrated’. Karat was in the city to release an ‘alternative policy paper’ of the third political front the Left parties have formed with others in opposition to the Congress and the BJP ahead of the assembly elections due here this year.

CPI general secretary AB Bardhan, JD(S) general secretary Danish Ali, Samajwadi Party state chief Pundit Ramkishan and JD(U) general secretary Javed Raza, who were present on the occasion, too, targeted Gehlot and former chief minister Vasundhara Raje for allegedly playing in the hands of capitalist and communal forces at the cost of the common man.

“During Raje’s tenure (2003-2008) the famers were lathicharged more than 100 times, bullets were fired on them whenever they raised a voice for their rights. All this was done to favour the corrupt,” Karat said, addressing the five parties’ workers at the city’s Maharashtra Sadan. She emphasised, “Under the present government, 55 incidents of communal tension have occurred. The RSS and the BJP were behind them all. But what was the Gehlot government doing when these incidents were taking place?”

Bardhan stressed, “It is the RSS that takes most of the decisions in the BJP; right from appointing the spokespersons to nominating a prime minister candidate and deciding who will run the party’s election campaign.” The CPI leader hit at Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi over the ‘puppy remark’.

SP’s Ramkishan said the prime aim of the Congress and the BJP was to grab power without bothering about tackling unemployment, corruption and farmers’ issues. “BJP and Congress are not alternatives but are competitors. BJP praises Modi’s development model, which is designed to suit the capitalists. The Congress government here is distributing saris and blankets to buy votes,” the SP leader said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/21229614.cms

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NCP questions BJP on Ayodhya temple donations (Jul 20, 2013, Yahoo)

The BJP should stop collecting donations for Uttarakhand relief work and first explain what happened to the “crores of rupees” taken in the name of building the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya decades ago, the NCP demanded Saturday.

“The BJP should first submit accounts of how much money was collected during the Ram Janmabhoomi issue days to build a temple at Ayodhya and what has happened to it?” Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) spokesperson Trajano D’Mello told a press conference Saturday.

“No one knows where the donation money is going or where and how it is going to be utilised,” he added, accusing the BJP-led coalition government of ignoring the destruction caused by a flood in a Goan village of Cuncolim some weeks back.

“First our own villagers should be provided relief before running off to spend money for other states. No one came to the rescue of Cuncolim residents after floods in Goa caused damage there,” Trajano said.

http://in.news.yahoo.com/ncp-questions-bjp-ayodhya-temple-donations-085939671.html

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Poison theory floats as Bihar midday meal kills 27 kids (Jul 18, 2013, Times of India)

The midday meal tragedy worsened on Wednesday with fatalities rising to 27 and suspicion mounting that the last meal eaten by the children may have been accidentally contaminated or, as Bihar’s education minister claimed, deliberately poisoned. The Bihar government put the toll in what is becoming the country’s worst midday meal tragedy at 22. But villagers said angry parents and relatives had buried at least 27 bodies in front of the Government Primary School where the children had their midday meal on Tuesday.

Residents of Dharmashati Gandaman village of Saran district chose to bury the bodies in the school as a mark of protest. Villagers said the 27 buried children did not include those who died on way to Patna. While four children were declared brought dead at Patna Medical College & Hospital on Tuesday night, two children died on Wednesday. State education minister Prashant Kumar Shahi said traces of organic phosphorous had been found in the food served to the kids, most of them below 10 years of age. “It is a criminal case of poisoning,” he said. Shahi alleged that the cooking ingredients came from a store run by the school principal Meena Devi’s husband Arjun Rai, whom he described as a member of a rival political party, an obvious reference to the RJD. The cook had told the principal that the mustard oil given to her to make soya curry had a foul smell, he said.

On Wednesday, cops and reporters found Meena Devi’s home locked and she had reportedly fled. The only other teacher in the school was said to be on leave. As the Chhapra toll rose, another minor midday meal poisoning was reported from Navatolia Middle School, near Madhubani, where 50 children fell sick. Sources said a dead lizard was found in the food served to the kids. There was no definitive narrative from the police on how the toxic food landed on the plates of the kids. The village itself remained virtually out of bounds for police and state officials, with violent protesters blocking roads to the area. The crowd set fire to four government vehicles, including two police jeeps. All the roads leading to Mashrakh remained clogged with trucks, tractors and JCB machines which were forcibly parked in the middle of the roads by villagers.

Heart-rending wails of women were heard over the din of protests from several houses when these reporters managed to reach the village around noon after crossing at least six blockades on foot. A woman was seen banging her head against the mound of earth under which her son Rahul was buried. Another group of women wailed inconsolably under a tree nearby.

According to villagers, the primary school, which opened only a couple of years ago, was running in a 20x15ft room that also served as a community hall for weddings. Midday meals were cooked in the small veranda by ‘sevika’ Pano Devi and ‘sevika’ Manju Devi. On Tuesday, Pano did not report for duty and the meal – rice and soya – was cooked by Manju. She and her two children also ate the meal. Schoolbags, books, steel plates and gunny bags on which the children sat lay scattered in the lone classroom while some chairs and the table of headmistress and teacher were lying outside, smashed by angry protesters.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/21130119.cms

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Ishrat case: Top govt officials, cops sabotaged probe, CBI says (Jul 16, 2013, Times of India)

The CBI has submitted proof of a high-level meeting between top government functionaries and cops involved in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case held to sabotage investigations in the case. Revelations about this meeting were made by suspended IPS officer G L Singhal, an accused in the case who is now out on default bail. Singhal had recorded the meeting secretly and has submitted the audio recording to the CBI.

In the chargesheet filed by the CBI, Singhal has given evidence of the high-level meeting held by the Gujarat government.

Singhal has disclosed that the meeting was held in November 2011, when the HC was supervising this case and had also directed the state government not to obstruct investigations by the probe agency. Singhal along with another accused cop – then assistant commissioner of police, crime branch, Tarun Barot – had been coached on how to mislead the investigating agency. Singhal had attended the meeting with advocate Rohit Verma.

Secretary to the chief minister, Girish Murmu, IPS officer A K Sharma and the then minister of state for home Praful Patel, MoS law Pradipsinh Jadeja and current education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama were at this meeting. The CBI in its chargesheet says that the matter came to light when Singhal surrendered a pen drive containing an audio recording of the meeting during investigation. The CBI recorded a punchnama of the pen drive before taking it into possession.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/21092594.cms

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No proof that Ishrat was a militant: ex-home secy (Jul 17, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Former Union home secretary GK Pillai has said that there is no evidence to suggest that Ishrat Jahan was associated with militants, before she was killed in an encounter by Gujarat police in 2004. “I don’t think there is any conclusive evidence against her and unless any proper investigation is carried out, we will have to give her benefit of doubt,” said Pillai here.

He also rejected media reports that convicted militant David Headley had told the National Investigation Agency that Ishrat was an LeT operative. “To the best of my knowledge, in the NIA report there is no mention of Ishrat Jahan,” said Pillai. In 2009, when Pillai was home secretary, the government retracted from its earlier statement in the Supreme Court that Ishrat was a militant.

“What is wrong with the two affidavits? One affidavit gives the basis of evidence in the files and other one is only clarifying the fact that which anybody would say that even if you give evidence that one is terrorist or alleged terrorist or a suspect, we said that doesn’t give anybody right to kill them without a fair trial,” Pillai said.

Modi’s government was widely criticised for its perceived hesitancy in stopping the carnage targeting the minority community of Muslims across Gujarat, after the Godhra arson incident of a train rake carrying Hindu pilgrims being torched in February 2002.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1093837.aspx

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“Delhi Police withheld evidence, fabricated story in Batla House case” (Jul 20, 2013, The Hindu)

Senior advocate Satish Tamta who represents Shahzad, an accused in the Batla House encounter, continued to highlight the loopholes in the police narrative on Friday even as the case reached its concluding stage. Saturday is expected to be the last day of final arguments after which Additional Sessions Judge Rajender Kumar Shastri would give dates for the final verdict. Arguing before the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr. Tamta highlighted that going by the police story – that Shahzad fled flat No. 108 while firing at the police party and threw the weapon in a drain somewhere in Uttar Pradesh – there should have been a bullet fired from his firearm.

To counter the police claim, he cited the ballistic reports of the bullets found from the site of the encounter. The report said all the bullets matched with the arms belonging to the police party and two arms allegedly attributed to Atif and Sajid. “According to the report there was no extra bullet on the spot, which demolishes the entire police theory that Shahzad fired and fled. Our point has been that he was not there in the first place and has been framed in the case – an argument substantiated by a series of evidences including this one,” argued Mr. Tamta. Mr. Tamta also highlighted the prosecution’s “wilful ignorance” of few vital evidences which could have brought the truth before the Court and, in turn, could have gone against the prosecution story.

“As somebody living just 125 metres away from the site of the encounter, Owais Malik was probably one of the most important witnesses in this case, who could have thrown light on the case. The fact that the police did not record the statement of Mr. Malik, who after hearing the gun shots, was the first one to inform the local police about the encounter, shows that the prosecution was not interested in knowing the truth. They were, instead, more interested in making up a story,” Mr. Tamta alleged, while highlighting that Mr. Malik was interrogated over phone only.

Mr. Tamta cited the “silence” of prosecution on the issue of sampling of Shahzad’s voice as an instance of “withholding evidence out of the possibility that it may go against their case”. The prosecution, which claimed that a call was made from the phone number of Shahzad’s father to Atif’s phone early morning on the day of the encounter, had also taken Shahzad’s voice samples apparently to match with the intercepted voice samples. The phone number belonging to Atif was on surveillance from September 1, 2008, he said.

“Till now the prosecution has been completely silent on what happened to those voice samples. It leads us to make an inference, as the Evidence Act mandates, that they are withholding the evidence because it may have gone against them,” Mr. Tamta argued. Mr. Tamta also argued that the law mandates that prosecution should not only explain the injuries sustained by victims but also the injuries to the accused. “The police story has completely failed to explain how come serious physical injuries were sustained by both Atif and Sajid, who were killed in the shoot out. Their post-mortem report clearly states that they died not only because of bullet injuries but also due to physical injuries,” he concluded.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/delhi-police-withheld-evidence-fabricated-story-in-batla-house-case/article4934086.ece

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Malegaon blast: Muslim accused want probe against ATS, police (Jul 19, 2013, Business Standard)

Five accused in the 2006 Malegaon blast case Friday demanded an inquiry against the Maharashtra Police and Anti-Terrorist Squad officers who had falsely implicated nine Muslim youth in the case, an activist said. The accused also sought compensation from the state government as they were falsely implicated in the case and spent a long period behind bars, said Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra legal adviser Sharif Shaikh.

The five accused – Noorulhuda Samsodhoha, Shabbir Ahmed Masiullah, Raiss Ahmed Rajjab Ali Mansuri, Mohammed Zahid Abdul Majid and Abrar Ahmed Gulam Ahmed – made the demands in an application seeking discharge from the case after contradictions in the charge-sheets filed by various probe agencies. The Jamiat moved their discharge application in the designated Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) special court.

The five argued that not only were they falsely implicated in the case, but also their alleged confessional statement which was used as a vital piece of evidence against them was discarded by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which subsequently took over the probe from the Maharashtra Police and the ATS. The applications contended that the NIA had concluded that the confessionals were not voluntary and obtained under duress from the accused. The court has posted the matter for further hearing July 22.

Last month, two others – Mohamed Ali Shaikh and Asif Bashir Shaikh, accused in the same case had moved a discharge plea though they are currently in custody as they are accused in the July 7, 2005 Mumbai serial blasts in trains. “Soon, we shall file similar discharge appeals for the remaining two accused who are currently enlarged on bail,” Shaikh said.

The MCOCA court had granted bail to seven of the total nine accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case after the NIA investigated it and submitted a preliminary report in November 2011. The Sep 8, 2006 blasts in the powerloom town in Nashik district of north Maharashtra had left 35 people dead.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/malegaon-blast-accused-want-probe-against-ats-police-113071901111_1.htmlg

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Opinions and Editorials

The contours of a Hindu nationalist – By SK Sadar Nayeem (Jul 17, 2013, Statesman)

In an interview to Reuters – the first since he was named BJP’s chief campaigner for the 2014 elections – Narendra Modi said two things. One, he did not feel guilty for his alleged role in the anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 in Gujarat – in this context, he said ‘if a puppy comes under the wheel of a car in which you are sitting behind, it will be painful’; two, he said ‘I am a Hindu nationalist’. Although his canine reference was in bad taste and reflected his mindset, his second remark – ‘I am a Hindu nationalist’ – is more dangerous in the context of conditions that shape India’s unified and democratic consciousness. Modi’s remark was well-thought out; since a long time, following the exit of Atal Behari Vajpayee from the political scene, the RSS has been trying to take control of BJP politics by weaving together elements along the Hindutva-Ramrajya-Ramjanambhoomi axis. The Sangh does not want the BJP to go down the road tread by Vajpayee and later Advani, which worked to dilute the party’s Hindutva image. The BJP national executive at Goa endorsed the need to revert to Hindutva. Thus, Modi’s ‘I am a Hindu nationalist’ remark satisfied the RSS which wants the BJP to make national identity synonymous with Hindu identity.

Narendra Modi’s emissary to Uttar Pradesh, Amit Shah, has already made it clear that if the BJP comes to power in the state, a Ram Mandir would be built on the ruins of Babri Masjid. The Sangh Parivar is now preparing the ground to uphold the RSS’ idea of a nation state and Narendra Modi is the suitable boy who has taken to the task of ‘correcting the distortions in BJP’s politics’. Since the RSS has always believed that communalism defines politics, Modi’s comments come as no surprise. The Sangh had opposed Mahatma Gandhi for his alleged surrender to Muslims and his treatment of Muslims as equal citizens in this ‘Hindu land’. RSS leader Hedgewar’s biographer C P Bhishikar writes, ‘Doctorji (Hedgewar) thought deeply over a long period on the question of national identity…why should there be any confusion about nationhood in Hindustan?…Why have strange expressions like nationalist Mussalman and nationalist Christian come into currency?’ That ‘confusion’ cleared when another founder leader of RSS, Guru Golwalkar, wrote, ‘In this country Hindus alone are nation’. But in the contempt and hatred for Gandhi, the RSS leaders overlooked the fact that at the same time, Md Ali Jinnah – in pursuit of his dream of dividing the country to create Pakistan – was also trying to establish that Hindus constituted a separate nation.

When the Indian national movement fought for the values of democracy and civil liberty, there were attempts to socialise the leaders of communal parties like Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and Muslim League, who believed in anti-democratic ideology. These parties functioned more or less under the tutelage of contemporary ‘leaders’ of the period – the Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and Muslim League adopted V D Savarkar, M S Golwalkar and Md Ali Jinnah as their permanent presidents or heads respectively. Even after independence, the RSS did not abandon its virulent campaign against Muslims, who remained in India along with Congress and nationalist leaders, and poured venom on them. Mahatma Gandhi and other Congress nationalists were denounced as virtual traitors to and enemies of Hindus by the RSS and finally, Mahatma Gandhi had to pay the price of ‘treachery’ on 30 January, 1948. Narendra Modi’s disingenuous statement not only demonstrates his as well as the RSS’ political intention, it is also a deadly new threat to India’s national unity. Behind Modi’s statement lies the RSS agenda of complete polarisation of Hindus and Muslims as well as other communities for electoral gains. Undoubtedly, this tactic was highly successful in Gujarat, where Modi won three Assembly elections. Gujarat is the richest state in the country; it has the maximum population of those belonging to the middle class, many of whom are insecure self-employed small bourgeoisie. There are also significant numbers of Adivasis, Dalits and OBCs in Gujarat, besides upper caste Hindus.

During the Gujarat pogrom in 2002, the Sangh Parivar cleverly used their multi sourced and differentially complex insecurities to get them to come together as the Hindutva force, in order to use them against the Muslims. Muslims were projected as enemy number one and therefore, their extermination was upheld as a simple solution for all kinds of problems facing the people. However, other parts of the country do not resemble Gujarat; the RSS cannot offer a communal plank to people as a substitute for class struggle, since Muslims do not occupy any positions of class dominance. It is, therefore, not possible to find real solutions to the problems facing the country by reverting to Hindutva. The BJP is once again indulging in false comfort, absurd hope and idle romanticism. Adherence to ideology is beneficial, but if the ideology rests on perception of a glorious past and a stereotyped enemy, without having any link with the changing realities of the present, it cannot increase the share of votes of any political party. The saffron brigade, in its search for a lever to gain power again, has ignored the interconnection between the past and present.

BJP’s sectarian politics had albeit found many takers among the influential middle class during the Ayodhya movement, but it has been rejected by the vast majority of Hindus. In the then general election, BJP had managed to secure just about 20 per cent of the total votes polled. Further, Modi’s ‘Hindu Nationalist’ remark is an oxymoron. Ideology of nationalism in India cannot be dependent on any religion. In India, not only Muslims but even Sikhs and Brahmos refuse to call themselves Hindus. This is why it is not possible to confine all Indians within the boundaries of a Hindu nationality. India being a multi-religion, multi caste and multi-cultural country, cannot afford to restore the primacy of any one religion, caste, culture or historical tradition. It is the synthesis of different religions, castes and cultures that makes India unique. So an aspiring prime minister like Narendra Modi should think over calling himself an Indian nationalist, not a Hindu Nationalist.

http://thestatesman.net/news/5864-the-contours-of-a-hindu-nationalist.html

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Fighting for all of us – By Harsh Mander (Jul 21, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The wars Zakia Jafri and Shamima are waging remind us that secular democracy is never given freely to the people; it needs to be constantly claimed and reclaimed. Each age creates its own heroes. Two ageing homemakers who would otherwise have been content to lead useful but unremarkable lives – raising children and caring for their loved ones – were transformed into unlikely steely warriors by the tumult of two brutal killings. These dreadful tragedies stirred both to courageously fight epic battles against what they are convinced was the malevolent exercise of state power. The first of them, Zakia Jafri, lost her spouse, Ehsan Jafri – lawyer, poet and parliamentarian – to an armed crowd of feverish attackers the day after a train compartment burned in Godhra on February 27, 2002.

In the frenzy of revenge that swept large parts of Gujarat targeting Muslims, who people believed were responsible for burning the train, the housing colony Gulbarg, established by Jafri in a suburb of Ahmedabad, was also attacked. Many desperate residents had gathered in the Jafri home, hoping that Jafri’s influence would save their lives. But his frantic appeals to the senior political and police leadership proved futile. Many were slaughtered and burned alive, along with Jafri. Zakia and a few other women sheltering in the first floor of the house survived. Survivors of the Gujarat carnage have fought extraordinary legal battles against the killers, and many have been convicted. But Zakia was not content to pursue only those who physically slaughtered her husband. She insisted that justice must reach those who had conspired to organise this massacre.

At the end of a long legal battle of over a decade, on April 15, 2013 she filed a protest petition before a magistrate alleging a high-level conspiracy to manipulate the Godhra tragedy to organise and fuel the carnage which followed. The first name among the 59 accused was of chief minister Narendra Modi. In the court hearings that are currently underway, Zakia’s lawyer, Mihir Desai, argued that the political head of the state, the home ministry and the administration were in full knowledge of and allowed the ‘build-up of aggressive and communal sentiments, violent mobilisation, including carrying of arms, and a general outpouring against the minority community…’ Relying on documents collected by the SIT itself, Zakia’s petition attempts to establish that there was a conspiracy at the senior-most levels of the state administration not just to generate hatred against Muslims, but also to target Muslims and their property and religious places and ‘aid and abet this process by acts and omissions of persons liable under law to act otherwise’.

Zakia Jafri, now in her mid-seventies, declared in an interview to Frontline that she recognises that Modi is ‘an extremely powerful man’, therefore charges against him cannot be made lightly. Therefore ‘we have persevered at collecting every relevant detail to implicate him. One day it will pay off’. She adds, ‘My husband was a good and kind man. I will fight for him and for thousands who suffered like us’. In Mumbra, a Mumbai suburb, matriarch Shamima struggled to raise with love but firmness her seven children after her husband’s untimely death due to brain cancer. Her second daughter Ishrat Jahan was her greatest support, earning money after college with tuitions. But in the summer vacations, no children came for tuitions, and so she accepted a travelling sales job with a family acquaintance Javed. Nothing could have prepared Shamima for the day when on June 15, 2004, she was informed that Ishrat was killed in a police ‘encounter’ to prevent her bid to assassinate Narendra Modi.

In these intervening nine years, Shamima has battled the trauma of her daughter’s violent killing, the stigma of the charge of her being a terrorist resulting in her family’s isolation, and the challenge of raising her remaining six children without Ishrat and her husband. A lesser person would have been felled, but not Shamima. She filed a writ in the Gujarat High Court in 2004 itself, and persevered with a prolonged uncertain legal battle because she was fiercely committed to proving her daughter’s innocence. Unexpected relief came five years later when junior magistrate Tamang charged with a magisterial enquiry into the alleged police encounter killings, acted with exceptional courage and integrity. Hundreds of persons are eliminated in the country by police and security personnel, claiming that the men in uniform killed in self-defence, and their claims are routinely ratified by compliant magistrates. But Tamang was different. He concluded that Ishrat and the three men were actually killed in cold blood several hours before the alleged shootout, from close range. …

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1096188.aspx

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Malegaon Blast: Who Traced The RDX? – By Manisha Sethi (Jul 29, 2013, Outlook)

“On the day of shab-e-baraat, Riyaz told me to finish my work early and reach the Bada Kabristan by noon. Riyaz and Rais and two others were already present when I reached…. They handed me one cycle. Then I saw the bomb that we had prepared the previous night, wrapped in a black bag tied to the carrier of the cycle. I parked the cycle in the parking lot of the madrasa opposite the masjid. Then I saw Riyaz hand Rais a black bag carrying a bomb. Rais hung the bag on the gate of the Kabristan. Riyaz and the two strangers who were with him then hung the bomb bag on the wall of the powerhouse opposite the wazukhana.” This was Noorul Hooda’s confession recorded by the SP of Thane Rural on November 22, ’06. His confessional statement, under Section 18 of MCOCA, became a crucial piece of ‘evidence’ in the ATS investigation of the Malegaon bombings of September 2006.

Now that the NIA’s supplementary chargesheet has destroyed the ATS case piece by piece, one can only imagine the torture that must have driven an innocent man to incriminate himself and other accused in the blasts. The Maharashtra ATS is known to house an apparatus of indescribable cruelty. Few emerge from their chambers without having signed a voluntary confessional. The investigation was handed over to the ATS on October 23 that year, and as if by magic, the conspiracy unspooled itself, leading to a flurry of arrests, all accused seemingly gripped by a strong urge to confess to their culpability in the blasts. The ATS chargesheet ran into an overwhelming 2,000-odd pages; 445 witnesses were listed. And yet the same witness is shown to be present simultaneously during the recovery of the clothes of those killed in the explosions and the recovery of a bomb. There was little by way of evidence to substantiate the claims of arms training in Pakistan. Absolutely nothing to corroborate the comings and goings of Pakistani terrorists.

Even though bombs were planted on cycles, a test identification parade to ascertain who had procured those bicycles was never conducted. In fact, the ATS probe tended to ignore the four bombs that exploded within minutes of each other – three in the masjid and the fourth in the busy Mashawrat Chowk, killing 32 people and injuring 312 – to focus on the one that did not, an imitation, a mixture of sand and RDX, dangling from a wall four days later. This fake bomb, goes the ATS lore, led them to the godown of battery seller Shabbir, where the soil samples showed up RDX traces. The ‘witnesses’ to the seizure of soil samples later recanted. Shabbir became accused no. 2 in the Malegaon blasts case. It was no more than slight inconvenience that Shabbir was in judicial custody at the time of the blasts, having been arrested in early August, a month before the blasts by the crime branch. But neither this, nor the lack of evidence, proved to be deterrence for obtaining sanction for the draconian MCOCA legislation.

Two thousand pages of lies and subterfuge. Who built it up, falsehood by falsehood? ACP Kisan Shengal, in charge of the probe, also served on the team investigating the Mumbai train bombings earlier in July. Shengal, in fact, sewed the two cases together, charging two of the Mumbai accused with having supplied RDX left over from the train bombings for the Malegaon blast. He sniffed out RDX traces from Shabbir’s godown, just as he recovered RDX from the home of an accused in the train blasts case. The momentous crashing of Shengal’s case has the potential to now wreck the prosecution in the Mumbai train blasts too.

But the fallout of the Malegaon frame-ups goes beyond simply one or two cases. Its significance lies in throwing up, yet again, the pattern of our terror investigations. The marking out of the Muslim population as suspect and the breeding of informers, who themselves can be sacrificed without com-punction – which Abrar Ahmed, accused no. 9 was to discover – as the sine qua non of the relationship between police agencies and Muslims. Malegaon must also be held up as an example of how the constructed idea of Muslim rage and revenge has congealed our national narrative of terrorism. Every single confession – dictated now we know by the ATS – alluded to the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, the Malegaon riots that preceded it, and the 30 felled mosques that were calling out to be avenged. But most troublingly, it shows how easy it is to put away people for years. To charge them with crimes so heinous that they could possibly be sentenced to death. With no fear of consequences. Shameless prejudice is matched only by gross impunity. Whether Kisan Shengal will be tried for fabricating evidence and implicating innocents, or he will be saved in the name of the ever-depleting morale of the investigators, we shall only know in some time.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?286997

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It’s turning blood red – By Harsh Mander (Jul 16, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The audacious ambush and bloody massacre of more than two dozen political leaders and their security guards in Darbha valley of Sukma district in south Chhattisgarh, raises again profoundly important questions about the legitimacy of violence as an instrument to battle injustice and oppression. Resistance to injustice is widely endorsed as the highest human duty in most cultures, but the debate is about the legitimacy of deploying violence in resisting and combating injustice. I am convinced about the impossibility of altruistic violence. I strongly and consistently disagree with those, among them many liberal friends, who romanticise or rationalise resort to arms as justified to combat the structural violence of poverty, exploitation and State violence. Violence, even when deployed in the name of the oppressed, ultimately brutalises all, and the oppressed suffer the most. The only legitimate instruments to fight injustice, in my opinion, are non-violence and democracy.

There is no doubt that tribal residents of forested tracts of central India, which are currently in the throes of Maoist insurgency, are among the most impoverished people in the country. The India Human Development Report 2011 found the Scheduled Tribes the poorest social category, with their incidence of poverty at least three times more than other groups. Even more alarming is that this is the only major social group in which ‘poverty has hardly declined at all’. I have served in some of these regions, and encountered these proud but despairing people, savagely dispossessed of their lands, forest and habitats, living with hunger and bondage. Their expropriation was partly by non-tribal landlords and moneylenders on whom they depended for loans to survive in lean months. But they were further pauperised by State policy. The colonial State introduced alien laws – which remained fundamentally unaltered in independent India – regulating land titles in ways that did not recognise traditional land ownership patterns and shifting cultivation. The ownership of forest produce shifted from forest dwellers to the State. Tribal people were further rapidly dispossessed by large dams and mining projects, initially in the public and increasingly in the private for-profit sector.

But do even these monstrous levels of expropriation and oppression justify the resort to weapons by armed guerrilla militia who fight in their name? I believe not. I am convinced that the killing of people, even in the name of justice for the oppressed, in the end will dehumanise all who engage in the bloodletting, and indeed those who condone it. It is impossible to build a just and humane society by means which are unjust and inhuman. If we believe that oppression justifies violence by the victims and those who fight in their name, then logically we must also justify all those who resort to terrorist violence in the name of religion or ethnicity on exactly the same ethical grounds. Many Sikh terrorists in the second half of the 1980s traced their radicalisation to the 1984 anti-Sikh carnage. Tamil terrorists in Sri Lanka and Islamist terrorists also trace their motivation to similar real stories of unbearable cruelty and oppression. If we oppose terrorist violence because it targets civilians, fosters mindless cruelty and obstructs democratic institutions, exactly the same grounds require us to oppose Maoist violence as well.

The strategies deployed by Maoists include individual annihilation, summary executions, and terrorist violence such as the explosion of landmines resulting in large numbers of deaths. Many liberal thinkers sympathetic to Maoist violence are simultaneously opposed to the death penalty. We oppose the right of the State to take away human life – by imposing capital punishment after due process and consideration of evidence – on the grounds of human fallibility, the possibility of even the worst offenders redeeming themselves, and the sacredness of human life. How can we then support targeted killings decided by a small band of Maoist leaders or a people’s court for offences such as being a police informer or an exploiter? Even less can we support random civilian killings. Reputed humanist SR Sankaran led a major civic effort to engage both the State and Maoists in a discussion around violence. He condemned Maoist violence for its focus more on ‘military actions rather than on the mobilisation of people for social transformation’. The arbitrary and violent actions of Naxalite parties contribute to ‘further brutalise the society and lead to the shrinkage of democratic space for mobilisation and direct participation of the people, impairing the very process of transformation that the movements claim to stand for’.

The recent killing of political leaders campaigning for the forthcoming elections, eliminating almost the entire senior leadership of one political party, was ultimately an assault on electoral democracy. With all its limitations, democracy alone carries within itself the seeds of a peaceful and enduring social and political transformation. Social movements for the poor must strive to deepen democracy, remedy its flaws, extend its frontiers, rather than collaborate in its demolition. The State, for its part, must respond to violence and armed insurrection in ways that are lawful, restrained, and humane. The civilian population in these forested regions are living with intense hunger and fear – without schools, health centres, employment programmes, subsidised food and social security. Most are trapped between the competitive violence of security forces, Maoists and armed renegades. An escalated militarist response is precisely what the militants seek, as it will further destroy the frayed and debilitated morale and survival base of civilian tribal people. Encounter killings, jailing of innocent civilians under anti-terror laws and military adventures against one’s own people will only alienate them irrevocably. The blood spilt in Darbha valley should serve as a sober reminder of the wages of runaway competitive violence: the violence of poverty, of armed militants and civilian militia, and of the security forces. In this battle, for India’s most impoverished people, the greatest casualty is hope.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1077418.aspx

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Will The House Be Called To Order? – By Ajit Sahi (Jul 27, 2013, Tehelka)

Everyone knows Raja Bhaiyya, the dreaded don from Uttar Pradesh who earned his first criminal case as a teenager and who has a symbiotic relationship with the prisons either as an inmate or as the minister tasked with running them. But ever heard of Bhaiyya Raja? A two-term former MLA from the Kama Sutra town of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, 66-year-old Ashok Veer Vikram Singh aka Bhaiyya Raja has been an unchallenged don for decades. Arrested for murder in the 1990s, Bhaiyya Raja decided to fight his first election from prison. He won on a not-so-subtle slogan of Mohar lagegi haathi pe, varna goli chhaati pe (Stamp the elephant or take a bullet on your chest), the elephant being his election symbol. On winning, he rode an elephant to the Assembly. The Indian Mafia, a 1991 book, alleged that he used pythons to terrorise women into sexual acts. It was rumoured that he bred crocodiles that grew fat on the flesh of his dead rivals. On 31 May, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2009 murder of a grandniece who he sexually exploited and forced to undergo an abortion. Is his political career over? Yes and no. Bhaiyya Raja’s wife, Asha Rani, is still a BJP MLA, though she is accused of abetting a woman’s suicide at her home six years ago. She is currently free on bail.

The pattern finds an echo. Jagmato Devi, a JD(U) MLA in Bihar, had entered politics in 2005 after the murder of her husband. She died suddenly in 2011. As her son, Ajay Singh, is charged in over two dozen cases of murder, kidnapping and extortion, he was denied a ticket. So he advertised for a wife. Only registered voters at least 25 years old and with voter ID cards were shortlisted. He married one of the two finalists a day before nominations began for the by-election to fill his mother’s seat. His wife Kavita, a political naïf, is now a JD(U) MLA. Singh answers her phone and runs her politics. The decades-old scourge of the criminalisation of India’s politics surged to the top of nightly news last week after the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that an MP or members of the states’ Legislative Assemblies or Councils would be unseated immediately if convicted of a crime the Constitution lists as a ground for disqualification. The judges struck down a provision in the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which allowed MPs and MLAs/ MLCs to retain their seats if they appealed their convictions within three months. Ruling on public lawsuits, the judges said the law was inconsistent with two constitutional clauses that barred convicted citizens from contesting elections. If a conviction was good to bar a hopeful, they said, it was good to unseat an incumbent.

Backing the ruling as a step in the right direction, a few jurists, in fact, suggest that MPs and MLAs should be unseated earlier than conviction. “Parliament should be freed of criminals and we know that our criminal justice system is slow,” says former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee. “The fact that they are facing criminal charges in serious offences, say, those carrying imprisonment of three years or more, should be enough to unseat them.” Agrees former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam: “If a court has taken cognisance of charges against a member of the House, he should be unseated.” Adds Gurudas Dasgupta, an MP from the CPI: “The government should make decriminalisation a national priority. There is a nexus of money and power in politics and the government and judiciary have to build safeguards against these.” But so deep are the tentacles of criminals in politics that few expect the ruling to significantly challenge the mafia might in Parliament and legislatures across the country. Last year, the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR), an NGO that campaigns for electoral reforms, found that 30 percent of about 4,800 MPs and MLAs it investigated faced criminal charges. Of the 403 MLAs who won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls last year, as many as 189 – or 47 percent – face criminal charges. A whopping 98 are accused of murder or rape or both. That is nearly one in four of all the UP MLAs. And they belong to the top parties in the state: the SP, the BSP, the Congress and the BJP.

Shockingly, or perhaps not, nearly four in every five of Jharkhand’s 82 MLAs face criminal cases. In Bihar, their percentage is 54, with Chief MinisterNitish Kumar’s JD(U) leading the way and his recently parted ally, the BJP, following a close second. Across the country, nearly one in three of the BJP’s MPs and MLAs have criminal cases against them. The Congress is marginally better at one in five. How did this state of affairs come to be? Explains Jaskirat Singh, a campaigner with ADR: “For years, Indian politics survived on a code of unwritten ethics. Then, the parties started using organised criminals to capture voting booths to win polls. Later, the criminals decided to ask for the ticket themselves and politicians handed them out on a platter due to the ‘winnability factor’, which means money and power.” So, first the dog wagged the tail, then the tail the dog, and then the tail wanted to be the dog. States such as Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and UP are prime examples of the degeneration. Mumbai-based veteran journalist Kumar Ketkar, who has watched elections since the 1960s, says the stranglehold of criminals on politics turned for the worse two decades ago. “The role of money increased in direct proportion to the decrease of huge mass rallies,” he says. Ironically, a key reform opened the floodgates. In 1990, TN Seshan, a retired IAS officer, became Chief Election Commissioner and began exercising his constitutional powers that his predecessors never asserted because they chose to be rubber stamps of the government of the day. In order to rein in runaway expenditure, Seshan began auditing costs such as of the mass rallies.

“The Seshan reforms made mass contact infrequent as every street corner meeting, padyatra and rally came under scrutiny,” says Ketkar. “Candidates began outsourcing their outreach as well as the distribution of propaganda material.” Volunteering disappeared. As candidates had neither enough money nor the network, the mafia came in bringing both for a quid pro quo if the candidate won. And holier-than-thou pieties notwithstanding, none can avoid the criminal’s embrace. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP’s presumptive prime ministerial candidate for next year’s Lok Sabha election, has yet not sacked his Water Resources Minister Babu Bokhiria who was last month sentenced to three years in prison for illegally mining limestone causing a loss of Rs 54 crore to the original leaseholder. (He won’t be unseated as the SC ruled that those convicted prior to its judgment would be spared.) Cutting across party lines, a co-accused also given three years is a former Congress MP. A father-son gangster duo was also sentenced. In last year’s Assembly polls, the BJP’s Jethabhai Bharwad’s nomination papers showed that he is facing charges of rape, extortion and kidnapping. He won. He was later arrested for firing a gun during the election. …

http://www.tehelka.com/will-the-house-be-called-to-order-lp/

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A Bumpy Road Ahead For Telangana – By G Vishnu (Jul 27, 2013, Tehelka)

With the 2014 polls looming large, the Congress has started making the right noises on the creation of Telangana. Party general secretary Digvijaya Singh’s first step after he took over as Andhra Pradesh in-charge has been to announce the decision to create a roadmap for the possible bifurcation or trifurcation of the state. However, the move – being vouched by Telangana Congress leaders as being final and decisive – has opened a minefield of future political ramifications. On the ground, there is hope for ending uncertainty and confusion, which has lasted as long as the Telangana movement itself, while leaders of all political parties are mulling over the consequences, both political and economic. Apart from the fate of Hyderabad – where businessmen and politicians from Seemandhra have invested thousands of crores – the votebank and electoral developments continue to be major factors.

With the remaining Congress MPs from Telangana (two out of 10 have already quit the party) making veiled threats to quit, and openly warning the party that it would be “destroyed” in Telangana if inaction continued, the party is in a peculiar but familiar soup. For one, granting a separate state threatens to split the party wide open. On the day Digvijaya landed in Hyderabad to announce the decision to create aTelangana roadmap, he was in for a surprise when a group of Seemandhra leaders met him to present a memorandum demanding a united Andhra Pradesh. Since then, party leaders from Telangana have begun openly criticising and throwing muck at their counterparts hailing from Seemandhra.

“Where were these leaders (Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and PCC president Botsa Satyanarayana) in 2004? They did not speak up then. Now they are speaking up because of ulterior motives,” says Madhu Yakshi, Congress MP from Nizamabad. Yakshi adds that businessmen- politicians with huge investments in Hyderabad are conspiring against the creation of Telangana. “Unlike the BJP and the TDP, theCongress high command has always been consistent on Telangana. Whoever has changed their stance on Telangana have lost the elections. Even I won because I went with a pro-Telangana slogan. My hope is that Madam’s (Sonia Gandhi) stand will remain the same.” But Satyanarayana begs to differ. “If you take into consideration the welfare of the state and its people, naturally a united Andhra is the logical choice,” he says. “If a decision is taken keeping in mind the political gains, then it’s wrong. That said, as a party, we (leaders from Seemandhra) will support whatever decision the high command takes. Telangana MPs may say a lot of things. Those are their personal opinions. We don’t want to see the state or the city (Hyderabad) divided.”

A senior functionary in the state Congress reveals the eventuality. “We mulled over an economic package for Telangana for a long time,” he says on the condition of anonymity. “But Telangana MPs are not relenting. We will give Telangana. We will go for bifurcation before 2014. That’s our big ace for the Lok Sabha polls.” As for the other parties, they are waiting for the Congress’ move with anxiety and eagerness. The anxiety arises from losing the handful of seats that the TDP and the YSR Congress hoped to gain in Telangana, which would shift to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and the Congress. Minor losses notwithstanding, the parties are also hoping to polarise the contest between themselves by ousting the Congress, by capitalising on a blame game in their political-speak in the rest of Andhra Pradesh.

“The crisis is a Congress creation,” says YSR Congress leader Mysura Reddy. “As per the Constitution, when it comes to the division of a state, the power lies with the Centre. The Congress is destroying the state by letting confusion prevail, hampering development.” TDP general secretary Varla Ramaiah shares the same view. “If the Congress really decides, we cannot stop them,” he says. “They are creating a massive fight. The problem is with Madam Sonia. Indecision is a big problem. Our move is going to be determined by the particulars of bifurcation that the Congress decides on.” For its part, the Congress too is taking some risks. A lot of hints have been dropped about going for the Rayala Telangana option, which would include two Rayalaseema districts (Kurnool and Anantapur) in the Telangana map. Erstwhile ally, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, seems to be the only party that is ready to accept this arrangement. …

http://www.tehelka.com/a-roadmap-is-ready-but-the-bumps-are-going-nowhere/

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