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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 25th, 2013

by newsdigest on February 26, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Indian Americans outraged over bomb blasts in Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad

Thursday February 21, 2013

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has expressed its unequivocal condemnation of the twin bomb blasts in Hyderabad’s crowded Dilsukhnagar area that has claimed over a dozen lives and wounded scores of others.

IAMC is extending its deepest sympathies to the victims and families of those affected by these blasts. Once again, innocent people have been targeted by those motivated by hate and a twisted worldview that is devoid of basic compassion for fellow humans.

“The fact that the nation continues to suffer such senseless loss of life shows that our responses to earlier terror attacks have been deeply flawed and severely inadequate,” said Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. “Law enforcement agencies should conduct a thorough and transparent investigation before pressing charges against any individual or group,” added Mr. Khan.

The fact that some media outlets have started sensationalizing the incident by naming specific groups even before the investigation has progressed is highly irresponsible. As experience with several terror acts in recent years has shown, attempts to stereotype and scapegoat an entire community can devastate hundreds of innocent lives, ruined by having to spend years behind bars for the crimes of others, only to be found innocent later. The witch-hunts launched after the blasts in Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express and the multiple terror acts in Malegaon are some examples of the tragedy unleashed by inept and discriminatory law enforcement.

In this difficult hour, IAMC calls upon members of every community, especially the leadership of various organizations, to help foster communal amity and eschew any rhetoric that could build sectarian tensions.

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. 13 killed, 83 injured as twin blasts rock Hyderabad
http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/11-killed-scores-injured-in-hyderabad-blasts/article4439367.ece

2. Irresponsible and sensational media coverage glooms over Hyderabad twin bomb blasts
http://twocircles.net/2013feb22/irresponsible_and_sensational_media_coverage_glooms_over_hyderabad_serial_bomb_blasts.html

3. Two blasts rock Hyderabad, toll at least 11
http://twocircles.net/2013feb21/seven_killed_hyderabad_blast.html

4. Hyderabad twin blasts: Cries and chaos rent the air at hospitals
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18619866.cms

CONTACT:

Indian American Muslim Council
Ishaq Syed
Phone: (800) 839-7270
Email: info@iamc.com

Address:
6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
phone/fax: 1-800-839-7270
email: info@iamc.com
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Hyderabad blasts: Interruption of Hindutva organizations (Feb 21, 2013, Siasat)

Immediately after bomb explosion Dilsukhnagar, activists of ABVP, BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal assembled at the site of the bomb blast. They obstructed the investigating agencies in collecting evidences. In such cases, it is essential to keep the site of the incident safe because there is an apprehension that necessary evidences could be destroyed. This would create confusions in finding out the system of explosions and to identify the culprits.

On such occasions, Hindutva outfits exhibit their enthusiasm and without knowing the facts, start blaming a particular community Hindutva activists gathered in large numbers at Dilsukhnagar yesterday and started shouting slogans against a particular community. They also began to spread venom speeches.

Very often, it was observed that police also doesn’t bother to preserve the site of the incident. In the case of Bomb last case of Dilsukhnagar, police didn’t take care to preserve evidences. Hindutva activists obstructed the investigating officials from reaching the site of bomb explosion. These activists reached the place of bomb blast and disturbed the articles which were shattered. Taking advantage of this situation, BJP activists continued shouting slogans against the Muslims.

http://www.siasat.com/english/news/interruption-hindutva-organizations

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CJI expresses concern over ‘media trial’ (Feb 23, 2013, Times of India)

Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir today expressed grave concern over growing practise of “media trial” and said it could prejudice against the accused. “(Media trial) it is a matter of grave concern. This should not happen,” Kabir told reporters on the sidelines of East Zone Regional Judicial Conference on ‘Administration of Criminal Justice: Issues and Challenges’ here.

“It (media trial) can prejudice against an accused in a case,” he said. “The issue should be left to the courts to decide,” the CJI added. In reply to a question on reducing the age of juvenile from existing 18 years to 16, the demand for which came from different corners in view of involvement of a juvenile in Delhi gangarape case, Kabir said, “It can be only done by Parliament and nobody else can do it.”

On the issue of witness protection, the CJI said there should be proper protection for witnesses. “Witness protection should be there,” he said. Asked if he was satisfied with the level of witness protection now, Kabir said it should be more developed. Earlier, addressing the conference, Kabir said the concept of witness protection in the country was almost not available.

“There is not even proper sitting arrangement for witness in courts…we are not providing even minimum facilities to witnesses,” he said. The three-day conference organised by Patna High Court Bihar Judicial Acadey and National Judicial Academy was inaugurated here yesterday.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18643589.cms

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Indian-Americans condemn Hyderabad blasts (Feb 23, 2013, Times of India)

Indian-Americans have condemned the Hyderabad bomb blasts, demanding a speedy investigation into the incident to bring the culprits to justice. In a statement, the Indian National Overseas Congress described the blasts as a crime against humanity.

Calling the bombings as terrorist act, INOC president George Abraham urged the State and Central law enforcement agencies to conduct a speedy investigation and punish the perpetrators to the full extent of the law.

Another Indian American group NRI-SAHI demanded a CBI probe into the attack. “We offer our condolences and sympathies to the families of the people who died in the attack and pray for the recovery of those who were injured in the attack,” a statement said. Two powerful blasts in a crowded area close to a cluster of bus stands in Hyderabad killed 16 people and injured over 100 on Thursday.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18644818.cms

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No change in policy on visa to Modi: US (Feb 19, 2013, IBN)

The European Union and the United Kingdom may have had a rethink on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, but the USA is certainly not warming up to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader.

Speaking to CNN-IBN, US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake has said that there is no change in the American policy as far as granting visa t to the Gujarat Chief Minister is concerned.

“There is no question of changing or revising or softening. We may revise (the decision of visa to Modi) depending on Indian justice system completing cases against him only,” said the US Assistant Secretary of State.

Blake further told CNN-IBN that anyone could apply for a visa to the US, but the decision to grant it would depend on many factors. According to the US Assistant Secretary of State, a judicial exoneration would be one factor in reconsidering US policy on visa to the BJP leader.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/no-change-in-policy-on-visa-to-narendra-modi-us/373861-37-64.html

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IPS officer arrested in Ishrat fake encounter (Feb 21, 2013, Deccan Herald)

In a major development in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested IPS officer G L Singhal, one of the 20 officers named in the case. Singhal, then Assistant Commissioner of Police Crime Branch, was taken into custody on Thursday while searches have been held at his residence.

Now a Superintendent of Police at State Crime Records Bureau, Singhal has been described as the prime mover in the fake encounter by the Central agency. Besides Singhal, 20 other policemen were also named in the case, including DIG Vanzara, already in jail for his alleged role in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.

In 2004, Ahmedabad crime branch officials shot dead Jahan and three others – Javed Sheikh, Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana—in the city outskirts, alleging that they were members of the LeT and were on a mission to assassinate Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/313751/ishrat-jahan-encounter-cbi-arrests.html

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Ishrat Jahan fake encounter: Vaghela, Vanar to be CBI’s next targets (Feb 23, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)

After the arrest of IPS officer GL Singhal in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is set to take into custody two more accused in the case. Retired deputy superintendent of police (DySP) VD Vanar and suspended DySP KM Vaghela may be the CBI’s next targets. The two were posted as inspectors in 2004 in the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) and were part of the encounter team.

According to sources, Vanar and Vaghela are the key accused not only for the killing of Ishrat, but also for being part of the conspiracy and tampering with evidence. The officers were involved in bringing alleged militants Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana from Kashmir. They took a car from Madhya Pradesh to reach Jammu, picked the duo and brought them to Ahmedabad, the sources added. The two were then shown as members of a gang along with Ishrat, a 19-year-old college student from Mumbai, and Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh. All the four were killed in a fake encounter on June 15, 2004.

The militants were allegedly kept at an undisclosed place by Vanar and Vaghela, which proved the conspiracy angle in the Ishrat case. The CBI sleuths, who are busy in quizzing Singhal, are likely to arrest Vanar soon. “They may take the custody of Vaghela, who is currently lodged in Sabarmati jail for his role in the Sadik Jamal fake encounter case,” the sources said.

Vanar had served in the DCB for a longer period and was among those officers who were part of more than one encounter teams. His tenure as the inspector at Dariapur police station was recognised for his efforts to bring peace between Hindus and Muslims during the Rathyatra procession every year. Vaghela, according to police sources, was considered to be a close aide of DG Vanzara, the key accused in the Ishrat case.

http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/GUJ-AHD-ishrat-jahan-fake-encounter-vaghela-vanar-to-be-cbis-next-targets-4188919-NOR.html

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BJP govt failed in Dhar (Feb 21, 2013, Indian Express)

When a minister is made to wear a green gamcha to symbolise that he had betrayed the saffron (right-wing) cause, followed by his admission that he anticipated such humiliation, it reflects more on the government than an individual. The clashes on February 15 between right-wing organisations and the police at Bhojshala-Kamal Maula Masjid and the subsequent developments have proved that communal politics sooner or later acquires a life of its own.

In 2003, the disputed shrine in Dhar town had helped the BJP whip up communal passions to its advantage when the Congress was ruling the state. Now, 10 years later, it’s feeling the heat. The ASI arrangement allows Hindus and Muslims to pray on separate days at the shrine. But when Basant Panchmi falls on a Friday, Muslims can offer namaz between 1 pm and 3 pm and the Hindus before and after that. Hindu organisations, however, said this time they would have none of the ASI arrangement and rejected every suggestion to make concession for the minority community and openly warned of consequences if they were not allowed to pray the whole day.

What happened on February 15 left both the communities unhappy, the Hindus more so because activists were caned and beaten. Hindu organisations were left with deflated egos, and warned that they would make the BJP pay. Unlike 2006, when Basant Panchmi had similarly fallen on Friday, the government left everything to the local administration this time, despite knowing well that no appeals would work because tension had been building up on the ground. Saints attending the Maha Kumbh at Allahabad added fuel to fire.

If the government had been serious about implementing the ASI order, strict orders would have gone out for Hindus not to be allowed to gather in such large numbers at the shrine, at the time they were not supposed to. Once they had let that happen, there was little the administration could do to retrieve the situation. Now, given the intra-party tussle between the BJP – with senior minister Kailash Vijayvargiya on one side and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on the other – it is the administration that is being made a convenient scapegoat, with chorus growing for action against officials.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1077214/

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Murder of popular Muslim cleric sparks clashes in Bengal (Feb 21, 2013, Twocircles.net)

Imam of Park Circus Mosque and renowned cleric, popular for his oratory skills, Maulana Ruhul Quddus (49) was gunned down allegedly by a gang of goons, sparking violent protest. Maulana Quddus was allegedly killed by the communal force of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and ‘Hindu Sanghati’ wings at Herobhanga-Naliakhali Bazar areas under the Gopalpukur Panchayet area of Canning Police Station of the district South 24 Parganas on 19th February, around 1am. By morning as the news of his murder spread in the surrounding areas of South & North 24 Parganas, angry mobs gathered and ransacked houses and shops, and more than 200 houses were set ablaze. For a long time, his supporters refused to hand over the dead body of Maulana to the police and kept protesting, blocking the road in different places. Police had to resort to a lathi-charge to bring the situation under control. Section 144 has been imposed in the locality. Police officials had also sent Intelligence report to the Chief Minister that the incident may turn into communal riot.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee immediately swung into action and appealed for calm. “I appeal to the people to keep the peace at any cost. I assure that, administration will take necessary actions against the culprits. Government will be start a special investigation on this murder case and find out the real facts whether any groups was behind it or not,” she urged. Muslim leaders have alleged that from the past few years RSS-Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Hindu Sanghati workers have been continuously campaigning and spreading hatred against Muslims in the south and North 24 Parganas. Four month ago, Mualana Rejaul Karim was shot dead in Hatuganj under the diamond Harbour police station of South 24 Parganas, where too local residents had pointed fingers at the VHP workers. Police, however, has so far not been able to trace the real culprit or the motive behind the murder. With the murder of another Muslim cleric in the same district, the region is on boil now.

According to the TCN sources in the police and the district, after a religious conference (Jalsa) at Kachiamaria village of Kultali, near Jamtala Gopalganj, Maulana Quddus and another cleric Sirajul Islam Molla were coming back to his native village Dhoaghata, under Jibantala police station, 30 km from that area riding on a motorcycle. According to the statement of Molla, who was riding the bike, a group of four people forcibly stopped them showing arms and asked them to chant ‘Hindu Zindabad, Muslim Murdabad’. They then took the key of the motorcycle, their mobile phones and whatever money they had. Within minutes, one of them fired at Maulana Quddus, while Molla ran for his life. A police team under Prabin Tripathi reached the placed at Herobhanga Bazar as angry mob were pelting stones at the police and even tried to set their vehicle on fire. Police then had to resort to force to disperse the crowd. Several people have been injured. However, after Mamata Banrejee’s assurance of investigations and appeal for calm, the situation now is under control. Local Muslims have demanded that the WB CM should immediately visit the place; else they will not hand over the dead body of the Maulana for performing the last rites. State Minister Haider Aziz Shafwi, Jawed Ahmed Khan and many other Muslim leaders reached the spot and appealed for peace.

Hindu resistance party, ‘Hindu Sanghati’ leader Tapan Ghosh has, however, denied all cahrges. He told reporters, “In that area Muslims are always trying to hackle Hindu Community. Ruhul Quddus might have been an extremist and bearing lot of money on that night.” TCN sources confirmed that few days ago RSS backed Hindu Sanghati called a meeting at Subodh Mallick Square in Kolkata where many supporters from Canning and adjoining areas had joined the meeting. Maulana Ruhul Quddus was not only a Muslim cleric and a good orator, but he was also the Imam of a mosque at Darapara are in Park Circus, Kolkata. He was popular for his Bengali as well as Urdu speeches. In Khutba at Friday prayers he delivered his speech in Urdu, but in a gathering in the state he would speak in Bengali. He thus tried to build a bridge between Urdu and Bengali speaking people in the state, said Alam local youth of Dara Para Mosque.

His Namaz E Janaza was held on 20 February at 2.30 pm at Dhoaghata Village. More than 50000 people are supposed to have participated in his Janaza Namaz. Jamiat Ulema-E-Hind State Secretary Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury, All Bengal Minority Youth federation State Secretary Md Kamruz Zaman, State President of All India Milli Council Qari Fazlur Rahman, Jamat e Islami Hind State President Md Nuruddin, Welfare Party’s State President Dr Raisuddin, SDPI state President Taidul Islam, CPIML Liberation leader Dr Partho Ghosh, Pirjada of Furfura Sharif Kashem Siddiqui, Human Rights organization APCR state Secretary Masiur Rahman, State Secretary of Madrasa Students Union Ahsanul Bari and many others Muslim personalities expressed their shock and appealed to the Government to stop the communal activities of the Hindutva forces and bringing to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime. According to police sources, the atmosphere is still tense in the area, but they are closing monitoring the situations. Although section 144 is still imposed, they may withdraw it soon, said a district police official. Local residents are scared that the incident may fuel communal tension if the ongoing anti-Muslims agitations by the Hindutva forces of the RSS- VHP are not controlled in the Canning area.

http://twocircles.net/2013feb21/murder_popular_muslim_cleric_sparks_clashes_bengal.html

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Dowry, assault: Ex-ACP in the dock (Feb 23, 2013, DNA India)

Alleging harassment for dowry, a woman has lodged apolice complaint against her husband and in-laws on February 14. Her father-in-law happens to be a retired assistant commissioner of police (ACP). Apart from demanding dowry, the victim has alleged, her husband had also forced her into having unnatural sex with him. The complainanthas further claimed that her in-laws had been threatening her with some obscene photographs that they had taken of her. The accused have been identified as Balaji Jadhav, the ex-ACP, his wife Indumati Jadhav and their son Sagar.

According to the MHB Colony police, the complainant lived with her in-laws in Borivli (W) but their relationship started souring in 2005 when the family began demanding dowry. “She said since she failed to comply with their demands, they took obscene photographs of her on their mobile phones and threatened her. She was also assaulted,” a police officer said.

Sources said the victim’s parents, residents of Ahmednagar, had filed a complaint with the Kopar Gaon police. “The case was transferred to the MHB Colony police as the incidents had taken place in their jurisdiction,” said Madhukar Awte, senior inspector of Kopar Gaon police station.

The MHB Colony police registered a case under sections 498A (husband or relative of husband subjecting the wife to cruelty), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (criminal intimidation), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 377 (unnatural offences), 376A (intercourse by a man with his wife during separation) and 384 (punishment for extortion) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of IT Act.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1803237

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Opinions and Editorials

Nothing Learnt – B. Raman (Feb 23, 2013, Outlook)

It is less than 48 hours since the two blasts in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad on the evening of February 21, 2013, resulted in the death of 16 innocent civilians. The police and the intelligence agencies are still in the preliminary stages of the investigation. They have not yet done a reconstruction of the act of terrorism. The collection and examination of the forensic evidence have not yet been completed .No arrests and interrogation have been made yet.

Instead of waiting till the investigation makes substantial progress, the police and the agencies, with the help of sensation-hungry media, have already started pointing the finger at the Muslim community, the Indian Mujahideen and Pakistan. If there is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, he has to be from the IM. If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). That seems to be the thinking reflex of the police and the agencies.

In October last, according to the Delhi Police, a Muslim suspect belonging to the IM told them during his interrogation that the IM had recced the Dilsukhnagar area as a possible target. From this, one could have reasonable suspicion that the IM might have carried out the attack. To strengthen the suspicion, one must have additional evidence which has not been forthcoming till now. Despite this, the police and the agencies in their mind have already turned the suspicion into certainty. Almost the entire investigation is now focused on the IM, overlooking other possibilities.

One cannot think of a more unprofessional way of dealing with terrorism. Very often, our initial hasty conclusions remain unproved or uncorroborated. That is why the investigation of so many of our terrorism cases has reached a dead end. Many of the cases remain undetected or unprosecuted or unsuccessful even if prosecuted. After every few months, we are taken by surprise by a new act of terrorism because we didn’t investigate professionally the previous acts of terrorism. Our track record has been one of hurtling from one hasty conclusion to another.

Instead of learning lessons from the past, we continue repeating the same mistakes. Imprecise intelligence, alerts not followed up by ground action to strengthen physical security, lack of beat patrolling by the police despite our talking about it for years, absence of professional reconstruction of an act of terrorism to determine how the terrorists managed to succeed, cover-up of the sins of commission and omission of our police and agencies – that has been our track record. Unless we get out of this unprofessional rut, terrorists will continue to strike with impunity and innocent civilians will continue to die.

http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?284027

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Mirage of development – By Lyla Bavadam (Feb 23, 2013, Frontline)

On a hot day last November near Rajkot, Ramjibhai Patel, an octogenarian farmer, pointed to the middle distance and said, “See that lake?” There was indeed a shimmer in the dry landscape indicating water, but after a relatively poor monsoon, it seemed improbable. Chuckling, he said, “Yes, I see doubt on your face and you are correct. It is a mirage!” With this he launched into a diatribe against the government on issues that ranged from the non-availability of water and the high cost of farming to the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities and the cost of higher education of his grandchildren. “Life is a struggle for us. Whatever we have achieved, it is by our own sweat. Promises of the government for ordinary people like us are a mrugjal [mirage].” The story of growth in Gujarat mirrors Ramjibhai’s mrugjal. Social development indicators in this State of over 60 million people tell a story completely different from the one of success, prosperity and economic development that Chief Minister Narendra Modi would have everyone believe. The Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summits and Modi’s projection of himself as a vikas purush, a sort of development leader, are all part of the illusion that Modi builds around himself.

Despite the much-touted Vibrant Gujarat programmes, it is interesting to note that foreign direct investment is not the highest in Gujarat. Maharashtra leads this list while Gujarat is fifth. Vibrant Gujarat summits have not yielded as much as the State government would like others to believe. According to the government’s own “Socio-Economic Review, Gujarat State, 2011-12″, the promised investments in 2011 were over Rs.20 lakh crore, but only about Rs.29,813 crore was actually invested. In the same year, out of more than 8,300 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed, only about 250 became a reality. The importance given to the Vibrant Gujarat programmes is explained simply. The Gujarat model of development is focussed solely on economic growth via industrial development. For this blinkered approach to succeed, it is necessary for the government to look to private capital. A comparison of promised and actual investments in Vibrant Gujarat programmes since 2003 shows a consistent trend of investors promising more than they actually deliver.

Even though the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the State has been significant over the past 15 years, Gujarat scores low in areas of nutrition, education, employment, wages, consumer price index, rural planning, health, the status of the environment and other indicators of the overall health of society. Indeed a look at official data gathered from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), Census 2011 and others shows that the high economic growth rate in Gujarat has been at the expense of basic human development. Paradoxically, employment has not kept pace with the spurt in economic growth. NSSO data show that growth in employment has dropped to almost zero in the past 12 years. Rural Gujarat has been particularly hit despite the fact that there has been an increase in growth in the rural sector. The explanation seems to lie with the policy changes in the sale and purchase of land. Small and medium farmers, who make up a large part of the agricultural community, are increasingly being tempted into selling their land. The lure of a large amount ofmoney is often too much for cash-strapped farmers to resist, but the outcome of this is the sudden creation of a jobless section of people. Thus, rural residents are hit. The jobs that are created in rural areas through the construction of special economic zones (SEZ), small-scale industries and similar projects are usually unsuitable for local people.

Even though there is a slightly higher workforce participation rate in Gujarat, it is offset by the fact that it is poor-quality employment and the nature of the work is largely casual. Transport infrastructure accounts for a large number of work opportunities in the State, but since these are project based, the jobs are temporary. A high demand for casual labour combined with an increase in migrant labour from other States means that the job security of workers is low and the levels of exploitation are high. The average wages (for jobs other than those under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) are also very poor, putting Gujarat at a low 14th rank among the States. The disparity in wages speaks of exploitation and an increasing use of contract workers. According to NSSO 2011 figures, the average daily wage a labourer in the informal sector in urban areas can expect in Gujarat is Rs.106 against Rs.218 in Kerala (which ranks first). In rural areas, Punjab ranks the highest at Rs.152 a day while Gujarat stands 12th at Rs.83. About 98 per cent of the women workers and about 89 per cent of the male workers in the State are engaged in informal work (against the corresponding national figures of 96 per cent and 90 per cent).

The workers’ low wages and poor purchasing power result in poor nutrition or malnutrition among them and their children. According to statistics from a report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, “Children in India, 2012—A Statistical Appraisal”, between 40 and 50 per cent of children in Gujarat are underweight, which bursts one more myth in Gujarat’s story of growth. Other States in this low weight category are Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Human Development Report 2011 said around half of Gujarat’s children were malnourished. Infant mortality, one of the basic indicators of the success of a government, is high in Gujarat, which ranks 11th countrywide in the rate of decline of infant mortality. According to “Children in India, 2012″, the infant mortality rate in Gujarat was still high, with 44 fatalities of infants per 1,000 live births. And with fewer health care facilities in rural areas, it is no surprise that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, both of whom are kept at the bottom of the social ladder, have a higher mortality rate. In its 2012 State-wise report, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said, “Almost every second child in Gujarat under the age of five years is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic. Infant and maternal mortality rates have reduced very slowly in the last decade…. One mother in three in Gujarat struggles with acute under-nutrition….” The issue of children’s health is further compounded by the continuance of child marriage. Gujarat ranks fourth in reported cases of child marriage. …

http://www.flonnet.com/fl3004/stories/20130308300404300.htm

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Can you hear sounds of Fascist jack-boots in India? – By Amaresh Misra (Feb 20, 2013, Times of India)

… Made famous by Hitler and Mussolini, the fascist ideology killed democracy in the 1930s and 40s in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, and several East European countries invaded by Germany during World War II. Fascism led to the incarceration and death of such noted European intellectuals asAntonio Gramsci and Frederico Garcia Lorca to name a few; it also forced Freud and Einstein to flee from Continental Europe to the USA. On 10th May, 1933, in a state-sponsored frenzy presided over gleefully by Hitler, Goebbels and other top Nazi officials-the first of its kind in modern human history-thousands of Nazi-fascist students burned over 25,000 volumes of classical and contemporary German literature (Nazi book burnings). Carried out all over Germany especially in University towns, the act presaged decades of illogical censorship and maniac, linear control of culture that destroyed German modernity and the country’s 2000 year old intellectual-cultural heritage. Thus, fascism destroyed both tradition and modernity-old and new-humanism and liberalism-religion and agnosticism-in one stroke. … Hitler justified colonialism and British rule over India. In the 1930s, he was admired by quite a few anti-communists and anti-liberal figures. MS Golwalkar, the RSS chief from 1940 to 1970 was one of them. … I hate to make comparisons-it reflects poorly on India. But truth-however ugly-has to be told; this much Mahatama Gandhi has been able to inculcate in us writers. Isn’t it incredible that what Saadhvi Rithambara and Babu Bajrangi type figures threatened Muslims with-the stripping of their citizenship rights in an imagined Hindu Rashtra-respectively-during LK Advani’s Rath Yatra for a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the 2002 Gujarat riots-was not part of some extreme right-wing fringe? Rithambara and Bajrangi both took their lessons straight from a mainstream RSS leader like Golwalkar! What a discovery! No difference between Golwalkar, Advani, Modi, Rithambara and Babu Bajrangi! What do so-called sophisticated and ‘liberal’ leaders of the BJP-and their intellectual-right wing apologists like Swapan Dasgupta and Tavleen Singh-have to say now in their defence? Will they come out openly and admit that they support a convict like Bajrangi who waxed eloquent over ripping open a Muslim mother’s womb-and that he felt like Rana Pratap committing a heinous crime-on camera-in the Aaj Tak expose? Till date, the RSS has not refuted lines written by Golwalkar. On the contrary, they form part of the core RSS ideology. …

People should wake up – Jaitley’s attack on Justice Katju should not be looked at in isolation. Digvijaya Singh, the Congress general secretary, rightly said that Jaitley owes Modi his Rajya Sabha Sabha seat – and by attacking Katju, Jaitley is returning the favour. Singh also went on to elaborate Sangh Parivar’s fascist mind-set, which rarely tolerates dissent (Digvijay Singh slams Jaitley’s remarks on Katju). The Jaitley-Katju spat represents the beginning of an open fight between Hindutvawaadis and liberal Hindus, a real life drama that will unleash with full fury in the 2014 elections. Indians have to decide whether they want a India where Bajrang Dal and Sangh Parivar activists go on a rampage attacking liberal Hindu, largely upper caste, judges, professors, media heads, senior journalists, respected intellectuals-members of the Dalit-OBC intelligentsia-as well as esteemed women personalities in social life-and the like; or they would like a peaceful India where the rule of law, liberty and freedom of speech and religion prevails. If voted to power, fascists will launch a smear campaign against modernity, pluralism, diversity, democracy and liberalism. As under Hitler, women will suffer the most under fascist-Hindutvawaadi rule. Since they supported the British in the pre-Independence era, RSS inspired forces will not hesitate to undermine Indian sovereignty in the interests of US led western block. Historically, xenophobic-fundamentalist-fascistic nationalism has always favoured the big over small, domination of superpowers over regional powers. Liberal-left nationalism on the other hand, usually fights in the interest of the people and the country. Modi’s developmental model excludes benefits to OBCs, Dalits, the middle and the small peasantry, Adivasis, organized and unorganized labour, small and medium businesses, entrepreneurs, and the lower middle classes whether Hindus or Muslims. Under the Indian fascist utopia, people are supposed to remain bogged down in inter-religious or inter-ethnic conflicts while big business corporate interests loot precious Indian resources in Indian tribal and forest regions, displace peasants in the name of development and muzzle all voices that disagree-a fascist victory in 2014 would imply an end of India’s 5000 year old civilization and culture.

Five years of NDA rule failed not only to build the Ram temple; apart from unscientific posturing on ‘Vedic Mathematics’-that too inconsistent-the BJP led government made no effort to highlight the great scientific-philosophical-cultural-artistic-moral-political achievements of Indian society before the advent of Muslims. On the contrary-the NDA regime-including senior leaders like Murli Manohar Joshi-persecuted Gandhians and liberal Hindus-and forced several Gandhian institutes-to shut down. Many erstwhile VHP-Bajrang Dal members-and former MLAs like Pawan Pandey-one of the prime accused in the Babari Masjid demolition case-left the BJP in disgust after seeing the moral degeneration of Ayodhya based BJP leaders such as Vinay Katiyar. If nothing else-this-the deliberate neglect of the very Hindu heritage the Sangh Parivar claims to protect-should persuade people to see the other side of the Sanghi moonlight. Who is going to stop Hindutvawaadis from burning Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayan, Arthashastra, Kamasutra-as well as ancient, medieval and modern Indian works on science, art and humanism-if they are in power and a wave of puritan-paranoia takes hold of their political persona?

RSS uses terms like ‘Hindu race’ and ‘Hindu nation’- of course both these terms have no rational-scientific basis. There is no one Hindu-Aryan race-and surely no Hindu nation-the Vedas and Puranas mention nothing of that sort-Puranas use ‘Bharat’ to denote a shifting, geographical entity. Even rational RSS sympathisers concede that different castes and tribes living in India-peoples of a modern nation-state-welded in its present form initially by the great Mughals, then the colonial British, and finally Independent India’s State power-consist of men, women and children of diverse racial origin. The concept of a single, dominant ‘Hindu race’ is not only false-it is dangerous as it allows any small group to lay claim to that status and then use it to suppress democracy and the vast majority of the Indian people. Puranas mention different kingdoms, not a ‘Hindu nation’-this does not mean that the idea of India did not exist in ancient times. It just did not exist the way the fascists want it to exist-Mughals carried forward the initial efforts of empire building by Mauryas and Guptas-and beginning from the 1857 war, the Indian Independence movement gave a modern, nationhood status to that idea.

The other aspect of course, is the use of violence for political ends, something that all fascists exercise to attain power. After all, even the most reverent Narendra Modi supporter concedes that the extremely violent Gujarat 2002 riots made possible the rise of their self-styled Hindutva icon. Fascist violence carries an abnormal strain-it reflects a mind-set that is sadist, inherently cruel and cowardly-as well as eccentric-whimsical-in the ugly sense. Killing babies and children and raping women has always been a special fascist prerogative. If some day, a crazy bout of psychosis grips a fascist in power, he can also sever facets of the fascist-big business alliance. Hitler persecuted businessmen also because they had some remote Jewish connection or the colour of their hair was not to his liking. True horror stories from Gujarat-of capricious mistreatment of even well placed individuals by Modi-will start appearing only after BJP’s defeat in the state. Don’t be surprised if suddenly, a Sangh Parivar leader takes a disliking to Ratan Tata or Cyrus Mistry for being Parsees, or to Kumar Mangalam Birla for his hair style or to the Ambanis for not contributing enough to fascist coffers-once unleashed, weird politics of paper tigers carries untold destruction.

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-mainstream-maverick/entry/can-you-hear-sounds-of-fascist-jack-boots-in-india

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Living in fear – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Feb 23, 2013, Frontline)

The vacant faces told the story of the wanton destruction. On January 25, a day before the Indian republic completed 63 years, 37 shops, including kiosks, belonging to members of the minority community in Asind tehsil in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district, were set ablaze even as a helpless district administration watched, busy as it was controlling another conflict in the adjacent Gulabpura tehsil. The incident occurred when the Congress, perceived to provide a safe environment for the minorities, was in power. Seventy persons were arrested, the bulk of them from the majority community of Hindu Gujjars, including a district leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). What began as a dispute over the route of a procession taken out by Muslims metamorphosed into a strategy of arson in which the livelihoods of the minority community were systematically targeted by the Hindu Right.

Bhilwara is represented by Union Minister C.P. Joshi; but no one even from the State Cabinet made a visit to the place. Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office told Frontline that Ashok Gehlot had promptly convened a meeting on January 25 and deputed the Inspector General of Police, the Divisional Commissioner and two DIG-level officers to make a quick assessment and for damage control. But the damage, it seems, had already been done. Sentiments raged against ruling party representatives. “We would just like to know how long we must remain like this in perpetual fear of being attacked. It is better that we sit across a table and discuss openly what is expected of us. If it is going to be an unequal relationship in democratic, secular India, then so be it, but tell us where we stand,” said Abid Hussain, a property dealer. The day of the arson was Bara-wafat, celebrated both as the birthday and the day of demise of the Prophet Muhammad. Permission was sought by the community’s leaders to take out a procession-a ritual they have been undertaking for years-in the tehsils of Asind and Gulabpura, both with sizable Muslim populations. However, organisations of the Hindu Right, which included the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Shiv Sena, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, insisted before the administration that the procession would not be allowed to pass through temple areas.

It had so transpired that the administration had not given permission to an earlier programme, a path sanchalan (route march) of the RSS, to pass through Muslim areas. The path sanchalan, planned a year earlier, was to be a show of strength, and was to coincide with the 1,101st anniversary of a Gujjar deity, Devnarayan. The chosen date was January 13. The idea was to converge on one point from three corners of Asind town, passing through areas with Muslim homes and places of worship. Asind is no stranger to communal violence; the demolition of a medieval Kalandari masjid in 2001, located on the premises of the Sawai Bhoj temple, had vitiated relations between the two communities. The masjid was never rebuilt. The administration was unprepared for the request for the “Triveni Sangam”, which appeared to be a ploy to foment tensions. Muslim leaders approached the administration, which in turn called a meeting of all community representatives on January 8 to amicably settle the matter. At the meeting, a section of the Muslim community agreed to the Sangam’s route while another did not. Given the turbulent history of Asind, District Magistrate Omkar Singh declined to oblige the Sangh.

The VHP gave a call for a bandh in Bhilwara from January 23 to 25, keeping in mind that January 25 was Milad-un-Nabi or Bara-wafat. According to Ravindra Kumar Jajoo, Vibhaag Sampark Pramukh of the RSS at Bhilwara, the administration had not allowed the earlier Janmasthami procession on the pretext that it would create tensions. Permission was not granted because the Janmasthami procession was to go past a mosque. At Gulabpura, armed mobs began gathering from 6 a.m. onwards on January 25, local people said. They retreated only at 3 p.m. when the police resorted to a lathi-charge. Had the Muslims decided to take out their procession, there would have been loss of lives, district administration officials told Frontline. Around 2,500 people armed with swords had gathered in front of a temple at Gulabpura. “The crowd was determined not to allow the Bara-wafat procession through,” said an official. That food packets were distributed to members of the armed crowd and petrol bombs were hurled at the police showed that adequate preparations had been made for a full-fledged conflict. But minority community members stayed indoors both at Gulabpura and Asind. At Gulabpura, there were skirmishes between the police and armed members of the majority community. At Asind, shops were set on fire. “There wasn’t a shortage of police force. Our focus was on protecting the residential areas,” Nitindeep Singh, Superintendent of Police, told Frontline.

It was learnt from various sources that activities of the Sangh in the region had been stepped up over the past few years, particularly in the past six months. Membership drives were on. The frequency of path sanchalans and the visits of top Sangh leaders had gone up. VHP leader Praveen Togadia had visited the district at least three times in the last six months, said a senior official. The mobilisation of the Gujjar community in activities of the Sangh was a novel phenomenon. An organisation called the Dev Sena, after the Gujjar deity Devnarayan, was part of the overall mobilisation against the minority community and an active component of the path sanchalan. District officials observed that a call for a three-day bandh was unprecedented. “There was a time when flowers used to be showered from the rooftops of Hindu households on the Bara-wafat procession,” said an elderly man at Gulabpura. A good proportion of members of the minority community in Gulabpura eke out a living as tailors. Others work for daily wages. Muslims of Asind are either petty shopkeepers or are employed in vehicle repair shops. Of the total population of 25,000 here, Muslims have around 3,500 votes. “These votes make a difference. We vote for the Congress but do not feel protected under its rule. Maybe we are safer with the BJP in power. We saw our friends from the majority community, with whom we used to sit and chat, wield swords that day,” said a Muslim youth. The legislator from Gulabpura, Ram Lal Jat, was yet to visit his constituency. Both parties, said a former mill worker, were two sides of the same coin. “One abuses us openly; the other does it quietly. There is no third alternative.” The social fabric of Bhilwara, known as the Manchester of Rajasthan, is under strain. The interdependence of Hindus and Muslims living here will be a thing of the past soon. A good section of the trading community seems to be backing Sangh activities. A fact-finding report by activists from Jaipur and Bhilwara observed that the Sangh had a tradition of organising path sanchalans for mobilisation and social consolidation. With less than nine months to go for the State Assembly elections, it is time the government acted against communal forces. …

http://www.flonnet.com/fl3004/stories/20130308300410700.htm

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Shamelessly shooting to kill – By Teesta Setalvad (Feb 20, 2013, The Hindu)

Images of the Delhi police lobbing tear gas shells at and using water canons on protesters at India Gate on a Sunday, December 23, 2012, who were agitating against the gang rape of a young girl are embedded in the nation’s psyche, courtesy of our omnipresent, 24×7 news networks, images sharpened further by the ever-prescient discussions on the 9 p.m. Newshour. Not 14 days later, also on a Sunday, about a thousand kilometres away, in faraway north Maharashtra, the town of Dhule saw a distinctly more brutal police action; the rapid firing of SLR bullets to kill six young Muslims. It was a case of being caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. They paid heavily with their young lives. In a similarly brutal and uncalled for police action at Thangadh in Surendranagar district, not far from Ahmedabad, four Gujarat officers using AK-47s had shot dead three Dalits, including a 17-year-old, on the night of September 22-23, 2012. The tragedies, at Thangadh and Dhule, that had cost these precious lives, were however reduced to media sideshows, though the print editions of English language national dailies did spotlight some issues. The police, in Dhule, were caught on mobile phone videos in shameful acts. Yet, despite the availability of such sensationally thrilling clips, the normally avaricious and greedy eye of the television camera looked away. The shots slipped into late afternoon or midnight bulletins, cleverly bypassing the noisy news hour.

One of the Dhule clips shows a constable taking a self-loading rifle from his senior officer and aiming to shoot high above the waist. Bullet marks have been found in the market place and gullies of Macchipura a kilometre deep into the Muslim area, away from any groups that had gathered. Three such shots fired in quick succession got Imran Ali in his collarbone, eventually leading to his death. Of the 23 other young Muslim men who were critical, one had a bullet fired into his cheek, narrowly missing his eye, another rupturing a liver. Another clip shows a policeman ignoring calls for protection. Yet another shows policemen in uniform looting Muslim establishments that were being destroyed and burnt by some rioters. In Thangadh, the four policemen later absconded. The murder, in 1993, of a black youth Stephen Lawrence, in the United Kingdom, and the publication, in 1999, of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report led to the critical acknowledgement that hate crimes are committed even by men in uniform and that such deeds demand institutional sensitisation and correction. What emerged was a Hate Crimes Manual that warned what constituted such practice. Since the late 1980s, when evidence of deviant conduct by men in uniform surfaced from several bouts of targeted violence countrywide (Nellie, Assam, 1983 – 3,000 Muslims massacred; Delhi, 1984 – over 3,000 Sikhs systematically killed; Hashimpura, Uttar Pradesh, 1987 – 51 Muslims shot dead by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC); Bhagalpur, Bihar, 1989 – a massacre that left thousands dead and evidence buried below a hastily planted cauliflower field; Mumbai, 1992-1993 – over 1,200 dead; Kandhamal, Odisha, 2008 – nearly 100 Christians and Gujarat, 2002 – over 2,000 Muslims massacred), courts and judicial commissions have strongly indicted India’s police for harbouring a distinct anti-minority bias, committing crimes through a manifestation of this hatred and not being punished for it.

In 1995, I had interviewed a senior IPS officer, V.N. Rai, who taken a year’s sabbatical to complete a research study, “Combating communal conflicts: Perception of police neutrality during Hindu-Muslim riots in India.” This interview was published in over 30 Indian publications. Among other things, Rai’s interviews with hundreds of riot victims from across the country (as part of his study) produced the startling finding that in all riot situations, Hindus consider policemen as their friends while, almost without exception, the minorities – Muslims and Sikhs – experience them as their enemy. This piece of work ought to have initiated the kind of self-reflection that the Stephen Lawrence murder had led the British police to. Instead, Rai’s study was ignored by the Indian police establishment. He had to find a private publisher to publish it as a book. What it did do however was lead to the issue being flagged by senior stalwarts. The founder and former chief of the Border Security Force (BSF), K.F. Rustomjee, and DIG Padma Rosha were quick to lend their voice to this issue of crucial concern, stressing that unless the Indian police confronted the issue of deep, communal (and caste) bias, they were sowing the seeds of bitter alienation. If Rai had conducted this study today, perceptions among the minorities would reflect alienation several degrees worse.

My interview covered several sensitive areas. I asked Rai specifically about the police’s criminal dereliction of duty on December 6, 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished as 3,000-4,000 men in uniform watched. His reply was a chilling recall of another fateful Sunday 21 years ago: “The video cassette recording by the Intelligence Bureau clearly documents that not more than 3,000-4,000 ‘kar sevaks’ were within close proximity of the mosque. In such a scenario, could no effective action have been taken? The reason why no action was taken lies elsewhere. The same cassette shows policemen rejoicing, with their hands held high in victory, when the Babri Masjid was destroyed. The district magistrate and other officials were dancing with delight. That is why the ‘kar sevaks’ could not be stopped. There was no desire to do so.” None of these offenders were punished. Pitching strongly for the application of the principle of command responsibility when large-scale violence results following the failure to prevent or contain communal violence, Rai narrated the quotation “There are no bad soldiers, only bad generals.” So, leadership not only makes a substantial difference, it is the most vital, the most decisive factor in the functioning of a force whether we are talking of the police, the paramilitary or the army.

Two decades after much soul-searching – that followed the cataclysmic events before and after the demolition of a 400-year-old mosque at Ayodhya – we are still only debating (and the establishment resisting) the chain of command responsibility being applied to men in uniform when it comes to serious offences, including sexual violence. Worse, there is a shrill resistance to enact legislative protection against the systematic outbreak of communal and targeted violence through a law that will penalise policemen who fail to preserve the peace. Rai, in 1987, was the man who filed the First Information Report of the crimes committed by the PAC at Hashimpura. Fifteen years later, in 2002, in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, it was SP Rahul Sharma who charged ahead, firing to disperse a murderous Hindu mob when his men refused to act to prevent them attacking a madrassa . His prompt action saved the lives of 400 Muslim children. Today, he is at the receiving end of blows from a vindictive State government, facing every day harassment, charge sheets and worse. Rai or Sharma are unlikely heroes for Republic Day bravery medals nor are they the likely face or voice of discussions on television channels. Their raw deeds and searching reflection spotlight a raw nerve, a deep-rooted prejudice that India at 65+ unfortunately lives quite comfortably with.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/shamelessly-shooting-to-kill/article4433379.ece

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Weapons Payload – By Toral Varia Deshpande (Mar 4, 2013, Outlook)

They are usually the ‘invisible men’, but with Choppergate all over us, arms dealers are again the talk of the town. The question is, with India now the largest arms importer in the world, can we wish them away? Are they unrealistic, the policy guidelines laid down by the government vis-a-vis the arms agents? After all, international trade continues to flourish in other sectors with the open participation of agents, why keep the arms pliers in the shadows? Gulshan Luthra, editor of defence and trade magazine India Strategic, says, “The rulebook says no serving personnel can interact with a foreign supplier. But navigating the bureaucracy and negotiating and balancing policies and procedures is far from easy. Which is why, whether the government accepts it or not, these men who purportedly don’t exist actually do.” Twelve years after it was made mandatory in 2001, even today nobody has come forward to register as a defence agent with the Union ministry of defence (MoD). This is because any commission paid to an Indian citizen for an arms deal is automatically a criminal offence, forcing suppliers and agents to look for ever more devious ways to account for such payments.

The guidelines requiring the agents to register, explained an unofficial ‘defence agent’, were too intrusive and arbitrary. Full disclosure of the commission paid, bank details etc may even expose them to extortion, he says. And with defence deals often taking a decade or more to wrap up, the agents will in any case be vulnerable to changing policies, investigations and litigation. Defence analysts says the current position is absurd because international arms deals almost never happen without agents. The latest report by leading think-tank on global arms, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), says the number of arms agents working on India is at an all-time high now. So, with no official avenues open, networking is the name of the game. A trade magazine insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, says, “We’ll never officially admit to it but if you take a close look at the parties hosted by us and the guest list, you will realise that we are in fact setting the ground for future interactions. An informal introduction with a service chief by a retired chief, and the stage is all set.” As insider status is crucial; agents or conduits tend to be related to high-level politicians, bureaucrats, senior defence officers, even entertainers- perhaps also the reason why the CBI routinely fails to crack defence deal cases. For example, one of India’s most high-profile arms agents now, Abhishek Verma, comes from a leading Congress political family and is said to be close to the CBI top brass too.

Once upon a time, a certain Sudhir Choudharie was the most powerful middleman in India. In the last couple of decades, though, a new crop has risen. Almost all major overseas defence firms now have offices or liaison bureaus in India, with local representatives to push their case. The latter, in turn, have on their rolls a full retinue of retired military officers and civil servants. Among the new breed are, of course, the Tyagi brothers from the latest AgustaWestland chopper scandal. They have been operating in the power sector for a while now. Rajeev Tyagi, known in power circles as ‘Docsa Tyagi’, is a doctor by training but doesn’t have a practice. He operates out of an office in Ferozeshah Market in Delhi. Unlike other ‘agents’, Rajeev is usually seen in kurta-pyjamas. It is through him that the other two brothers started operating in power circles, brokering deals. An insider who knows them well says, “The three brothers-Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep-are close to several top bjp leaders too. In fact, Rajeev Tyagi’s proximity to former PM A.B. Vajpayee was well known. He was even an unofficial interlocutor between Muslim leaders upset over the Babri mosque demolition issue and the then BJP government at the Centre.”

Arms agents are candid – commissions on deals are paid everywhere, but they are among the highest in India. A normal commission ranges between 2-5 per cent of the total contract value but in India it fluctuates from 5-15 per cent. This is because, as one agent puts it, “the risks are higher and the recipients many more”. They also claim to be even-handed while dealing with political parties, cultivating and paying off politicians across the spectrum, both in the ruling coalition and the opposition. Defence deals, especially high-value ones, take a long time to be finalised and often span over a decade. No agent can afford to take a chance and needs to keep everyone in good humour, taking into account the possibility of a change of guard and government. The SIPR 2012 yearbook observes that “India’s efforts to expand its military capabilities have made it the largest importer of major arms…but the Indian defence industrial policy requires major reforms”. With this sort of a lucrative market, a cosy relationship has endured between agents and officials and nobody wants it disturbed. Approvals from at least 18 related departments and agencies is needed (see infographic) to acquire any defence equipment. This provides ample scope for corruption. “The procurement process is so long and complicated that bribes are paid at every step to merely keep the ball in play and push the process,” says an analyst.

In the past 10 years, India’s defence forces have been on a buying spree. Close to $50 billion in purchases were made in the last decade, while this decade will see defence acquisitions worth some $100 billion more. With the elaborate checks and balances in place, it is difficult to say that greed, and not need, prompted the purchasing spree. But precisely because of the elaborate processes, the procurement process also slows down and encourages bribes at every step to speed it up. The situation has also accrued due to the inability of domestic players like DRDOs to keep pace with the modernisation of our forces. “Our ordnance factories have failed to satisfy our defence requirements,” admits Dr Laxman Behera of the official defence ministry think-tank IDSA. Talking about the new-age arms agent, defence analyst Rahul Bedi says, “The omnipresent agent is essentially an entrepreneur with a flair for public relations and man-management, and has become almost indispensable to the procurement process. Through experience, patience and tenacity in dealing with the Indian bureaucracy and the MoD’s hidebound systems, he unravels for his principals the complex procurement matrix.” In return, he gets a handsome monthly retainer and working expenses, and a hefty commission disbursed overseas on deal closure. Retainers ensure comfortable lifestyles and expensive offices whilst commissions could run into crores. Bedi recalls that “before the Bofors scandal, service officers were grateful for the odd Scotch whisky bottle, a carton of cigarettes or, for the more discerning, an expensive fountain pen or Havana cigar box from vendors or their local representatives”. Nowadays, other than cash, major enticements include jewellery, property, top-end cars, overseas education for the children of military and MoD officials and often the paid lavish wedding, anniversary or birthday parties. Other enticements include sex, premium alcohol, fully paid-up overseas family holidays, golf sets, even rare pets or antique furniture for the memsahib. Bribes aside, the arms agents do have people batting for them. Major general (retd) Mrinal Suman argues that they perform a necessary and useful task. With their domain knowledge, they can provide useful inputs on technological advancements, qualitative requirements and price-fixing besides providing after-sales support. Treating them like dirt, he adds, has not really helped.

http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?284016

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 16th, 2012

by newsdigest on April 16, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinions and Editorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IMC Chicago coordinates lecture with Muslim Bar Assocition of Chicago

May 20, 2010

Indian human rights lawyer Mr. Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir spoke to members of the Muslim Bar Association of Chicago at a lunch meeting on Monday, April 19, 2010. Mr. Mahajir spoke to the American Muslim legal community about the rule of law in India and the struggle to safeguard a secular democratic society in a multi-religious [...]

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IMC-USA Cautiously Optimistic at Makkah Masjid, Hyderabad Blasts’ Investigation

May 4, 2010

“Pleased” and “Optimistic” were the words used by Rasheed Ahmed, President, Indian Muslim Council-USA, while describing his feelings at the courageous demand made by Ms. Brinda Karat, CPI-M leader, on the investigation into the tragic Makkah Masjid bomb blast. NDTV.com reports that, after three years of investigation, the prestigious Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) believes [...]

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Indian Americans Urge Fair Investigation into the Recent Riots in Hyderabad, India

April 16, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, April 16, 2010

 

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IMC-USA organizes Lecture Tour of Human Rights Lawyers: Shafeeq Mahajir and Mukul Sinha in April/May 2010

March 29, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 29, 2010

Indian Muslim Council-USA (IMC-USA – http://www.imc-usa.org/), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India ‘s pluralist and tolerant ethos is organizing a US lecture tour of two noted Human Rights Lawyers from India: Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir and Mukul Sinha.

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IMC-USA urges action on illegal detention and torture of Muslim youth in Hyderabad

September 11, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 09, 2007

Indian Muslim Council

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IMC-USA is shocked at the reports that claim arrests of scores of Muslims after the August 25 th Twin Bomb Blasts

September 5, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2007

Indian Muslim Council

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Demand an investigation into indiscriminate police firing After Juma Prayers near Macca Masjid, Hyderabad

May 25, 2007

May 25, 2007

Demand an investigation into indiscriminate police firing After Juma Prayers near Macca Masjid, Hyderabad

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IMC-USA condemns the bomb blasts targeting worshipers in Hyderabad

May 17, 2007

May 18, 2007

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