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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 4th, 2013 | Indian American Muslim Council

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 4th, 2013

by newsdigest on March 5, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Announcements

IAMC welcomes clarification by JUH Secretary Mahmood Madani

Maulana Madani asserts that Modi must atone for his role in the 2002 pogroms

Wednesday February 27, 2013

 

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC - www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has welcomed the clarification given by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind General Secretary Mahmood Madani on his controversial remarks that were reported in the media as an acknowledgement of Muslims having warmed up to Modi in Gujarat.

 

 

In both written and verbal clarification to IAMC Executives, the JUH Secretary reiterated that his statements were misquoted and taken out of context. He clarified that the issue of justice was much more important when making an electoral choice than the sole criterion of development. Bemoaning the fact that his words were given a hue different from their intent, Maulana Madani said, “My statement has been distorted… It is malicious propaganda… This is no endorsement of Modi. He must atone for his sins.”

 

 

There is overwhelming evidence of the administration’s discriminatory policies against Muslims and other minorities. Mr. Narendra Modi opposed a national plan to allocate a fixed share of development funds for Muslims, while also refusing to implement another program that would have provided 53,000 scholarships to Muslim students in Gujarat. According to a report by NGO Janvikas, 16,000 survivors of the Gujarat pogrom are still living in refugee colonies, over a decade after they lost their homes in one of the worst sectarian massacres in independent India. A cursory look at the areas of Muslim population in Ahmedabad shows that the government discriminates against Muslims in providing even basic civic services.

 

“Maulana Madani clearly says during the interview that Muslims in Gujarat voted out of fear and lack of choices” said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. “His assessment of the voting pattern in Gujarat and his critique of the situation of Muslims in states ruled by ostensibly secular parties is hardly an endorsement of Mr. Modi or of his suitability for any public office.” added Mr. Khan.

 

Indian-American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.

 

 

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

 

REFERENCES:
1. Muslims Education in Gujarat – Myth and reality
http://www.viewsinline.com/travel/gujarat/muslims-education-in-gujarat

2. Gujarat’s Internally Displaced – Ten Years Later
http://janvikas.in/download/Status_report_IDPs.pdf

3. Muslims are Gujarat’s new outcastes: Survey
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_muslims-are-gujarats-new-outcastes-survey_1657290
4. Deoband cleric’s statement on Modi triggers strong reactions
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/deoband-clerics-statement-on-modi-triggers-strong-reactions/article4429028.ece

5. Muslims are the most deprived social group in Gujarat: study
http://twocircles.net/2012dec08/muslims_are_most_deprived_social_group_gujarat_study.html

CONTACT:

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Email: info@iamc.com

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I was a victim of prejudice by security agencies: Muthiur Rahman (Feb 26, 2013, News First)

Muthiur Rahman Siddiqui, a reporter who was earlier accused of being part of a terror conspiracy before the NIA dropped all charges against him, on Tuesday said that there is a lack of sensitization among the intelligence agencies when it comes to the minorities and other backward communities. Addressing a press conference here, journalist Muthiur Rahman – who was released from the Parappana Agrahara Central Jail in Bangalore late on Monday evening – said, “I feel very relieved that my name has been cleared of all charges. It was only with the help of Allah, my family members, the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) and other well-wishers who helped me throughout, that I am out today.”

Saying that he would like to share a few experiences from the six-month ordeal that he had to undergo while languishing in jail, Siddiqui said, “The larger issue that has been exposed through my case is the lack of sensitization among the security agencies towards the downtrodden and minority communities. The security agencies portray Muslims in a very stereotypical manner. If I was not a Muslim, they would not have picked me.” “I was telling from day one that I was innocent. Fortunately, in my case justice has been done,” Siddiqui added. “My appeal to the media is that they should stick to ABC of journalism, where A stands for Accuracy. The media seems to have got carried away because of high profile names that included a journalist, a DRDO scientist and doctors. What media did, cannot be justified. My only plea is that the media should show restraint and treat the other accused also as innocent until proven guilty,” said Siddiqui.

“When the ‘mastermind’ is out, his disciples should also be out,” Siddiqui said sarcastically, referring to the media reports that had termed him as mastermind. Answering a query about the type of police treatment received by the accused while in their custody, Siddiqui said, “I was not physically tortured but others were. It was indescribable; only those people who underwent it can know and describe the pain. I underwent immense mental torture.” “The first few days I could not come to my senses. It was like being thrown out in the desert. I didn’t know anything, why I was picked up or what was going on,” he added. Terming the arrest by Central Crime Branch (CCB) Bangalore sleuths, on 29 August last year from their residence, as kidnapping, Siddiqui also rubbished the claim made by intelligence agencies in the First Information Report (FIR).

According to the FIR filed by the CCB, 2 youths were picked up from Basaveshwara Nagar when they had allegedly set out to attack Prathap Simha, a columnist of Kannada Prabha newspaper, while 3 others were picked up at 3:30 pm from their residence in J. C. Nagar. “5 of us were residing in the flat in J. C. Nagar and 2 people were residing in Mariappa Garden; all the arrests happened simultaneously at around 9 am in the morning. All were picked up from their residences. In the complaint filed by the residents of J C Nagar, they have also clearly mentioned that the police picked up 5 youths from the house on 29th August at around 9 am,” Siddiqui said. Describing the jail as “no fun place” because of the restrained and monitored life, which one has to lead there, Siddiqui said that his immediate priority is to relax and spend some time with family.

http://www.newzfirst.com/web/guest/full-story/-/asset_publisher/Qd8l/content/i-was-a-victim-of-prejudice-by-security-agencies:-muthiur-rahman

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‘Illegal arrest’ of Muslim youths on terror charges echeos in Lok Sabha (Feb 26, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)

The of “illegal arrest” of Muslim youths and their acquittals by different courts of the country echoed during Question Hour Session in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The issue was first raised by CPI (M) MP Basudeb Acharia. It was then backed by RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, SP suprimo Mulayam Singh Yadav and others. Acharia alleged there were many youths from the Muslim community who were languishing in jails for 10-15 years. A section of them were released as they were found to be innocent, he said. Acharia wanted to know if the government had taken any action against investigating agencies which had “falsely implicated” innocent youths from the minority community.

Minister of State for Home Affairs (MoS) RPN Singh evaded his direct question. He said, “Terrorism has no colour or religion and if any case of prolonged incarceration of any individual belonging to any community without any charge sheet against him is brought to light, the government will take appropriate action to ensure justice.” In his reply, Singh said, “Law does not discriminate on the basis of colour or religion.” It is extremely unfortunate if some youths were in jail without any charge sheet against them, he said. The minister said that Section 211 of IPC gave a person the right to seek compensation in case he had been falsely implicated in a case. He said under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act if a charge sheet is not filed within 180 days against an arrested person, he is entitled to bail.”

Singh assured the House that if specific cases were brought to the notice of the government it would take appropriate action. He denied that no relief and rehabilitation had been provided to those found innocent after being kept in jails for long. On this, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav cited the example of Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui, who was killed last year in Pune’s Yarwada Jail, and mechanical engineer Fasih Mehmood, who has been arrested by Delhi Police Special Cell on charges of his alleged involvement in Jama Masjid and Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts cases. “After Azamgarh, Bihar’s Darbhanga, Sitamdhi and Samastipur districts are being targeted by security agencies in the name of fighting terror. “So far, 33 Muslim youths have been arrested by different security agencies from the state. This is an issue of concern and it needs to be addressed on priority basis. Otherwise, it will create the situation of anarchy,” said Lalu.

Md Bashir of National Conference has given the example of one Zakaria who was acquitted by the court after spending eight years in jail. Several other members also alleged that the government’s claims were wrong and Muslim youths had been in jails for years without any charge sheet against them. Shockingly, it was revealed in the Lok Sabha that the Union Home Ministry has not have any data on how many arrest have been made across the country while investigation of different terror cases. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav asked Speaker Meira Kumar to discuss the issue in details. The speaker agreed to do so. She asked the SP chief to move a notice in this regard so that the issue the matter can be debated in Lok Sabha.

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha asked as to how many of those arrested in criminal cases were from other religions. He also referred to comments made by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and his predecessor P Chidambaram. In reply, MoS RPN Singh said, “The National Investigation Agency (NIA), set up after the Mumbai terror attack, has investigated 52 cases and arrested 334 people since 2009. Out of the 334, over 200 youths are Muslims. We don’t have details on member of other religions who have been arrested by the NIA on terror charges.” “NIA has filed chargesheet in 29 cases while 23 are under investigation,” the minister said.

http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/NAT-TOP-illegal-arrest-of-muslim-youths-on-terror-charges-echoes-in-lok-sabha-4192064-NOR.html

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DRDO fires Mirza; army giving salary to charge-sheeted Purohit in jail (Mar 2, 2013, Muslim Mirror)

Within 24 hours from now, Aijaz Ahmed Mirza will be walking out of the Bangalore jail as a free man carrying no terror charges, but his ambitious dream to become a space scientist has shattered – thanks to biased police and systemic discrimination against minorities particularly Muslims. Mirza is coming out of the jail after about six months of incarceration and thorough investigation by country’s premier National Investigation Agency (NIA) finding no prosecutable charge against him. He was arrested in the infamous Bangalore terror conspiracy case along with 15 youths from the Muslim community in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Hubli and Nanded in September 2012. NIA filed a charge sheet against 12 of them on 21stFebruary this year and absolved 3 of all charges – Mirza was one of them. Police had picked them alleging that they were hatching a conspiracy to kill some saffron leaning journalists and to attack on defence establishments. Among the arrested youths were Mirza – who was a junior research scientist at the Centre for Air Borne Systems (CABS) of Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Bangalore – and Mutiur Rahman Siddiqui, a journalist with English daily Deccan Herald. Siddiqui is among the three who have been absolved of terror charges by NIA and he was freed from jail two days ago. Interestingly both Mirza and Siddiqui were described by police and media as masterminds of the terror conspiracy.

MuslimMirror.com has obtained both appointment and termination letter issued by DRDO to Aijaz Ahmed Mirza. According to the documents, Mirza had joined DRDO on 9th January 2012 for a period of two years Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) which was to be extended for another year after evaluation of his research work. He was appointed on the post of JRF after interview and all police verifications (according to DRDO rules). He had faced the interview on 3rd Dec. 2011 and joining letter was issued to him on 15th Dec. 2011. Finally he joined on 9th Jan. 2012 after thorough verification of character and antecedents by police. His character certificate was signed by two different Gazetted officers (as per DRDO rules). The Fellowship was for a period of two years. During the first and second year he was to be paid Rs 16000 as monthly stipend. At the end of two years, his research work was to be assessed and JRF to be extended for third year with increased stipend. He was not entitled for DA, CCA, Bonus, but he was entitled for HRA and medical benefits as per rules applicable to DRDO employees. He was entitled for 20 days EL and 10 CL. Since his joining in January till his arrest in September, there was no complaint with DRDO against Mirza. He was working as a bonafide employee fully devoted to his research work at DRDO. While joining he had taken an oath and made a solemn affirmation of allegiance to the Constitution of India and also taken an oath of secrecy. He had done nothing wrong till the date of his arrest by police.

DRDO did not take any action against Mirza immediately after his arrest. Maybe they were waiting for a formal charge sheet to be filed in court. But unfortunately just a week before the NIA filed charge sheet (21st Feb.) absolving Mirza and two others, DRDO – which runs under the Ministry of Defence — decided to terminate Mirza. The termination letter dated 12th Feb. 2013 from DRDO, however, does not give any reason for the termination. “And whereas the undersigned has come to the conclusion that the said Junior Research Fellowship be terminated immediately. Now therefore in excercise of the powers conferred on the Director, CABS by the relevant rules, the Junior Researach Fellowship of Shri Aijaz Ahmed Mirza is terminated with immediate effect (i.e. 12 Feb 2013),” reads the termination letter (a scan copy of which is attached with this story) signed by Director, CABS. Only DRDO can tell how it came to conclusion to terminate Mirza when the probing agency NIA was going to absolve him of terror charges. Though according to the DRDO rules and agreement with Mirza, the Fellowship could be terminated at any time with a notice of one month, it is not known if the notice was served.

Here comes the gross discrimination. While DRDO, a unit of Ministry of Defence, terminates junior research scientist Aijaz Ahmed Mirza though he is not charge sheeted and coming out of jail, the Indian Army – which is also a part of the Ministry of Defence – has not even suspended leave alone termination the saffron terror mastermind Col. Srikant Prasad Purohit. But the bigger shocker now. He was arrested in October 2008 and has since been in jail – he has been charge sheeted for his key role in various terror blasts in the country including Malegaon and Samjhauta Express. But the man is receiving full salary, all perks and allowances from the Army every month. An RTI has disclosed this fact. Is Col. Purohi on duty in the jail? In response to an RTI, the Pune office of Principal Controller of Defence Account (PCDA) said Col. Purohit is getting all P&A in full rates. The office also said that it has not got any order from Army Headquarters regarding judicial matters concerning Purohit.

“It is confirmed that Lt. Col. Prasad Srikant Purohit, IC 55224 is in receipt of full rates of P&A till date. It is further stated that official communication regarding the judiciary matters is required to be received in this office from AHQRS. For further action relating to P&A. In this present case no such intimation has been received till date,” said N.W. Pendurkar, A.CPIO, at PCDA, in his RTI information sent to Chief Information Commissioner, Delhi on 13th June 2012. The RTI was filed by Purohit’s co-accused Major Ramesh Upadhyay – who is also in jail. Col. Purohit’s co-accused Major Ramesh Upadhyay who is in jail in the same Malegaon blast case had sought concerned information but was not given initially. He approached Chief Information Commissioner which in its 28th May 2012 decision asked Pune office of Army account to provide the info. Then the office sent the info to CIC on 13th June 2012. Major Upadhyay sent a copy of the RTI and a letter to Rajya Sabha MP Mohammad Adeeb recently. Will anyone explain the gross shameful discrimination?

http://www.muslimmirror.com/slide-news/2832-drdo-fires-mirza-army-giving-salary-to-charge-sheeted-purohit-in-jail

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Wharton cancels Narendra Modi’s keynote address (Mar 3, 2013, DNA India)

The prestigious Wharton school on Sunday cancelled the keynote address of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi following uproar from a section of university professors and students on the invitation. The organising committee of the prestigious annual event apologized for putting the university and the Wharton School administration in a “difficult position”. It said Modi’s address would be replaced by a prominent Indian leader, whose name would be released very soon.

But standing by its decision to invite Modi for the event, the organising committee hoped to invite him later some time without causing such a distraction as it has done now. “Mr Modi’s keynote address at Wharton India Economic Forum has been cancelled,” the Wharton India Economic Forum said in a statement. Modi was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Forum to be held in Philadelphia on March 22-23 via videoconference.

“We hope to have Mr Modi speak at a more appropriate forum where he can interact with students without the distraction of this kind of attention,” the statement said. A group of Wharton’s professors and students had written a strongly-worded letter saying they are outraged to learn that the Forum has invited Modi as a keynote speaker.

The letter noted, “This is the same politician who was refused a diplomatic visa by the United States State Department on March 18, 2005 on the ground that he, as Chief Minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated riots that targeted Muslims in Gujarat.” Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia is expected to address the Forum on March 23.

“With all the chosen speakers across multiple keynotes and panels, our goal as a team is to provide a neutral platform to encourage cross pollination of ideas as we all work towards contributing to India’s success. “Through this ideology, we hope to present multiple opinions and ideas to our audiences and supporters across the world and constructively contribute to the intellectual milieu for which University of Pennsylvania and The Wharton School stand,” the statement said.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1806992

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Naroda Patiya riots case: Petition in Gujarat High Court (Mar 1, 2013, DNA India)

A petition on behalf of the victims of Naroda Patiya riots of 2002 has been filed in the Gujarat High Court, seeking direction to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to file a report on investigation into the “larger conspiracy”. Petitioner Amrish Patel demanded that SIT should be directed to submit either a closure report, or a charge sheet on the “larger conspiracy and connivance of the police”.

“In the first application, filed in the sessions court, we demanded that SIT should investigate the aspect of the alleged involvement of some of the officers in Chief Minister’s Office, then Minister of State for Home Gordhan Zadafia, some police officers and ex-MLA Maya Kodnani as reflected through the analysis of the telephone call data collected by IPS officer Rahul Sharma,” said advocate Mukul Sinha, Patel’s lawyer.

But this application, filed in September 2009, was rejected by the then trial court judge Jyotsna Yagnik on the grounds that the prayer was not required to be entertained at that stage. Later applications in 2010 too were rejected. “But when we again filed the application, court, on December 3, 2011, directed SIT to forward final report to the court but since then SIT has not complied with that order,” said Sinha.

“In our petition in the High Court we have prayed that direction be given to SIT either to file a closure report or a charge sheet,” he said. Today, Justice K M Thakar asked the petitioner to submit all the judgements and orders of the Apex court in relation to all riot cases of 2002 in which investigation was assigned to the SIT.

During the post-Godhra riots of 2002, 97 people of the minority community were killed in Naroda Patiya area here. In August 2012 trial court convicted 32 and acquitted 29 accused. All the convicts, including former MLA Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi were awarded life imprisonments and their appeals are pending before the high Court.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1806318

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‘Murdered officer never bowed to political masters’ (Mar 4, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The brutal killing of circle officer Zia-ul Haq, 32, has shocked the residents of Kunda and his village Noonkhar in Deoria where the body has been sent for burial. People remember Haq as an upright officer who did not bow to the political masters for plum postings. Often, he was seen moving on the road with jawans during night patrol. “Though people respected him, politicians hated Haq,” said Munnawar Ahmed, a social worker.

“Unlike other officers, he did not visit the darbars organised by the leaders of political parties. They might have been looking for an opportunity to settle scores with Haq,” he added. Reports from Noonkhar said a pall of gloom descended on the area as the report of his murder filtered in late last night. Thousands of people assembled at the CO’s residence to console the bereaved family. Born and brought up in a poor family Haq was loved by everyone in the village because of his simplicity. His father was an employee in a private company in Mumbai. But after his son was inducted into the UP police, he left the job and settled down in the village. Senior police officers also rushed to console the family members.

Perhaps it was his devotion to duty that cost Haq his life. On Saturday night, when he was informed about the killing of gram pradhan Nanhey Yadav in Kunda, he rushed to the community health centre where the body was taken. He alerted senior officers and the police station incharges of Kunda and Hathgawan about tension in the area. Before the top officers could act, Haq and his gunner reached Balipur village and tried to control the rampaging mob. And that was when he was killed. Haq was posted as the CO of Kunda in July 2012. Though Kunda is notorious for crime, Haq did his best to check criminal activities there. Irrespective of the political affiliation of the criminals, he ensured that they did not take the law into their hands.

“After a long time, the people of Kunda were living in peace,” said Avinash Kumar, a chemist shop owner on the main road of Kunda. “The CO sahib was from a humble family. He was a God-fearing person and led a simple life,” said Muhammad Rizwan, the owner of a bicycle shop. “A condolence meeting would be organised at the local masjid and the mandir on Monday to pay respect to the departed soul,” said Rajendra Singh a teacher at the primary school.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1020772.aspx

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‘BJP suppresses minorities, destroys unity’ (Mar 5, 2013, Indian Express)

The Congress has strongly criticised the opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party for the remarks made by Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi in a party meeting held in New Delhi on Sunday.

Modi, while addressing the audience at the National Council Meet had slammed the Congress party over increasing corruption scams in the country.

Reacting to the allegations, Congress Leader, Mani Shankar Aiyar, criticised the party and said they wouldn’t expect praise from a party that suppressed Minorities.

http://www.indianexpress.com/video/national/6/bjp-suppresses-minorities-destroys-unity/15812

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Eight killed in landmine blast triggered by Maoists (Feb 22, 2013, Times of India)

Eight persons, including six policemen, were killed in a landmine blast triggered by Maoists near a culvert at Majhaulia village in Bihar’s Gaya district on Friday. “One ASI (Assistant Sub Inspector), five constables, a village sarpanch and one special police officer (SPO) were killed in the blast,” Gaya superintendent of police Akhtar Hussain said.

Maoists used improvised explosive devices (IED) to bomb a jeep at Koili culvert around 12.40pm, he said, adding the vehicle was ripped apart in the explosion. The incident took place at Roshanganj in Sherghati sub-division, on the border of Bihar and Jharkhand.

The security forces were going for a campaign run by an NGO to build awareness among the people against Maoists, Hussain said. There have been report of loot of arms of the security personnel in the incident. In the state capital, director general of police Abhyanad said that senior police officers have been asked to visit the spot.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-02-22/india/37241663_1_landmine-blast-bihar-s-gaya-bihar-and-jharkhand

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Constable molests 18-year-old in auto (Mar 5, 2013, DNA India)

The Bhandup police on Sunday registered a case against a police constable for allegedly abducting and molesting an 18-year-old girl who was known to him. The police are looking for the constable, who is still at large. The accused has been identified as Rameshwar Ghuge, 28, a constable attached with the local armoury IV at Marol, Andheri (E).

The incident took place on Friday. The accused called the girl near Dreamz Mall located on LBS Road, Bhandup (W) at around 12.30pm. When she reached there, he forced her to accompany him to Powai Garden, where they spoke for some time. While dropping the girl back to Bhandup railway station in an auto, Ghuge molested her.

The victim then went home and narrated the incident to her parents, following which they lodged a complaint with the Bhandup police. “We have registered a case under sections 363 (kidnapping) and 354 (outraging the modesty of woman) Indian Penal Code against Ghuge,” said Srirang Nadgauda, senior inspector of Bhandup police station.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1807384

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3 cops held for Dalit deaths in Thangadh police firing (Feb 24, 2013, Indian Express)

The CID (crime) of Gujarat Police Saturday arrested a police sub-inspector and two other policemen on murder charges in connection with the police firing at Thangadh in Surendranagar on September 22 in which three Dalits were killed. Sub-inspector Kuldipsinh P Jadeja, constable Yogesh Gadhvi and assistant sub-inspector Nathubha Andubha were arrested for firing on a group of Dalits, killing three, including a minor, confirmed Inspector General of Police (CID crime) Anil Pratham.

The police firing took place after group clashes between Dalit and Bharwad communities in Thangadh on the issue of setting up stalls at a famous fair. The police had claimed the mob of Dalits ran riot, forcing them to lob teargas shells and fire in the air. The FIR against the policemen, filed after protest from Dalit activists, had also booked them under the anti-atrocity law.

The then police sub-inspector of Thangadh police station, K P Jadeja, had subsequently lodged an FIR against eight Dalits accusing them of criminal offences, including attempt to murder. According to Jadeja’s complaint, many policemen were seriously injured in the rioting by Dalits.

After the FIR, eight Dalits were jailed before the CID (crime) took charge of the case and dropped the charge of attempt to murder slapped on them. The CID probe also revealed that the accused policemen had used AK-47 to fire on Dalits, which was first reported by this newspaper.

The police affidavit, submitted by Superintendent of Police R S Bhagora, had said that the weapons used included “revolver, (.303) rifle, carbine gun and AK-47″. The affidavit, dated November 6, had opposed the anticipatory bail petition of Jadeja and noted that the motive behind the police firing was “hatred” and “prejudice” against Dalits.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1078848/

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Opinions and Editorials

Who Will Bell The IM Cat? – By Rana Ayyub (Mar 9, 2013, Tehelka)

To a media ever ready to jump to conclusions, a terror attack often provides vital fodder. On 21 February, 16 people died in two bomb blasts in Hyderabad. Coming a few days after Afzal Guru’s hanging, the blasts evoked emotional responses from Kashmir as well as a cross-section of civil society. Contradicting the ‘unofficial’ intelligence warning of another attack, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said he hadn’t received any specific alert. Meanwhile, the media was abuzz with several conspiracy theories, with the needle of suspicion pointing towards the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Desperate to break the ‘exclusive’ piece of evidence and name a mastermind, several news channels had sketches of possible masterminds ready – a formidable task even for leading investigating agencies. One news channel even flashed images of Pakistan’s Muttahida Quami Movement member Manzar Imam as the brain behind the blasts, though the act and the man cannot be connected by any stretch of imagination; Imam was killed by the Taliban in January.

If anything, the reporting on the Hyderabad blasts is symptomatic of a larger problem with the Indian media’s coverage of terror attacks, and the IM in particular. Press Council of India Chairman Justice Markandey Katju’s claim that the IM is a product of the media’s fertile imagination doesn’t help either. There may be a grain of truth in Katju’s claim, and it demands fact-checking right from the IM’s genesis. So far, the sole proof of the outfit’s existence are the mails it sent to news channels after the 2007 terror attacks. Though experts have blamed lack of coordination between state agencies and the NIA as a reason why the IM myth is yet to be busted, it could simply be the outcome of a desire for easy answers and instant gratification. As the then Gujarat DGP, PC Pande, pointed out in his press conference after the 2008 Gujarat blasts, “You remove S and I from SIMI and it becomes IM, that’s all.”

Pande was referring to the Gujarat blasts investigation, which can easily qualify as one of the shoddiest ever. Nearly 70 accused continue to languish in Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Jail with the trial yet to begin. The Gujarat Police had named six ‘masterminds’ in a span of three weeks. A 2009 investigation by TEHELKA tracked down the star witness of the blasts, who tore the police theory apart, proving that those implicated in the case were, in fact, innocent. Surprisingly, the chargesheet suggests the police had been keeping a tab on their activities. How could these men carry out the attacks if they were already under surveillance? That question remains unanswered, and unasked by the media.

Ever since, the country has witnessed several terror attacks with roughly two dozen masterminds and a horrifying number of the accused detained, arrested and acquitted in several cases, including blasts at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, Pune’s German Bakery, Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium, and the 2006 Mumbai serial bombings. In the much publicised German Bakery case, the Mumbai ATS picked up the wrong person, who was later acquitted with a public apology. But, post the recent Hyderabad blasts, the police again knocked on the doors of six men who were acquitted in the Mecca Masjid case, and detained them for questioning.

Though it may be too soon to nail the real culprits, with the police still struggling with the forensics of the case, it is time the investigative agencies came clean on the IM theory, backed by facts and details. It’s also time the contradictory claims about the Bhatkal brothers (Yasin Bhatkal, admittedly the planter of bombs in most cases, is still in the country, but hasn’t been tracked down) were resolved. If the prime accused in the 12-odd cases attributed to the IM are behind bars, why are there glaring discrepancies in the versions offered by various agencies? A similar question must be asked of Sanatan Sanstha and Abhinav Bharat, outfits formed around the same time as the IM. Perhaps, it would be a good idea for Shinde to get the investigative agencies to put a stop on selective leaks to the media, and get the Delhi Police Special Cell, the NIA and the Mumbai ATS to sit together and act on the basis of evidence. Till then, myths, both old and new, will continue to flourish.

http://tehelka.com/who-will-bell-the-im-cat/

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‘I Was Picked Up Because I Lived In The Same House As The Other Accused’ – By Imran Khan (Mar 9, 2013, Tehelka)

Why do you think charges against you were dropped? I think they did not find any prosecutable evidence against me. And they couldn’t create fake evidence against me. On what basis were you apprehended? The immediate motivation, I think, came from the fact that I was living in the same house where the other accused in the case lived. When the police came to arrest them, they didn’t know I lived in the same house. When they realised that I am a journalist, they started connecting the dots haphazardly. And linked me in the so-called assassination plot.

What kind of interrogation were you subjected to? Did it include physical torture? We were arrested on 29 August 2012. The interrogation started on 31 August. Initially, two men from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) interrogated me. The first question they asked me was whether I was from Jammu and Kashmir. They were sympathetic towards me in the beginning. But one of the things that really shocked me was when they asked if I was regular with my prayers. You kind of guess from their questions the kind of profiling they attempt to do. I was questioned by about 10 to 12 security agencies, including the NIA, and the Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala and Gujarat police. The other accused were tortured. One of them was beaten, hung upside down, and petrol was poured over his genitals. Nerves to his legs have been permanently damaged and he can no longer walk straight. And another accused, Obaid-ur- Rehman (from Hyderabad), had his index finger broken during interrogation. They were also subjected to electric shocks on their genitals.

Based on your personal experience how do you assess the Indian investigative process? Are the investigating agencies biased against Muslim suspects? One thing is certain: they are not sensitive towards certain communities. It’s more like stereotyping. When it comes to a particular kind of charges, they look for particular victims. When it comes to Muslims there is greater insensitivity, I think. The bias is rooted in the investigative process. Are the investigating agencies prejudiced or objective in their investigations? It depends. When they want to be objective, they act objectively. When they want to be prejudiced, they behave likewise. They have a set pattern to dealing with such cases.

Do you think the media was fair and objective in covering your version of the events? The media, barring a few exceptions, wasn’t objective and fair. And it was because this was a terrorism case, where, according to the media, the accused were high-profile persons. We were all well established Muslim youths who were working in reputed companies, publications and defence establishments. The media had enough ‘masala’ to cook a spicy dish. And that is what it did. Do you think your friends will also be freed? I am very hopeful that they will be freed. The question is not whether they will be freed or not, but when? Because what happens in such cases is, courts, for lack of evidence, acquit most of the accused. But after spending years behind bars, freedom is meaningless.

Do you feel there is a need for judicial or legal review of the UAPA (Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act)? There is a strong case for legal review. Although the Act is less draconian, than its predecessors like POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), it has very strict provisions. Especially when innocents are framed, it is very difficult for them to get bail. I am not saying the police always pick innocent people. There might be genuine cases. But when it comes to innocent people, they have no legal aid at their disposal.

http://tehelka.com/i-was-picked-up-because-i-lived-in-the-same-house-as-the-other-accused/

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Theocracy via ‘Democracy’ – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Mar 1, 2013, Countercurrents)

Consolidation of ‘majority’ community after careful vilification of minorities at different places have resulted in massive mandates both at the Centre in 1985 as well as in Gujarat post 2002. Such trends are dangerous but continuously being used by political parties for their own purposes. India cannot afford to repeat them as it would only be at the cost of peace and stability of the country. A fatal incident on this day exactly 11 years back in a nondescript town of Godhra in Gujarat changed the face of the state and misused by the ruling elite of the state for its political purposes. On February 27th, 2002, S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt by the miscreants killing 59 innocent travellers in the train. It was a heinous crime which jolted everyone who listened and saw the eye witnessed account. After that what happened in Gujarat is a blot to the democratic governance anywhere in the world. It was said that that the Godhra’s carnage was instigated by the Muslims and hence the people had a right to ‘teach’ them a good lesson. For days the state of Gujarat forgot its ‘rajdharma’ and allowed the anti-social communal elements solidly supported by the state and its administration to butcher and kill Muslims all over the state.

The state machinery abdicated its responsibility to act as a protector for all the people living in the state irrespective of their religion. Instead, its leader had a field day, vilifying Muslims and instigating the goons and thugs of the Hindutva variety. In the next fortnight we saw the worst kind of slaughtering of innocent people in Gujarat with active participation of the state authorities in connivance with the political thugs who were out rightly spreading hatred for their political gains. Over three thousand Muslims were killed in the so-called ‘communal riots’ which were nothing but organized pogroms by the state. Gujarat state was systematically isolating Muslims and the power elite there communalized the entire operation. The relief camps tell the story of the fear in the minds of Muslims. The goons were given political protection and some of them became Ministers too but since they were so called upper caste Hindus hence nothing matter. Contrary to this, Muslims were targeted by the police and arrested for reacting.

There is no doubt that the incident of Godhra was carnage of innocent people yet it is the duty of the state to investigate the incident impartially and protect the people. You cannot allow the Muslims of Ahemedbad, Baroda, Bharuch and elsewhere to be killed by the religious thugs in the name of ‘retaliation’ for the Godhra carnage. It is sad that the Indian state has allowed itself to be hijacked and communalized by such majoritarian tendencies where any crime committed by a criminal belonging to minority community is painted as the ‘activity’ and ‘thought’ of the community and hence to ‘rectify’ the champions of ‘Hindu nationalism’ must take to street and teach them a lesson. Gujarat incident of a communalized state is not the only one in the history of India but it continues with our selective targeting and leakages of the information through media to vitiate the atmosphere. Prior to Gujarat we saw the state managed pogrom of Sikhs in Delhi in the aftermath of her assassination by those who happened to be Sikhs. The goons this time belong to the Congress Party but in their faith and belief they were not different than the thugs of Gujarat who killed Muslims in the Post Godhra carnage. For years, every Sikh in Delhi had to bear the brunt of being a ‘terrorist’ and traitor who felt happy when ‘Indira Gandhi was assassinated’.

For years the majoritarian tendencies find ways to violently oppose the assertion of the minorities and marginalized and tag them. The duty of a secular state is to handle these issues with great sensitivity and utmost impartiality. But in these cases and later on many other occasions, Indian state actually turned out to be a Hindu state which has to ‘honor’ the sensitivity of the ‘upper castes’ but react violently to the reactions and assertions of minorities and marginalized. One can compare these things with violence against Muslims in the aftermath of Ayodhya demolition in 1992. There have been communal disturbances in different parts of the country including Mumbai but the perpetrators of these riots only got legitimacy through manipulating our electoral system. The so called majority people got power and prestige and legitimized their anger in the name of ‘national’ ‘sentiments’ or people’s consciousness but our jails were filled with Muslim youths in the name of terrorism. …

Some time back a senior army officer told me that Maoists are our own people and hence the army cannot wage a war against them. I was amazed because the same idea does not come when the army battle in Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland …. Why are the people in these regions not our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, why no sympathy is generated for them and the answer lies in the complete communal mindset prevailing in our system where Muslims, or people from north east are not our own and looked down in suspicion. Such a stereotyping of communities is dangerous for the well-being of our society and national integration. India needs to grow up and speak up against communal agenda of political parties as well as our power elite which strengthen stereotyping of communities for their own political benefit. Such unlawful arrests as well as vilification of Muslims in particular will only alienate them further and help those who want the gap between different communities grow so that their agendas for a divisive India succeed. We must stand and counted against such dangerous stereotyping which is against our national interest. Any political victory after marginalizing the minorities will not strengthen democracy but will only benefit those who wish to install Hindu theocracy in India under the garb of democracy.

http://www.countercurrents.org/rawat010313.htm

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Ardent Atmosphere Prevails In Manipur Over Probe Into Extrajudicial Killings – By RK Suresh (Mar 4, 2013, Tehelka)

In Manipur, families of over 1500 victims of extrajudicial execution are eagerly awaiting justice as the SC appointed Inquiry Committee reached Imphal on Saturday to begin probe into the summary executions of seven unarmed civilians. The independent probe team led by former SC Justice Santosh Hegde, former Chief ECI JM Lyngdoh and retired Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar reached Imphal on Saturday amid an ardent tone among the public who are eager to find out the truth about 1528 cases of reported fake encounter killings. Laishram Gyaneshori, President of Thangmeiband Women Society observed, “We have been demanding justice for a long time; my appeal to the new probe team is to expose these cruel army personnel and police commandos who have slaughtered our sons.”

Acknowledging the positive response of Supreme Court towards the families of the victims of extrajudicial executions, family members and human right activists are hoping that upcoming independent probe will deliver a long denied justice, and expose the harsh truth of summary killings of innocent and unarmed victims. Ningthoujam Neena Devi, one of the petitioners who filed the PIL on behalf of over 2000 bereaved families said, “My only wish is to let the world know how innocent people in Manipur are reeling under critical human right violations. I have already lost my faith in the system, so I am hoping that humanity itself will save further loss of innocent lives.”

Expressing strong doubts against the credibility and intentions of security personnel engaging in CI Ops in the state, a Supreme Court bench led by Aftab Alam on January 4 had ordered an independent probe in the alleged killings of Chongtham Umakanta, Elangbam Kiranjit, Akoijam Priyobrata, Kh Orsonjit, Phisubam Md Azad and cousins Nameirakpam Nobo and Nameirakpam Gobin. In revealing information from fact finding NGOs, there seemed to be serious doubts on the authenticity of report filed by the security force about the encounter killings of Elangbam Kiranjit and Chongtham Umakanta. According to findings of the respective district magistrates, both murders were committed at the same place and under same circumstance to another established fake encounter of L Satish.

According to post mortem reports, both victims had severe torture marks which were perpetrated before shooting them. Even the Supreme Court seemed to have similar views on the rest of the victims in the six cases to be probed. “How can a 12 year old be a terrorist?” was the remark of Justice Ranjana citing the killing of Md Azad on 4 March 2009. Substantiating doubts, Azad’s teacher at thePhubakchaoHigh Schoolwho witnessed his student being gruesomely murdered said, “I saw Azad being pushed and kicked at back by the commandoes and dragged to the paddy field in full view of half the villagers. In a shocking turn of event, two of the police commandos who were standing behind fired at the boy when he begged for his life with folded palms. The boy began writhing violently from the bullet shots. It was extremely painful to watch so shouted at the police to stop. In response, the police commandos fired another shot at the boy after which the writhing ceased.” More than a dozen people claimed that they saw the ruthless killing of the child by security personnel.

An ardent atmosphere prevails within and outside Manipur with high expectations to find out the facts about the existence of state sponsored genocide in the name of counter insurgency. “Right now, Manipur is in chaos where human lives have no value; we are falling into a deep abyss of darkness and fear. As a mother, I strongly appeal the concerned authority to save our children and future generations from this futile slaughtering,” appealed Soibam Momon, the co-convenor of Sharmila Kanba Lup. For people like Kh Lata, mother of Kh Orsonjit, positive feedback from the SC has given hope of fulfilling justice which was denied for all these years. Lata Devi expressed, “I always knew that my son was innocent, but my plea for justice have been ignored by the government and all concerned authority till now. My 19 year old son was a mere supplier of generator fuel for Tata Indicom Towers; the police tortured and killed him for the money he was carrying.” …

http://tehelka.com/ardent-atmosphere-prevails-in-manipur-over-probe-into-killings/

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Abhishek Verma: The Dealer’s Deceit – By Brijesh Pandey (Mar 9, 2013, Tehelka)

He was the king of guile, with a web of deceit so confidently woven that it would be a while before even the best of the best realised that they had been taken for a ride. Nothing escaped him. In his world, everything was grand. From the grand lie of opulence and power, which fed on several smaller lies, to the naked display of desire, which had the high and mighty panting for more. Welcome to the world of Abhishek Verma, defence middleman and conman extraordinaire. Currently languishing in Delhi’s Tihar Jail since 9 June 2012, he is someone without whom no defence deal would be complete. With their names resurfacing in the ongoing AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, Verma, 44, and his Romanian wife Anca Maria Neacsu, who have been in Tihar for the past 10 months, find themselves under scrutiny once again. Though Verma’s involvement in the chopper scam is yet to be established, investigating agencies are leaving nothing to chance and probing every aspect of the deal.

So what went wrong for this high flier? A land deal gone sour with one-time business partner and US attorney C Edmont Allen turned the tables on him. The partners fell apart after a Greater Noida land deal went wrong. After much bickering, Allen was saddled with a liability of Rs 1 crore. The CBI also investigated the roles of senior Congressman Jagdish Tytler and his fashion designer son Siddartha in connection with this deal. In 2012, Verma filed a criminal suit against Allen in the US for damages accrued in the said land deal in the Yamuna Expressway. This led to perhaps one of the most rocky chapters in Verma’s life. Allen felt he was being swindled of both land and money (the allotment was scrapped by the authorities and a fine was imposed on Ganton, the firm Allen owned), made a complaint to Indian authorities and started sending incriminating documents to investigating agencies, including the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Allen alleged these documents were given to him by Verma and contained classified communication between Defence Minister AK Antony and various firms about defence outlays. The documents, he said, also contained minutes of meetings where defence acquisition plans were discussed. Besides this, Allen wrote six letters to Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and senior officers of the CBI and ED about how despite being blacklisted, Verma continued to interact freely with defence ministry officials. In June 2012, Verma’s past finally caught up with him, when the CBI registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act against him and his wife Anca. According to the agency, Verma received payoffs from the Swiss company Rheinmettal Air Defence to ensure that the firm was not blacklisted. Rheinmettal is involved in the manufacture of air defence systems and in 2010, it was proposed that the firm be blacklisted after the CBI filed a chargesheet against it.

The company hired for the job was Ganton US, owned by Edmont Allen. According to sources, Ganton is a 100 percent subsidiary of Ganton India, and was paid $353,000 to give as bribes to push the deal through. Anca was director of Ganton India and many other companies. Sources in the CBI and people familiar with Verma’s history say that this union was a mutually beneficial one. Anca was no stranger to the murky world of arms deals and the fact that she was able to meet the then MoS for Defence Pallam Raju as a representative of the Swiss arms manufacturer showed her clout and access in the ministry. Insiders say that given Verma’s track record, there were not many who liked to be seen with him. In this scenario, Anca was the ideal front for him and it worked out pretty fine for both of them, till the deal came unstuck. Against the backdrop of the AgustaWestland scam, the letters written by Allen have come as a major embarrassment for the government.

However, what surprises investigators is that despite being under probe in the Naval War Room Leak case, Verma continued bribing officials and bending rules in defence purchases with impunity. He allegedly made a fortune from a number of arms deals involving European, Israeli and Russian defence companies, and has parked $410 million in the US. In the Naval War Room Leak case, in which the CBI chargesheeted among others, serving and retired military officials for conspiring to trade off secret documents, Verma was accused of having close links with the prime accused Ravi Shankaran, a retired Indian Navy officer, who is now facing extradition from the UK to India. …

http://tehelka.com/abhishek-verma-the-dealers-deceit/

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The War’s Old-New Theatre – By S.N.M. Abdi (Mar 11, 2013, Outlook)

No sooner had the Union home ministry identified Jharkhand as the state worst affected by left-wing extremism in 2012 than Maoists gunned down 11 policemen in the Katiya forest of Latehar district. It was almost as if the January 7 massacre of 10 CRPF and one Jharkhand Jaguar jawan was expressly meant to underscore the government’s admission of the sharp ascendancy in the trajectory of Maoist violence in the mineral-rich state. The clouds of war – civil war to be precise – indeed hang low over Jharkhand. One needn’t venture deep into the countryside; the siege within is evident virtually at the doorsteps of urban zones like Ranchi, Dhanbad, Jamshedpur, Daltonganj, Chaibasa, Gomoh and Giridih. On a road journey through these areas, Outlook witnessed surreal scenes straight out of a war movie: searchlights revolving menacingly atop fortified CRPF camps; monstrously ugly mine-protected vehicles or MPVs, designed to coolly withstand a 21-kilo (TNT) blast; sniffer dogs straining at the leash; helicopters ready for takeoff at the bark of a command, and boots pounding the ground like there’s no tomorrow.

Indeed, Jharkhand witnessed more killings by Maoists last year than even Chhattisgarh, whose forested Bastar region is regarded as the epicentre of left-wing extremism in India. Out of 409 Maoist killings in 2012 (296 civilian and 113 security personnel), Jharkhand accounted for as many as 160; ahead of Chhattisgarh (107), Orissa (45), Bihar (43), Maharashtra (41) and Andhra Pradesh (13) by a huge margin. The unacceptably high death toll in Jharkhand’s killing fields last year was capped, as 2013 dawned, by the Katiya bloodbath – unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry after Maoists confessed to planting explosives in the belly of a slain jawan to maximise casualties. And on its heels came a landmine blast in Bokaro’s Jhumra Hills, which left a dozen CRPF jawans severely wounded during combing operations. All this is igniting fears in the security establishment that Jharkhand, along with Bihar’s contiguous Gaya and Aurangabad districts, will upstage the iconic Abujmarh as the bloodiest and biggest theatre of red revolt against New Delhi.

But why is left-wing extremism in full bloom in this tribal state? Telesphore Toppo, the 73-year-old Archbishop of Ranchi and obviously a man of peace, has a blunt explanation: “Jharkhand was created to protect the interests of tribals. But political parties from the word go started exploiting the very tribals whose cause they were supposed to espouse. When Maoists first sneaked into Jharkhand, conditions were ideal for sowing the seeds of rebellion. The seeds they scattered flowered in no time because the ground was fertile. Even today there is no justice in Jharkhand although the state’s coffers are overflowing. And there can’t be peace without justice. Tribal men go to Punjab or Haryana in droves to toil in brick kilns, while the women slog as domestic help in Delhi. Those who are left behind join the Maoists.” According to Fr Toppo, the tribals – comprising 28 per cent of Jharkhand’s population – are easy pickings for Maoist recruiters not only because of their poverty and backwardness but also due to the excesses committed by security forces. He recalled the killing of a tribal girl by CRPF during Operation Green Hunt in 2010. The victim’s legs and hands were tied to a bamboo pole as though she was not a human being but an animal that had been hunted down. Such barbarism and savagery fuel tribal rage, intensifying the armed conflict between the Maoists and the state.

“Out of 24 districts,” says Jharkhand director-general of police Gouri Shankar Rath, “21 are Maoist-affected today; earlier Maoists were active only in 18 districts.” He is packing his bags for a retired life, but could well be re-employed because he is perceived as a battle-hardened warrior against left-wing extremism. “I have been battling Maoists for 12 years,” he goes on to say. “Forty per cent of my police force is deployed against them. But Maoism hasn’t lost its appeal; in fact, it’s growing dangerously. Now, statistically, we are the worst-affected state.” This is a pity, because, “barring Maoism, on other fronts – caste, communal, agrarian and educational – we are more peaceful than other states.” Leafing through a classified report, Rath reels off the names of Maoist groups – besides the mainline Communist Party of India (Maoist) – that are on the rampage across Jharkhand: the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), Tritya Sammelan Prastuti Committee (TSPC), Shashtra People’s Morcha (SPM), Sangharsh Jan Mukti Morcha (SJMM) and Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC). “In 2011, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was responsible for 59 per cent of the violence. Last year, it dipped to 44 per cent. But splinter groups, particularly PLFI and TSPC, went into overdrive in 2012, making Jharkhand the worst-affected state in the whole country.”

Rath is not finished yet. “It’s our misfortune,” he says, “that we’re surrounded by Maoist-affected states – Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and beyond, Andhra – giving Maoists strategic depth. Another major handicap is our dense forests. Of course, Maoism is no ordinary law and order problem. It’s tied to governance and development – or rather the lack of it! We are saddled with widespread displacement due to mining activities and industrialisation, creating favourable conditions for left-wing extremism to flourish. And to top it all, Jharkhand is politically so unstable; no government here has lasted for five years; there have been eight CMs in 12 years and President’s rule has been clamped on it thrice. So there we are.” As Jharkhand entered its third bout of President’s rule in January, New Delhi appointed two bureaucrats to advise Governor Syed Ahmed. The choice of advisors – former home secretary Madhukar Gupta and ex-CRPF DG K. Vijay Kumar (see interview) – clearly show that fighting Maoists is a top priority. Kumar has been given charge of the home department; he is now virtually the home minister of Jharkhand. He has at his command 78 companies of CRPF and 100 companies of state police to take the battle into the “enemy” camp. The “enemy” is the Communist Party of India (Maoist)’s Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh regional committee which is believed to deploy no less than 1,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) in dalams, or armed squad formations, in Jharkhand. …

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?284092

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Book Review

Ayodhya: The Dark Night: The Secret History of Rama’s Appearance in Babri Masjid

Author: Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K. Jha
Reviewed by: A.G. Noorani
Available at: HarperCollins, A 53, Sector 57 NOIDA, UP India, ISBN: 9789350296004 Price: Rs. 499.00.http://www.harpercollins.co.in/
Review:
How a mosque became a temple (Feb 23, 2013, Frontline) The Sangh Parivar is all set to revive the Ayodhya issue and for the same reason for which it is seeking to make Narendra Modi its frontman in 2014. It is desperate because it has no vote getter. L.K. Advani’s ambitions have far outrun his abilities as a vote getter. He draws a yawn even in the parivar. Radhika Ramaseshan, a correspondent very much in the know, reported a meeting on January 31, 2013, at the residence of Shripad Yeso Naik, MP, a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) regular, which was attended by Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj. The long-neglected Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s leaders Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia, Champak Rai and Dinesh Kumar dusted off the cobwebs that had covered them to make themselves presentable at the meeting ( The Telegraph, February 1, 2013). On February 7, the VHP’s steering committee meeting at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad passed a resolution on the construction of a Ram temple on the ruins of the Babri Masjid which the parivar demolished 20 years ago on December 6, 1992. Radhika Ramaseshan reported: “VHP sources admitted that the agenda was political and was drawn up with the 2014 elections in mind and the possibility that the recycled Ayodhya card might help the BJP in the Hindu belt and the west. They also said the blueprint was firmed up in conjunction with the RSS.” One of the reasons for the meeting on January 31 was to “prop up a ‘Hindutva’ context for Narendra Modi’s prospective projection nationally”. This book could not have made a more timely appearance. It uncovers a wider plot to recast the Indian polity, of which the takeover of the Babri Masjid on the night of December 22-23, 1949, was but a subplot. It is by far the most revealing book on that sordid episode. The authors, both Delhi-based journalists, did fieldwork for years. Their stupendous research in the archives would do any scholar proud. Two lies used repeatedly to cover up the crime are exposed; namely, that the idol of Ram “appeared” that night as L.K. Advani asserted on August 1, 2003. He has also systematically spread the tale that no prayers were said at the mosque for years. The RSS’ organ Organiser said it “meticulously appeared” (March 29, 1987).

The authors record the testimony of the Babri Masjid’s last muezzin, Muhammad Ismail, who put up a fierce resistance to the intruders who had scaled the walls and were about to plant the idol. He was beaten up and forced to flee and he spent the remaining years of his life as a muezzin in a mosque in Paharganj Ghosania on the outskirts of Faizabad. The muezzin delivers the azan, the call to prayer, and looks after the mosque. The imam leads the prayers five times a day. Haji Abdul Ghaffar, who lived in Mohalla Qaziana in Ayodhya, functioned as imam of the Babri Masjid from 1930 to 1949. His father, Maulvi Abdul Qadir, was imam from 1901 to 1930. Abdul Ghaffar wrote a book Gungashta Haalat Ayodhya, Awadh, which contains a wealth of information and deserves to be translated into English. The authors tracked down the principal actors. Their lively, evocative style of writing brings the events to life. They had located some of the critical eyewitnesses too. It was not religion but politics, specifically the lure of power and Advani’s prime ministerial ambitions, which inspired the campaign. In 1990 he waded through pools of blood in his rath yatra from the Somnath temple in Gujarat to Ayodhya. Immediately on the passing of the BJP’s Palampur (Himachal Pradesh) resolution on Ayodhya on June 11, 1989, Advani said, “I am sure it will translate into votes.” On December 3, 1989, after the general elections, he expressed satisfaction that the issue had contributed to the BJP’s success. On February 24, 1991, as India teetered towards another election, he was confident that the issue would “influence the electoral verdict in favour of the BJP”. On June 18, 1991, he made this pathetic confession: “Had I not played the Ram factor effectively, I would have definitely lost from the New Delhi constituency.” Shortly after the demolition of the Babri Mosque on December 6, 1992, and another wave of carnage that came in its train, Advani wrote that if Muslims were to identify themselves with the concept of Hindutva there would not be any reason for riots to take place (The Times of India, January 30, 1993). In July 1992, he argued in the Lok Sabha Speaker’s chamber: “You must recognise the fact that from two seats in Parliament in 1985 we have come to 117 seats in 1991. This has happened primarily because we took up this issue [Ayodhya].” …

The authors recall: “The hands that pumped bullets into the chest of the Mahatma were that of Nathuram Godse, but, as was proved later, the assassination was part of a conspiracy hatched by top Hindu Mahasabha leaders, led by V.D. Savarkar, whose prime objectives were to snatch political initiative from the Congress and destabilise all efforts to uphold secularism in India. The conspiracy to kill Gandhi could not remain hidden for long even though the trial, held immediately after the assassination, had failed to uncover its extent. “The surreptitious occupation of the Babri Masjid was an act planned by almost the same set of people about two years later—on the night of December 22, 1949. It was, in many ways, a reflection of the same brutalised atmosphere that saw Gandhi being murdered. Neither the conspirators nor their underlying objectives were different. In both instances, the conspirators belonged to the Hindu Mahasabha leadership—some of the prime movers of the planting of the idol had been the prime accused in the Gandhi murder case—and their objective this time too was to wrest the political centre stage from the Congress by provoking large-scale Hindu mobilisation in the name of the Lord Rama.” Yet the two incidents differed—as much in the modus operandi used by Hindu communalists as in the manner in which the government and the ruling party, the Congress, responded to them. While the Mahatma was killed in full public view in broad daylight, the Babri Masjid was converted into a temple secretly, in the dead of night. Also, while the conspiracy to kill the Mahatma was probed thoroughly by a commission set up by the Government of India, albeit two decades later, no such inquiry was conducted to unmask the plot and the plotters behind the forcible conversion of the Babri Masjid into a temple. “As a result, an event that so remarkably changed the political discourse in India continues to be treated as a localised crime committed spontaneously by a handful of local people led, of course, by Abhiram Das, a local sadhu. It was, however a well-planned conspiracy involving national, provincial and local level leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha undertaken with the objective of reviving the party’s political fortunes that were lost in the aftermath of the Gandhi assassination. …

The first information report (FIR) lodged at 9 a.m. on December 23, 1949, hours after the Ram idol was installed, speaks for itself. Pandit Ramdeo Dubey, officer-in-charge, Ayodhya Police Station, Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, lodged this FIR against Abhiram Das, Ram Sakal Das, Sudarshan Das and 50 to 60 other persons, whose names were not known, under Sections 147 (rioting), 448 (trespassing) and 295 (defiling a place of worship) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): “That at about 7 in the morning when I (Ramdeo Dubey) reached the Janmabhoomi, I came to know from Mata Prasad [Constable No. 7, Ayodhya Police Station] that a group of 50 to 60 persons have entered the Babri Masjid by breaking open the locks of the compound and also by scaling the walls and staircases and placed an idol of Shri Bhagwan in it and scribbled sketches of Sita, Ramji, etc. in saffron and yellow colours on the inner and outer walls of it. That Hans Raj [Constable No. 70, who was on duty at the time when 50-60 persons entered] stopped them [from doing so] but they did not care. The PAC [Provincial Armed Constabulary] guards present there were called for help. But by then the people had already entered the mosque. Senior district officials visited the site and got into action. Later on, a mob of five to six thousand people gathered and tried to enter into the mosque raising religious slogans and singing kirtans. But due to proper arrangement, nothing happened. Committers of crime [Abhi] Ram Das, [Ram] Sakal Das, Sudarshan Das with 50 to 60 persons, names not known, have desecrated [ naapaak kiya hai] the mosque by trespassing the mosque through rioting and placing idol in it. Officers on duty and many other people have seen it. So the case has been checked. It is found correct.” Ramachandra Das Paramhans, who told The New York Times, “I am the very man who put the idol inside the masjid” (December 22, 1991), was nowhere on the scene. Many believed he had left town to attend the conference of the Hindu Mahasabha that was to begin on December 24 in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The man who had planted the idol was Abhiram Das. …

The demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 drew a fierce attack by a politician not only on the crime and its perpetrators, and on their entire outlook, but also on the acquiescence of “non-Congress centrist secular parties”. He wrote: “We were not conscious of our own strength either in 1977 or in 1989 and carried the BJP on our shoulders from strength to strength…. Religious fanaticism soon became the declared electoral platform of the BJP. Capture of power in UP led it to believe that it could capture power at the Centre by the same tactics…. “India is being pushed back into the dark ages by obscurantist, fundamentalist and fascist forces. Their appeasement… has today given them the strength and the audacity to seek to destroy the very basis of our nation state…. [T]he secular forces will have to unitedly and determinedly meet this challenge if India is to survive as a democratic, secular, progressive, liberal and modern nation.” It is hard to think of a stronger and more just denunciation of the BJP. It was written in The Sunday Observer of December 14, 1992. On November 13, 1993, he joined the BJP. The politician was Yashwant Sinha. To The Times of India he pleaded dishonestly that “by then the difference between communalism and secularism had blurred” (June 24, 2007). All the more reason for espousing secularism even more strongly. There was no such blurring between December 14, 1992, and November 13, 1993, at all; only the opening of a more promising avenue to power than his mentor Chandrashekhar could provide. As Finance Minister in the BJP-led regime he “consulted RSS leaders before I finalised the 1998 budget” (Confessions of a Swadeshi Reformer, page 183). But, of course, Yashwant Sinha was and is neither a secularist nor a communalist; neither a fascist nor a socialist. He is simply a committed opportunist. The likes of him will follow his example if the BJP shows signs of renewal. In this there is a lesson for all secularists, but mainly for the Muslims of India. They should by all means fight for redress of grievances which are serious; but it is an abdication of duty as citizens of a secular state to confine politics to redress of the community’s grievances. Secularism demands not detachment but involvement in the entire range of the nation’s activities—economic, social, political and constitutional. The course they have followed in recent decades has furthered the fortunes of the thugs in New Delhi who claim to be their “leaders”, earned them favours and marginalised Muslims. The BJP would not have travelled as far as it did, nor would the Babri Masjid have been demolished if the Muslims of India had lent their shoulder to the cause of secularism. A lot of time has been wasted. It would be sheer folly to ignore the omens. The political clime is deteriorating fast. http://www.flonnet.com/fl3004/stories/20130308300408300.htm

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