IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 9th, 2012

by newsdigest on April 10, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Convictions in post-Godhra carnage a step on the road to justice says Indian American Muslim Council

Tuesday April 10, 2012

Indian American Muslim Council (http://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos today welcomed the belated convictions of 23 individuals in the Ode massacre case related to the carnage in Gujarat in 2002.

On March 1, 2002, a mob of about a thousand people attacked a house in the Pirawali Bhagol area of Ode, in which 23 people had taken shelter. The convicted men set the house on fire, killing the nine women, nine children and five men inside. The verdict is the third, including the Godhra train burning case, that the Supreme Court had entrusted to the Special Investigation Team. The Gujarat pogrom of 2002 claimed the lives of over 2000 people, and displaced over 150,000 from their homes. The Supreme Court’s directions on a petition filed by the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) resulted in effective protection for the witnesses, which greatly contributed to the convictions.

“The fact that this is the first post-Godhra carnage case in which the court has established criminal conspiracy, shows that this is only the first step in the long road to full justice and reparation for the victims of the Gujarat carnage,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC.

The post-Godhra pogrom was marked by brutal sexual violence against at least 800 women, many of whom were later burnt alive. To date, no case of criminal conspiracy has been brought against the rapists and killers. Individuals who participated in the Gujarat carnage of 2002 have confessed on camera, that their evil deeds were facilitated by the state government led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Families of the victims and survivors of the Gujarat pogrom are still struggling for justice and reparation. Despite the passage of 10 years, most people displaced by the pogrom are unable to return to their villages, for fear of being harassed or killed.

“Far from being a vindication of the state government, the court’s verdict should be seen as a call to human rights defenders and NGOs to continue the struggle for justice until the masterminds of the gruesome killings of 2002 are handed their due punishment under the law,” added Mr. Khateeb.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.

For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.

RELATED LINKS:

23 convicted, 23 acquitted for Gujarat riots massacre
http://twocircles.net/2012apr09/23_convicted_23_acquitted_gujarat_riots_massacre.html

A balm for Gujarat Ode riot victims: Twenty-three convicted in massacre trial
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2127380/A-balm-Gujarat-Ode-riot-victims-Suspects-convicted-massacre-trial.html

Gujarat riots: 23 held guilty for Ode carnage
http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Gujarat/Gujarat-riots-23-held-guilty-for-Ode-carnage/Article1-837708.aspx

Gujarat 2002 – The Full Coverage
http://www.tehelka.com/story_main35.asp?filename=Ne031107gujrat_sec.asp

“We have no orders to save you” – Report by Human Rights Watch
http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2002/india/

Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002; An Inquiry into the Carnage in Gujarat
http://www.sabrang.com/tribunal/volI/index.html

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Post-Godhra riots: 23 convicted in Ode massacre (Apr 9, 2012, Indian Express)

A sessions court here today acquitted 23 people and convicted 23 in connection with the 2002 massacre at Pirawali Bhagol of Ode village in Anand district, in which 23 people were burnt alive by a violent mob. In total, there were 47 accused in the case, however, one of them had died during the course of trial. The verdict was delivered by the district and sessions court Judge Poonam Singh. The court will pronounce the quantum of sentence later. The accused were also convicted on charge of conspiracy. This is the first post-Godhra riots case, investigated by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), where the court has accepted the conspiracy theory.

This is the third riot case, after Godhra train carnage and Sardarpura massacre case, in which a special trial court pronounces its judgment. All three are among the nine riot cases that were further investigated by the SIT. Special public prosecutor P N Parmar said more than 150 witnesses have been examined, while over 170 documentary evidences have been placed before the court. The trial began in the end of 2009 and was on the verge of completion when the then judge hearing the case resigned in May 2011 citing personal reasons. Following this, Judge Singh was appointed and all the arguments were made afresh before her. Parmar further said that the SIT was probing three cases regarding Ode.

Assistant special public prosecutor in the case was Shailendra Ghadia, while advocates Irshad Mansuri and Nasir Sheikh represented the riot victims. The defence team was headed by advocate C K Patel. The massacre had taken place on March 1, 2002, when a mob attacked two double-storied residential buildings in which 30-32 Muslims had taken shelter. The mob had allegedly locked the doors from the outside and had thrown burning rags and pouches filled with kerosene and petrol inside. Last remains of only two of the victims could be recovered in the incident while the rest were considered as missing and presumed dead.

The Pirawali Bhagol killings was one of the two massacres reported from Ode village during the 2002 riots. The second was reported from Malav Bhagol where four persons were burnt alive. Both were further investigated by the SIT. Meanwhile, special public prosecutor P N Parmar said that the court has considered as “rarest of rare” the incident of burning to death nine women, nine children and five men by rioters. The court is likely to pronounce the quantum of punishment in the evening, he said. The prosecution has sought capital punishment for all the accused who have been convicted, Parmar added.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/934430/

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Narendra Modi tops negative votes in global poll (Apr 8, 2012, Times of India)

Chinks in his e-armour have left Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi worried. Despite a large, loyal army of supporters in the cyber space, Modi, in a last minute upset, lost an internet poll conducted by a leading global magazine to choose 100 most influential people across the world. Modi lost out to Anonymous, which is a group of hackers and Eric Martin, a champion of anti-piracy law.

But what shocked Modi’s supporters the most was the fact that chief minister got more negative votes (2,66,684) than positive (2,56,792) – in fact Modi topped the list in negative votes. Till about 24 hours to go for the poll to close on Saturday, Modi had almost double the number of positive votes, over negatives. However, he lost out in the end. The net-savvy chief minister, who Congress leaders call an internet manipulator, was outsmarted by activists who mobilized votes to prevent him from topping the list. The defeat comes at a time when the chief minister is trying hard to wash the stains of post-Godhra riots.

Modi supporters believe the results will wash away the impact created by a series of articles carried in the Western media. The only consolation for Modi remains that he tops the list of six Indians, including his bete noire and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who were nominated for the 100-strong list. Other Indians were Sachin Tendulkar, Salman Khan, Vidya Balan and Anna Hazare. The final results will be announced on April 17.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-08/ahmedabad/31308060_1_narendra-modi-modi-supporters-post-godhra

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Muslims rising against terror arrest of innocent youths (Apr 9, 2012, Twocircles.net)

There has been resentment in the Muslim society as they did not believe their youths could be involved in terror blasts. But they remained silent. Now after courts have started releasing those youths one after another, the community is now expressing the resentment in a democratic way. In last 10 days, three programs were organized in different parts of the country condemning the terror arrest of Muslim youths. The latest was held in Darbhanga on Friday.

Thousands of people were at the program held by Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind in Darbhanga. Clerics – Maulana Arshad Madni (president, Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind), Maulana Anisur Rahman Qasmi (Chairman, Haj Committee, Bihar – and politicians – Mohammad Ali Ashraf Fatmi (Ex HRD Minister), Izhar Ahmad (MLA), Sultan Ahmad (Ex MLA) – all were present at the program and voiced against the arrest of innocents in terror cases. This was evidence that the community of the region is angry over the arrest of dozen odd youths from Darbhanga, Madhubani and other parts of Bihar since November 2011.

For years the community held conferences to condemn terror blasts and their seminaries issued fatwas against the menace – this all in the backdrop of arrest of Muslim youths after every terror blast in last 10 years, but they hardly uttered a word against the arrests. But when they saw courts acquitting Muslim youths in terror cases one after another, yet no check on arrest of innocent youths, they concluded this is conspiracy, this is injustice.

On 2nd April first protest demonstration against the arrests was organized in Patna by Mr. Ghulam Ghaus, Leader of Opposition in Bihar Legislative Council. He condemned the arrests and warned that if the malicious campaign against Muslim community is not stopped he will lead a march towards Delhi. He alleged both state and central government could be behind the conspiracy.

On 31st March, top Muslim leaders came out on a platform and asked the governments, police and intelligence agencies to stop harassment, illegal detention and torture of innocent Muslim youths in the name of fighting terrorism. They also demanded prosecution and punishment of all police and intelligence officials who have been involved in falsely implicating Muslim youths in terror cases. The convention was organised by All India Milli Council and supported by all major Muslim organisations including All India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, Welfare Party of India, Coordination Committee for Indian Muslims and Markazi Jamiat Ulema.

http://twocircles.net/2012apr09/muslims_rising_against_terror_arrest_innocent_youths.html

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Bihar Police spray bullets on mosque during communal clashes (Apr 4, 2012, Twocircles.net)

The Moglakhar mosque in Nawada town on Tuesday first came under attack by miscreants who were part of Ram Navami procession and then in an apparent bid to control the subsequent communal violence the police sprayed bullets on the mosque between Maghrib and Isha prayer time. According to locals and eyewitnesses, the processionists began shouting anti-Muslim provocative slogans when they were passing by the Badi Masjid Moglakhar near railway crossing in Nawada town. This resulted in a pitch battle between the two communities and soon stones from the procession began raining on the mosque and neighboring houses and shops.

An eyewitness told TCN on phone that a police team was accompanying with the procession but they did not stop the miscreants when they began shouting provocative slogans. But when the stone pelting started from both sides of the communities, the police took side of the processionists and started firing. According to media reports, police fired 500 rounds of bullets. But it seems the mosque bore the brunt. The photos of the mosque show clear marks of bullets and stones. Four-five people are said to have been wounded during the violence.

The clear marks of bullets on the mosque prompted local police and civil administration on Wednesday to reach the mosque committee for immediate plaster and white-wash on the mosque in a clear bid to remove the evidence. However, the locals protested against the move and the administration had to retreat.

In last one month this was the fourth attack on mosques in Nawada district. Since Holi last month, mosque in three villages – Bhatta, Jasat and Datraul – have been attacked by miscreants. Wednesday was peaceful but very shops were opened and vehicular traffic was also thin. The local administration has imposed section 144 to check on gathering of people.

http://twocircles.net/2012apr04/bihar_police_spray_bullets_mosque_during_communal_clashes.html

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CBI arrests BJP MLA Rajendra Rathore for involvement in fake encounter of Dara Singh (Apr 6, 2012, Economic Times)

In a development that is likely to intensify confrontation between Congress and BJP, CBI on Thursday arrested former Rajasthan minister and five-term MLA Rajendra Rathore for his alleged involvement in the fake encounter of local liquor smuggler Dara Singh in 2006. The 56-year-old Rathore, a BJP MLA known for his allegiance towards former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, was arrested by CBI amid high-decibel slogan-shouting by his supporters who had assembled at the agency’s local office in large numbers as soon as the news of his imminent fate spread. The investigating agency filed a chargesheet in the case naming him hours after his arrest.

With Rajasthan going to polls next year, the issue is set to occupy the centre of political discourse in the state. BJP has, not surprisingly, cried foul, and announced state-wide protests and demonstrations on April 7 to highlight its case of political witch-hunt. “The party workers will stage dharnas and demonstrate in all districts to protest against the arrest,” BJP state president Arun Chaturvedi told newspersons in the party office after Rathore’s arrest. He added that the party stood behind the former minister. Raje alleged that the UPA government was misusing the agency for its political agenda. “We have examples of CBI’s misuse in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh also. In Rajasthan, Rathore was arrested on the ground of a baseless story and only on the direction of Congress,” she said. Raje also alleged Rathore was used as a tool for settling political scores.

The development comes some six weeks after CBI arrested absconding Rajasthan Police ADG AK Jain. He had been named in the CBI chargesheet for his alleged involvement in the fake encounter case. In its chargesheet filed in June last, CBI had alleged that Dara Singh was taken into illegal custody by the SOG officials from Jaipur Airport and was taken to a lonely place near Amber where he was kept hostage till October 23, 2006, when he was killed in a planned manner. “The circumstantial evidence shows clearly that Dara was murdered in cold blood by SOG personnel and the same was duly monitored by ADG Police AK Jain, SP SOG A Ponnuchammi and Additional SP Arshad Ali, along with other officials, and, during this entire period, Rajendra Rathore (a sitting BJP MLA) was on telephonic touch with Jain, ADGP,” the document said.

Rathore, speaking to newspersons before his arrest, claimed he was being implicated falsely at the behest of the Congress government. “I did not know the person who was killed in the encounter before the incident was reported in newspapers next day in October 2006,” he said. “It is very unfortunate that I am being implicated falsely, but it is fortunate that you all are gathered here to give me moral support. I will return and resume my work to strengthen the party,” he said before his arrest. The CBI said the MLA had been arrested for an on-going probe relating to the fake encounter case. Dara Singh, a resident of village Mundital of Churu district, was allegedly killed by special operation group, Rajasthan, on the outskirts of Jaipur on October 23, 2006.

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-04-06/news/31300111_1_fake-encounter-cbi-arrests-cbi-chargesheet

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Karkare Killing: HC asks petitioners if they want to pursue case further (Apr 4, 2012, Indian Express)

In a petition seeking a separate inquiry into the death of IPS officer Hemant Karkare who was martyred during the 26/11 terror attacks, the Bombay HC on Tuesday questioned the petitioners about pursuing the case further. Jyoti Badekar, one of the petitioners in a group of petitions that had sought a probe into the “conspiracy angle” into Karkare’s death, had sought the restoration of the case that was dismissed by default in January.

The petitioner had contended that as suggested in a book Who Killed Karkare? written by former IPS officer S M Mushrif, Hindu fundamentalists could have been behind the killing of the former Anti-Terrorism Squad chief. The petition had sought an investigation by a central agency into the shooting that took place at CST, Cama Hospital and the Rang Bhavan lane on November 26, 2008, in which Karkare was shot dead.

Arguing for the state government, public prosecutor P A Pol said Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab had already been tried and held guilty for killing Karkare, among other serious charges. The central government’s lawyer, Rebecca Gonsalves, also told the court that nothing survived in the litigation as a special court’s decision convicting Kasab had been confirmed by the High Court and further appeals were pending in the SC.

Justices S A Bobde and Mridula Bhatkar said the procedure in the 26/11trial had been completed, and asked the petitioner’s lawyer why they still wanted their case restored. The bench asked the petitioners to tell the court at the next hearing whether or not they still wished to pursue their case.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/932428/

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Andhra court declares prime land allotted to MNCs Wakf property (Apr 3, 2012, Deccan Herald)

In a landmark judgment, the Andhra Pradesh High Court Tuesday ruled that 1,654 acres of prime land allotted to several multinational companies on the outskirts of Hyderabad is Wakf land. A division bench of the high court dismissed a batch of writ petitions and civil revision petitions by Lanco Hills Technology Park and others and upheld the state Wakf Board’s contention that the land at Manikonda village estimated to be worth Rs.32,000 crore belonged to it.

The bench comprising Justice V.V.S. Rao and Justice R. Kanta Rao declared that 1,654.79 acre land belonged to Dargah Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali, a Wakf institution and not to the government. It ruled that once a land is declared Wakf land it remained so forever and its nature or character can’t be changed. Lanco Hills owned by Congress MP L. Rajagopal and others including Microsoft, Infosys, Wipro, Polaris and Emaar Properties, in their writ petition had challenged the injunction orders issued by the Wakf Tribunal last year not to alienate the land or take up any construction activity on it.

Masood Khan, standing counsel of the Wakf Board, told IANS that the court also dismissed the contention of the beneficiaries that the board has no right to issue errata notification. Under this notification, the board had declared the land a Wakf property. The land to the MNCs was allotted by then government of N. Chandrababu Naidu through Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC). Dubai-based realty major Emaar Properties was allotted 400 acres for an integrated township and golf course. According to the Wakf Board officials, software giant Microsoft got 54.79 acres, Infosys 50 acres, Wipro 30 acres, Polaris 7.89 acres, and Lanco Hills 108.10 acres.

Except Lanco Hills, all others have completed the constructions on the land. Lanco Hills, which was allotted the land by Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy government, is building $1.5 billion mega project comprising residential area, IT towers in the Special Economic Zone, retail and hospitality. The ownership dispute between the Lanco and others and the Wakf Board was on since 2007. The government had also defended its allotment to MNCs on the ground that it was government land as the land was acquired after payment of commutation to the custodian of the property. The court, however, upheld the Wakf Board contention that a property once declared Wakf vests with the Almighty.

“We hail the high court order. It has upheld our contention,” Wakf Board chairman Syed Ghulam Afzal Biyabani alias Khusro Pasha told IANS. “It is a landmark judgment with far-reaching consequences. This will act as a deterrent against illegal allotments of Wakf land by the government,” said Masood Ahmed. “From the next time the officials will be cautious while allotting Wakf lands in the name of APIIC or some other camouflage,” he added.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/239274/andhra-court-declares-prime-land.html

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Odisha hostage release stalled as Maoists stick to demand (Apr 8, 2012, The Hindu)

The hostage crisis in Odisha worsened on Sunday, as the abductors of Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo responded negatively to the Naveen Patnaik government’s swap offer and demanded a clarification on their 13 demands. In an audio tape released to the media, Sabyasachi Panda, secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee of the CPI(Maoist), said the government should facilitate the release of all seven persons whose names he had given, and not five persons as it had announced.

Mr. Panda said that of the five names, only three figured on the list given by him. And the government should make clear how many prisoners were going to be released along with their names. He also wanted the government to clarify before the media how many of the 13 demands had been accepted by it. Among other things, he had demanded a halt to Operation Green Hunt, lifting of the ban on various mass organisations and ending the visit of foreigners to tribal areas as tourists. Mr. Panda’s statement came as a disappointment as the negotiations between the two mediators and three government officials for the release of Mr. Paolo ended on Saturday after they reached an agreement that the government would release five of the six persons whose names were given by the interlocutors. On the other hand, Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka remained in the hands of militants of the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of the CPI(Maoist), which on Saturday demanded the release of five more persons to free him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Patnaik held an emergency meeting to examine the demands of both the groups. Talking to journalists later, he hoped that the confusion over the names of the persons to be released for the freedom of Mr. Paolo would be cleared soon. As for the fresh demand of the AOBSZC, Mr. Patnaik said the legal aspects were being examined. In the case of both kidnappings, the Maoists have set April 10 as the deadline for the government to meet their demands.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3293543.ece

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Police constable arrested for allegedly raping minor (Apr 2, 2012, Times of India)

A police constable was arrested for allegedly raping a minor girl at Rabindra Sarani area in Bankura town, the police said today.

“Constable Chandan Mudi was arrested from his home at Rabindra Sarani area last night. The nine-year-old girl’s father Tara Shankar Singha complained to me. They are neighbours of Mudi,” Superintendent of Police Pranab Kumar said.

The police said Mudi is posted at Bishnupur-A police station. He was beaten up and injured by the locals last night, sources said. The police constable has been suspended and an investigation was launched, Kumar said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12506569.cms

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Dalit women branded witches, beaten; cops file case 2 weeks later (Apr 4, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Two weeks after Bhilwara district’s Guwardi village witnessed a case of “witch-hunt”, the local police stirred themselves to file an FIR. On March 17, a 50-year-old Dalit woman and her daughter-in-law were beaten up by 11 men who had labelled them “witches”. The men had barged into the house when the rest of the family was away. The violence was the fallout of a long-standing property dispute.

But not only was the FIR lodged as late as April 2, Ganpat – son of Ramu Bai and husband of Ladi Devi – said the police had done their best to deter him from filing a complaint. “The men called them witches, thrashed them and asked them to leave the village,” the complaint read. The assailants, including Ganpat’s neighbour Raju, his father Hardev Singh, are absconding.

Ganpat said the men were after his land. After Ganpat met Bhilwara collector Onkar Singh, an FIR was ordered, but the police did not file it. “Instead, on March 25, the police told me not to pursue the case if I wanted peace,” Ganpat said. Acting superintendent of police, Bhilwara, Rajendra Singh Chowdhury, said he was looking into the delay in filing the FIR.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/835623.aspx

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Opinions and Editorials

Aadhaar, a threat to Indian democracy? A Response – By Think UID (Thinkuid.org)

We recently came across an article titled “UID/Aadhar: A Threat To Indian Democracy,” written by Taha Mehmood, a self-described media practitioner and researcher, which was featured in several influential blogs. The article is so poorly researched and so full of factual errors and hyperbole that it would not normally deserve a response. However, in the interests of informed public dialogue on such a serious topic, we would like to point out a few of the glaring mistakes and flaws in logic that an avowed technology researcher like Mehmood should have known better than to pass off as a serious work of scholarship to an unsuspecting audience:

On Technology: He makes a long and confusing case against biometric technology, relying on old or completely out-of-context technical sources over which he seems to have little command. He is either unaware of the technology that the UIDAI has adopted, or chooses to deliberately ignore a host of recent reportage on it.

There is a world of difference between biometric projects using fingerprints only (which is not friendly to manual labour with worn-out fingerprints) vs. the multi-modal biometrics used by Aadhaar (iris + fingerprints). The latter has already been tested by the UIDAI on the ground in what’s now the world’s largest biometric database (see Aadhaar Biometrics), and it has demonstrated an accuracy of 99.86% among 10 crore enrollments, a hundred-fold improvement over the fingerprints-only technology upon which Mehmood tries to build his case against Aadhaar. Strangely, he completely ignores Iris scan technology, which in fact is the key to the high accuracy of Aadhaar de-duplication during enrollment.

On Security: Mehmood would like the reader to believe that all kinds of private agencies (even persons impersonating UIDAI) will be going from house to house collecting people’s biometric data and that they can use that data any which way they can. This is utterly irresponsible!

The reality is that the process of authenticating enrollment agencies and their equipment, and encrypting the data they transmit, has been designed with elaborate security precautions in mind. These are described in fair amount of detail in Data Security by the UIDAI. Had Mehmood taken the time to give the UIDAI’s enrollment process (described at www.uidai.gov.in) even a cursory look, he would have learnt that the scenarios he describes are indeed a figment of his own imagination. He seems to overlook the fact that over 16 crore people have already been enrolled and issued Aadhaar numbers, and that there have been no major incidents of data leakage or stealth that he imagines.

On UID and the minorities: On a more serious note, Mehmood piggy-backs on statements by people like Aruna Roy that UID will make it easier to target minorities. Like Roy, he does not offer any concrete evidence to support the thesis, but instead outdoes Roy by adding a caste dimension to Aadhaar: He claims that UID will strengthen caste hierarchy and help the Banias! This amounts to irresponsible fear-mongering.

We reject the notion that a database in the hands of the central government designed to improve social services, with numerous privacy safeguards built in, is somehow more dangerous than large amounts of personally sensitive data that are already available to local governments and private agencies: e.g. voters lists, mobile phone records, MGNREGS muster rolls, etc. As Mehmood himself points out, such records have been used to help in communal riots, and they will continue to be accessible, with or without UID. It’s hard to comprehend how data not accessible to anyone but the enrollee, and which can only legally respond with a Yes or No to identity verifiers, will make it easier to target minorities. Those who are familiar with the genesis of communal riots and have worked closely with the victims know only too well that people who would attack their own neighbors do not need their biometrics before perpetrating their heinous acts! On the contrary, a reliable and secure biometric database through which a person can prove one’s identity beyond any question might one day be useful in discouraging false arrests that the minorities are especially vulnerable to in India. Nevertheless, we strongly support the need for a national data privacy law that can discourage government and private agencies from misusing sensitive personal information.

Shoddy facts and faulty logic: Mehmood makes numerous factual errors and makes some astounding leaps in logic:

Factual errors: a. He claims that the proposed NIAI bill has no provision for punishing individuals (as opposed to corporates) who misuse biometrics. Far from it, anyone illegally handling or even possessing biometric data is punishable for up to three years and thousands of rupees in fines; b. He erroneously refers to the UID database as “CIDF” and claims that it is not in existence now. The database is called CIDR (Central Identities Data Repository) and it has been very much in existence since 2010! c. He spends considerable time discussing Cogent (and its connections with the US defense establishment), which he claims is an official software vendor of the UIDAI. He further alleges that the UIDAI plans to purchase Cogent’s proprietary software over non-proprietray software. Facts in these matters are exactly the opposite: The UIDAI uses NIST supplied open source and Cogent is NOT a software vendor of the UIDAI; d. He mixes up the head of UIDAI’s technology, Srikanth Nadhamuni, with a professor at MIT!

Leaps in logic: a. He applauds the strict provisions in the NIAI bill to punish tampering with data, but then points to those very legal provisions as proof-positive that data can indeed be tampered with! b. He makes references to the UIDAI’s target of 600 million enrollments by 2014 and jumps to the conclusion that the “other 400 million” will be left out of Aadhaar! Apart from getting even the total population number wrong, had he been reading the news, he would have known that the other 600 million are to be enrolled by the Home Ministry’s NPR project; c. He makes the astonishing statement that since the UIDAI is likely to reward good-performing companies, it will increase the chances of data sabotage by the losers! (Lesson: Don’t reward good companies?) We can go on, but the above examples should suffice to make one wonder how Mehmood expects readers to take his apocalyptic pronouncements on UID seriously when he can’t even get his facts and logic right!

Yes, Indian democracy faces many threats these days, including massive corruption, criminalization of politics, violence driven by ideological and religious extremism, and so on. Mehmood’s article is a timely reminder that we should be equally concerned about the dangers posed by shoddy journalism.

http://thinkuid.org/SubPage.aspx?n=140

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Ten Years On, Still The “Internal Outsider” – By Abdul Khaliq (Mar 30, 2012, Tehelka)

Writing in late 2002, a well-known political commentator observed that Narendra Modi’s star which “shone illogically” for a while would soon fade away. He went on to assert that “the larger Hinduism, lost temporarily in the darkness and din of Gujarat, will have reasserted itself”. There were others like him who believed that with the cessation of violence, fear would subside and once again our multiculturalism and pluralism would come to the fore. They had faith that revulsion at the horrendous, fiendish deeds committed in Gujarat in 2002 would get transfigured into a determination never to allow such unmitigated evil to surface again. They willed themselves to hope that the forces of communalism would be obliterated in Gandhiji’s Gujarat. It hasn’t quite panned out that way. Ten years on, the leading light who presided over the pogrom against a community is still the arbiter of Gujarat’s destiny. On the tenth anniversary of the Godhra train carnage and subsequent holocaust, Narendra Modi, belligerent as ever, lashed out at the “Gujarat bashers” who, in his warped perception, were leaving no stone unturned to disrupt the peace, communal harmony and brotherhood being witnessed in the State. Unconcerned with the truth, he berated them for “trying to poison society and inject disharmony between communities.” He rounded off his diatribe with the most blatant lie: “The State has laid a stronger foundation for unity and brotherhood that has helped it gain inherent strength to reach new heights of development and progress”.

Paradoxically, those whom Modi described as “Gujarat bashers” are actually the very people who have been working against all odds for justice for the victims, for recognising minorities as equal citizens. Their only crime is that they refuse to allow Modi and his ilk to forget the dark underbelly of unpunished crimes, of injustice, of discrimination. Modi and his loyalists are against anybody defending the human rights of a troubled, besieged community. Apologists for the events of 2002 refer to what happened in Gujarat as a communal riot. A riot would essentially imply that members of both communities actively participated in the mayhem that followed the Godhra train burning. But what actually happened was a fascist pogrom, a genocide involving a predator and a victim. It is bone- chilling to think that lakhs of people were abettors of cold-blooded murder and destruction of property. There is now no violence but the overpowering atmosphere of distrust, of hate, of prejudice hangs like a black cloud over Gujarat. The world has witnessed varying responses to mass murder and genocide. The Nuremberg trials (1945-49) investigated and punished crimes against the military, political and economic leadership of Nazi Germany and delivered the most severe penalties against those responsible for genocide and war. In stark contrast, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1995-96) in South Africa was a restorative justice body that emphasised on reconciliation, and granted amnesty to many of the perpetrators of the horrors of apartheid. However, the underlying philosophy for setting up these bodies was essentially the same – to acknowledge that what happened was horrendous and that such horrors should never be repeated. In the words of Desmond Tutu, Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “We needed to look the beast in the eye, so that the past wouldn’t hold us hostage anymore.” Germany and South Africa have moved on, the dreadful period now a chapter in the history books.

Gujarat continues to live in a chamber of horrors, unable to exorcise the ghosts of 2002. This is because there has been neither retributive justice nor any form of reconciliation. Gujarat is unique in that the ruling establishment has, for the last 10 years, obstructed justice at every turn. To begin with, in hundreds of cases, the Gujarat Police, by refusing to file FIRs, prevented the cases from reaching the judiciary. Due to brazen subversion of the criminal justice system by the police and State appointed public prosecutors, the Supreme Court had to step in and order the transfer of certain cases outside the State and the reopening of more than 2000 cases. But despite the Apex Court’s noble efforts, justice continues to evade the victims of 2002. The delivery of justice has been painfully slow, with only a few convictions in the last 10 years. Most galling is the fact that the perpetrators of the most bestial and sadistic deeds remain free. The names that readily come to mind are Babu Bajrangi who claims to have split open a pregnant woman and destroyed the foetus; Dhimanth Bhatt, the Chief Auditor of MS University, Baroda; Ashok Mocha who lead a mob that set fire to the houses of 40 Muslim families in Shahpur area. The ubiquitous TV cameras captured hundreds like them who had participated in the mayhem but they roam free, like ordinary men in the street. One is reminded of Hannah Arendt’s description of Adolf Eichmann’s deportment and demeanour during his trial, which she termed “the banality of evil.” Gujarat today has more than its fair share of human beings who fit this description.

Let alone the colossal failure of the justice delivery system on account of which the guilty have not been punished, there is also no attempt at reconciliation between the two communities. Prior to 2002, the discrimination and hatred towards the Muslims was covert. There was the pretence of civility, the veneer of civilised interaction. Even that’s gone and the gloves are now off. The hate and the discrimination are now in-your-face. Today, the Muslims of Gujarat are socially, politically and economically marginalised. A fascist middle class is leading the assault with their insidious, toxic right-wing thinking. Every institution of governance has been infiltrated by the adherents of the Hindu rashtra concept. Even sections of Dalits and adivasis have joined hands with their one-time oppressors in this first experiment in the laboratory of Hindu Rashtra. More than ever before, the Muslim in Gujarat is viewed as “the other.” Clarence Darrow, the humanist who fought relentlessly for the rights of blacks in America, had famously observed that no matter what laws we pass, unless people are kind and decent and human to one another, there can be no peaceful co-existence or liberty. In the ultimate analysis, “peace and freedom come from human beings rather than from laws and institutions.” Sadly, Gujarat today has little of brotherhood or the “Indian spirit”. Marginalising the Muslim and creating a permanent rift between communities is barely disguised State policy in Gujarat. The State Government has enacted a law preventing distress sale of property in areas dominated by another community, clearly with the intention of isolating and segregating Muslims in ghettos. The State Government has refused to implement the Central scheme of scholarships for Muslims on grounds that it did not subscribe to special privileges for religious minorities. Muslims are under-represented in every sector, more disadvantaged than the Dalits. There are fewer number of mixed schools than in 2002. Juhapara, which is the largest Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad, is not provided with the civic amenities available in other colonies.

The State has refused to rebuild around 400 dargahs and mosques that were destroyed in 2002. Compensation paid to those who lost everything in that period of madness is a mere pittance. Modi knows that keeping alive his image as a Muslim baiter enhances his popularity in a deeply polarised society. The problems of Muslims have to be seen through this prism of alienation. Gujarat today is seen as the powerhouse of economic development, a model for others to follow. The Vikas Purush is the darling of the corporate world which is ever willing to barter its soul for filthy lucre. What is little known but a strong reason for the adulation is the punitive anti-labour laws in place which sanction the hiring and firing of employees at will. It is also a fact that government land is being leased to corporates for a song. Of course, there is no denying that there is tremendous economic development so who cares that it is not equitable and inclusive. The tweets of the CEO of Gujarat are an exercise in unabashed self-adulation. Sample this: “The history of the world is the history of a few men who had faith in themselves.” He is now clearly eyeing the top post in the land, hence the change in tactics. The Sadbhawana yatras, the talk of peaceful co-existence and brotherhood are aimed at camouflaging his real persona of a ruthless, Right-wing pracharak. He knows that the policy of polarisation of communities which is so successful in Gujarat will not work on the national stage. Had the Mahatma been alive today, he might have gently reminded Modi that fraternity and brotherhood, like non-violence, “is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart and it must be an inseparable part of our being.” Disinformation, half-truths and double speak dominate the public space in Gujarat today. There is also black comedy on display. DG Vanzara, the police officer who is in Sabarmati jail in connection with fake encounter killings, who was the hatchet man of the powers that be and lined his pockets as recompense, has not only recently completed his PG diploma in “Value Education and Spirituality,” but has also written two books on spiritualism and humanity, which have become best sellers. In Modi’s Gujarat, you don’t have to practice what you preach! Many have wondered whether a change in political dispensation in Gujarat will bring back tolerance, peaceful co-existence and pluralism. The sad fact is that the alternative – the Congress followers of secularism i.e. quite simply a cloak of convenience. Time and again, it has been guilty of playing footsie with “soft Hindutva.” Moreover, under UPA-II, the intelligence agencies continued to unjustly identify a community with terrorism, leading to untold harassment and illegal arrests. The Bharatiya Janata Party cannot be trusted but the Congress is no better. Gujarat badly needs another Mahatma.

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ws300312Opinion.asp

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No crime, long punishment – By Ram Puniyani (Apr 9, 2012, Tehelka)

The state of crime and punishment is very paradoxical in current times. The guilty of communal violence generally get away without any punishment, while the innocents are being punished in acts of terror, just if they happen to belong to a particular religion. In current scenario, the current policing and social system seems to operate on the assumption that Muslims are terrorists. Both communal violence and war against terror have demonised and targeted them in particular. While society at large has come to believe in various myths about minorities; the large section of police force has acted in the most prejudicial and biased manner on the issues related to violence in the name of religion and in case of terrorist violence. There have been innumerable cases of young Muslim youth being picked up in the aftermath of terror attacks, incarcerated in the jails and then let off as the legal protective mechanisms, though painfully slow, catch up to intervene and release some of these terror accused. While every case of such young man is a heart-rending tale, while every such case of police action ruins the family and career of the accused, the one related to Mohammad Aamir Khan, aged 32 today (March 2012), probably ranks amongst the most horrendous ones’. The other interesting aspect of this young man trying to restart his life all over again is that he is full of appreciation of the positive aspects of the system and acknowledges the good aspects of the system, which gave released him dark dungeons after 14 long, tortuous years. The same system mercifully kept him connected to the outside world the interlude in solitary confinement notwithstanding.

Aamir, a 10th standard student aged 18 was abducted by the Delhi Police and charged with being the mastermind of acts of terror and other related crimes. The methods employed by the police need not be repeated as while the talk of police reforms etc. is on the paper, the brutality of the many men in khaki continues unabated while innovating newer and new forms of torture and the illegal act of taking signatures on blank paper seems to be routine with the ‘guardians of law’. Those supposed to be protecting our law must be probably the biggest violators of law in the power dens where they are rarely answerable and generally get away with the most serious cruelties committed in the confines of their fiefdom, the police stations and jails. Aamir underwent all this. He tried to continue his study while in jail, through IGNOU canter. But that was not to last long as one police officer in his zeal for punishing the lad belonging to the ‘wrong’ religion put him in solitary confinement and cut off his education, which he was seriously pursuing. Over 14 long years in jail, how he maintained his sanity to look forward to the study of journalism or law must be amongst some of the mysteries which our society provides in abandon.

Coming back to Aamir, while in prison he lost his father, his mother suffered a paralytic stroke. His family property had to be sold to fight the infinite cases put against him by the police. The leaders of the community did not have time to take up his case, and the label of ‘terrorist’ and that too a Pakistani one warded off many other friends and relatives to come and help.Today out from the jail, with two cases still hanging on his head, he is working with an NGO to make a living, taking care of his mother’s expensive treatment and tying to look forward to a life where he can become a professional of some sort. Who is responsible for the wreckage of the lives of the likes of Aamir? While one can see the role of our biased police system, which regards Muslims as criminal and terrorists in the main, one can also see the role of the prevalence of biases and misconceptions about the community, floating all around, duly promoted and deepened by communal forces, our educational books and the slant of media reporting. Now what is the responsibility of community and state in rehabilitating these young boys? In the Mecca Masjid blast, the accused after being arrested were let off and given compensation of Rs 3 lakh each. Interestingly, when they were arrested, there were banner headlines of Muslims being arrested for the blast but when they were cleared of the charge, a small hidden news item is all the mention they got.

The situation during the last couple of years seems to be slightly better, especially after Hemant Karkare’s path-breaking investigation into the Malegaon blast and Rajasthan ATS taking the issue forward and the whole saffron gang of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Dayanand Pandey, Swami Aseemanand and company coming under the scanner. Interestingly, once this gang was apprehended, acts of terror have also come down substantially; the right inference needs to be drawn here. It seems the major flaw of these investigations has been the prejudiced mind of the investigating authorities. While a proper rehabilitation and suitable compensation to these youth is imperative, there is a dying need for police reforms – especially questioning of torture techniques. The rights of the inmates, the rights of accused need to be honoured. Police authorities are reckless when it comes to Muslim youth, and those officers violating the basic norms generally get away without any punishment. The khaki uniform seems to be giving them too much unrestrained power to wreck the lives of innocent youth. Is it not time that the case of Aamir and his likes acts a sort of mirror to our policing system? It calls for an urgent need for putting issues related to communal harmony and the falsity of prevalent myths on priority basis. Hopefully, such an introspection is on amongst those vested with so much power. It is rare that an 18-year-old, after being tortured for 14 years for belonging to a particular religion, will come out with such positive sentiments. The system need to introspect in the context of this young man, help him out in toto and ensure that such acts of brutality are not repeated by the system and by men in khaki in particular.

http://tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Fw090412crime.asp

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A scandal and a cover-up – Editorial (Apr 3, 2012, The Hindu)

If the viewing of pornography by three prominent Bharatiya Janata Party Ministers during a session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly on February 7 was not scandal enough, the report of the committee set up to investigate the incident is a disgraceful cover-up. Following public outrage at TV footage of the three poring over obscene videos during a discussion on drought, the Ministers resigned from the Cabinet and were suspended from the House. The House committee set up by the Speaker – and boycotted by a dissatisfied Opposition – placed its report before the Assembly on March 30, the last day of the budget session. The report is a model of obfuscation and disingenuous reasoning that unquestioningly accepts the weak clarifications made by the three BJP leaders, while overlooking the compelling evidence of the original videographic material.

C.C. Patil, then Minister for Women and Child Welfare, known for his public admonishments of women who are sartorially “indecent,” claimed he was in discussion with Laxman Savadi on a district matter, when he saw the latter holding a mobile handset. Like a responsible legislator, he took the device from him and switched it off. The Committee has recommended his exoneration. Krishna Palemar claimed to have “accidentally” brought his mobile to the House and placed it on his desk. Mr. Savadi could therefore not have been using Mr. Palemar’s mobile phone, the Committee reasoned, and recommended Mr. Palemar’s exoneration too.

Mr. Savadi’s dissembling was hard to endorse, even by a committee willing to be persuaded. While some obscene images could have popped up while browsing, he was actually concentrating on reading a government order, he explained. The committee accepted this, and concluded he did not watch the images “deliberately.” However, as he had “whole-heartedly” apologised, and promised not to carry his mobile to the House again, the committee recommended that he be let off with an admonishment. Having let off the errant Ministers, the Committee then trained its guns on the messenger.

The TV channels that captured the sordid episode were upbraided for recording “other things” rather than the House proceedings. A channel that ran “separately and repeatedly” the original images downloaded from the internet was criticised. The telecast of the damning visuals violated the dignity of the Assembly, the committee concluded, and recommended that only government broadcasters be allowed to record House proceedings. For the scam-and-faction-riven BJP government, this sorry fig leaf to cover up yet another scandal will only deepen the existential crisis it is already so deeply mired in.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article3273968.ece

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The rapes will go on – By Abhishek Bhalla and G Vishnu (Apr 14, 2012, Tehelka)

She asked for it. It’s all about money. They have made it a business. It is consensual most of the time. This is how policemen – keepers of the law and protectors of innocent – view rape in the Delhi- National Capital Region (NCR). Although generalising is fraught with hazards, this is one generalisation that can be made. There’s evidence to support this. A month ago, the outrageous apathy of our police towards rape victims was in full display when the Noida Police revealed the identity of a minor girl who was brutally gang-raped in a moving car. If that was not enough, the Noida Superintendent of Police cast aspersions on the girl’s character at a press conference. Besides the fact that, by doing so, the police flagrantly violated the law of the land – Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code defines the disclosure of the identity of rape victims as an offence punishable by up to two years of imprisonment – it also gave a peek into the minds of the police and how they see the raped and the rapist. A few weeks later, the Gurgaon Police outraged civil society by proposing a blanket curfew on working women in the city after 8 pm without prior permission from the Labour Department. This was the first reaction by the police after the report of a brutal gang-rape of a pub employee by six men. The police made no statement about the rapists. Later, however, the police put out a statement asserting they had been misquoted by the media. Often been called the rape capital of India, the Delhi-NCR region has thrown up numerous such instances of police apathy in rape cases. When asked to explain the rising instances of rape, the cops have invariably blamed the women, an array of extraneous factors or resorted to specious arguments instead of looking inwards and focussing on police reforms. The most disturbing aspect of this is the rank misogyny that underlies it.

Here is a quick reckoner. In 2010, as many as 414 rape cases were reported in Delhi, the highest among 35 major cities in the country. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the conviction rate in rape cases in the capital was a dismal 34.6 percent. In case after case, courts have been acquitting the accused because of flawed first information reports (FIRs), erroneous procedures in collating medical evidence and shoddy investigation. Lawyers and women rights activists have continually been flagging the deep prejudice prevalent in the police against women in general and rape victims in particular, as the single biggest reason for the repeated failure of justice. But instead of addressing core issues like poor conviction rates, under-reporting of rape cases by victims (studies indicate that for every reported case of rape, more than 50 go unreported), the lack of faith between the victim and the police and the insensitivity of the police personnel towards women, our police and ministers want to ban late-night work shifts or keep women away from unconventional jobs like bartenders. Have we created a system that instills fear in the heart of offenders, promotes deterrence and ensures that offenders get exemplary punishment? While we may have excellent statutes to deal with crimes against women, do we also have the police machinery to implement the law in its letter and spirit? Are police stations of the NCR being manned by professional and efficient police officers who can deliver justice to hapless women turning up at their doors?

TEHELKA decided to investigate the conduct and approach of Station House Officers (SHOs) and their deputies who are in charge of police stations in the NCR. These cops are the first point of contact for any victim of sexual assault when they have to lodge a complaint. The objective was to find out if there was any latent bias among the police personnel towards rape victims. In a two-week long investigation, TEHELKA undercover reporters posing as research scholars, visited 23 stations across the NCR and spoke to more than 30 policemen with experience of 20-30 years. The reporters did not make misogynistic comments or incite the policemen to say or do something they wouldn’t have otherwise said or done. The line of inquiry was to be completely neutral and non-partisan. And what we came back with was shocking. Our two week long investigation reveals that the NCR, which houses some of the leading industries from around the world and where lakhs of women work alongside men, is policed by the cops with a 19th century mindset. Seventeen senior cops of over a dozen police stations across Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad were caught on spy camera blaming everything from fashionable or revealing clothes to having boyfriends to visiting pubs to consuming alcohol to working alongside men as the main reasons for instances of rape. ‘It’s always the woman who is at fault’ was in essence the argument offered by a majority of the cops. Many of them believe that genuine rape victims never approach the police and those who do are basically extortionists or have loose moral values. Others believe that the women from Northeast could never be victims of forced sex as they are invariably involved in the flesh trade. Even more shockingly, some of them are of the view that if a woman has consensual sex with one man, then she shouldn’t complain if his friends also join in. If a woman is doing late hours at the office then she had it coming… and the arguments keep coming. If the police personnel are to be believed, everything from co-education to migration to cities to being independent and assertive and holding unconventional jobs are reasons for the rise in rape incidents across NCR. So mind-numbing are these admissions that one cannot help but wonder about the plight of the rape victims in mofussil towns and villages if the police in and around the capital is so deeply prejudiced. The TEHELKA expose warrants an urgent soul-searching at the highest levels of the police administration and demands immediate corrective steps in the police training and investigation.

Sample what Sunil Kumar, SHO, Ghazipur, East Delhi, had to say. “Go to a pub in South Delhi. Go to Greater Kailash where there is free entry for girls. Jinhone 1,000 rupaiye mein wo karna hai wo wahan jati hain. Daru bhi peeti hai aur aap ke saath sex bhi karti hai… Jis din koi thok dega rape ho jayega. (In these places you’ll find girls who want to do ‘it’ for Rs 1,000. They will drink and also have sex with you. The day somebody uses force, it becomes rape).” Sub-Inspector Arjun Singh, SHO Surajpur Police Station, Greater Noida, also pins the blame on the victim. “Ladkiya ek seemit daire main, seemit kapdon main nahi niklengi… to apne aap khichaon ho jata hai.Wo khichaon bhi aggressive kar deta hai ki kar do bas (If girls don’t stay within their boundaries, if they don’t wear appropriate clothes, then naturally there is attraction. This attraction makes men aggressive, prompting them to just do it).” There’s also ethnic bias against those from the Northeast. Try RajpalYadav, Additional SHO of Sector 29, Gurgaon: “Yahan pe Darjeeling aur Nepal tak ki ladkiyan business purpose se aye hai… wo jaate bhade pe hain. Baad mein paisa nahi mila to rape case bata diya jata hai (Girls from Darjeeling and Nepal have come here for business purposes. They go with men for money. Later, when the money is not sufficient, it becomes a rape).” In the two-week long investigation, TEHELKA undercover reporters visited five police stations in Gurgaon, six in Noida, four in Ghaziabad, two in Faridabad and six in Delhi. Out of the 30 policemen TEHELKA spoke to, 17 were extremely prejudiced, misogynist and shockingly insensitive towards rape victims. Five scored well on the enlightenment card. Despite the Noida Police facing flak for lewd comments about the victim and her family, Ram Kumar Malik, the investigating officer for the case of the girl raped by Class X students is unrepentant. TEHELKA captured Sub-Inspector Malik on camera brazenly pinning the blame yet again on the victim alone: “Is case mein jo real baat hai, ladki vodka peene ki habitual hai. Usne vodka party mangi, Rs 6,000 mein book ho gai. Physical relation ke liye 6,000 mange. Baad mein mukadma likha diya. Yeh real baat hai. Mere pass uske CDR call detail ka record hai; unka purana relation hai (The real issue here is that the girl is a habitual vodka drinker and had asked for a vodka party. She then demanded Rs 6,000 for sex. When the money wasn’t paid, she registered a rape complaint. I have her call records that establish she had a relationship with one of the accused).” Pointless to ask him how having a consensual relationship with one boy could warrant a girl being raped by 4 other boys. …

Given that these extremely disturbing attitudes exist in agencies that are meant for the protection of harassed women, it comes as little surprise that rapes continue unabated. Six rape cases were reported from different parts of the NCR during the two weeks TEHELKA reporters were out in the field meeting policemen. While the men in uniform have a spectrum of reasons to rationalise rise in rape occurrence, there is little acknowledgment of the fact that perhaps better policing and instilling a fear of the law among the perpetrators could make women feel that much safer. This prejudice breeds a vicious cycle. It makes investigation slothful and lackadaisical and as a result the conviction rate in rape cases is appallingly low. This, in turn, allows potential sex criminals to get away with anything, even an open-and-shut case of rape. And each time this happens, to the average policeman it only reinforces what he thinks he already knows: “She asked for it.”

http://tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ne140412Coverstory.asp

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A tribal force or a forced tribulation – By Arvind Sovani (Apr 14, 2012, Tehelka)

Three days after a bus carrying 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel was blown up by Naxals in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, the state home minister announced the setting up of a new anti-Naxal tribal force – a “tribal battalion” recruited by the state reserve police force. Is this new force Maharashtra’s version of the dreaded Salwa Judum, a vigilante force set up in Chhattisgarh in 2006 to combat Naxal violence, which ended up becoming a law unto itself and had to be disbanded? It won’t, or so can be deduced from Home Minister RR Patil’s statements thus far. This tribal force will have no special powers to arrest, or special immunity from the law like other counter-terror forces in the country – the Salwa Judum or its other avatar, the Koya commandos of neighbouring Chhattisgarh or like the Special Police Officers deployed in J&K.

The home minister’s annoucement during an Assembly debate is therefore much ado about nothing. With no special powers or vision, this seems to be merely a knee-jerk response to the recent attack on the CRPF, in which 12 men lost their lives and 28 were injured. Moreover, the deployment of this new battalion is likely to be time-consuming. As has been the case with many state government responses to increased Naxal violence; by the time it becomes functional, the actual situation on the ground may be very different. The state already has over 5,000 CRPF jawans in Naxal-ridden Gadchiroli, but the situation on the ground has only become worse. Even this evidence has failed to convince the state that the solution does not lie in sending in more troops or new battalions. In the heart of Gadchiroli, policemen are, in fact, often prisoners in their own police stations.

Equally fearful of the Naxals as the people they’re meant to serve, they do not dare venture far from their bases unless in a group. They are often seen to be on the defensive and reason that they do not want to lose their lives in vain, well aware that the state’s response since the 1980s has been reactionary, inconsistent and extremely slow. A change in the political guard at the top causes changes in personnel and also policy, giving the Naxals the upper edge. For instance, the rise of Naxal violence made the government form a new police contingent called the ‘Aheri Police District’ in 2010, with an aim to divide the police in Gadchiroli into two forces – Gadchiroli and Aheri. A year later, this was scrapped.

Given the fragile security, what this new tribal battalion can do is the real question. Will it just be conducting road-clearing or area-domination exercises, which the C-60 anti-Naxal force is already doing? And even that exercise seems to have become a losing proposition with the district administration and police having virtually lost control over large chunks of Naxal-dominated Maharashtra – blocks like Dhanora, Etapalli, Korchi, Aheri, Bhamragad and Sironcha – bordering with Chhattisgarh. An inordinately heavy presence of police has yet another drawback. As the conflict between the police and Naxals intensifies, developmental work comes to a halt, further vitiating the atmosphere.

The State urgently needs to see that Naxalism is not so much a law-and-order problem as it is socio-economic. As long as there are villages in the forest with humiliated, suppressed and poor tribals, the State cannot win this war. Initiatives to re-generate incomes – like those taken up by NGOs and voluntary groups – should be encouraged and their example replicated by the State instead. Cashew-growing in remote villages like Damrancha and mango plantations in Manne Rajaram are initiatives worth emulating. Implementing the Forest Rights Act to enable tribals also goes a long way in weakening the hold of Naxals. Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh made an important statement last year. He said ‘bamboo and not bullets will solve the problem in Gadchiroli district’. But is the Maharashtra government listening?

http://tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Op140412proscons.asp

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