IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 19th, 2017

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

When a Kerala Temple was in Need, Nambiarthodi Ali, a Muslim Gifted It a Pond (Feb 16, 2018, Sabrang India)

A Muslim at Kalikavu in the district has done his bit to promote communal harmony in the area. Nambiarthodi Ali, 45, has donated a pond situated in his land to a centuries-old temple. The committee of Kundada Shiva temple of Poroor panchayat near Wandoor had initially approached him to buy the pond and the bordering land area at market value. Instead, Ali, in the true spirit of communal harmony and co-existence, gifted the pond and land to the Hindu brethren, reports Deccan Chronicle.

“The pond is a must for the temple as per their custom. There is no pond in the temple land. Though they offered me a price, I decided to donate the pond which is meant for public use. There is nothing big in it,” says Ali. The temple committee felicitated Ali at a cultural event organised as part of Sivarathri celebrations at the temple on Tuesday.

“The temple was in dire need of a pond to keep up the religious traditions. We are happy that besides giving a pond, a strong message has also been conveyed to society through Ali’s gesture,” V. Shiva Shankaran, a committee member, told DC.…

https://sabrangindia.in/article/when-kerala-temple-was-need-nambiarthodi-ali-muslim-gifted-it-pond

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PNB scam: Gokulnath Shetty admits to giving access of LoU issuing software to Nirav Modi’s aides (Feb 18, 2018, India Today)

In a latest development in the PNB-Nirav Modi scam, Gokulnath Shetty, former deputy manager of Punjab National Bank, who was arrested by the CBI on Saturday has made some explosive revelations. According to the investigating agency, Shetty has admitted to have unauthorised access to Level-5 password which is the key for the SWIFT software that is used to issue Letters of Undertaking (LoUs). (The Level-5 password is of the Assistant General Manager (AGM) level.)

He added that he shared the password with private people, essentially employees and directors of Nirav Modi’s company. PNB’s top brass has now got down to cleaning the Augean stables as red flags were raised at a conference call with officials of the Mumbai branch and in decisions long over due, several officials were served suspension notices.

Questions were asked as to why the mandatory three-year transfer was not done for Gokulnath Shetty and others. The logic that his services as a forex expert were required did not hold water. Shetty’s transfer orders came in 2013, bank sources said, but he was not given his relieving orders.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pnb-fraud-gokunath-shetty-admits-to-sharing-password-of-software-used-to-issue-lous-with-nirav-modi-s-aides-1172029-2018-02-18

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Opposition seeks Bhagwat’s apology for ‘insulting’ Army (Feb 12, 2018, Rediff)

The Opposition on Monday latched on to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s reported remarks on the Army, demanding that he apologise to the nation and Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarify if he was in favour of a ‘private militia’ guarding India’s borders.

The parties charged Bhagwat with ‘insulting’ the armed forces and the country by claiming that in the eventuality of a battle to be fought, the RSS could mobilise itself in three days while the Indian Army would take six to seven months to do so.

Leading the charge, Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted that Bhagwat’s remark insulted the Indian tricolour. ‘The RSS Chief’s speech is an insult to every Indian, because it disrespects those who have died for our nation. It is an insult to our flag because it insults every soldier who ever saluted it. Shame on you Mr Bhagwat, for disrespecting our martyrs and our Army. #ApologiseRSS,’ he tweeted.…

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/rahul-attacks-rss-chief-for-disrespecting-army/20180212.htm

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‘Failure of justice’: Former Bombay HC judge raises doubts over past hearings in Sohrabuddin case (Feb 14, 2018, Scroll.in)

Several aspects of the hearings of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case are “contrary to common sense” and point to the “failure of justice”, a former Bombay High Court judge has told The Indian Express. Justice Abhay M Thipsay, who retired as an Allahabad High Court judge in 2017, had ruled on four bail applications in the case, allowing bail to two of the accused in 2013 and 2014.

The Bombay High Court must take a look at the case again and “should exercise powers of revision and examine all these orders whether they are proper or not”, he said in an interview published on Wednesday. Thipsay said he had started reflecting on the case and revisiting the court orders after suspicions were raised over the death of Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, who was hearing the case in 2014.

“This is failure of justice and of the justice delivery system,” Thipsay said in the interview published on Wednesday. “It is unusual that bail is denied to a number of accused for several years and then the court holds that there is no prima facie case against those accused. Lower level of officers are not discharged but senior officers are discharged though the nature of material against them is the same.”…

https://scroll.in/latest/868632/failure-of-justice-former-bombay-hc-judge-raises-doubts-over-past-hearings-in-sohrabuddin-case

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VHP yatra likely to polarise nation: CPI(M) (Feb 14, 2018, The Hindu)

Expressing concern over the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s ‘Ram Raj Rath Yatra’, which was flagged off on Wednesday in Ayodhya, the CPI(M) said it had the potential to trigger communal polarisation in the country.

The yatra intends to retrace the route of Lord Rama to Sri Lanka, as described in the Hindu epic Ramayana. The VHP has said that it aims, through this yatra, to administer a pledge to the people for the construction of Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. The Supreme Court is still hearing petitions on the status of the disputed site.…

“This yatra has an incendiary potential to sharpen communal polarisation in order to strengthen the communal Hindutva votebank for the RSS-BJP. There are grave implications of possibilities of communal tension, violence and mayhem,” the CPI(M) Polit Bureau said in a statement.…

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/vhp-yatra-likely-to-polarise-nation-cpim/article22754833.ece

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In Modi’s India, journalists face bullying, criminal cases and worse (Feb 14, 2018, Washington Post)

Rachna Khaira was a little-known crime reporter in a gritty industrial town in northern India until the first week of January, when she wrote a story that exposed a major privacy breach in a nationwide database of more than 1 billion Indians.

Officials were not amused by her sleuthing and filed a police complaint that accused Khaira, her newspaper and the alleged cybercriminals of forgery and other offenses punishable by 30 years in jail. The country’s editors guild condemned Khaira’s treatment, protesters marched in the streets, and former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden sent a tweet supporting the new whistleblower, saying she deserved “an award, not an investigation.”

Times are tough for journalists in India, where many reporters and editors say it is becoming increasingly difficult to do their jobs. Loyalists to the country’s powerful Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, have bullied editors into taking down critical stories, hushed government bureaucrats and shifted from the common practice of filing defamation cases to lodging more-serious criminal complaints, which can mean jail time and take years in India’s overburdened court system.…

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-modis-india-journalists-face-bullying-criminal-cases-and-worse/2018/02/13/e8176b72-8695-42ab-abd5-d26aab830d3e_story.html

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Supreme Court notice on widow’s plea for fair probe into lynching (Feb 17, 2018, Economic Times)

The Supreme Court has issued notices on a plea for a fair and independent probe into the lynching of a Muslim migrant labourer from West Bengal in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district.

The plea was made on Friday before a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Senior advocate Indira Jaisingurged the court to also consider the widow, Gulbahar Bibi, for compensation. The man has three daughters, she said, but did not insist on any immediate relief for the family.

The CJI, sitting alongside Justice AM Khanwilkar, immediately issued notices on her plea. The notices were served on a counsel who appears for the Central Bureau of Investigation frequently. Bibi has among other things sought a curb on the circulation of a rather gruesome video purportedly showing her husband, Mohammed Afrazul, being hacked and later set on fire. The 48-year-old man was allegedly targeted over an alleged love jihad case.…

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/62955247.cms

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New UGC regulations promote unbridled commercialisation of higher education: KSHEC (Feb 21, 2018, Times of India)

Kerala State Higher Education Council has expressed concerns over the possible repercussions of the latest University Grants Commission(UGC) regulations on autonomous colleges.

The meeting chaired by the council vice chairman Rajan Gurukkal opined that the new regulation was aimed at promoting unbridled commercialisation of higher education. It would not only topple the idea of social justice but would also make higher education unreachable for common people.

The regulation cut down the administrative powers of the state government and restrict the higher education council’s efforts to maintain quality. It would render the universities powerless, the emergency meeting of the council executive said.…

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/63017065.cms

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BJP lawmaker from UP watches as son, supporters thrash toll booth worker (Feb 14, 2018, Asian Age)

The son and supporters of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in Uttar Pradesh were caught on CCTV thrashing a toll plaza employee on Tuesday.

A video showed that as MLA Pooran Prakash’s car was passing through the toll plaza, a barricade fell on the roof of it. Following which, the son and supporters came out of the car and thrashed the staffer at Mahuvan toll plaza.

Prakash was sitting inside the car when the entire episode took place. Despite this, the BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Baldev constituency remained adamant and blamed the toll plaza employees for the entire incident.…

http://www.asianage.com/india/crime/140218/bjp-lawmaker-watches-as-son-supporters-thrash-toll-booth-worker.html

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Case against internet sensation Priya Prakash Varrier’s song for hurting religious sentiments (Feb 14, 2018, Indian Express)

An FIR has been registered against Omar Lulu, the director of upcoming Malayalam film ‘Oru Adaar Love’ over the lyrics of ‘Manikya Malaraya Poovi’, one of the songs in the movie. The complainants, Zaheer Ali Khan, Muqeeth Khan, residents of Falaknuma in Hyderabad, alleged that the Priya Prakash Varrier’s song, which has become an internet sensation now, when translated to English, hurts the sentiments of Muslims as it makes derogatory references to the Prophet. They have demanded that either the song is removed from the film or the lyrics are changed.

“When I first saw the viral video I fell in love it. I watched it so many times and shared it many times. I wanted to know the meaning of the song so I got the original Malayalam lyrics and translated it online and also took help of some people. I found that the song referred to the romance between the prophet and his wife Khadija. It is inappropriate and an insult to the prophet. I showed it our elders and we decided to lodge a complaint. I am not against the film or the actors. I am not against the film’s release also. We are only protesting against this song because it hurts sentiments of Muslims,” Muqeeth told The Indian Express.

“Following the complaint, we took legal opinion and subsequently a case under IPC section 295A (hurting religious sentiments) has been registered against the film’s director, Omar Lulu,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (Falaknuma division) Syed Fayaz told PTI.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/hyderabad-man-claims-odu-adaar-love-song-lyrics-derogatory-to-prophet-approaches-police-5063525/

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Why Communalize the Murder and Rape of Minor in Kathua? (Feb 19, 2018, News Click)

Members of right-wing group Hindu Ekta Manch recently carried a protest rally against the arrest of Special Police Officers Deepak Khujaria and Surinder Kumar by Crime Branch, for their involvement in the rape and murder case of the minor girl in Kathua’s Hira Nagar.

Vijay Sharma, a BJP leader and the organizer of the rally, threatened that if the state’s Crime Branch continued to “frame and harass” its members they would “disturb the situation” in the province.… Not long ago, in December, there was a similar march by right-winger across Rajasthan’s Rajsamand and Udaipur district who protested against the arrest of Shambulal Raigar, the one who burnt 45-year-old labourer Mohammad Afrazul in a horrific manner.

…the protest has hurt the sentiments of people in the state.”By this act of utmost shamelessness, these (fascists) have clearly shown that for their religious fantasy they can stoop to any low because honor and dignity of women folk and life of a human holds no value to them,” an amalgam of resistance leaders (JRL) in Kashmir, stated in a statement. Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti… was horrified by protesters use of our national flag in these demonstrations, “this is nothing short of desecration,” she said. Meanwhile, many others in Kashmir region showed disgust over why there was no debate in noisy news channels over this protest rally and why no anchor was fuming with anger.…

https://www.newsclick.in/why-communalize-murder-and-rape-minor-kathua

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Opinions and Editorials

The BJP Is Killing Our Institutions – By Derek O’Brien (Feb 17, 2018, The Wire)

Recent statements by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionaries mocking and undermining the Indian Army come in a context. They symbolise the willingness of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and its ideological partners to brush aside cherished national and constitutional institutions to order to promote a divisive political agenda.

They represent a cultural war against what the Indian nation-state stands for. In a country with an official military and legitimate police forces, why would a private and supposedly non-political organisation be speaking about armed mobilisation by non-state actors and militia?

And yet even ministers of the government rushed to defend RSS’ opinions on the army. Many of the so-called “bright”, “modern” and “liberal” faces of the council of ministers happily became ministers of sangh, rather than ministers of state. They came out with convenient and specious logic to defend this crazy world view.… I would appeal to all opposition parties and all citizens in fact to come together to discuss and challenge the toxic atmosphere in our institutions. The battle in 2019 is not just to remove the BJP – it is to detox our democracy.

https://thewire.in/224926/bjp-killing-institutions/

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Narendra Modi diminished his office by selectively invoking Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament – By Swami Agnivesh (Feb 20, 2018, Scroll.in)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tirade in Parliament against Opposition parties, the Congress in particular, struck me as the desecration of the temple of Indian democracy. This is for two reasons. First, the prime minister, who heads a democratically-elected government, should not behave like the party pugilist. He is under oath to be prime minister to the whole of India, and this includes the Opposition parties.

It is blatantly dishonest for him to swear by the Constitution to be non-partisan in the discharge of his duties as prime minister, and then to spout partisan venom in Parliament. Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, may have lacked his rhetorical flamboyance and charisma, but he unfailingly upheld the dignity of the office he held.

…It is also astonishing how little the Modi camp cares for how the country at large feels about the way things are. This is despite evident electoral distress signals emerging from diverse pockets. More are sure to follow. The prime minister’s unsavoury parliamentary performance, marking an all-time low in parliamentary propriety, can only swell the rising tide of disenchantment and alarm across India.…

https://scroll.in/article/868708/congress-free-india-modi-diminished-his-office-by-selectively-invoking-mahatma-gandhi-in-parliament

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Ease of doing scams – By Udayan Mukherjee (Feb 20, 2018, Indian Express)

India is a corrupt nation. The stain of it is so pervasive in our everyday lives that it should hardly surprise us when big scams are unearthed, periodically. In fact, what is surprising is that they don’t happen, or aren’t reported, more often.

The public-sector banking system is the perfect gateway for most crooks seeking to perpetrate a major scam. Its army of low paid managers – always on the look out for the extra buck – lack of preventive systems and close linkages with people in power make it the most fertile ground for such frauds.

According to the RBI, PSU banks reported loan frauds of Rs 61,260 crore over the last five years. Add the recent Nirav Modi scam and the number swells to Rs 73,000 crore. These are reported frauds. It is safe to infer that a large part of the current bad loans with PSU banks is also the result of fraudulent deals struck by corrupt bankers in collusion with errant businessmen. Taking kickbacks to sign off on loans worth hundreds of crores, knowing that the money won’t come back, is every bit a scam, though it may technically not be labelled one. The actual size of scams facilitated by PSU banks would run into lakhs of crores. We keep a lid on it, to limit public outrage.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/ease-of-doing-scams-psu-banks-5070410/

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Hindutva’s Desperate Attempt to Use Bhagat Singh Against Love – By Saurav Kumar (Feb 14, 2018, The Wire)

…It is well known that when it comes to twisting facts, appropriating icons of India’s freedom movement, such as Bhagat Singh, and even circulating fake news on social media, none can beat the Hindutva groups. For, playing around with historical dates and their significance to whip up hatred mainly works to the advantage of the divisive Hindutva agenda.

Take the case of Valentine’s Day, which falls on February 14. On the eve of Valentine’s Day in 2011, some people spread a rumour that the revolutionary freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged by the British government on February 14.

The zealots went on to spread this misinformation through Wikipedia. As The Hindu reported , “The Wikipedia page on Bhagat Singh underwent many editing changes on February 13 and 14, Valentine’s Day.” The date of his hanging had been changed from March 23, 1931, to February 14, 1931. On Twitter, this misinformation spread like a fire.…

https://thewire.in/224089/hindutvas-desperate-attempt-use-bhagat-singh-love/

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BJP’s rath yatra 2.0 – NH Political Bureau (Feb 18, 2018, National Herald)

…Ram temple may be an emotive religious issue with millions of Lord Ram’s devotees. But it is simply an electoral issue for the BJP and its parent Sangh Parivar. Between mid-1980s and early 1990s, the Sangh and its allies like VHP used the temple issue to catapult BJP onto the national scene and it succeeded in its gameplan.…

Also, the BJP understands that Modi’s vikas plank has been badly exposed. The results of the Gujarat polls and the Rajasthan by-elections have also come as a substantial jolt for the party. As the Prime Minister has consistently failed to deliver on his electoral promises and instead has been repeatedly trying to deflect attention to the Congress and its past leadership, people have started getting tired of hearing the same things for four years coupled with zero delivery on promises.…

So, in this situation, the Sangh Parivar needs an emotive issue to hoodwink people all over again. Ram temple is one issue that can drive up the BJP’s electoral prospects, especially in the Hindi heartland where it is sinking rapidly, the Sangh believes.… The Sangh and its political front, BJP, must not be given free ground to use religion for their electoral politics.…The BJP is a political party that organises riots to win elections. The Opposition must give them no quarter and take nothing back.

https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/editorial/bjps-rath-yatra-20

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As Elections Near, Rattled Sangh Parivar Plays Polarisation Game to Recover Lost Ground – By Sidharth Bhatia (Feb 12, 2018, The Wire)

There is no mistaking a new sense of urgency in the BJP and the larger Sangh parivar. The results in the Gujarat elections and Rajasthan bypolls point to rising popular dissatisfaction with the party.

Eight state-level elections, including in Rajasthan and Karnataka, are on the way and by May next year, perhaps earlier, the general elections will be held.

Current wisdom holds that the BJP will not get the 282 seats it got in 2014 and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could either be leading a shaky coalition or worse, not even return as prime minister, since coalition partners may want someone who is more accommodative to their concerns.…

https://thewire.in/223093/bjp-sangh-parivars-crusade-power-injection-of-hate/

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