IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 16th, 2012

by newsdigest on April 16, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Inter Faith Forum to clean places of worship (Apr 13, 2012, IBN)

The Inter Faith Forum, an affiliate of the Confederation of Voluntary Organisations, on Wednesday condemned the mindless violence that rocked parts of the Old City on Sunday and pledged to clean and undertake repairs in places of worship that were desecrated.

In a press release, it said leaders of different faiths had pledged to clean the shrines to highlight the fact that acts such as desecration have nothing to do with religion and are perpetrated by totally irreligious and devilish minds.

The forum of religious leaders also announced that they would jointly organise public discourses and rallies in Hyderabad and other parts of the State to take the message of peace, harmony and justice to the people. “It is a social need and religious responsibility of all to prevent violence and strive for integration and harmony,” they said.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/inter-faith-forum-to-clean-places-of-worship/247931-60-121.html

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‘Clean chit’ for Narendra Modi? Not yet (Apr 11, 2012, DNA India)

Is it a clean chit for chief minister Narendra Modi from the court that he was not involved in the 2002 riots and that he was not at all responsible for what happened during the most violent time in Gujarat’s recent history? Not at all! The case is not yet closed, nor has the court passed an order giving a clean chit to Modi. On Tuesday, Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate MS Bhatt’s court passed an interim order asking the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) to give a copy of its final report and some 20,000 odd pages of documents to the complainant Zakia Jafri, within 30 days. The court gave this order while hearing a clutch of petitions in this regard.

Zakia is the widow of slain Congress ex-MP Ehsan Jafri who was burnt alive on February 28, 2002, by a mob at his home in Gulbarg society. Her petition followed her failed attempts over several years to register an FIR against Modi and 57 other people including BJP leaders and government officials who, she alleged, were responsible for the riots and ensuring that no help was provided to her husband. This petition – which was supported by activist Teesta Setalvad – was heard by the Apex Court which directed the SIT headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan to investigate into the allegations made in it. After going through the SIT report and the report of amicus curiae Raju Ramchandran, the Supreme Court asked the SIT to submit its report before the trial court in Ahmedabad.

In its order dated September 12, 2011, the Apex Court had ordered the trial court that in case the SIT report fails to find evidence against Modi, the court should not close the case without hearing the petitioners including Zakia. And that it should get all the documents and reports submitted by the SIT. The only reprieve for Modi – which has been dubbed wrongly as ‘clean chit’ – is the conclusion of the SIT in its report claiming that it had found no evidence to register an FIR against Modi for involvement in the carnage at Gulbarg Society. “According to the SIT, no offence has been established against any of the accused listed in Zakia’s complaint,” the metropolitan magistrate observed. “The SIT shall give a copy of the final report, statements of witnesses and all related documents to Zakia Jafri within 30 days of this order. As per the Supreme Court order and also the principle of natural justice, she can then be heard before taking any legal action on the SIT’s closure report,” the metropolitan magistrate said.

He added that there was no need to issue notice to Zakia in this regard as she had already approached the court for a copy of the SIT report. The magisterial court delivered its order on Tuesday after hearing petitions filed by lawyers of Zakia Jafri, Citizens for Justice and Peace, and others seeking a copy of the SIT’s final report. Earlier, there were speculations in some sections of the media that the SIT had given the Gujarat chief minister a clean chit but there had been no confirmation of this until the order given on Tuesday. On the orders of the Apex Court, the SIT had investigated into the allegations made in Zakia’s petition. It had taken the statements of hundreds of people and questioned the Gujarat chief minister for nine hours in this connection. After completing its investigation, the SIT submitted a 550-page final report. After going through the report, the Supreme Court asked amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran to verify the SIT’s findings independently. The amicus curiae visited Gujarat and took the statements of some people, including suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, regarding Modi’s role during the riots.

There were speculations that in his report Ramachandran had implicated Modi for making provocative speeches during the riots, though this is yet to be confirmed. Ramachandaran’s report has not been published yet, but was provided to the SIT. The Apex Court had directed the SIT to submit a final report, along with the entire material collected by it, to the metropolitan magistrate’s court. Hence, the SIT submitted its final report on February 28. On September 12, 2011, the Supreme Court ordered that if the SIT found there was not enough evidence for proceeding against any person named in Zakia’s complaint, the metropolitan court shall issue notice to the complainant and make available to her copies of the statements of the witnesses, other related documents and the investigation report. The metropolitan court was asked to do this before taking a final decision on the SIT’s ‘closure’ report.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1674383

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SIT nails 2 cops in ’02 riots case (Apr 11, 2012, Times of India)

While giving a clean chit to chief minister Narendra Modi and others for conspiring in the 2002 riots, the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT )has recommended departmental action against two police officers for their role in the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

The SIT’s report says there is no prosecutable evidence against MK Tandon, who was joint police commissioner in 2002, and PB Gondia, who was deputy commissioner of police, under whose jurisdiction the worst massacres of Naroda Patia, Naroda Gam and Gulbarg Society took place. The report, however, adds that the two had fled from Gulbarg Society, allowing the rioters a free hand.

Sources said the report states that Tandon and Gondia “had malevolently abandoned Meghaninagar where Gulbarg Society was situated and instead got bogus FIRs of communal violence registered in other areas which were otherwise free of trouble to justify their absence from Gulbarg Society, and did deliberate dereliction of duty unbecoming of an IPS officer.”

The SIT adds that departmental action should be taken against but they can’t be prosecuted. But amicus curie Raju Ramachandran has concluded that the only logical action against the duo is a criminal trial. Tandon has since retired and Gondia is director, civil defence.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12618638.cms

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Gujarat’s Ode massacre: 18 convicts get life imprisonment, 7 years in jail for five (Apr 12, 2012, Times of India)

The special SIT court in Anand has delivered the quantum of sentence in the Ode massacre case. Of the 23 persons convicted in the case, the court has given life imprisonment to 18 convicts, while five others have been awarded seven years of rigorous imprisonment. 23 poeple had been killed in Ode on March 1, 2002. Special prosecutor P N Parmar had sought death penalty for the convicts, arguing that this should be considered the rarest of the rare incident. He contended that the court had upheld the prosecution’s asserting that the act of rioting and murder of 23 persons, mainly women and children, was part of a conspiracy.

All the 23 persons, who belong to a community of Patels from Charotar, had been held guilty of conspiracy, rioting and unlawful assembly besides other charges. Eighteen of them have been held guilty of murdering people, while four have been held guilty of attempt to murder. One person – Atul Patel – has not been convicted for these two charges. In another such case of 2002 violence, the Godhra carnage case wherein same sections were applied, a special SIT court awarded hanging to 11 persons who were found guilty of conspiracy. Those 20 who were not found involved in criminal conspiracy were given life imprisonment.

In a post-Godhra riots case of Sardarpura, the court did not believe the conspiracy charge leveled by prosecution, and handed out life imprisonment to all 31 persons found guilty of burning 33 persons in a house. In its verdict on Monday, the court held 23 guilty and acquitted 23 persons in the Ode massacre of March 1 at Pirawali Bhagol. However, the court acquitted all 14 persons in connection with another murder that took place the next day. But ten of those 14 acquitted in the second incident were already convicted in the first one, and this resulted in the freedom for only four.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12630620.cms

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It was a conspiracy: Court (Apr 13, 2012, Times of India)

The court has accepted the prosecution’s contention that the Ode massacre was conspired, this being the first post-Godhra riots case wherein SIT’s claims of conspiracy are upheld. In its 1,252-page order, the special court in Anand observed that conspiracy is established behind the killing of 23 as all those gathered were the Hindus, apparently with the intention to kill the Muslims and cause damage to their property.

The court noticed that it was Friday, and members of the mob knew that the Muslims would be normally found at their houses. The court also further observed that the members of unlawful assembly knew that the Muslims were farmers and stored grass and tobacco in their houses. Hence they were equipped with inflammables, and first threw pouches of petrol and kerosene from top of the houses to burn the grass.

During the proceedings, the special prosecutors emphasized on the aspect of criminal conspiracy behind the massacre. He had explained how roads were blocked, and nobody from the town called a fire brigade despite the fact that 278 houses and shops belonging to the Muslims were burnt by the agitated mob. The court rejected the demand of compensation for the victims saying that the government has paid compensation, there was no requirement to pass an order in this regard.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12642999.cms

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Custody death compensation spikes to Rs 20L, but ‘killers’ roam free (Apr 10, 2012, Indian Express)

In a relief to 10 police officers, the Bombay High Court today rejected a plea to prosecute them for the custodial death of POTA detainee Khwaja Yunus in 2003, but increased by Rs 17 lakh the compensation amount to be given to his mother Aasiya Begum. Hearing a petition filed by Khwaja’s mother, Justice A M Khanvilkar and Justice P D Kode turned down her plea to prosecute ten police officers, who were let off by Maharashtra government in the case of the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus. However, the judges said they were inclined to grant Rs 20 lakh compensation to the victim’s mother, an increase of Rs 17 lakh from the meagre amount awarded by the lower court.

Aasia Begum had filed a petition seeking adequate compensation from the state government and demanding trial of police officers, who were allegedly responsible for her son’s death in custody. Her lawyer Mihir Desai said in cases of custodial death, it is very difficult to get witnesses or collect evidence. Desai said it was for the court to decide whether the statement of the eyewitness was credible enough to result in conviction. Desai pointed out that police officers had lied about they being elsewhere when Yunus was allegedly beaten to death in custody, as shown by their cell phone records.

At present, only four policemen – API Sachin Vaze and constables Rajendra Tiwari, Rajaram Nikam and Vasant Desai – are facing trial on charges of murder of Yunus and destruction of evidence. The government had earlier refused sanction to prosecute 10 other police officers. Yunus, a software engineer working in a Dubai-based company, was arrested by police for his alleged involvement in a bomb blast in a BEST bus outside suburban Ghatkopar station on December 02, 2002. In January 2003, police claimed that he escaped while being taken to Aurangabad when the police jeep met with an accident. But a CID probe indicated that this was a “false story” and Yunus had died in police custody.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/934988/

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Prajapati encounter: HC rejects bail plea of IPS officer (Apr 13, 2012, IBN)

Gujarat High Court today again rejected the bail application of suspended IPS officer Vipul Agarwal, the prime accused in 2006 Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter case, being probed by the CBI. Agarwal’s bail plea had been rejected last month by the High Court. He filed a fresh one today, on the ground that the delay in the trial could cause prejudice to him, violating the constitutional right to speedy trial. Justice A S Dave was reluctant to hear the bail petition as it had already been rejected on merit by another judge.

The court rejected the plea, saying that it could not entertain it again on the ground cited by the petitioner. On March 21, Justice M D Shah had rejected Agarwal’s plea, agreeing with apprehensions of CBI that the accused was an IPS officer, and could tamper with the evidence. Agarwal had approached the High Court after the sessions court denied him bail last year. He was arrested in May 2010 by the state CID, which was then investigating the case.

The Supreme Court later ordered a CBI probe into the killing of Prajapati, who was gunned down in an allegedly fake encounter on December 28, 2006 near Chhapri village near Ambaji in Banaskantha district. The apex court’s direction came on the appeal filed by Narmada Bai, Prajapati’s mother, alleging that her son was killed in a fake encounter by the Gujarat police as he was a key eyewitness in the November 2005 killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi.

http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/prajapati-encounter-hc-rejects-bail-plea-of-ips-officer/985916.html

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Saffron extremists desecrated temple to trigger riots: Cops (Apr 14, 2012, Times of India)

The city police have launched a manhunt for four persons belonging to the Hindu community who they suspect triggered the communal disturbances in Old City last Sunday by hurling a piece of beef on the walls of the Hanuman Temple at Kurmaguda in Madannapet. All the four are residents of Kurmaguda and in their late twenties, police said, and claimed that the accused would be nabbed within the next 48 hours.

Reaping political benefits by intensifying communal polarization in the city is said to be the motive behind the attack. “We have reliable information confirming the role of four Hindu extremists in the Kurmaguda incident that started the recent communal disturbances. One of the accused was earlier arrested in the post-Bakrid communal violence incidents in the city. “All the accused are on the run and special teams have been formed to nab them,” a top investigating officer told TOI.

While the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the city police is probing the 26 cases of communal clashes that took place in Old City since last Sunday, there is a special emphasis on the investigation into the Kurmaguda Hanuman temple desecration as it was the triggering point for the series of clashes. SIT officers visited Kurmaguda on Thursday and questioned several people. “We have specific information that the incident was executed by locals from the same community,” said a source. Intelligence sleuths are also closely monitoring the probe and confirmed the role of Hindu fundamentalist elements behind the attack.

An officer, who is part of the probe, revealed that the four suspects who have been on the run now are just mere pawns in the big political game and the main challenge would be to get to the conspirators who used them to reap political benefits. In the 2010 communal clashes, the SIT team had made several arrests but failed to nail the conspirators who provoked the mob. The same was the situation in the probe related to the post-Bakrid communal attacks in 2011. “A middle level politico interested in contesting the assembly election in 2014 is possibly the brain behind the attack,” police sources averred. Analysts said that this gave a new dimension to the communal tension and revealed that polarization was being deliberately fomented to garner votes.

Police have also confirmed the involvement of local Hindus in a temple desecration at Nandi Musalaiguda in Bahadurpura police limits and suspect a similar conspiracy behind the temple desecration at Moghulpura. “While the Nandi Musalaiguda temple desecration was engineered to ensure the posting of a police picket in their communally sensitive area, we suspect that the Moghulpura incident was to instigate the people. Thankfully, the perpetrators at Moghulpura did not succeed,” said an official.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12657326.cms

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Make us party to Malegaon accused bail plea: NIA to SC (Apr 16, 2012, Indian Express)

To contest the bail and other relief sought by those accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has moved the Supreme Court seeking impleadment in applications filed by them. The SC has asked the accused to file their responses as to why NIA not be made respondent in the applications filed by them.

Maintaining that despite being a necessary party/respondent, the accused involved in the cases have deliberately not been impleading them as parties before various courts, including the High Court and Supreme Court, the NIA has sought impleadment in the bail applications filed by accused, including Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, Rakesh Dattatraya Dhawade, Ajay Eknath Rahirkar, Pragya Singh Thakur, Shivnarayan Kalsangra. The SC has responded by issuing notices to the accused. The Malegaon blast took place on September 29, 2008. It left six persons dead and 101 injured.

In its application, the NIA has submitted that after taking over of the case on April 13, 2011, it has also taken over the case records on May 9, 2011 and May 27, 2011 from the ATS. The NIA has submitted that it has interrogated 12 accused, who are in judicial custody, from June 22, 2011 to June 27, 2011 after seeking permission of a Special Court. “All the said accused persons have thus far not cooperated with the investigations nor have they come out with the full facts of the case; further investigation by the NIA is in progress and all efforts are being made to trace and apprehend the two wanted and proclaimed offenders namely Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalasangra,” reads the NIA application.

The NIA has referred to appeals filed by the accused wherein they have challenged the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime (MCOC) Act. “The NIA is a necessary party and in further view of the fact that it has taken over investigations for the past year, made it mandatory for the accused to amend the pleadings to include the NIA as respondent.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/937144/

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Madannapet, Saidabad: The twin trouble spots (Apr 10, 2012, Times of India)

Communal flare ups in the Old City have often had roots in the twin neighbouring colonies of Madannapet and Saidabad. Described as being communally hyper-sensitive, the two colonies have been under police scanner for decades.The chunk of the two-wheelers burning incidents in the Old City following Milad un-Nabi last November were reported from Madannapet and Saidabad. Earlier in 2009, the area witnessed a clash post municipal elections and in 2007, it was again Milad un-Nabi celebrations that triggered tension. According to locals, the communal friction has been rocking the area since the 1980’s and later the Rath Yatra of BJP leader L K Advani in the 1990’s added fuel to the fire. Madannapet, which has a near equal presence of both the communities, has a strong RSS presence.

On the other hand, Saidabad is home to some controversial persons like Maulana Naseeruddin of Tehreek Tahffuz-e-Shuaer-e-Islam, alleged Simi patron Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi, whose son Mujahid Saleem was shot dead by the Gujarat police while he was protesting against the arrest of Maulana Naseer and Shaikh Mahboob Ali, the late DJS chief. Formation of Islamic fundamentalist organisations as a counter to RSS activities brought in massive changes here. In fact, it was the frequent tensions between the members of the two communities which resulted in the formation of DJS in 1983 and the body got a shot in the arm in 1992 post Babri Masjid violence across the country, observers note. Civil society activists who have been working in the area for long note that the militancy factor will not go away easily. An activist recalls that till the early 1980’s, Madannapet-Saidabad was a laid-back area. But post 1992, it underwent a massive transformation. A dozen madrassas, including for girls, came up. An RSS school, Sarasvathi Shishu Mandir for girls and boys, in a nearby locality, Sarasvathinagar was also opened.

Old-timers note that about a few decades ago, consolidation of communities started on the other side of the Musi. Hindus were dislodged from Muslim dominated areas and vice versa. And Madannapet, where the corporator of Kurmaguda, Sahadev Yadav happens to be the only BJP candidate in the South Zone, is one of the areas where the Hindus held on. “Most communal tensions are largely restricted to those areas where the population of both the communities is more or less on the same scale,” says a senior police official adding that if clashes erupt in Madannapet, they invariably spread to Saidabad. Hyderabad has a long list of communally sensitive areas. Apart from Saidabad-Madannapet, Moosa Bowli, Hussainialam, Puranapul, Gudimalkapur, Attapur, Aliabad, Hari Bowli, and Lal Darwaza are the other areas. These areas have witnessed murders and riots and problems during processions and celebrations.

However, residents of the two areas say that the trouble is primarily politically motivated and that the members of the two communities have co-existed without any trouble. Mohammed Rafiuddin (54), a businessman residing in Saidabad for 25 years said that Saidabad has been portrayed a communal hotbed but it is not so. “The Hindus and Muslims here go about their daily chores without bothering each other. Ram Navami celebrations were peaceful,” he said. Ch Arun, a government employee who stays close to the shrine where the incident happened said that life in the area is largely peaceful. “I have been living here for long and never had any disputes with my Muslim neighbours. But such clashes cause much trouble to people like us. My grandmother and mother had to walk down all the way from Chaderghat to reach home because the police were not even allowing autorickshaws,” rued Arun. Ashok Reddy, a lawyer from the area said that this tension was created to divert attention from real issues like the liquor scandal and Telangana. “Innocent people are becoming scapegoats to such deliberate political motivated incidents,” said Reddy.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-10/hyderabad/31318526_1_madannapet-and-saidabad-communally-sensitive-areas-rss

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High court frowns at delay in constituting minority body (Apr 13, 2012, Times of India)

The PIL bench of the AP High Court on Thursday voiced dissatisfaction at the undue delay by the state government in constituting the AP Minorities Welfare Commission and appointing its chairman.

The bench of Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice PV Sanjay Kumar directed that the file relating to the appointment be placed before it on Monday. A PIL was filed in court on the government’s failure to fill the vacancy from 2009. In January 2012, the government had given an undertaking to the court that it would fill up the post in three months.

When the case came up on Thursday, the government sought time for another three months stating that the appointment process was underway. When asked what had happened in the interim, the court was simply informed that the ‘process was on’. The bench, dissatisfied with the response, called for the relevant file from the government.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-13/hyderabad/31336887_1_minority-body-pil-bench

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Opinions and Editorials

The verdict – Editorial (Apr 11, 2012, Indian Express)

The special court’s verdicts on the killings in Ode over two days in the aftermath of Godhra in Gujarat 2002, convicting 23 and upholding the conspiracy charge, could be seen as unexceptionable in a system governed by the rule of law. But that would be missing the fraught context of the still unfolding process in Gujarat. It would be underplaying the tremendous grit and commitment the Supreme Court has shown in ensuring, against all odds, that justice is done. A little over a decade after it was convulsed by violence in 2002, two narratives can be seen to be playing out simultaneously in the state.

In one, the state is smoothly moving on from its past, as it posts achievements in governance and development. In the other, the process of justice for the victims of the mass communal violence of 2002 moves ahead, but less smoothly, in fits and starts. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi strenuously projects himself as the hero of the first narrative. But there can be no doubt that the leading role, in insulating and protecting the procedures of justice from possible derailment, in the second story is played by the judiciary, led by the Supreme Court.

Look again at the Ode cases and the apex court’s role stands out at every turn. In 2003, on a petition alleging bias in police investigations, the SC stayed proceedings in cases, including the Ode massacres. Then in 2008, it appointed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe nine of the most serious cases. Ode was one of them. SIT chief R.K. Raghavan was given full powers to pick the probe team and special public prosecutors. Crucially, the apex court also directed the SIT to ensure witness protection. In 2009, the SC ordered special fast-track trial courts for the SIT cases. It went further than that.

At one point, in an extraordinary move, the court appointed an amicus curiae, a “friend of the court”, to go through investigation papers, meet witnesses and police officers and submit his own report, bypassing the SIT. Verdicts, and some semblance of closure, have been delivered in three of the nine key Godhra and post-Godhra cases. Countless others await conclusion, including Naroda Patiya, in which former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani and VHP leader Jaideep Patel are among the accused, and the Gulbarg Society massacre, in which VHP and Bajrang Dal workers allegedly played a role. In the end, for it to be meaningful or enduring, the narrative of development must find a way to connect to the story of justice in Gujarat.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/935175/

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Gulberg Society case: Gujarat highlights why the Bill against communal violence is needed – By ET Bureau (Apr 12, 2012, Economic Times)

The special court’s verdict in the communal killings in Ode and the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) closure of investigation in the Gulberg Society massacre – after finding no evidence to prosecute CM Narendra Modi and top political leaders, bureaucrats and police officers – highlight the laboriousness of delivering some measure of justice to the victims of the carnage in Gujarat in 2002. The SIT’s report is by no means a clean chit to Mr Modi. The legal process would, in all likelihood, continue in the Gulberg Society case. Besides, the SIT simply failed to find sufficient evidence, something that would happen if evidence has been destroyed.

Some months ago, the state government itself admitted that it had destroyed what seemed like critical records relating to the riots. And all the murky twists and turns that have been witnessed in the investigations actually reinforce the notion that the state administration is out to subvert justice. But that is precisely what also makes bringing the law of the land to bear on the perpetrators of the 2002 violence in Gujarat more important. Overall, such has been the abysmal track record of delivering justice in riot cases that even partial convictions, that too after a decade, in a couple of cases relating to the post-Godhra killings stand out.

Given this, the passage of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill assumes critical importance in a country often ravaged by such riots. This is necessary because even the delayed justice in cases like Ode is only partial – the fact that only a few Muslim families have returned to the area where the slaughter was carried out makes talk of ‘moving on’ and peace having returned sound absurd.

The Bill should be seen as one of the more significant ones in India’s post-Independence history. For, while the end-result should be ending the culture of immunity fostered by the political class in communal riot cases, coming down heavily on instigating or carrying out such riots, the rehabilitation of victims must aim at their renewing their lives in full measure. Meanwhile, justice will continue to be a work in slow progress.

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-04-12/news/31331292_1_riot-cases-gulberg-society-post-godhra-killings

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Shutting the school doors on the Muslim child – By Hem Borker (Apr 5, 2012, The Hindu)

That a news report in The Hindu titled “In Delhi’s nursery classes, Muslim children are a rarity” (March 19, 2012), found mention in the Rajya Sabha the same day, leading to “heated arguments” and a “verbal duel” in the Upper House, is symptomatic of the polarisation of public discourse on the education of Muslims. Almost any discussion on the subject slides into binaries: religious vs secular, exclusion vs appeasement, rights vs politics, reality vs rhetoric, and conservatism vs systemic discrimination. In 2009-10, as part of the National CRY Fellowship Programme, I had conducted a series of interviews with 20 Muslim families residing in Zakir Nagar, New Delhi, on the question of what shaped their schooling choices for their children. Unanimously, the parents regarded modern mainstream education as the single most important factor which safeguarded their children’s future and clearly articulated a preference for sending their children to reputed private schools. However their narratives echoed the contesting dilemmas many faced on account of “being Muslim”; dilemmas which illustrate the manner in which the increasing communalisation of social space subtly limits choices or renders them non-existent in something as fundamental as education.

This statement highlights the increasing sense of helplessness and exasperation parents feel at the difficulty their children face in gaining admission to private schools. Many talked about their “feeling” that private schools have some sort of a “prefixed quota of just this much and no more Muslims”; some parents cited how the neighbourhood points seemed to have marginal weightage in the case of private schools nearby, while others talked about having to use “jugaad” to get their children admitted saying that this was not an option available to the ordinary Muslim. Many talked about consciously opting for Christian schools rather than the Hinduised regular public schools, as, at some level, Christian schools are “good” and respect minority sentiments. They also explained the choice in terms of pragmatism as Christian schools are generally convents, have a better command over the English language, and have a strong emphasis on discipline.

Parents shared experiences of their children being “unnecessarily picked on, classified in front of their peers and harassed by teachers.” In many of the interviews, parents repeatedly made references to derogatory comments made by teachers on the eating and dressing habits (headscarf or extra-long skirts) of Muslim children. This was corroborated by the children when I asked them about things they did not like about school. Many of them talked about how they did not like being singled out (on account of their religion), examples being a teacher adding “Miyan” to the child’s name while taking attendance (“I don’t know why my teacher keeps adding ‘Miyan’ to my name … everyone has started saying that”) or the cricket coach’s insinuating reprimands (“Isko bouncer mat dena, sar tod dega … ye sab garam mizaz ke hote hain”) or as a 10-year-old girl said, “Nobody in school wants to play hide-and-seek with me. Everyone says Muslims cannot be trusted with secrets.”

Parents described themselves as being very “conscious,” “mindful” and “careful” about the choices they were making vis-a-vis their children’s education – what the school environment was like, where to send their children to play or for dini talim. The choices available often lay at two ends of the spectrum – “excessively religious” people in the neighbourhood who kept on preaching Islamiyat or the excessively modern who tried to act like “everyone else.” For many parents the biggest worry was how to straddle these two extremes. Their responses constantly brought up the dichotomy of the “Good Muslim” and the “Bad Muslim” and the difficulty they faced in ensuring that their children are brought up in “Muslim ways” without falling into the “conservative trap.” In fact this concern was shared at various points in the interviews. Parents would juxtapose their own education back home (generally where they were a part of larger families in a more “Muslim milieu”) with that of their children’s education (in a nuclear set up in Delhi, where, as parents, they consciously tried to familiarise their children with the culture). Many parents mentioned how in their families, “family values” included orienting their children towards religion and conformity with a certain moral discipline. These situations often put the parents in an awkward position limiting their options to Muslim managed schools which respected their culture but did not provide the secular grounding required for the children not to feel alienated in the future.

Many parents expressed the difficulties they faced in choosing appropriate schools for their girls. For parents, many of whom aspired to remain true to their native roots located in rural or semi-urban Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, it was difficult to locate schools which ensured that their girls could avail the benefits of a modern secular education that provided some degree of certainty of access to respectable marriages and, if need be, appropriate employment but did not corrupt them into western ways; an institution which was not co-educational, had a modest dress code and was located nearby to ensure that the parents could reach them quickly in case of a “threatening” (danga-fasad) eventuality. I noted that in the case of girls, unlike boys, in the event of an absence of a combination of these criteria the parents generally made compromises on the quality of schooling and sent the girls to nearby (often unrecognised) schools within Jamia Nagar which promised girls education (not co-education), held classes in Urdu and sometimes imparting dini talim, and had the salwar kameez as the uniform. But the drawback was that these schools were not necessarily recognised by boards such as the CBSE/ICSE or had classes up till class 12. While these daily struggles are in no way representative of the Muslim experience of education, they do highlight the vicious nature of the problem. On one side the policy discourse refers to educational backwardness as one of the main causes for real and/or perceived alienation of Muslims and acknowledges inclusive education as a panacea; on the other, these real life situations demonstrate the everyday issues Muslims face in accessing these very opportunities, leading to further isolation, exclusion and excessive reliance on “Muslim managed services and networks.”

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article3281463.ece

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The Raja Who Stole From The Poor – By Ashish Khetan (Apr 21, 2012, Tehelka)

A little more than a month ago, Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, earned a landslide victory on the idea of hope: Ummeed ki cycle. He had promised clean governance and a corruption-free government. When he refused to give the dreaded DP Yadav a ticket, he sent a signal that he meant business. But some of his gloss was lost on the day he was sworn in. His inclusion of the notorious Raja Bhaiya in his Cabinet as prisons and food and civil supplies minister created an uproar in the media. If Raja Bhaiya’s appointment was driven by political expediency, here’s incontrovertible proof why Akhilesh must confront and overcome that expediency. TEHELKA now exposes why he should not even be in the Cabinet and definitely not as food minister again. His rightful place, it appears, should be in jail and not the Uttar Pradesh Secretariat. In the last Samajwadi Party regime (2003-07), under Mulayam Singh Yadav, Raja Bhaiya was food minister and presided over the crucial PDS scheme. In a shocking revelation, a close aide of Raja Bhaiya has told the CBI and the Supreme Court that in his last stint, the controversial minister had presided over a well-oiled network of stealing and smuggling of PDS foodgrain and made a personal fortune of over Rs 100 crore in less than four years. The total magnitude of the foodgrain scam, which stretches over a period of more than a decade, could run up to a staggering Rs 2 lakh crore. To support his claims, the witness has produced a sensational diary in which entries of illicit money received were meticulously maintained. And – in an act of utter brazenness – each illegal entry, the entire illegal book-keeping has allegedly been countersigned by Raja Bhaiya’s wife. This is a story that shows how the idea of electoral democracy is corrupted and subverted. This story is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with our representative democracy – the abuse of power and authority, criminalisation of electoral politics and the nexus of mass leaders with murderers and gangsters. This is how the story unfolds.

Sometime in December 2011, Rajiv Yadav, 38, who was the public relations officer (PRO) of Kunwar Raghuraj Pratap Singh, notorious by the name of Raja Bhaiya, walked into the CBI office at Hazratganj, Lucknow, and handed over a copy of a diary. It was the diary that Yadav and Ashok Kumar, another senior officer of the Secretariat Administration cadre, had maintained between 2006 and ’07 while they were part of the official staff of Raja Bhaiya, who was the food minister. Some of this money was invested in properties and luxury cars. Yadav has provided the details of two such properties of which he has personal knowledge: bungalows in Green Park, New Delhi, and MG Road, Lucknow. “In 2004-05, a trust by the name of Ramjanki Trust was registered at Allahabad in which Raja Bhaiya and his family members were trustees. Some money was transferred to the trust with which a bungalow was leased at 214, MG Marg, Lucknow. In 2007, a bungalow at 7-B, Green Park Extension in Delhi was purchased in the name of Raja Bhaiya’s wife,” Yadav said in his affidavit. For almost four years, Yadav and, in his absence, Kumar, had meticulously kept records and made diary entries of the cash received from the sale of stolen foodgrain and kerosene, which fair price shops (FPS) were allocated at subsidised rates under the Public Distribution System (PDS). Yadav has submitted one such diary pertaining to the period of 2006-07 to the CBI. As minister, Raja Bhaiya’s core responsibility was to oversee the functioning of the PDS and ensure that the subsidised foodgrain was efficiently and honestly distributed to the rural and urban poor, a majority of them living below the poverty line. “These stolen articles were either smuggled to countries like Bangladesh and Nepal or sold in the black market of other states,” Yadav told the CBI in a sworn affidavit.

According to Yadav, the money was collected by Raja Bhaiya’s four important aides: Akshay Pratap Singh alias Gopal Singh (who was at the time a Samajwadi Party MP from Pratapgarh), Yashvant Singh (the then Member of Legislative Council), Jayesh Prasad (who was then a Samajwadi MLC and at present a BSP MLC) and Rohit Singh (Raja Bhaiya’s driver). The money was handed over to Yadav, who used to stay at Raja Bhaiya’s personal bungalow at Shahnajaf Road in Lucknow. During his entire tenure as a minister, Raja Bhaiya used this address as his official residence. “Soon after being sworn in as the food and civil supplies minister in 2004, my minister told me that in the first week of every month, the above four would hand over the cash collected from the PDS mafia and state employees, which I, in turn, was supposed to hand over to the minister’s wife Bhanvi Kumari,” Yadav told the CBI. But before handing the cash to Kumari, Yadav made entries of all the cash inflow in a diary maintained by him. “For the sake of record-keeping and clarity, in case there was any dispute with regard to money collected, Bhanvi Kumari used to countersign all the entries,” Yadav told CBI Superintendent of Police Sanjay Ratan at his Lucknow office last December. Three months later, Yadav retold this chilling story to TEHELKA in Delhi.

The diary shows that in a period of less than 15 months between 2006 and ’07, Raja Bhaiya had earned roughly Rs 40 crore in cash coming in from the smuggling of PDS foodgrain and kerosene, from the monthly fixed amount received from the Weights and Measures wing and transfers and postings of departmental officials. Raja Bhaiya was minister for around 40 months. Yadav told TEHELKA that he had personally received over Rs 100 crore from the stealing of foodgrain meant for the poor during this period. “The entire money was handed over to his wife,” said Yadav. According to Yadav, as soon as he received the money, it was sorted and handed over to Kumari. TEHELKA asked Yadav why the money was not directly handed over to Kumari instead of Yadav acting as a go-between. He replied that in Raja Bhaiya’s family, the women avoid interacting with men who were not part of the family and that’s why he was appointed as a buffer. “Also it would have perhaps been embarrassing for mantriji to expose his wife to the daily collection of money,” said Yadav.

Raja Bhaiya had allegedly also devised an innovative modus operandi of converting some of this black money into white. Yadav has disclosed in his affidavit that bogus insurance policies and bank accounts were opened in the name of the teachers and others employed at the private schools owned by Raja Bhaiya’s family. “More than Rs 7.5 crore was deposited over a period of four years in these insurance policies, which on maturity was handed back to Raja Bhaiya’s family. One such policy was also opened in my name,” Yadav had said. He has given the CBI the name of the insurance company and the agent code under which the policies were opened. This affidavit has now been produced before the Supreme Court in an ongoing petition demanding a court-monitored CBI probe into the scam. In the same affidavit, Yadav has affirmed that luxury SUVs, such as Lexus, Ford Endeavour, Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero, were bought with this money. “Most of the cars were registered in benami names,” he said. A copy of the sensational diary has reached the apex court. TEHELKA perused this diary and found that detailed entries of money received from different divisions and districts were maintained date-wise. Some entries also carry subheads under which the money was categorised. For instance, one of the pages is divided into four columns under the subheading PDS. This page has entries of the alleged money received from Lucknow, Moradabad, Kanpur and Bareilly divisions. It shows that around Rs 58 lakh was received from the pilferage of PDS foodgrain in January-July 2006 from Lucknow, Moradabad and Kanpur. The same page shows that a total of Rs 13.6 lakh was received from Bareilly district in February-July 2006. The next page records a receipt of Rs 13.5 lakh from the smuggling of foodgrain from Meerut, Saharanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi divisions in February-July 2006. The following page carries the entries of Rs 40.70 lakh collected from Goraphkur, Basti and Devipatan divisions. …

http://tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ws100412EXCLUSIVE.asp

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The danger is closing in – Editorial (Apr 11, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The recent kidnapping of two Italians (one of them has been released) and a legislator in Orissa by the Maoists has again brought up a question that has been confronting successive Indian governments for the last 25 years: how should the Indian State tackle a hostage crisis, be it involving the Maoists or terrorists? Should the State negotiate with such groups or follow a no-negotiation policy on hostages? Even though a 2006 guideline of the Union home ministry bars negotiations in a hostage situation, the hard reality for a democratic country like India, with competing political forces at play, is that a firm no is fraught with difficulty.

Starting with the 1989 abduction of Rubaiya Sayeed by Kashmiri militants to last year’s abduction of IAS officer V Krishna, not to forget the infamous IC 814 case, parties in power have faced enormous pressure to negotiate. There is another facet to such cases: the families of the security forces often oppose releasing arrested Maoists/terrorists in exchange for the abducted people, as we have seen this time too. Thanks to such different and competing emotions and demands, India can no longer afford the luxury of continuing with a policy of ad hocism on this crucial issue.

There is no dishonour in negotiating – even the so-called ‘hard’ State, Israel, had to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners to get back the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit last year. But what India needs, even to negotiate effectively, are professionals who know the business well. For example, the American Federal Bureau of Investigation has a crisis negotiation unit that manages such requirements. So does Israel. But unfortunately in India, negotiations are left to well-meaning individuals who may have sympathies for the Maoist cause. While the political leaders should decide on the ‘give and take’ details, negotiators should be employed to be the go-between and also to buy crucial time.

India has not managed a unified policy till now because of the lack of a cohesive political approach on security-related issues. While the BJD-led Orissa government has been complaining about the fact that the Congress-led UPA government has not been helpful enough in tackling the latest hostage crisis, let’s not forget how its chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, along with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, objected to the setting up of the proposed anti-terror hub, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), saying that it would infringe upon the states’ powers. It is in the interest of all that India takes a unified approach against terror, no matter where it emanates from. We cannot start putting the house in order when the danger is at the door. We have to keep it fortified well in advance.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/839101.aspx

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Inside Slave City – By Debarshi Dasgupta, Dola Mitra, and others (Apr 23, 2012, Outlook)

In her nine years as a nurse working with rescued domestic workers in Delhi, Mariamma K. thought she had seen the worst. That was until 2010, when she and her colleagues went to rescue a 17-year-old girl from a home in west Delhi. Sangeeta was found with bite marks all over her body. “We were completely shocked. We didn’t know if we were looking at an animal or a human,” recollects Mariamma, who works with Nirmala Niketan, a group fighting for the rights of house-helps. Her employers initially claimed, quite incredulously, that she was biting herself but that didn’t explain the marks on her neck. They then changed tack—the lady of the house was deemed unstable. “But we didn’t buy that either. Why did she bite only her help and not her children?” argues Mariamma. The matter was later “settled” out of court. The girl’s family got Rs 50,000, after which she was sent back home to Assam.

Mariamma may still be able to recount the worst case of abuse she’s ever seen, but it’s not that easy for volunteers at Delhi’s Domestic Workers’ Forum. For it could be Veena from February last year, whose employer literally chose to dig in her heels – rather, her stilettos – into her back. Or what about Shobha, a 15-year-old from Jharkhand, whose employer, a nurse, branded her chest with a hot iron? Or Hasina from West Bengal, a minor salvaged from a bureaucrat’s house in November last year, whose private parts had been repeatedly prodded with a rolling pin? Now the picture may look particularly grim in the national capital (the latest case, from last month, is of a tortured 13-year-old Jharkhand girl, locked in by a vacationing doctor couple with frugal rations) but the truth is, across the country, particularly in north India (see list), abuse of domestic helps is on the rise. What has brought about this pattern of deliberate brutality? Is it because the affluent in cities find a deluge of workers in a market that has no checks against their exploitation? Is it the poor, rather negligible conviction rate, the money-conquers-all attitude which has emboldened this cruel streak in city-dwellers? (The latter perhaps is a valid thought; even as they were being charged, the aforementioned doctor couple had the audacity to publicly offer Rs 75,000 to settle the case.)

This is especially true of a nouveau riche middle class who seem to have no empathy with the poor. In fact “most think that by employing a maid, they are doing some service…feeding the poor. There is a lot of aggression, anger among these people”, says social worker Rishi Kant who has helped rescue many such girls. “At some houses, the employers actually ask us why we are taking them away when they are at least being fed there….” Another activist, Rakesh Senger, adds “They think they are doing these kids a favour if they pay them Rs 1,000 a month, give them second-hand clothes and feed them scraps.” Given the recent flare-ups and the outrage (at least in the media), it is a relationship that many now openly characterise as that between a modern master and slave. These are reflected even in minute dealings with the help. Take, for example, the case of Namita Haldar in Calcutta, who works in several homes but is not allowed to use the toilet facilities in any of them.

“It doesn’t occur to us to treat them like humans because it is deep-rooted in our psyche to somehow consider them less than human. Just because we are paying them, people think they should get their money’s worth, right down to the last penny,” says Kakuli Deb of Parichiti, a city-based rights group. Most of this subjugated workforce, of an estimated 90 million domestic workers in the country, comes from impoverished regions in states like Jharkhand, Bengal and Chhattisgarh. It’s no surprise that a substantial number of them are trafficked into big cities to spruce up urban homes, smoothen out the harried lives of city-dwellers. West Bengal alone reported as many as 8,000 missing girls in 2010 and 2011. Hapless girls from the tribal regions are especially in demand, says Sanjay K. Mishra, who helps rehabilitate rescued domestic workers. “They are simple and innocent and, crucially, without a support structure. So abuse is rarely reported.” Often the parents have no idea where the girls have been taken by agencies and, being illiterate, they are open to all sorts of exploitation.

Feeding on this vast market are the numerous, obscure ‘placement agencies’ (some 2,300 in Delhi alone). Employers pay these agencies to hire a help and, in most cases, pay the monthly salary also to the agency instead of the worker. And while child labour may have a stigma attached, even today most people tend to look the other way. In Calcutta, Mukul Das, who runs a small business in busy Gariahat, says “maid children” are more “obedient”. His last one, 8-year-old Shefali, would clean, sweep, cook and then sleep on the floor. It was apparently a great bargain. Last year, 116 ‘workers’ were rescued from middle-class homes in Delhi; only four of them were over 18. A survey in Mumbai two years back found nearly 60,000 girls between 5-14 employed as domestic workers.…

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?280558

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