In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Holding Gujarat rioters accountable
- Gujarat riots: SC defers plea to stay HC order on shrines
- Gujarat BJP a Hindu divided family
- Why NIA’s Malegaon blasts probe is going nowehere
- Fake encounter still haunts Rajasthan BJP leader
- Jamaat-e-Islami Hind seek public support for Muslims booked in ‘false’ terror charges
- CRPF orders probe into killing of ‘Maoists’
- Case registered against Delhi ACP for duping trader of over Rs.1.2 crore
- Rape case: Police fail to arrest absconding judo coach
- Dalit boy shot dead by Punjab Police
Opinions & Editorials
- Justice and ‘a Ray of Hope’ After 2002 India Riots – By Gardiner Harris
- Once There Was Hindutva Terror? – By Subhash Gatade
- Malegaon: Who’s Above the Law? – By Christophe Jaffrelot
- Only A Bad Name Lives In Barh Samaila – By Panini Anand
- Anti-Naxal operations: A monumental blunder in Chhattisgarh – By Bibhu Prasad Routray
- Yet Another Massacre of Dalit People In Andhra Pradesh – By Revolutionary Democratic Front
Holding Gujarat rioters accountable (Jul 5, 2012, Deccan Herald)
The police stood by as Hindu mobs slaughtered nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in massacres that evidence suggests were an election-year ploy by the Gujarat state ministers to garner votes. Mothers were skewered, children set afire and fathers hacked to pieces. That was 10 years ago. A decade later, the riots in the state may be remembered less for the horrors they unleashed, however, than that such sectarian carnage, which once struck India as often as a heavy monsoon, has not been repeated since. There are many reasons for this astonishing quiescence, but technology has played a crucial role. The killers made cellphone calls, and records of those calls became evidence.
After years of dithering, India’s creaky justice system lurched into action. Hundreds of rioters have been convicted, and more cases are pending. Last week, a judge trying 61 defendants – including a former state education minister – delayed issuing verdicts until August 29 in a case that involves some 94 deaths. A total of 327 people testified, but the crucial evidence, again, was the phone records contradicting claims by some of the accused that they were nowhere near the scene of the crimes. Indeed, those same records continue to be examined for any role played in the riots by the office of the chief minister, Narendra Modi, who is among India’s most prominent politicians. But even if Modi is never charged, the political calculus behind stoking sectarian clashes – long a staple for winning elections here – has fundamentally changed, political analysts say. “We reached a tipping point,” said M J Akbar, author of ‘Riot after riot.’ “This is the first time that India’s judicial system has actually worked to hold people accountable for rioting. In the past, the guilty never got punished.”
India was once the world’s wellspring of religiously inspired massacres. As such violence rages across the Middle East, the bougainvillea sprouting from Gujarat’s charred buildings offers hope that even societies steeped in blood can curb the self-perpetuating logic behind such clashes. Shakeel Ahmad, chairman of the Islamic Relief Committee in Gujarat, said that he is optimistic. Some 1,50,000 people were displaced by the rioting in 2002. During a lengthy interview in his office at the edge of a Muslim neighbourhood, Ahmad could not suppress a triumphant smile. “There is a ray of hope,” he said, his white hair and beard swirled in cigarette smoke. “For the first time in Gujarat, we have seen demands for justice.” To be sure, India’s politics are still vicious and violent, its society riven by religious, cultural and caste divisions that feed ongoing discrimination. Gujarat’s Muslims have never entirely recovered from the riots, and the state’s population is more religiously segregated than ever.
The riots began on Feb 27, 2002, when a train filled with Hindu pilgrims who had just visited a disputed shrine rolled into Godhra, a small city in eastern Gujarat, and was attacked by a Muslim mob. A fire started, and at least 58 Hindu pilgrims burned to death. Their charred bodies were brought to Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, and laid out in public, an act that all but guaranteed more violence. Massacres began immediately. Some 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship were burned. Later that year, Modi’s party was overwhelmingly re-elected. Mayors in the US are thrown out when too much snow clogs streets; Modi let his streets be choked with blood and won election overwhelmingly. Modi was following a familiar script. In 1984, Sikh bodyguards assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi, and Hindu mobs in Delhi killed thousands of Sikhs in retaliation.
The Congress party, whose members encouraged the rioting, was rewarded later that year with a huge majority in Parliament. Commissions were formed to investigate, but there were few arrests and fewer convictions. Commissions were impaneled after the Gujarat riots as well. A top state official told one panel that Modi ordered officials to take no action against rioters. That official was murdered. But in 2004, the Supreme Court intervened, acting on petitions from human rights groups. The court ordered that more than 2,000 dismissed cases be reopened, a special police team be created and some trials be transferred out of Gujarat. The wheels of justice began to turn, leading more victims to press claims. The disc contained records of every cellphone call made in Ahmedabad during the worst of the rioting. The records allowed advocates to construct precise timelines of the movements of many rioters, timelines that often dovetailed with the accounts of riot victims but contradicted those of the accused.
- Best Bakery riots case: HC acquits 5, upholds life term to 4 (Jul 9, 2012, Times of India)
- What is Best Bakery Case? (Jul 9, 2012, IBN)
- Gujarat riots: Will the victims get justice? (Jul 9, 2012, Indian Express)
- Gujarat court reserves order on Zakia’s plea to July 16 (Jul 4, 2012, DNA India)
Gujarat riots: SC defers plea to stay HC order on shrines (Jul 3, 2012, Indian Express)
The Supreme Court has deferred the hearing on a plea by the Gujarat government to stay the state high court’s February 8 order to pay compensation to over 500 shrines damaged during the infamous 2002 riots in the wake of Godhra train carnage. A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra asked the state government to furnish details of the number of religious structures actually damaged and the financial cost of their reconstruction.
The apex court wanted to know if any survey or study was conducted on the actual damage and loss to holy places during the riots. The bench later adjourned the matter for July 9. Appearing for the state, Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta and counsel Hemantika Wahi submitted that the high court order was erroneous as under the Constitution’s secular principles, there cannot be funding to religious bodies by any government.
On February 8, the Gujarat government was pulled up by the Gujarat High Court for “inaction and negligence” on its part during the 2002 post-Godhra riots that led to large-scale destruction of religious structures. A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala had ordered compensation for over 500 places of worships in the state on a plea by Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG), an NGO.
The court also ordered that principal judges of 26 districts of the state will receive the applications for compensation of religious structures in their respective districts and decide on it. They have been asked to send their decisions to the high court within six months.
- SC seeks details of religious sites damaged in 2002 Guj riots (Jul 9, 2012, DNA India)
- SC delivers one more blow to Modi govt (Jul 3, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Modi faces contempt plea in HC (Jul 4, 2012, Indian Express)
- Two ministers in Modi govt face corruption charges (Jul 3, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Gujarat BJP a Hindu divided family (Jul 3, 2012, Times of India)
It is not just Narendra Modi and Keshubhai who are fighting in the Gujarat BJP. Down the line, there is virtually a free for all in the ruling party, particularly the core group which should have been united in an election year.
Not just this, almost every Sangh Parivar outfit, be it the VHP or Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, have taken a dislike for the BJP and the chief minister. Former state president Purshottam Rupala, who is now a national vice-president, detests revenue minister Anandiben Patel. It was Rupala who had taken Modi’s message to party president Nitin Gadkari that the entire contingent from the state would boycott the recent national executive in Mumbai if Sanjay Joshi was not removed.
Anandiben, who hails from north Gujarat, has been telling party leaders from Saurashtra that they should desist from indulging in “Rupala-style politics”. Two other cabinet ministers, Nitin Patel (urban development) and Dilip Sanghani (law and agriculture) – clash often in cabinet meetings and elsewhere in another indication of turf war between Kadva and Leuva Patels.
Gujarat BJP president R C Faldu does not get along with organisational general secretary Bhikhubhai Dalsania, an RSS nominee. As a result, Faldu has not been visiting the party headquarters for last one year. Modi is on Faldu’s side and has stopped directly communicating with Dalsania for many months now.
Rajkot strongman Vijay Rupani, a former Rajya Sabha MP and once a Modi confidant, has been sidelined, just like another senior BJP leader Jayanti Barot who was Modi’s main trouble-shooter.
- RSS axes its Narendra Modi-baiter veteran, 2 others (Jul 3, 2012, Indian Express)
- Removal of Modi baiter further adds to fissures in Gujarat’s saffron parivar (Jul 3, 2012, India Today)
- Digvijay asks RSS to define Hindutva (Jul 3, 2012, Indian Express)
- Modi will never become PM: Swami Agnivesh (Jul 5, 2012, Times of India)
Why NIA’s Malegaon blasts probe is going nowehere (Jul 3, 2012, Rediff)
The recent revelations made in the Army Court of Inquiry favouring Lt Colonel S P Purohit have put the National Investigating agency in a spot of bother with regard to its investigation into the involvement of right-wing terror groups in the Malegaon blasts case. Lt Col Purohit’s case took a turn when the Army’s court of Inquiry suggested that he could have actually infiltrated the right-wing terror group Abhinav Bharat; that his job was to collect information on the activities of the group as a military intelligence official. Although Lt Col Purohit will be tried separately once the NIA files its chargehseet against him in the case, for the time being it looks extremely difficult for the agency to put up a strong case against him.
The NIA, after taking over the cases in which right-wing groups are allegedly involved, has had a herculean task ahead of it due to various factors like collection of evidence and ego battles with local officers. In Lt Col Purohit’s case, the NIA has not even been able to secure the officer’s custody for interrogation. Lt Col Purohit had claimed that Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was responsible for the Malegaon blasts. He had communicated this to his superiors three weeks prior to his arrest. He had also stated that a person by the name Sudhakar Chaturvedi was his informer. However, Chaturvedi was also made an accused in the case.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad probed the Malegaon case for two years before handing it over to the NIA. Three years since then NIA has still not managed to question Lt Col Purohit in the case leave alone file a substantial chargesheet against him. The NIA is relying very heavily on the evidence that has been collected by the ATS. However a bare reading of the charges would only indicate that the NIA has a lot of work yet to be done. The main evidence that the ATS had was the conversations that Lt Col Purohit had with some of the accused. However, in light of the court of inquiry revelations, it could well be termed as an interaction between an officer and his informants.
When a person is asked to infiltrate into an outfit then it is quite natural that he remains in contact with the persons associated with the group. While the ATS was unable to put forth a strong case based on these conversations, the NIA will have to literally burn the midnight oil before it could prove these charges. The NIA will also need to prove that Lt Col Purohit was the main conspirator in the case. The fact that he had been associated with the Abhinav Bharat will not be a good enough claim for the investigators. The officer already states that his association with this group is an ideological one. Another accusation that the ATS made regarding funds being provided by Lt Col Purohit to the Abhinav Bharat is also something that has not been established yet. The money leads up to the Abhinav Bharat, but from there it does not move and none of the agencies have so far been able to establish the money trail.
Further, the agencies are also struggling to establish the first charge that was made against Lt Col Purohit that he had smuggled 60 kg RDX for the blasts. Once again, there’s no trail. Sources in the NIA, however, point out that there is no cause to be dejected. Our duty is to probe the case and now thanks to these twists and turns it may take a while longer. This case too – like the many cases that we are handling – was probed in a different angle and later handed over to us. Our job was always going to be tough in the given scenario. Apart from watching the proceedings in the army court we will also need to question some officers in the ATS who were involved in this case, NIA sources point out.
- Malegaon bomb blast: Purohit had no orders to infiltrate Abhinav Bharat, finds Army probe (Jul 4, 2012, Indian Express)
- ‘Purohit never reported links with right-wing group’ (Jul 2, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Purohit was very keen to probe 2006 Malegaon blasts (Jul 4, 2012, Times of India)
- SC curbs on NIA questioning Sadhvi Pragya (Jul 9, 2012, New Kerala)
Fake encounter still haunts Rajasthan BJP leader (Jul 4, 2012, India Today)
The infamous fake encounter of alleged bootlegger Dara Singh by the Special Operation Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan police continues to haunt BJP leader Rajendra Rathore allegedly at whose behest the crime was committed in 2006 when he was PWD minister in the former BJP government led by Vasundhara Raje. Rajasthan High Court on Wednesday issued show cause notice to Rathore directing him to reply by July 10, when the court will hear the case. The court order came in response to separate review petitions filed by the CBI and Dara’s widow Sushila Devi challenging the order of sessions and district judge P C Jain who discharged him on May 31 even before the trial could start.
Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma of the High Court directed the CBI-SP Amitabh Thakur to serve the notice on Rathore, currently chief whip of the BJP’s legislative wing. The court asked Thakur to take the help of agency’s director in the task, if required. Both the CBI and Sushila claimed that there was a strong prima facie case against Rathore. However, Sushila questioning the investigators’ approach towards the BJP leader wondered why the agency never sought his police remand. She also questioned judge Jain’s decision to clear Rathore at the stage of framing the charges by evaluating the evidence before the trial began.
Agreeing with arguments put forth on Tuesday by Sushila’s counsel SK Sinha, a Supreme Court’s senior advocate, Justice Sharma asked CBI, “we fail to understand why the police custody was not sought for interrogation of Rathore while 14 day remand was taken for two senior police officers – additional director general of police Arvind Kumar Jain ( who was the SOG chief when the crime was committed) and IG police A. Ponnuchamy , who was then SP, SOG.” CBI failed to respond to the court on this count. Justice Sharma in an obvious annoyance over the way investigators conducted the probe asked the CBI as to why the agency began with arresting the juniors and the weak instead of nabbing the people at the top? Rathore was arrested at 11.30 am on April 5, 2012, produced before the magistrate at around 2.30pm and sent to judicial custody as the CBI didn’t seek his police remand, the court pointed out.
It appeared that the CBI was helping Rathore, Justice Sharma observed. The CBI through its counsels claimed that the call details showed that Rathore was in close communication with Arvind and was instrumental in the fake encounter. Rathore was holding PWD portfolio and Jain was not supposed to report to him, the agency asserted. Judge Jain in his order acted in a manner as if he was representing the defence (Rathore), the CBI accused. Sinha raising an accusing finger towards investigators wondered why Rathore was not chargesheeted by the CBI in its first chargesheet filed on June 3, 2011 though it had accused him of having a vested interest in getting Dara killed thereby highlighting his role in the crime.
Questioning judge Jain’s assertion that the CBI had failed to come up with any additional evidence in its supplementary chargesheet against Rathore CBI asserted that the records showed all the required evidences. The CBI also claimed that Rathore had strong motive for the crime due to his animosity with Dara as he was resisting his patronage to the rival liquor mafia.
- HC notice to Rathore in Dara fake encounter case (Jul 5, 2012, Times of India)
- ‘Fake encounter’: Four cops arrested (Jul 6, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Sadiq encounter case: CBI arrests Mumbai journalist (Jul 6, 2012, Indian Express)
- CBI hunts for evidence to verify Ketan Tirodkar’s claims (Jul 9, 2012, Times of India)
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind seek public support for Muslims booked in ‘false’ terror charges (Jul 5, 2012, Times of India)
Voices against harassment and victimisation of innocent Muslims youth by security agencies in the name of anti-terror operations is getting louder. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind will organise a public meeting on July 8 to provide a platform to the victims to narrate their stories before the people. The aim of the public meeting is to remind the new Samajwadi Party (SP) government the promise party made before elections about releasing innocent Muslims who are locked in jail only on the ground of suspicion and against whom security agencies does not have concrete evidence of links with terror outfits.
Maulana Waliullah Saeedi, state president of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind told reporters on Thursday that there is rising concern across the country about the large scale arrests an harassment of Muslim youth by the security forces. “Young men are being up by police without explanation, taken into custody, beaten up, tortured and eventually thrown in the jail. Many are awaiting trial for years,” he said. He also said “Several under-trials have died in custody under mysterious circumstances. The latest case is of Qateel Siddiqui who died in Yerwada Jail, Pune. He was arrested in November last year and killed in a high security prison for a case in which his involvement has not bee established as yet. Also, there are many complaints of illegal detentions by the police.”
The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind office-bearers also alleged that there are many case in UP where innocent Muslims were booked by police on false charges. They demanded UP government to take immediate steps to provide justice to such people. They have invited people from all walks of life to attend the public meeting, listen to the woes of the victim families and help them. Muslims are 18% if UP’s population and have been voting for the Congress and SP. A few days back, a social organisation had organised a signature campaign on the similar issue. They also demanded state government to fulfill its promise of review the cases in which Muslim youth have been implicated on charges of having terror links and release them, if allegations are found to be false.
The activists had pointed out that in most cases those arrested for alleged terror links were acquitted later by the court for want of evidence. The evidences with the police can be examined by the government before lodging a case. If there are not substantial evidence, people arrested should be released, they had said and added that the undue detention damages reputation of an individual making it difficult for him to get a job or a house on rent. They had also said that the society treats such people with suspicion, which results in mental torture, hence the police should take due care before arresting any person and media should exercise some restrain in reporting such cases. They also claimed that police demands money while threatening to put them in jail.
- Rein in ATS, Jamaat asks Akhilesh (Jul 9, 2012, The Hindu)
- Public hearing of riot victims held in Jaipur (Jul 2, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Allahabad university not to give 4.5% sub-quota to minority students (Jul 7, 2012, Times of India)
- No Muslim DM in entire Uttar Pradesh (Jul 4, 2012, Twocircles.net)
CRPF orders probe into killing of ‘Maoists’ (Jul 2, 2012, Indian Express)
The CRPF has initiated an internal inquiry into the killing of 19 alleged Maoists in Chhattisgarh last Friday amid allegations that the victims were innocent villagers. CRPF director general K Vijay Kumar, who ordered the probe, said the “truth would come out”. Denying any “intelligence failure”, CRPF officials said they had been working on the operation for the last one month. Kumar said the encounter site at Sarkeguda in Bijapur district was known to be an area where the Maoists held regular meetings.
“This was not the first time that a meeting (by Maoists) was being held at the village. We had collected enough information about the place. Our personnel were sent from three directions and the group proceeding from Basaguda was attacked first, leading to firing by the other two groups,” said Kumar.
“The inquiry is being conducted by the commandant thereï¿½ There have been no unjust violations from our side, like hacking the bodies with axes. The bodies have been properly photographed and videographed and we can see no such marks. Our personnel don’t indulge in all these practices,” said Pankaj Kumar Singh, IG (operations). But another senior officer admitted that some innocent villagers may have been killed and action would be taken after the inquiry was over.
- Judicial probe ordered into Bijapur killings (Jul 7, 2012, The Hindu)
- Chhattisgarh govt misleading Centre on anti-naxal op: Deo (Jul 4, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Congress says 7 minors killed in Chhattisgarh operation (Jul 4, 2012, Times of India)
- Chhattisgarh Chief Minister defends encounter that left 20 dead (Jul 3, 2012, The Hindu)
Case registered against Delhi ACP for duping trader of over Rs.1.2 crore (Jul 8, 2012, India Today)
The Delhi police have registered a case against an assistant commissioner of police and her friend for allegedly duping a businessman of Rs.1.2 crore on the pretext of allotting him a petrol pump.
The complainant Gurpreet Singh of Model Town has alleged that two women, Taniya Kapoor and Veena Sharma – an inspector in 2008 – took Rs.1.2 crore and did not allot a petrol pump as promised.
According to Singh, he was introduced to Veena by an acquaintance. Veena introduced Singh to another woman Taniya and said the petrol pump could be allotted in partnership and he would have to pay Rs.2 crore.
The victim was convinced with the deal and paid Rs.1 lakh cash to the duo. Later, he paid an amount of Rs.15 lakh and Rs.1.18 crore. But on seeing the original papers he realised the pump was registered in Taniya’s name.
On demanding his money back, he was given only Rs.10 lakh. “We are investigating the matter and would see if the claims made in the complaint are right,” Chhaya Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (south), said.
- Quake relief fund scam: HC notice to govt, MLA (Jul 7, 2012, Indian Express)
- Yashwant Sinha surrenders in anti-graft protest case (Jun 28, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Adarsh scam: Now Ashok Chavan blames Deshmukh (Jun 30, 2012, Indian Express)
- In Haryana, you are punished if you fight corruption! (Jun 29, 2012, Rediff)
Rape case: Police fail to arrest absconding judo coach (Jun 26, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Amritsar city police have so far failed to arrest judo coach Rajiv Arora of Nirmala Colony in Chheharta, who has been accused of raping a schoolgirl, who is a budding judoka. Quizzed about his whereabouts, cops said on Wednesday that he was reported to be present “somewhere” in the holy city and was likely to be arrested soon. Investigating officer, ASI Varinder Kumar, of Chheharta police station said that efforts were on to arrest the accused. “We have received information that he is present somewhere in the city. Efforts are being made to arrest him. The accused is likely to be arrested soon,” he said.
Police Commissioner RP Mittal also said that efforts were on to apprehend him. It is pertinent to mention here that Amritsar city police had booked the judo coach on charge of rape after a local schoolgirl, a budding judoka hailing from a poor background, accused him of the crime. The case against Arora was registered at Chheharta police station.
The police had also gone for a medical examination of the victim. The victim, a Class X student, had alleged that a judo camp was organised at Sundernagar in Himachal from June 7 to 28. According to the victim, on June 9, the accused picked her from her house in the walled city area to take her to the camp.
She alleged that the accused took her to his house on the pretext of picking his bag and raped her there. She alleged that the next day, the accused took her to Kangra in Himachal Pradesh where he repeatedly raped her. Later, he dropped her at the camp.
The complainant alleged that she returned home on June 17 and apprised her parents of the matter, following which the case was registered. The girl’s father is a rickshaw-puller, while her mother works as a domestic help.
- Guard arrested for ‘raping’ 3-year-old (Jul 6, 2012, Times of India)
- Woman gangraped in Dwarka, 5 held (Jul 8, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Minor rape victim loses battle for life (Jul 7, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Highest crime against women in Bengal, Andhra (Jul 8, 2012, Indian Express)
Dalit boy shot dead by Punjab Police (Jul 7, 2012, Punjab Newsline)
It’s been more than 48 hours since cops murdered a dalit youth. But the police authorities of Nabha Sadar police station haven’t made any arrests and are rather trying to save the accused by registering a FIR under 304 IPC.
According to the claims, a police party of Nabha Sadar police station, Nabha sadar cops had laid a naka near Grid chowk on Wednesday in the city. Around midnight, the cops signalled a car and tempo, which were coming together from Bhadson.
Both then fled back to Bhadson and were chased by the police party. On reaching Agol village, someone from the tempo fired at the police which received a counter fire from the police. The bullet hit deceased Kuldeep Singh, seated at the back of the tempo and died on the spot. Throwing the bosy of the deceased, both the vehicles fled the scene.
The Nabha police have registered a case under Sections 304 of the IPC against ASI Inderjit Singh and three constables, Bhuma Singh, Rajinder Singh and Gurmeet Singh. However, there are still many questions that need to be probed by the police as there are certain loop holes in the story.
The police have been making efforts to hush up the case, which reeks of a fake encounter as still no arrests have been made by the police. On contacting Nabha DSP Rajinder Singh, he denied the allegations saying, “It all happened accidentally as cops fired on tires of the vehicle, but it hit deceased.”
- ‘Thrashed’ dalit girl taken to Ahmedabad (Jul 2, 2012, Times of India)
- Dalit villagers protest outside AICC headquarters (Jul 2, 2012, Business Standard)
- Bursting of crackers during funeral leads to attack on Dalits (Jul 9, 2012, The Hindu)
- Threatened, Guj Dalits get 24×7 police cover (Jul 9, 2012, DNA India)
Opinions and Editorials
Justice and ‘a Ray of Hope’ After 2002 India Riots – By Gardiner Harris (Jul 2, 2012, New York Times)
The police stood by as Hindu mobs slaughtered nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in massacres that evidence suggests were an election-year ploy by state officials to garner votes. Mothers were skewered, children set afire and fathers hacked to pieces. That was 10 years ago. A decade later, the riots in Gujarat State may be remembered less for the horrors they unleashed, however, than that such sectarian carnage, which once struck India as often as a heavy monsoon, has not been repeated since. There are many reasons for this astonishing quiescence, but technology has played a crucial role. The killers made cellphone calls, and records of those calls became evidence. After years of dithering, India’s creaky justice system lurched into action. Hundreds of rioters have been convicted, and more cases are pending. On Saturday, a judge trying 61 defendants – including a former state education minister – delayed issuing verdicts until Aug. 29 in a case that involves about 94 deaths. A total of 327 people testified, but the crucial evidence, again, was the phone records contradicting claims by some of the accused that they were nowhere near the scene of the crimes. Indeed, those same records continue to be examined for any role played in the riots by the office of the state’s top official, Narendra Modi, who is among India’s most prominent politicians. But even if Mr. Modi is never charged, the political calculus behind stoking sectarian clashes – long a staple for winning elections here – has fundamentally changed, political analysts say. “We reached a tipping point,” said M. J. Akbar, author of “Riot After Riot” and editorial director of India Today, one of India’s leading news organizations. “This is the first time that India’s judicial system has actually worked to hold people accountable for rioting. In the past, the guilty never got punished.” India was once the world’s wellspring of religiously inspired massacres. As such violence rages across the Middle East, the bougainvillea sprouting from Gujarat’s charred buildings offers hope that even societies steeped in blood can curb the self-perpetuating logic behind such clashes. Shakeel Ahmad, chairman of the Islamic Relief Committee in Gujarat, said he was optimistic. About 150,000 people were displaced by the rioting in 2002. Witnesses and other evidence suggest that the violence was encouraged by state officials, who deny the charge. Dr. Ahmad’s son was imprisoned for nearly seven years, accused of plotting against the life of a state official who is now on trial himself. During a lengthy interview in his office at the edge of a Muslim neighborhood, Dr. Ahmad could not suppress a triumphant smile. “There is a ray of hope,” he said in his office here, his white hair and beard swirled in cigarette smoke. “For the first time in Gujarat, we have seen demands for justice.” To be sure, India’s politics are still vicious and violent, its society riven by religious, cultural and caste divisions that feed continuing discrimination and sporadically erupt in fury. Assassinations are frequent, corruption endemic and the courts largely feckless. Gujarat’s Muslims have never entirely recovered from the riots, and the state’s population is more religiously segregated than ever. No one can promise that large-scale riots will never return, but there are signs of hope. The riots began on Feb. 27, 2002, when a train filled with Hindu pilgrims who had just visited a disputed shrine rolled into Godhra, a small city in eastern Gujarat, and was attacked by a Muslim mob. A fire started, and at least 58 Hindu pilgrims burned to death. Their charred bodies were brought to Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, and laid out in public, an act that all but guaranteed more violence. Huge mobs gathered to view the bodies.
At the time of the riots, Gujarat’s chief minister was Mr. Modi, a newly appointed functionary from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which advocates Hindu supremacy but faced sinking popularity in the state. Mr. Modi and his party endorsed a widespread strike. Massacres began immediately. About 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship were burned. Later that year, Mr. Modi’s party was overwhelmingly re-elected. Mayors in the United States are thrown out when too much snow clogs streets; Mr. Modi let his streets be choked with blood and won election overwhelmingly. Mr. Modi was following a familiar script. In 1984, Sikh bodyguards assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and Hindu mobs in Delhi killed thousands of Sikhs in retaliation. The Congress Party, whose members encouraged the rioting, was rewarded later that year with a huge majority in Parliament. Commissions were formed to investigate, but there were few arrests and fewer convictions. After the 1992 Hindu-Muslim riots in Mumbai, in which 900 people were killed, commission recommendations were again ignored. Commissions were impaneled after the Gujarat riots as well. A top state official told one panel that Mr. Modi ordered officials to take no action against rioters. That official was murdered. Thousands of cases against rioters were dismissed by the police for lack of evidence despite eyewitness accounts. But in 2004, the Supreme Court intervened, acting on petitions from human rights groups. The court ordered that more than 2,000 dismissed cases be reopened, a special police team be created and some trials be transferred out of Gujarat. The wheels of justice began to turn, leading more victims to press claims.
That year, a lawyer representing victims was cross-examining a top police official when the official laid a CD on the table in front of him. “What’s that?” asked the lawyer, Dr. Mukul Sinha. “Evidence,” answered the officer, Rahul Sharma. The CD contained records of every cellphone call made in Ahmedabad during the worst of the rioting. The records allowed advocates to construct precise timelines of the movements of many rioters, timelines that often dovetailed with the accounts of riot victims but contradicted those of the accused. Dr. Sinha is still mining the records for evidence, but Mr. Modi’s government is vigorously trying to suppress the investigation, charging the officer who provided the records with violating the Official Secrets Act. The cellphone records have proved invaluable to prosecutors. While no government agency or court seems to have a scorecard of how many people have been convicted, state and court records show that they number in the hundreds, with scores more due for judgments. Gujarat state officials and representatives for Mr. Modi did not respond to multiple interview requests or to a list of e-mailed questions.
Mr. Modi’s role in the rioting continues to plague him and his party. Two years after the riots, his alliance lost its hold over the national government. Important members of the group have warned against Mr. Modi’s selection as the alliance’s candidate for prime minister in the 2014 elections. Yet Mr. Modi remains popular in Gujarat, where he has recast himself as an economic problem-solver. Steven I. Wilkinson, a professor of political science at Yale University who has studied India’s riots, said that India’s national elections had become so competitive that no political party could afford to alienate Muslims, who represent 13 percent of the electorate, about the same share that blacks represent in the United States. “Riots are now a stain on your reputation forever in a way they never were before,” he said. On a recent morning, Shareefa Bibi sat outside her reconstructed house in the Muslim neighborhood of Naroda Patiya. She recalled fleeing a mob with her husband and five children to a nearby police camp, where officers refused to protect them. “They said, â€˜No, you have to die today,’ ” she recalled bitterly. The family ran to another neighborhood and hid, but in the confusion her 18-year-old son, Sharif, was caught by rioters, gutted and set on fire. Cowering just a few feet away with her other children, Ms. Bibi watched him die. She testified against her son’s killers, whose judgments have been delayed until Aug. 29. “I will never get my son back,” Ms. Bibi said. “But our hope is that we will get justice.”
- Carnage And The Motives: Anti Muslim Violence And Anti Sikh Massacre – By Ram Puniyani (Jul 1, 2012, Countercurrents)
Once There Was Hindutva Terror? – By Subhash Gatade (Jul 1, 2012, Countercurrents)
What is common between the murder of the leader of a private army of landlords at the hands of his own gang members in faraway Bihar over distribution of booty, the felicitation of a terrorist lodged in jail as ‘living martyr’ (zinda Shaheed) in Punjab or the anointment of a hatemonger as the poster boy of the main opposition party ? Formally speaking there are no connections but if one tries to dig further few subterranean linkages become clear. Whether one agrees or not they exhibit the growing legitimacy of authoritarian, fanatic, exclucivist politics in this part of the subcontinent. It is difficult to believe the manner in which the mass murderer called Brahmeshwar Singh was glorified and the state turning mute spectator to indiscriminate violence unleashed by his supporters (mainly his caste antisocials) or the manner in which two senior leaders of the saffron dispensation – ex Central Cabinet minister C.P. Thakur and Giriraj Singh, a member of Nitish’s cabinet – vied with each other to declare the murderer as another ‘Gandhi’.
Not to be rest content the felicitation of the terrorist called Rajoana who had been instrumental in killing of innocents was accompanied by demands from the SGPC (Shiromani Gurudwara Prabadhank Committee) to have a memorial erected inside the precincts of the golden temple itself, in memory of those who were ‘martyred’ during the 1984 military action to flush out Bhindranwale and his close comrades. The Kafquasquean metamorphosis of the hatemonger as ‘development man’ has been discussed for quite some time. With the recent national executive meeting of his party he inched further closer to his long cherished dream. Forget the fact that there have been more than 45 reports prepared by national-international human rights organisations over the bloody developments in the state under his rule and amicus curiae (friend of court) ordering his prosecution for various acts of omission and commission in the 2002 carnage. Forget the fact that thousands of people uprooted during those days are still condemned to live a life of internally displaced persons. Forget the fact that it is ‘free for all’ as far corruption in the higher echelons of power is concerned.
Nobody can miss the ‘coincidence’ that in all the three cases mentioned above saffrons happen to be a common factor. And there is nothing surprising about it. Close watchers of their politics very well know that fascination for violence is an integral part of their weltanshauung. This fascination for violence in the saffron parivar seems to have reached its pinnacle with the phenomenon of Hindutva terror. It has been more than a decade that this phenomenon has raised its head which saw many avoidable deaths. Here we witness activists, workers, Pracharaks of the ’cause’ collecting arms, storing explosives, engaging themselves in arms training and making elaborate plans to put it at crowded places to have maximum impact. One finds them putting the explosives in larger religious congregations, in crowded trains or in busy areas to teach the ‘others’ a lesson.We also witness the cowardice exhibited during many such operations by them where the conspirators camouflaged themselves as the ‘other’ to further stigmatise the other community. As things stand today n number of workers of different Hindutva formations have been apprehended, cases have been registered, investigations are on.
It is also becoming clear that the “saffron terror” is a ‘much bigger phenomenon than previously envisaged with the investigating agencies suspecting involvement of Hindutva activists in as many as 16 explosions across the country.’ (Deccan Herald, 23 Sep 2011, Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi, Sep 20, DHNS) A special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) is understood to have recently told the state police chiefs that the Hindutva activists have either been suspected or are under investigation in 16 incidents of bomb blasts in the country. The right wing activists’ role in four incidents of bomb blasts so far has come into public domain, but the top intelligence official’s remark during the annual conference of the Director Generals and Inspector Generals of Police from the states last week revealed that the saffron terror had assumed a much larger proportion. Making a presentation during the state top cops’ conference in New Delhi, the senior IB official is understood to have referred to the right wing Hindu organisations, who espoused emotive issues, leading to radicalisation of a section of majority community and thus contributing to spread of what is being called saffron terror.
But somehow one is discovering that the momentum generated after 2008 investigations into the Malegaon bomb blast – taken up by the legendary police officer Hemant Karkare – has lost midway. The year 2010 witnessed some attempts to give it a new push, but for various known-unknown reasons the powers that be do not seem eager to unearth the whole conspiracy, go after the real masterminds, nab the real planners and target their organisations. And with every passing day, the task appears more and more difficult. On the other hand contrary to general impression that Hindutva terrorists are lying low, one discovers that they are very much active, in fact they have learned from their earlier mistakes which helped the police and security agencies to lay hands on them easily and have reworked their strategies.…
- Hind, Hindi, Hindu, Hindutva – By Meghnad Desai (Jul 1, 2012, Indian Express)
- A parivar no more – By Rana Ayyub (Jul 14, 2012, Tehelka)
- The Party with No Difference – Editorial (Jul 14, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
Malegaon: Who’s Above the Law? – By Christophe Jaffrelot (Jun 30, 2012, Economic & Political Weekl)
The recent revelations by lieutenant colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit about the Malegaon case are making things more complicated – as most commentators have mentioned – but they also clarify the general picture. Let’s begin with the new light that has been shed on the Hindutva phenomenon. First, there is now no doubt left about the presence of Hindutva enthusiasts among the Indian army officers – as already evident from the transcripts of the Abhinav Bharat meetings I have used in a recent article. Purohit is not apologetic about his ideological commitments. He merely argues, in an interview with Outlook magazine: “Having a particular ideology does not make me a terrorist or anti-national”. Incidentally, Purohit was not the only army man who has been investigated by the specially instituted court of inquiry of the army because of their implication in Abhinav Bharat, the group responsible for the Malegaon blast. – there were four others (another lieutenant colonel, a captain, a major and a subedar).
Second, while the role of RSS foot soldiers – including pracharaks like Sunil Joshi – in several bomb blasts have been ascertained, the implication of senior leaders has not been proved so far. In an hand written letter dated 15 Oct. 2008, Purohit emphasises the part that Indresh Kumar – a member of the Nagpur-based executive body of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh – played in connection with Abhinav Bharat people. He even mentions, referring to the Gujarat blasts of July 2008, that he was “instrumental in carrying out these actions”. These words reconfirm the confession of Swami Aseemanand. In contrast to these – disturbing – clarifications “L’Affaire Purohit” is becoming “murkier and murkier” to use former security official and current commentator B. Raman’s words.
In his Outlook interview, Purohit claims that he has inflitrated Abhinav Bharat as a member of the army intelligence : “I have done my job properly, have kept my bosses in the loop and everything is on paper in the army records”. Indeed, he gave the name of Sadhvi Pragya as one of the persons responsible for the Malegaon blast only one week after this event – and he wrote to no one else but major Bhagirath Dey, the Jabalpur-based intelligence officer and colonel Vinay Panchpore, the commanding officer of southern liaison unit. Then the question is: why did the army hand him over to the Anti-Terrorism Squad – and so quickly?
Given the opacity of the whole affair, we can only speculate. But two hypothesis – at least! – can be made. First, the army preferred to let Purohit appear as an Hindutva zealot turned terrorist rather than admitting that it was collecting intelligence in a place where it was not supposed to do so – Madhya Pradesh is not Jammu and Kashmir or the North East. The military institution preferred to sacrifice Purohit if this theory is right.
Or the second hypothesis could be that Purohit, who might have been an infiltrator first (something we need to corroborate on the basis of other testimonies), had become part and parcel of Abhinav Bharat and, therefore, a turn coat like David Headley vis-a-vis the US intelligence. This theory is well in tune with Purohit’s discourses during the Abhinav Bharat meetings. Hopefully, a proper investigation will take place and its conclusions will be made public – since nobody should be above the law in a vibrant democracy like India. But neither the clarifications we’ve just received, nor the hypothesis we can make are comforting.
- The larger question should certainly be asked of the Army – By Rana Ayyub (Jul 2, 2012, Tehelka)
- The Fog Of Deception – By Toral Varia Deshpande (Jul 16, 2012, Outlook)
- Why the Malegaon probe needs to go beyond Col Purohit – By Tehelka (Jul 14, 2012, Tehelka)
Only A Bad Name Lives In Barh Samaila – By Panini Anand (Jul 16, 2012, Outlook)
It’s the village no one speaks of. When asked the way to Barh Samaila, the old lady doesn’t utter a word, simply points to the north, a clear discomfort in her face at the mere mention of the place. The workers toiling in the neighbouring fields too refuse to talk about the place to strangers. So what is the curse of Barh Samaila village in Darbhanga, north Bihar? Well, it’s the latest “terror village” in India. As happened with Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, Bhatkal in Karnataka and Malwa in Madhya Pradesh, the terror tag has come to drag down the name of the village and its residents. Barh Samaila has acquired the label as five Muslim men have been arrested from here over the past year on charges of being involved in terror plots. Kafeel Akhtar, 26, was arrested by the Karnataka-Andhra police on May 6 last year; Qateel Siddiqui, 27, on November 19 last year (he died in custody in Pune’s Yerwada jail on June 8); Gauhar Aziz Khomaini, 31, picked up by the Delhi police on November 23, 2011; Fasih Mehmood, 29, arrested in Saudi Arabia by Saudi and Indian sleuths on May 13 last; and Abu Muskat Akhfal, 23, who was detained on June 2 by the Mumbai ATS. The most famous “Darbhanga terrorist” is of course Fasih, on the verge of being delivered to Indian agencies by the Saudis. Union home minister P. Chidambaram has already declared so, and presumably he’s been fully briefed about this new terror zone in the nation.
In Barh Samaila, though, there is only fear and anger. None of the five men had criminal records in the local thana, so one can’t blame the residents if they believe that their boys are innocent and that their village is just the latest hunting ground for our anti-terror agencies. They might have a case. For these men from a tiny village in Darbhanga are being linked to even minor blasts from 2010 in places as far away as Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium and Delhi’s Jama Masjid. If the police narrative is to be believed, this nondescript village is where a number of sinister plots were hatched. A four-hour drive from Patna and 15 km from town, Barh Samaila is now a preferred destination of police, ATS and intelligence agencies from across the country. The fear is such that today the village barely has any young men left. They have all mostly fled fearing for their lives. The only people left are the children, women and the old. The streets of the Muslim quarters are empty and there are no jokes to be cracked at the chai shops. Every outsider is looked at with suspicion, questioned about their visit and motives. The few young men remaining refuse to divulge their names or talk openly. “Welcome to the home of the Indian Mujahideen”ï¿½that’s how Zafeer Siddiqui, the dead Qateel’s father greets us, pointing to the inside of his house with its unplastered brick walls, mud floors and windows without grills. “My son was our family’s only hope out of poverty. After seven months of continuous torture, they got nothing, So they killed him,” he says. Qateel was arrested on suspicions of being an IM member and of involvement in the Chinnaswamy stadium and Jama Masjid attacks in 2010. He died in custody, even before his case came up in court. Strangely, on June 6, father Zafeer had got a call that his son would be released in 2-3 days. Two days later, the family got to know through TV that their son had died in custody. No one from the administration, the ATS, the local police, or the Maharashtra and Bihar governments cared to inform them. His mother Gulshan Ara, half-hidden and weeping behind the door, asks, “Can you bring back my son? Please bring him back.” Father Zafeer can’t hold back his anger, “Look at our starving family, the girls waiting to be married, Qateel’s pregnant wife. Do we look like terrorists? It’s as if we are lepers now, condemned to live in fear.” Of the 2,000-odd families in Barh Samaila, around 600 are Muslim.
Farming is the mainstay here and the village is well-known for its mango orchards. But many of the young have begun migrating outside for jobs, contributing to the village’s modest prosperity in pockets. In fact, before the terror taint, the village was known for its share of engineers and government officials. There is an interesting similarity here with Sanjarpur, the village in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district that was also labelled a “terror village” after the Batla House encounter in 2008 (the boys killed in the Delhi encounter were from there). Both in Sanjarpur and Barh Samaila, the level of education among the Muslims is high. Firoz Ahmad, Fasih Mehmood’s father, is a doctor. He has a heart problem and has been pacing the floors since he heard about his son’s arrest in Saudi Arabia. “My father was a freedom fighter and a member of the Congress party but we are being treated like orphans now. Not one political party is willing to take on the tyranny of the anti-terror squads (ATS). They want to make Darbhanga into another Azamgarh and the media too is helping them along. Please stop it,” he pleads. Fasih’s wife Nikhat Parween, currently in Patna busy fighting a long-drawn battle for his release, adds, “I always believed the media stories earlier of terrorists…but after my husband’s case, I have been studying many past ones. In most of them, the case was found baseless, the accused acquitted.” Not far from Fasih’s place is Kafeel Akhtar’s house. He was arrested on May 6 last year by a joint operation by the Karnataka and Andhra police and is currently lodged in Bangalore Central Jail. Abdussalaam, Kafeel’s father, says, “After picking him up, they allowed us to speak to him on phone often. My son asked us not to protest or demonstrate against the arrest because he was going to be released soon as they had not found anything against him. Even a police official told me that he was going to be released soon but we are still waiting.” The few youth Outlook talked to in the village admitted that police from different states had questioned them. One of them, on condition of anonymity, says, “There are many more like us who have been questioned but we are scared to admit it publicly. Akhfal’s case is only the latest to come out in the open.” Abu Muskat Akhfal was taken in for questioning by the Maharashtra ATS and then tortured to force a ‘confession’. He was finally released when he refused to give in. His father, Abul Warqaat, a 68-year-old retired teacher, can’t hold back his tears: “During the interrogation, he was given electric shocks in his private parts and forehead. He didn’t want to tell us but we saw the torture marks on his body.”
So what are the interrogators looking for? Some admit they are asked questions about neighbours, about those who have been arrested, about Yasin Bhatkal whom the agencies describe as the Indian Mujahideen mastermind and some “faltu” questions. Some of the boys still can’t get over the humiliation. One of the youngsters even blamed the media for their fate: “The media has made our condition worse and the ATS does not leave us in peace. They have spoiled our lives, our careers. We are isolated in our own society.” Mohammed Bariq, an old man from the village, asks, “Who will marry our girls now? What have you done to our reputation and tradition? This land once belonged to the writer Mazhar Imam, Sahitya Academy award winner from Darbhanga, and the progressive poet Baba Nagarjuna.” Munidhar Jha, a retired government official from nearby village Vijay is a bit more circumspect. He says one can’t rule out terror group activities in the otherwise peaceful region of Mithilanchal because it is a border region and could have been used as a hideout. But as he puts it, “The victimisation of an entire area or community is wrong and unfair. Terrorist yahaan paida nahi ho rahe hein, ho sakta hai ki panaah le rahe hon (Terrorists are not born here, though some may have sought refuge in this region)”. The stereotyping has even impacted Muslim youngsters in Darbhanga town. One of them who has never even been to Barh Samaila says, “If we go to Bangalore or Delhi today for studies or jobs, we are going to be left out. Darbhanga has become a curse for us.”
The recent arrests in Darbhanga may also have wider repercussions in Bihar politics as Muslims begin questioning the ‘secular’ credentials of CM Nitish Kumar. The problem has become acute with recent incidents in Araria district in northern Bihar. Two Muslim women were raped in Batraha there by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel in November 2010. When locals went to complain at the local SSB office, they were fired upon and two men died. In another incident, four people were killed when the local police fired upon protesters of an industrial unit that had blocked the main entry into their village in Forbesganj in Araria. Patna-based political analyst Arshad Ajmal says, “Not only is the Bihar police targeting their own people, they are unable to stop or intervene when the ATS or police of other states come to pick up people here.” Nitish has written a letter to the Karnataka government expressing his “displeasure” that their state police made arrests in Bihar without informing them. But Nikhat Parween, a burqa-clad woman who is putting up a spirited fight for her husband, says these are mere crocodile tears. “The first time the CM said he was unhappy, the next time he was sad. Now it seems we are soon going to see some tears in his eyes.”
- New vibrant Meerut witnessing communal violence at regular interval – By TCN Special Correspondent (Jul 7, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Whistleblower warrior – By Kim Arora (Jul 1, 2012, Times of India)
Anti-Naxal operations: A monumental blunder in Chhattisgarh – By Bibhu Prasad Routray (Jul 2, 2012, Rediff)
At the outset, the operation launched by the joint forces in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district that claimed the lives of 17 extremists, appeared too perfect to be true. A meticulously planned operation, security forces encircling Maoists from three sides, an encounter that not just eliminated a record number of extremists but also recovered their dead bodies, no fatalities among the security forces – for a regular follower of left-wing extremism in India, none of these characteristics has ever been associated with the security force operations in the Maoist strongholds. And, as expected, skeletons tumbled out of the closet within a day. What initially had been projected as a success par excellence for the security forces, an opportunity for basking in glory which Home Minister P Chidambaram did not give a miss, the operation turned out to be a monumental embarrassment. A majority among the killed appear to be civilians – poor and unarmed tribals – who could very well have been forced by the Maoists to attend the meeting that became a target of the operation.
Irrespective of what the inquiry committees – both official and non-governmental – discover, it is beyond doubt that the Indian State has gravely erred in its latest counter-insurgency operation and has indeed ended up killing non-combatants. And worse still, even as none of the knotty questions regarding the circumstances leading to the death of civilians has been answered, officials have stuck to their Maoists-versus-the security forces narrative and are waiting for inquiry committees to draw conclusions. David Galula, the French military officer whose writings are Bible for COIN practitioners, spoke of the concept ‘population is the prize’, indicating that the civilians must be protected and turned over to the side of the security forces if the goal of defeating the insurgents is to be achieved. The lesson has since been variously defined. Even Chidambaram, who has spoken of the lack of trust between the government and the tribals in the Maoist-affected areas, has underlined the criticality of winning over the tribal population. However, the recent operation and the subsequent explanations by the officials have run counter to the claim that the State has honourable intentions in the Maoist badlands.
Locating reasons for the botched up operation on June 29 is not exactly difficult. In an area where the security forces have perennially struggled due to the lack of intelligence, where serious command and control crisis have led to loss of hundreds of security forces and where State and central police forces have squabbled on issues of deployment and leadership, incidents of this nature are almost a given. In operational terms, Chhattisgarh is any security force commander’s land of nightmare. Much of the reason for the forces’ operational incapacity lies in its inadequate strength. Chhattisgarh’s police to population ratio (policemen per 100,000 population) of 173 is better than the national average. However, police density (policemen per 100 square kilometre area) remains at an abysmal 32.6, woefully low than the national average of 52.4. This means that the serving policemen in Chhattisgarh are in charge of much larger geographical areas than their colleagues in other states. In extremist afflicted districts, such a shortfall is bound to reflect through a non-existent capacity to collect reliable human intelligence.
Further, the police department faces a serious shortage of senior level officers. Vacancy at the level of senior level officers is in the range of 26 percent, indicating a looming leadership crisis. What, thus, is a persisting weakness among the state police, can hardly be made up by the deployment of 20 battalions of central police forces. From a broader perspective, the June 29 operation is a manifestation of the ministry of home affairs’ jumbled-up response that has been long projected as a winning formula against the extremists. In spite of the setbacks the response has received repeatedly either in form of the loss of security forces or killing of civilians in fake encounters, the State has demonstrated an obdurate tendency to persist with it. On the one hand, the State unveils its soft approach by opening up schools for the tribal children and on the other hand, it prosecutes civilians terming them as Maoist sympathisers. Ever since the launch of Operation Green Hunt in the early months of 2010, Chhattisgarh’s record of victimising tribal rights activists remains unparalleled.
To sum up, it’s a dodgy cocktail of persisting incapacity among the forces and a strategy that perilously swings between development and force. Moreover, when inadequately competent forces are under pressure to deliver under a strategy defined as “arrest or kill” by the present home secretary, such gaffes are bound to happen. The least Home Minister P Chidambaram and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh could have done after the June 29 incident was to take responsibility, apologise for the mistake and reach out to the tribals who have lost their family members in the encounter. The incident should also set in motion a serious attempt at addressing the operational infirmities that produces such catastrophe. However, the irony is while the politicians are good at taking credit for the successes, owning up mistakes isn’t exactly their virtue.
- Story Of An Op Lost – By Yashwant Dhote, Uttam Sengupta (Jul 16, 2012, Outlook)
- Helping the Maoists: To crush the insurgency, punish security personnel who kill innocents – By ET Bureau (Jul 3, 2012, Economic Times)
- If it wants its people back, the State has to bring the healing development of water, roads, Not the fear of guns – By Shoma Chaudhury (Jul 14, 2012, Tehelka)
- Bloodbath At Sarkeguda – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Jul 4, 2012, Countercurrents)
Yet Another Massacre of Dalit People In Andhra Pradesh – By Revolutionary Democratic Front (Jun 23, 2012, Countercurrents)
Yet another massacre on dalit people in Andhra Pradesh shows that the landowning castes still turn violent when dalits assert themselves to take over land. Four dalit people were hacked to death, and about 30 dalit men and women were critically injured in a well-orchestrated attack by Turpu Kapu backward caste brahmanical forces in Lakshimpeta village of Vangara block in Srikakulam District on 12 June 2012. The brahmanical forces targeted 60 dalit families in the village with crude and brutal weapons like bombs, sickles, hatchets and axes supported and patronised by the ruling Congress Party leaders of the region. Burada Sundara Rao (45), Chitri Appadu (35), Nivarti Venkati (65) and Nivarti Sangameshu (40) died in the bloodbath. Bodduru Papaiah died in King George Hospital, Vishakhapatnam on 20 June while taking treatment. With his death, the number of people killed in the massacre increased to five. Land was acquired by government for Madduvalasa reservoir built on two tributaries of Nagavali river, Suvarnamukhi and Vegavathi which, while displacing thousands of people irrigated 15000 acres of land. In Lakshimpeta village, after the construction of the reservoir, 240 acres of land intermittently comes out of the submergence when water dries up. As the land turns fertile, rich crops were being raised on it with profitable cultivation in the past five years. The government paid a compensation of two lakh rupees per acre to Kapu land owners and settled 190 Kapu families and 60 dalit families about seven kilometres away from the reservoir. The dalit families were not paid any compensation or given employment though they were also displaced and resettled except for four families, who had assigned lands-only 40 thousand rupees per acre were paid to each of these four dalit families. Meanwhile one each from 40 families of the Kapu caste was provided with employment in the reservoir office departments in addition to compensation amount for land. All 250 families were settled in pacca houses built by the government. Having been deprived of land for centuries, the dalits of Lakshimpeta, as in most other cases, aspired to take over the unaffected land under the project and they have been asserting their rights over the land which now falls under the control of the government.
As the 240 acres of land-that once belonged to Kapu community became government land after compensation was being paid-came out of submergence every now and then, 180 acres of land has been cultivated by the Kapu families while only 60 acres by 60 dalit families in the last five years. Kapu community in the village claimed that the entire land belongs to them as it once belonged them. Dalits argued with the local revenue administration that they should be allowed to cultivate this land as it was now government land. The local administration maintained silence as the Kapu caste people were supported by powerful lobbies within the ruling party from the state to the bloc levels within the same caste. Both sides of the dispute approached the court for justice. The court as usual stayed the cultivation from both sides till its judgment. This triggered fury among the Kapu backward community and they blamed squarely the dalit community for the court order, though both communities had approached the court. The former local block president of Congress Party, Botsa Vasudevanaidu instigated the Kapus against the dalit people with the active encouragement from PCC chief, Botsa Satyanarayana. Congress leaders like Botsa Satyanarayana, Dharmana Prasada Rao (Minister for Roads and Buildings in Andhra Pradesh Government) from North Andhra Region have become the powerful agents of land grab in the region for thermal power plants, industrial corridor projects and mining. They are maintaining land mafiaâ€™s and have acquired thousands of acres of for their own families. They are responsible for the police firings and state-sponsored killings of the people, who are protesting against land grab in the region. They are the powerful political leaders of the region who are in real sense representatives of globalisation and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.
As the tension in the village grew, the government put up a police picket in the village, instead of solving the issue and the bloc has been placed under the atrocitiy-proned area. This shows such an attack as the one on dalits on 12 June has been expected to happen. In these circumstances, the government itself is directly responsible for the massacre of dalits. On June 12, majority of police personnel at the picket were sent away on by-election duty. The police forces returned to the village only after giving enough time to the caste chauvinists to carry out the massacre unhindered. History testifies to this set pattern of conduct of the state forces as every time they remained mute witnesses to the upper caste brahmanical fascist attacks on dalits. In fact the India state forces like police, paramilitary and army always either sided with upper caste big landing owning communities or stayed as onlookers over the atrocities as they represented the interests of the brahmanical upper caste Indian state. As the dalit people were not prepared to face the brutal attack from the brahmanical casteist forces, they either prayed their attackers to leave them or couldnâ€™t move away to safety. The motivated and calculated nature of the attackers was evident from their preparedness to strike on the dalits fatally. All the victims targeted were the main bread-winners of their respective families. All of them were mainly landless peasants. The infuriated dalits of Lakshimpeta refused to bury the dead for the next three days as the government did not arrest the culprits and their abettors, the kingpins in the massacre and the ruling partiesâ€™ leaders. The dalit people protested the governmentâ€™s inaction placing the dead bodies of their kith and kin in front of the village. The administration did not use SC and ST Atrocities Act against the culprits and their abettors till all dalit and democratic forces raised their voices in protest. A week after when the law was evoked, it was used against small insignificant elements among the culprits, leaving out safely the main abettors and political leaders like Botsa Vasudeva Naidu, Botsa Satyanarayana and others.
The political leaders of all ruling parties hovered over the surviving victims of dalit families pouring out their crocodile tears and false promises of jobs, lakhs of compensation and distribution of land. People have seen through the cunningness of these leaders as well as the empty rhetoric of their false promises. The upper caste brahmanical forces would never allow land to come into the hands of dalits as it is both symbolically and in real sense economic and political power. Further it will nullify all the coercive methods of surplus maximisation of the landed through the forced rendering of the dalits landless and hence dependent on the upper castes for their survival. The powers that be have only ensured through their police and paramilitary hand in glove with politician and the landowning classes to perpetuate this system by careful promotion of their interests. Dalit people of Lakshimpeta village have shown exemplary self-assertion to own the land despite continuous threats and atrocities from the powers that be. RDF appeals to all democratic, progressive and revolutionary individuals and organisations to rally around the dalits in their attempt to self-assertion for dignity and to acquire land as a source of livelihood. Traditionally land mainly remained in the hands of the upper caste brahmanical feudal landowners. It is important to understand that at present the biggest land grab by the upper caste feudal and comprador forces in the name of projects, companies, mining, etc, are further depriving the dalits and adivasis, while at the same time preaching them that agriculture is not a profitable profession to live on. But the dalit and adivasi people are increasingly asserting themselves for their rights over land and other natural resources as they provide livelihood to the largest number people in the subcontinent.
The movement for self-assertion and dignity is invariably linked to the land question for the vast majority of the oppressed people from oppressed castes and communities like Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and a vast majority of oppressed other weaker castes, though a section of the land owning among them turned brahmanical and caste oppressors. The Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim and other communities of oppressed people need to have self-defence mechanisms while asserting themselves in every aspect in life, otherwise they are being massacred or facing genocidal attacks. In this context it is important to remind ourselves of the call given during Dalit Panthers upraising for self-defence of dalits in 1970s. Most of the demands raised by all democratic organisations are for more compensation for the deceased and injured families of dalits. While compensation is required as an immediate relief and justice by punishing the culprits, what is important as the permanent solution is to build self-defence cover for dalits to protect themselves as well as a sound deterrent against the massacres from brahmanical upper caste fascist forces. Only through acts of retaliation can we stop and prevent atrocities on dalits.
- How are legitimate citizens converted into public enemies? – By Ilina Sen (Jun 29, 2012, Tehelka)