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Ishrat Jahan

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 23rd, 2013

by newsdigest on December 24, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

1984 riots not comparable with post-Godhra violence: Amartya Sen (Dec 18, 2013, Indian Express)

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said the Gujarat riots of 2002 are not comparable with the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984, rejecting Infosys chief N R Narayanamurthy’s view that the post-Godhra violence should not stand in the way of Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister.

While describing as “absolute shame” the fact that those responsible for the 1984 riots had not been brought to judgement, he sought to differentiate between the 1984 riots and those that occurred in Gujarat under the watch of Chief Minister Modi.

Sen argued that Congress leaders, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi, who were fighting elections today, were not the people responsible for the anti-Sikh riots. No one had accused them of that, whereas Modi was the Chief Minister when the riots took place.

Moreover, he said that the anti-Sikh riots were not something that fitted into the Congress philosophy. “There is no philosophy of killing Sikhs in the Congress,” he told NDTV in an interview.

On the other hand, he said that treatment of Muslims in Gujarat raised the question as to whether they were treated as second class citizens. “That is a continuing problem,” he said, adding Narayanamurthy was a great friend of his but he did not agree with him on this issue. …

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1209088/

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Gujarat files delay condonation plea in Naroda Patiya case (Dec 19, 2013, Economic Times)

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team today filed a delay condonation application before the Gujarat High Court through the state government in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, after which the court issued notices to the accused. A division bench of Justice K S Jhaveri and Justice K J Thakkar issued notices to the 16 accused, including Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, and kept the matter for further hearing for January 20.

Bajrangi and 15 others, who are in jail, are to be served notices through the jailor, the court said. The SIT had sought enhancement of the sentences of 16 people, including Bajrangi, in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. The lower court had convicted former minister in the Narendra Modi government Maya Kodnani, Bajrangi and 15 others in August 2012. As many as 96 people, mostly belonging to the minority community, were killed in the Naroda-Patiya massacre during the post-Godhra riots of 2002.

The court has convicted 32 and acquitted 29 persons. Kodnani is currently out on a temporary bail of three months on medical grounds. Last month, the SIT had filed three appeals seeking that Bajrangi and five other convicts should undergo life sentence without being considered for remission (reduction in term).

In the other two appeals, the SIT has demanded 25-year and 30-year sentences without remission for the remaining convicts. The accused were given jail terms of 21 years by the trial court. The SIT has not asked for enhancement of Maya Kodnani’s sentence in its appeal.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/27663683.cms

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No evidence that Ishrat Jahan a LeT operative, CBI tells PMO (Dec 21, 2013, Economic Times)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that there is no evidence to say that Ishrat Jahan was a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative and dismissed as “farfetched” the allegation of senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley that the agency had deliberately targeted former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah with the ultimate aim of targeting BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. ET has reviewed a four-page document sent by CBI to the PMO containing a point-by-point rebuttal of the issues raised by Jaitley in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 27.

A top CBI official confirmed the contents, saying the letter was sent to the PMO for preparing a reply to Jaitley, who had alleged that the agency was biased in inquiries into the allegedly staged killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Tulsiram Prajapati and Ishrat Jahan. The official didn’t want to be named. Jaitley has confirmed receiving a reply from the PM. “It was a brief reply saying the said matters are under investigation. I stand by whatever I said in my letter to the PM,” Jaitley told ET. The revelations come ahead of the next general election and the alleged encounters may be turned into a poll issue by the Congress party as the political campaign pitch escalates over the next few months, especially after it suffered heavy defeats at the hands of the BJP in recent assembly contests.

Jaitley’s letter had said Jahan was an LeT operative citing the Jama’atud-Dawa (JuD), a front for the LeT terrorist group. The JuD had posted an official obituary on its website, and CBI was “being pressurized” to deny the existence of this, he said. “It is clarified that the report of Jama’at-ud-Dawa has no evidentiary value and admissibility as per Indian evidence Act and law,” the CBI said, giving a clean chit to Jahan. Jaitley also alleged that the “political establishment” in Delhi had collusively filed a plea before the Gujarat High Court in the name of the relatives of Jahan. “The petition was filed by mother of Ishrat, Shamima Kauser, for the ends of justice,” the CBI said.

The key rebuttal is to Jaitley’s allegation that CBI targeted Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case in order to get to Modi. The CBI counters this by saying that its case against Shah is based on strong evidence and “a large number” of testimonies. “Hence, the allegation that CBI had deliberately targeted Shah with ultimate desire of implicating Modi is farfetched and factually incorrect, more so, when the investigation by CBI was closely monitored by the apex court,” the document said. CBI has not charged Modi in any case. Jaitley had also questioned CBI’s move to file a chargesheet against Shah in the Prajapati case ahead of the six-month limit set by the SC, alleging that the agency timed it just before the Gujarat assembly polls of 2012 so as to arrest him again in this particular case. “The fact is that there was no bar for his (Shah’s) arrest and yet CBI filed a chargesheet without arresting Shah clearly disproves the allegation that CBI wanted to arrest Shah just before the election,” CBI has told the PMO.

The agency also defended its case against former Rajasthan Home Minister and BJP MP Gulab Chand Kataria in the Sheikh case. It countered Jaitley’s contention that Kataria was not even present in Udaipur at the time that the CBI says he held a meeting on Sheikh’s killing. “The plea regarding his absence at Udaipur is an afterthought to create an alibi. The CBI has marshalled sufficient evidence contrary to what has been alleged by him,” CBI said.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/27698590.cms

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NIA fails in arresting Hindus among its Most Wanted List (Dec 22, 2013, Twocircles.net)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was established in 2009 and subsequently it took over the investigations of blasts occurred in Malegaon 2008, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, Margaon in Goa and Samjhauta express blasts. Initially it got little success in arresting alleged right-wing terrorists who were behind these blasts. In 2010-2011, NIA had intensified its investigation and arrested some accused including Swami Aseemanand. With Aseemanand’s arrest NIA cracked Malegaon 2006 blast case. NIA claimed that right wing alleged terrorists were responsible for the Malegaon 2006 blast near a masjid that killed 37 people.

NIA has done a commendable job in the last 2 years by apprehending number of high profile so called alleged terrorists. The newly formed National Investigation Agency (NIA) has successfully spread its tentacles in all the states and also in the nearby Asian countries. It has arrested many alleged terrorists from Bihar, M.P., Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Even the gulf state has extended vital information to the NIA related to the alleged terrorists of Indian origin who are living in their country.

Saudi Arabia and Nepal have helped NIA in arresting and deporting alleged terrorist Zabiuddin Ansari@Abu Jindal, Fasih Mahmood, Abdul Karim @Tunda, Ahmed Siddibappa @Yasin Bhatkal, Akhtar @Haddi . These arrests have proved to be its biggest achievement. NIA has claimed that with these arrests they have averted major blasts which could have resulted into multiple deaths. Despite such success in arresting alleged terrorists from across the border neither NIA nor any other security or intelligence agency have since last 5 years got any clue about 8 right-wing terrorists that figure in its most-wanted list. …

These accused still appear on the wanted list of NIA since last 5 years or so. NIA and other agencies are clueless about their whereabouts. Are they hiding in Pakistan or Nepal? Why Intelligence agencies don’t get to them? If they are in India who is helping them to hide? Who is providing them money and other necessary help? If Delhi police can arrest influential and widely supported Narayan Sai then why these above mentioned wanted accused not be arrested and brought to justice. It seems either intelligence and security agencies are going slow on them or they are falling short in apprehending them.

http://twocircles.net/2013dec22/nia_fails_arresting_hindus_among_its_most_wanted_list.html

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Forced to sign blank papers, suspected terrorist tells court (Dec 16, 2013, Business Standard)

Suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Abu Jundal Monday told a court here that he was forced to sign some documents and blank papers by National Investigation Agency (NIA) personnel and Maharashtra Police. Meanwhile, the NIA supplied a copy of the chargesheet filed against him to his counsel M.S. Khan. Jundal told District Judge I.S. Mehta that he was forced to sign some documents and blank papers by the investigating agencies, court sources said. The court has posted the matter for further hearing to Jan 18, 2014.

Presently lodged in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, Jundal spoke in court through video conferencing. In the chargesheet, NIA said that Jundal taught Hindi to the 10 operatives who were involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. It was alleged that Jundal joined LeT and went to Nepal to meet its commander Abdul Aziz for training in bomb making in November 2005.

During training at the LeT camp he came in touch with top LeT operatives including its chief Hafiz Saeed, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, the NIA added. In the chargesheet the NIA also said that Jundal was recruiting people to the banned outfit to carry out terror strikes in India.

Jundal was deported to India from Saudi Arabia in June 2012 for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to commit terror attacks within the country. NIA booked Jundal under various terror charges.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/forced-to-sign-blank-papers-suspected-terrorist-tells-court-113121601127_1.html

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Karnal communal violence: After Muzaffarnagar riots, fresh incidents reported in Kutel (Dec 18, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)

After Muzaffarnagar communal riots in Uttar Pradesh, communal violence erupted in Kutel village of Karnal district where a place of worship and three houses of members of a religious community were damaged while another house was torched. Members of the other community went on the rampage following the mysterious disappearance of a youth, whom they alleged had been murdered.

Hundeds of policemen have been deployed in the village to stop any untoward incident. According to the village Lambardar, his son on the night of December 13 received a phone call and did not return. The family members made searches, called up his friends but to no avail. The Lambardar’s family received information that the accused, who belongs to a minority community and stays near the Lambardar’s cattle yard, had gone out on his bike at the same time. Suspecting foul play, the Lambardar’s family registered a police complaint.

Later, the police booked the accused under Section 365 (kidnapping) of the IPC. During questioning, the accused admitted that he and his son had spotted the Lambardar’s son lurking near their house. They clubbed him to death, put his body in a sack and threw it into the Rawar augmentation canal, 5 km from the village, said Shashank Anand, Karnal SP, who is camping in Kutel village. The body has not been recovered so far. Divers from Kurukshetra and Karnal were called to fish it out.

The SP said that a case of murder under Section 302 of IPC would be registered after the body was found. Anand said that angry mob damaged the accused’s house as adequate security had been provided there. A case of rioting and damage to property has been registered against 30-35 persons.

http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/CHD-karnal-communal-violence-after-muzaffarnagar-riots-fresh-incidents-reported-in-k-4468105-NOR.html

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CBI files chargesheet against BJP MP in RTI activist murder case (Dec 21, 2013, IBN)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday filed a chargesheet against Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP) MP from Junagarh Dinu Solanki in the murder case of RTI activist Amit Jethwa. The BJP MP from Junagarh was earlier questioned by the CBI in connection with Jethwa’s murder case in July 2010 and was subsequently arrested in November. His nephew Shiva Solanki and five others were lodged in jail in the same case. Jethwa had been campaigning against illegal mining in the Gir reserve. His family had claimed that the MP had hatched the conspiracy to kill Jethwa.

CBI had registered a case on the directions of the Gujarat High Court which in its order had criticised the state police for their shoddy investigations in the murder. Jethwa was a Right to Information (RTI) and environment activist who had filed numerous RTI applications and a PIL against illegal mining in Gir forest region. He was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court on July 20, 2010.

The killing had sparked an uproar among RTI activists across the country who had raised concerns over the safety of such whistle blowers, prompting the father of the deceased to move the High Court demanding a CBI probe. In his plea before the High Court, Bhikabhai had alleged the state police had not properly probed the case and the state government was shielding the BJP MP.

Jethwa had filed several petitions in the Gujarat High Court, including a Public Interest Litigation in connection with illegal mining in Gir forests in Junagadh district which is a protected area and last home to Asiatic lions.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/cbi-files-chargesheet-against-bjp-mp-in-rti-activist-murder-case/440902-3-238.html

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Youth murdered, shrine damaged at Ayodhya (Dec 23, 2013, The Hindu)

A group of five-six motorbike-borne persons damaged the outer wall of an old shrine in Ayodhya on Friday night and murdered a 22-year-old student sleeping in a mosque, 500 metres away. While the cause is not clear, locals believe that these were part of an attempt to trigger communal tensions. The shrine, which houses a grave popularly believed to be that of Prophet Shis, is visited by both Hindus and Muslims. Sited just 2 km from the disputed site, it was attacked when the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992.

“Since then, it is the first time a religious place of the minority community has been attacked,” says Anil Singh, a Faizabad college professor. “They could have damaged the shrine and left, or murdered him first. But maybe, he saw them committing the act, so they killed him.” Government officials rushed to the spot and did repairs to the shrine. A police officer told The Hindu that there were indications that the crime was committed in such a way as to give it a communal colour. “The miscreants have made attempts to hide their motive,” he said. The police did not believe that the murder was due to a personal grudge.

Mahant Yugal Kishor Saran Shastri, head priest of the Saryu Kunj temple, also believes that the act was intended to stir communal trouble. “Why did they damage the shrine and then commit the murder 500 metres away?” The youth, Mohammed Danish, hailed from Bihar and was a undergraduate student of a college at Ayodhya. He lived on the premises of the Pir Paigambhar shrine at the Jinnati Mosque. The body was sent for post mortem.

The police have detained some persons for interrogation. The district administration has deployed security forces near the mosque and invoked Section 144 of the Cr.PC to prevent any unlawful assembly. Security has also been tightened at Faizabad, which witnessed communal clashes during the Durga Puja procession last year.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/youth-murdered-shrine-damaged-at-ayodhya/article5490391.ece

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Fighting corruption: Laws needed to give lokpal teeth (Dec 21, 2013, Times of India)

“This is not about one Bill; this is about the framework and we would like to deliver that framework to the country.” Rahul Gandhi said so, in a rare intervention in LS before the Lokpal Bill’s passage. It was an appeal to the 15th LS that, besides Lokpal, it should “consider and enact all six pending anti-corruption Bills before its term expires”.

He proposed that the winter session be extended “to complete our unfinished work in our fight against corruption”. Law minister Kapil Sibal made a similar request in RS, “Let’s try and work extra hours to bring these Bills to the House and to have them passed.” Though the House has been adjourned indefinitely, the proposal of reconvening it merits serious consideration, as demanded by Aruna Roy on behalf of civil society – more so because there is apparently a political consensus in favour of these legislations.

Since the term of the 15th LS has been marred by scams, there cannot be a more fitting way of signing off than carrying out this “unfinished work” to complement the Lokpal legislation. Consider the difference each of these Bills could make once passed. …

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/27699276.cms

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5 policemen dismissed, held for ‘rape of minor’ (Dec 21, 2013, The Hindu)

Moving swiftly, the Chandigarh police on Friday dismissed from service all five policemen booked for raping a 17-year-old schoolgirl for more than a month. The incident sparked anger in the city and protests broke out at several places, continuing till evening. Throughout the day, protests took place in the Sector 17 plaza. In the evening, students of Panjab University took out a protest march on the campus demanding strict action against the accused.

While four policemen, Akshay, Sunil, Jagtar and Himmat Singh were arrested on Thursday after the girl’s family lodged a complaint, the fifth, Anil, was nabbed on Friday. All five have been remanded to police custody for three days.

The girl said in her complaint that she had come in contact with Akshay a few weeks ago, when her father got into a dispute with his neighbour and the police was called for help, Senior Superintendent of Police Sukhchain Singh Gill, told The Hindu. After that, Akshay and the other accused began stalking her in the PCR (police control room) van and made sexual advances. Akshay also hired a room and he, along with the others, forced her into it and raped her at gunpoint.

The matter came to light when the girl tried to commit suicide in a fit of depression since the constables had begun accosting her on her way to school and elsewhere. She was being constantly harassed and stalked. A cousin approached a city councillor and, with his help, summoned the courage to go to the police.

Initially, an FIR was registered against only one of the accused but after some BJP workers of the municipal corporation raised a hue and cry, the names of the others were included.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/5-policemen-dismissed-held-for-rape-of-minor/article5485391.ece

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Opinions and Editorials

Indians push to tame Hindu-Muslim rioting with new bill – By Rama Lakshmi (Dec 20, 2013, Washington Post)

Sabra Rashid fled her village three months ago, as Hindu mobs started attacking their Muslim neighbors. With nowhere to return after her home was looted and burned, she is living in a tent camp with thousands of other Muslims. One night this month, the youngest of her four children, 9-month-old Sufian, who had been shivering in the cold, suddenly went still. He was dead. “My heart cannot bear this anymore. It will explode,” said Rashid, 32, fighting back tears as she ran her fingers over the image of her son’s face on a cellphone – the only photograph of him her family still has. “As a mother, all I want is a safe home for my other children, to stay healthy, to stay alive. Is that too much to ask?”

Rashid was one of 50,000 people forced from their villages in and around the Muzaffarnagar district of northern Uttar Pradesh state during the September rioting. In its wake, there is new momentum to pass a long-discussed bill aimed at curbing religious and ethnic violence. Tensions between the majority Hindu population and the Muslim minority go back centuries. Half a million people died in rioting during the partition of India in 1947, when Pakistan was created as a Muslim homeland. Although religious violence has dropped dramatically since then, the number of incidents is ticking upward of late – from 668 last year to 725 in the first 10 months of this year, causing 143 deaths, official data show. And many Indians are concerned that divisions between religious groups could deepen with the national elections scheduled for next year, especially because the main opposition party is led by a controversial Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi.

“Each government has dealt with communal rioting in a completely arbitrary and prejudicial manner,” said Farah Naqvi, a member of the National Advisory Council, a government-appointed group of academics and activists, some of whom have worked on the bill. “Hundreds of thousands of people who have been permanently displaced by rioting are not even counted and recognized by the government. And those who incite riots from behind the scene are rarely brought to justice. It is unconscionable if the new, 21st-century India continues to look the other way.” The bill, yet to be introduced, would put in place policies to prevent and limit communal and ethnic rioting. It would establish fines and jail sentences for public officials and police officers for failure to control violence. It would also guarantee speedy investigations and trials in special courts, and it would set guidelines for reparation for victims.

The legislation has been in the works since riots in Gujarat state in 2002 left more than 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims. The measure could finally pass in the coming year, because it is being supported by the Congress-party-led governing coalition. The bill has been strongly criticized by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition party, which has called it a maneuver to garner the votes of religious minorities. In a recent letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Modi called the measure a “recipe for disaster,” saying it would lead to ordinary fights being labeled as communal violence. Modi is accused by human rights groups of not doing enough to stem the 2002 riots in Gujarat, his home state. The recent Hindu-Muslim rioting in Muzaffarnagar, the worst such violence in India in more than a decade, was sparked by an incident in which a Muslim youth was killed by two Hindus after he was alleged to have sexually harassed their female cousin. This set off a cycle of reprisal attacks across the district.…

After the riots, about 6,400 people were named in police complaints in connection with killings, rapes, looting, arson and inciting riots. But police have arrested only 200 people. “We have gone out to arrest the men at least 10 times, but the women came out armed with axes and sickles and blocked our entry into the villages. They pile bricks and stones on the dirt paths to stop our vehicles. They surround the villages with tractors,” said Kaushal Raj Sharma, the district magistrate in Muzaffarnagar. Activists say that after each riot in India, diverse neighborhoods have shrunk in population as residents have moved to areas where people of their own faith and ethnicity live. “That produces its own kind of polarized politics, something a developing country cannot afford,” said Naqvi, of the National Advisory Council. Although activists have high hopes for the proposed law, some Muslims said it may not change much on the ground. “We have enough laws in this country; what we need is people who have the will and the heart to implement the laws,” said Abdul Jabbar, a real estate agent who runs the camp in Loi.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/indians-push-to-tame-hindu-muslim-rioting-with-new-bill/2013/12/20/a2550204-659e-11e3-997b-9213b17dac97_story.html

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No Excuse for Callousness – Editorial (Dec 28, 2013, EPW)

More than 50 infants and children have reportedly died in the camps housing the thousands of displaced families affected by the riots in Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh (UP) on 7 September 2013. They died not because of any disease, but because they were hungry and there was nothing warm to protect them from the freezing-cold weather. As families continue to battle the cold with only a flimsy tarpaulin as cover and small fires that shed light but little heat, the situation in these camps is a scandal that ought to be a national concern. Not only is this an unconscionable violation of the rights of citizens of this country, it is the result of the complete callousness of the local authorities and the state government of UP. What is worse, despite reports by the media and civil society groups working in the area, the state government has chosen to pretend that there is no problem. Indeed, for weeks it denied the fact of these deaths and only now, after the Supreme Court’s order following a writ petition, has the UP government acknowledged that 11 children have died. Also, only at the Supreme Court’s prompting have medical facilities been extended to the camps where scores of women are pregnant and need urgent care. Whether anything will be done about the almost total lack of sanitation in the camps, something that has made life a living hell, especially for the women and children, still remains to be seen.

The UP government’s attitude towards the displaced families following the Muzaffarnagar riots, in which an estimated 60 people died, has been not just extremely callous but also unthinking. First, it issued a notification offering compensation only to Muslims affected by the riots. Predictably, this was challenged in court and the Supreme Court struck this down as being discriminatory. Thereafter, the notification had to be reframed and reissued. As if that was not enough, the government seems determined to push people out of the camps and back to their homes without understanding why people are hesitant. If things had been tolerable in the areas where these people lived before the riots, would they have preferred to live under leaky tents in freezing weather, watching their children literally freeze to death, rather than returning? Obviously the reason they hesitate is because their prospects on their return are, in their minds, worse than what they face in the camps. These are families that have to confront not just homes that have been burned down but will also have to live with the very people who attacked them in an atmosphere where the resentments that triggered the conflict are still alive. It is hardly surprising then that they do not want to return yet, something that the state government seems incapable of comprehending.

Above all, the shocking and unacceptable state of affairs in the Muzaffarnagar camps is a reminder of the absence of a comprehensive policy for relief and rehabilitation after such calamitous events. Similar situations have arisen in other states too. Immediately after a riot, the state government, the district authorities and the central government release resources to assist those affected. Camps are established. People are herded into ostensibly “safe” areas. And then, they are virtually forgotten. For the media, the story often ends once the embers of the conflict have died. For the administration, the camps are temporary shelters and it insists that people move out as soon as possible. Only when people refuse to move, or if the conditions in the camps deteriorate to the point where deaths are reported, does the administration wake up and take note. Even then, as is clear in this instance, there is little comprehension of why people are afraid to return, or to put in place policies that will help make their return possible. As a result, in many instances, the displaced get uprooted yet again because they are compelled to move to areas that they deem “safe”, usually enclaves where only people of their own communities live. For the administration, the problem is solved. For the affected people, the challenges of life are compounded.

Governments routinely treat those displaced by conflict of any sort as people whose loyalty they can buy through doles and compensation packages. Yet, the history of similar displacement should tell us that people never get over the trauma until there is justice, a sense of closure and security. When all these three factors are missing, the displaced are left with the kind of impossible choices the mothers in the camps in Muzaffarnagar face – how to share one sweater between three children, how to find a dry space at night when the tarpaulin leaks and the dew soaks everything, how to warm your children with fires without exposing them to injury, how to feed them when the essentials are not available – basically how to ensure that they survive these ostensibly “temporary” dislocations. No mother should have to make such choices. No decent government should put its people in such a situation. There is simply no excuse.

http://www.epw.in/editorial/no-excuse-callousness.html

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The struggle for justice for Ishrat Jahan – By Abdul Rauf Lala (Dec 21, 2013, Twocircles.net)

As we came to know through the media that a Mumbra girl namely Ishrat Jahan has been gunned down in an encounter in Gujarat, we reached her home at Rasheed Compound which is at walking distance from my house in the city. There we saw the house comprising one bedroom along with a washroom and a tiny kitchen. There was a tiny wooden box which contains of their clothing. And the family had access to neither television/newspaper nor a telephone. On our request, her mother Shameema Bi provided us with details.

Ishrat’s father, Shameem Sheikh, died in 2002. He worked as a constructor. After the sad demise of Ishrat’s father, the whole responsibility came to her mother’s shoulder and she joined a medical company so as to feed her family of six. There her work was to stick tags/labels on the medicine wrappers. Her elder daughter, Ishrat, was a B. Sc. (2nd year) student and was helping her mother by teaching at a coaching centre as well as giving private tuitions at her home. In fact, Ishrat was the backbone of her family and it was she who was winning the bread for the family. Days ago, she was out for some business purpose only to meet her ill fate.

After listening to the complete story, we smelt a rat in the incident. And first of all, we demanded from the authority to return her body as we wanted to bury her in her hometown. Then a team comprising of myself, my friends Munna Sahil, Shakeb Khan, Asadullah Hanafi along with Ishrat’s mother headed towards Ahmedabad the very next day. When we reached Ahmedabad at 5 in morning, a reporter from Gujarat Samachar approached us soon and told us earnestly to raise the issue strongly, as he said that was a fabricated story and a fake encounter. He further added that many of them knew the truth but could not speak out for one reason or another.

Then our team reached the Gujarat Crime Police Head Station at Haweli. At the police station, we met Singhal and NK Amin. They conducted their investigation upon us in a very rough manner. They talked to us as if we were criminals and were detained in our way to carry out some big mission. We were not given even water to drink and meal to eat during the period and were not allowed to perform Juma Namaz that day. After 5-6 hours of traumatising enquiry, Vanzara came and then started his turn which lasted for three more hours. Our only demand that made them torment us was our claim to return the body of Ishrat. They left no stone unturned to persuade us to withdraw our demand of taking the body to the hometown. When we refused to lend an ear to their requests or rather orders they put a condition before us and said the body would be released provided we bury it in Ahmedabad. We again declined their order and after 9-10 hour long torture we were given access to the body.…

But we never even thought of giving up and I think when a person has complete trust in Allah and believes that the ultimate decision is of Allah’s, he should never give up. Today the case of Ishrat has become a national issue. This goes to suggest that if you start fighting for a good cause even though you have limited resources, it is the Almighty Allah who will help you. I request all the citizens in general and Muslims in particular to take all such cases seriously and go through legal proceedings instead of issuing emotional and political statements. There are many a non-Muslim activist who is fighting for human cause and ready to help on humanitarian ground. Take assistance from them and be constant while fighting for social causes. Leave behind the idea of giving up.

http://twocircles.net/2013dec21/struggle_justice_ishrat_jahan.html

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The AAM Army – By Avalok Langer & Deevakar Anand (Dec 28, 2013, Tehelka)

They were the underdogs. The political idealists that everybody counted out. No one truly believed that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would be able to compete with two established political parties – the Congress and the BJP – in the DelhiAssembly election.

Before the triangular contest, theCongress remained smug; the BJP was confident of an outright win. Sample the statements that were made in prime-time debates: “They should have remained a pressure group, they would have been able to do more”; “Arvind Kejriwal is making a mistake taking on Shelia Dikshit, he can’t beat her”; “If they get even 10 seats, it will be a miracle!”

However, within a year of its formation, AAP has proven everyone wrong. Kejriwal obliterated former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit from the New Delhi constituency. Though the fledgling party did not win the Assembly polls, it managed to gain 28 (of the 70) seats by fighting on an anti-corruption plank. As the issue goes to press, Kejriwal & Co are asking the citizens of Delhi for their opinion on whether they should form the government.

AAP’s success has come as a breath of fresh air. The party has busted the myth that one needs money power to fight elections. Not only did they collect campaign funds from the people, they relied on volunteers who had left their jobs, homes and families. Many had travelled across continents to come and work for the brand-new party.

According to a report published by the Association for Democratic Reforms, 10 of the 28 AAP candidates who won in Delhi have declared personal assets ranging from Rs 20,800 to Rs 13 lakh – proof that you no longer need personal wealth to enter and triumph in Indian politics.

http://www.tehelka.com/the-aam-army/

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A cure worse than the malady? – By R. K. Raghavan (Dec 21, 2013, The Hindu)

An empowered and high-profile ombudsman for India, a dream for long, is finally a reality. The millions of sceptics, including this writer, who believed that our lawmakers would never get down to vote for it have been proved wrong. This was an exercise that began 46 years ago. It took an eternity because of an obvious lack of political will and a fear of the unknown. Some of those who are powerful in our political firmament have a lot to hide. And they could not take a chance by creating what could perhaps prove to be a monster. Those who are now claiming credit for this heart-warming denouement of a heroic campaign are making a virtue out of necessity. The prospect of facing a knowledgeable and angry electorate in the next few months is what persuaded the two main political parties to sink their differences and ensure the smooth passage of the Lokpal Bill in both Houses of Parliament.

Here, one cannot but acknowledge the stellar role played by Anna Hazare in keeping up the pressure on the executive. You cannot fault him if he sounded unreasonable and stubborn at times. This was not a case of exhibiting ego, but one of conviction that a corruption-ridden nation needed an ombudsman with singular focus on restoring the credibility of a much-abused public service.

However, this is not the time to lose track of the realities and gloat. There is a need to educate the common man on what he can and cannot expect from this new experiment. The chairman and eight members of the essentially anti-graft body will be selected by a collegium comprising the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by the CJI, and an eminent jurist. It will have jurisdiction over all public servants under the Union government, including the Prime Minister. In the case of the Prime Minister, a probe can be initiated only with the approval of two-thirds of the Lokpal’s members. This stipulation is because of the apprehension of frivolous complaints being made mainly to unsettle a government in position.

While it will have its own investigative wing, which will conduct a preliminary inquiry into a complaint received by it, the Lokpal can entrust such an inquiry to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or to any other agency. Significantly, the Lokpal can initiate prosecution through its own team. Perhaps, the most welcome feature of the legislation is the empowerment of the Lokpal to provisionally attach any property suspected to have been acquired by an accused through illegal means. Such action will not have to wait until the prosecution successfully establishes the charge in a court of law. Strict exercise of this authority will certainly be lauded by the honest citizen, currently dismayed by the sight of corrupt public servants continuing to enjoy the fruits of their misdeeds even after being taken to task. …

I had long pleaded for a Lokpal which would look after personnel matters of the CBI (such as inductions and transfers) and a Department of Personnel which merely took care of budgetary allocations to the CBI. In my view, the CVC is a needless appendage – especially after the creation of the Lokpal – that only stifles the CBI without adding value to the quality of its investigations. On the whole, the Lokpal cannot be viewed as anything but a cosmetic imposition on a CBI that is craving for autonomy – without any great success. The commendable support to its cause by the Supreme Court is still in the realm of theory, with the Union government uninhibitedly rejecting all suggestions that the CBI be allowed to function unhampered by the executive. Against this backdrop, I am of the view that the Lokpal will have only a marginal impact on corruption in high places.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-cure-worse-than-the-malady/article5483545.ece

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Tribal ‘Annihilation’ and ‘Upsurge’ in Uttar Pradesh – By A K Verma (Dec 21, 2013, EPW)

Uttar Pradesh (UP) has long been treated as a non-tribal state where tribes did not merit consideration for inclusion in the scheduled tribes (STs) category created by the Constitution for according them affirmative action benefits and political representation through reservation. This paper challenges the conventional wisdom and points out that there is a substantial number of tribes in UP that merits recognitionas STs.

Census 2011 data indicated a growth rate of about 2,500% decadal (2001-11) in the ST population in UP (Verma 2013), whereas it was just 17% during 1971-81, 23% during 1981-91 and 26% during 1991-2001 (Table 1, p 53). The very magnitude of this decadal growth rate, as reported in the 2011 Census (Verma 2013) is indicative of major wrongs at various levels in the political and administrative systems in identifying the STs.

It also raises fundamental issues regarding the “annihilation” of tribal identity in UP and denial of justice and political representation to them in state and national legislatures. This paper argues that the annihilation of tribals in UP is contingent on a fundamental error made by the Constitution makers vis-à-vis the objective definition of parameters that should have been used to identify backward tribes and accord them ST status.

In addition, a plethora of factors ranging from historical, constitutional, legislative, and administrative also contributed to the chaos in identifying the STs in UP. Based on census records, this paper starts with the tribal population in UP in 1891 and by scaling population figures on a time-scale of 120 years works-out their present numbers. The projected tribal population in UP at present appears very big. That is also supported by the 2011 Census data on ST households for UP …

http://www.epw.in/special-articles/tribal-annihilation-and-upsurge-uttar-pradesh.html

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 12th, 2013

by newsdigest on August 13, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Communal Harmony

When Muslims escorted a Hindu baraat (Aug 13, 2013, The Hindu)

When Kishtwar’s iconic singer-poet Ghulam Nabi Dholwal aka Janbaz Kishtwari rolled out his famous chaland on life’s ironies and crisscross of joy and melancholy 50 years ago, he wouldn’t have visualised last Friday’s inferno in the wildest of his dreams. “kansi hund jinaza niwan, kansi chhai baraath yiwan; kanh chhu sada nala diwan, kansi aasan manzi raath” [someone's funeral march passes this way, someone's marriage band crosses that way; someone cries in grief over a death, someone sings in joy over a nuptial knot], Janbaz wrote and composed the most popular Watsun of his rich repertoire.

The contrast of a wedding in the macabre ambience of death and destruction on the colourful festival of Eid-ul-Fitr was a perfect enactment of Janbaz’s screenplay. Last Friday, the family of Dr. Ashish Sharma, who was getting married to Dr. Sonia Sharma, had to join the mandap at the bride’s home to solemnise the wedlock. “It was like crossing a hellhole,” Ashish’s father Naresh Kumar Sharma, a retired Excise and Taxation Officer, said. “We are just six Hindu families among 300 Muslim households in Shaheedi Mohalla. Hindus and Muslims were fighting pitched battles out in the town. Over a hundred vehicles, shops and hotels had been torched. A Hindu had been shot dead. A Muslim had been burnt alive. His charred body was lying near Chowgan Grounds till midnight.

“We had managed to perform the havan. As we were close to the ritual of Telwai, following which even a death can’t force cancellation of a marriage, we began requesting the pandit for postponement. But our Muslim neighbours, who were attending the function, said that the wedding should not be deferred and promised to escort the baraat through all the Muslim neighbourhoods. Thereupon, we proceeded with the remaining rituals and called up my in-laws to be ready for receiving the baraat,” Ashish, who runs an Ayurvedic clinic, told The Hindu. In the evening, 70 Muslims escorted Ashish’s baraat to protect it from possible attacks. Later, SHO Deepak Pathania escorted the caravan to its destination.

“Our classmate from Srinagar, Dr. Zahoor, made it a point to be present all through the wedding. Forty of our friends and relatives from Jammu and Delhi turned back on our request by telephone when the riots broke out. Only 25 men and four women attended the baraat. We sent back all other women under the protection of our Muslim neighbours. Our in-laws had sent a couple of vehicles to ferry us from Sarkot to Pochal,” Ashish said. After 24 hours, the just-married couple returned without being harassed or attacked by anyone from Pochal to Shaheedi Mohalla.

District Health Officer Dr. Wajid, who was among the 70-strong Muslim escort, said: “We are proud to belong to the religion that teaches us universal brotherhood. Prophet Mohammad has said the minorities are my sacred amaanat for the Muslim Ummat. It’s our religious obligation to protect them. Apart from that, we have been living together like one family for centuries. We all treat Nareshji as our brother, Ashish as our son and his sister as our daughter. How could a handful of marauders affect our relationship and strong bondage? “Whenever there’s a Janaza, they join us; whenever, there is a funeral procession, we join them. We eat, wear and live alike. They speak our language [Kashmiri]. The only difference is that they go to a temple and we go to a mosque for worshipping the Almighty. That never makes us different,” Dr. Wajid said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/when-muslims-escorted-a-hindu-baraat/article5016421.ece

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Lokayukta on Modi govt: Can’t work with ‘my way or highway’ mindset (Aug 7, 2013, Rediff)

In a severe moral blow to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the state Lokayukta, Justice R A Mehta, resigned from his post on Wednesday morning. The two-year-long Lokayukta episode that ended with the resignation of Justice Mehta is a murky saga of politics whereby Modi stubbornly wants complete control over all institutions and power structures in the state.

However, the sober Justice Mehta has uncharacteristically hit Modi hard in his seven-page resignation letter. Modi will never be able to forget the letter addressed to the governor, Dr Kamla Beniwal, and Gujarat Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya. The letter … leaves nothing to the imagination and blasts Modi and his government’s adversarial stance towards the institution of Lokayukta. Modi’s moral edge, whatever it was, has been eroded drastically by this brilliant recount of the events of the last two years by Justice Mehta.

Ironically, however, Justice Mehta’s resignation also leaves unquestioned the Modi government’s controversial decisions, with no independent oversight. Conversely, the Congress’s plans to highlight corruption in the government’s decisions will also suffer a setback with Justice Mehta’s resignation. The Congress, as Rahul Gandhi recently told his partymen from Gujarat, had plans to checkmate Modi on the issue of corruption before the Lok Sabha election through the machinery of Lokayukta. There are any numbers of alleged cases of corruption, from the Mundra land scandal to the favours granted to industrialists in central and south Gujarat.

Now, the new Lokayukta will be appointed under the new state law, wherein the government will have an upper hand. The Modi government will not be afraid of the new Lokayukta whoever he/she will be. Justice Mehta’s resignation, due to intimidation of various kinds from Gandhinagar, would have been a real advantage for Modi but with the former’s letter and detailed explanation of the chain of events, it has given Modi only a Pyrrhic victory.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/lokayukta-on-modi-govt-cant-work-with-my-way-or-highway-mindset/20130807.htm

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Human Rights activist Shabnam Hashmi slams Narendra Modi’s ‘Gujarat model’ as myth (Aug 10, 2013, Indian Express)

Human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi claimed on Saturday that the ‘Gujarat model’ of development was just a bundle of myths propagated by media managers of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as Gujarat is lagging behind many others in terms of socio-economic indicators like literacy and infant and maternal mortality rates.

Delivering the keynote address on ‘Gujarat Model of Development: Truth vs Hype’ as part of the 12th N Narendran Memorial lecture here instituted in the name of late journalist Narendran, she said around 40 per cent of the population in Gujarat was still under poverty.

“Modi projects himself as the man who is developing Gujarat in a very fast pace. But he is pumping in huge amount of money for this publicity propaganda. Almost 40 per cent of population there is under poverty. Minority groups including tribals, Dalits and Muslims are considered as second grade citizens in Modi’s Gujarat. He is no different from Hitler”, the activist alleged.

Polarisation between communities was growing in Gujarat and Modi continued to win elections as he could influence the upper middle class there who “stopped thinking”, she said.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1153706/

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Discrimination in Narendra Modi’s Ahmedabad (Aug 12, 2013, Economic Times)

On Friday, the day of Eid, when holiday crowds thronged one of Ahmedabad’s biggest malls, its management decided to control the numbers by levying an entry fee of Rs 20, refundable if the entrant made a purchase instead of returning emptyhanded from a sojourn in air-conditioned comfort. Fair enough.

Except that the levy applied only to Muslims (The Times of India, August 10). Those discriminated against in this fashion resented this, naturally. But this act of discrimination should concern not just those who were mortified by its direct experience, but all of us who hope to build a prosperous India where anyone can live in dignity, regardless of their religious or other group identity, and enjoy equality of opportunity.

Many would think it unfair to the sadbhavna (goodwill)-seeking chief minister of the state, Narendra Modi, to hold him responsible for the conduct of the mall management. But it is precisely his politics that breeds the sensibility that underlies the mall’s decision to treat Muslims differently. That politics stems from the ideology of the Sangh Parivar headed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which believes in the primacy of Hindus in Hindustan and imputes second-class status to all non-Hindus, Muslims in particular.

That there have been no communal riots in Gujarat since 2002 is touted by the Parivar as evidence of the Modi government’s commitment to identity-blind governance. Evidently, a quiet marginalisation of Muslims has been afoot, to an extent where a shopping mall can openly discriminate against them.

In Gujarat, it is not explicit laws of the kind used by Nazis that are at work, but a silent consensus in which discrimination seems entirely normal. Politics that builds such a consensus can destroy India as we know it, and must be shunned.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/editorial/discrimination-in-narendra-modis-ahmedabad/articleshow/21770140.cms

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CBI seeks MHA nod to arrest ex-IB boss (Aug 7, 2013, Indian Express)

The CBI sought permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to arrest Rajinder Kumar, former Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau, in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. Rajinder Kumar, who retired as the Special Director of the IB on July 31, was the Joint Director heading the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) in Gujarat in 2004 when the Ahmedabad Crime Branch killed Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh and two alleged Pakistanis Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar. The CBI, that was likely to file a supplementary chargesheet in the first week of August, has now sought permission to further delay filing of the second chargesheet.

A source from CBI said, “There were differences of opinion about Kumar’s summons or arrest and MHA had maintained that the CBI has to take permission from the ministry to summon or chargesheet Kumar. The evidence against Kumar have been presented before the MHA and permission has been sought to book him in the case based on these.”

The CBI has also mentioned three other assistant intelligence officers – Tarun Mittal, Rajeev Wankhede and M K Sinha – who were also mentioned in the first chargesheet. Taking off from the investigation where the CBI stated that Ishrat Jahan and others were killed in a joint operation of the Gujarat Police and IB, the agency has presented more details on the roles played by the intelligence officers.

Sources said the CBI has stated that Kumar had grilled Amjad and Zeeshan after they were abducted and brought to Ahmedabad before the encounter. Kumar had also sent his team to Vasad toll booth in Anand to take custody of Ishrat and Javed. The SIB officers had also helped suspended IPS officer Girish Singhal in collecting the AK 47 rifle from their office.

Under Section 197 (Prosecution of Judges and Public Servants) of the CrPC, the CBI will have to seek sanction without which their chargesheet will have no sanctity in the court. If the MHA gives the nod, Kumar would be chargesheeted along with other SIB offices who aided the Gujarat police. Kumar is likely to be named for allegedly playing a “crucial role” in generating the intelligence input which led to the encounter that killed Ishrat and four others. The police had claimed that the Central IB has generated an input stating that two Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists were coming to Gujarat to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1152150/

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AAP lambasts Modi govt for shielding PP Pandey (Aug 10, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Aam Aadmi Party’s national executive member Prashant Bhushan on Saturday slammed the Gujarat government for allegedly shielding absconding senior IPS officer PP Pandey named as an accused in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter killing case by CBI. “Gujarat’s additional director general of police, the state’s second seniormost police official, is absconding for four months in a fake encounter case and the state government has not initiated any disciplinary action against him,” Bhushan said.

“A local court has issued non-bailable warrant against Pandey and still the state government is unable to trace him because the state offers him protection,” Bhushan charged. Lampooning the state police, he said, “Gujarat police is so efficient that they can smell the air and generate inputs that terrorists are coming to kill chief minister Narendra Modi.”

Referring to Maya Kodnani, Babu Bokhiria and Amit Shah, Bhushan said many ministers in Modi-led government were convicted while some were still facing murder charges. Shah, recently appointed as BJP national general secretary, is facing murder charges in Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati encounter cases, while Kodnani got life sentence in the 2002 Naroda-Patiya riot case. “On top of all this, Modi tours the entire country and says Gujarat government is the most efficient government,” said Bhushan who was in Ahmedabad for a party event.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1106334.aspx

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Ishrat Jahan and Malegaon accused just scapegoats of system: Sharad Pawar (Aug 10, 2013, DNA India)

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said on Saturday that Ishrat Jahan and the 17 accused in the Malegaon blast were just scapegoats of the system. Newspaper reports put the number of accused in the Malegaon blast case, who were Muslim and later released from jail, to nine.

According to Pawar, he has said even in the past that the Muslim youth arrested for the Malegaon bomb blast were innocent. But they had to face three years’ incarceration because of the system. Ishrat Jahan was innocent and it was because of this that police officials involved in her encounter had to go to jail.

Pawar’s statements are being seen in the context of the upcoming general elections of 2014. He is believed to be eyeing the Musilm vote bank.

http://www.dnaindia.com/pune/1872783/report-ishrat-jahan-and-malegaon-accused-just-scapegoats-of-system-sharad-pawar

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Six injured in clashes, curfew in Bihar town (Aug 12, 2013, DNA India)

Curfew was imposed in a Bihar town where police resorted to firing Monday following a violent clash between two communities, in which at least half a dozen people were seriously injured, officials said. Police opened fire when a mob attacked the Bundelkhand police station in Nawada, about 150 km from here.

“Curfew has been imposed in Nawada town, as the situation went out of control after a violent clash between two communities,” Nawada Superintendent of Police M.S. Dhillon said. Dhillon said tension prevailed in Nawada town, and additional security forces had been deployed.

Communal tension erupted Friday when an altercation took place between a group of kanwarias (Hindu pilgrims) and another community at a roadside eatery in Nawada. District officials said clashes continued after the death of a 20-year-old youth, Kundan Kumar, who was injured along with three others in police firing Saturday.

Kundan Kumar died at the Patna Medical College and Hospital Sunday. District authorities had imposed curfew in Nawada for a few hours Saturday but later lifted it. Dhillon said Assistant Sub-Inspector Kamal Narain Singh of Nawada town police station has been suspended on charges of dereliction of duty.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed concern over the situation in Nawada, and directed officials to take stern action against anti-social elements. Nitish Kumar further appealed to people and all political parties to help the government ensure peace and social harmony in Nawada town. “I will not allow any one to flare up communal tension in the state,” he said.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1873500/report-six-injured-in-clashes-curfew-in-bihar-town

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Make Hyderabad permanent common capital: Seema-Andhra leaders tell Sonia (Aug 6, 2013, Rediff)

Amid continuing protests over the creation of a separate Telangana state, Union ministers from the Seema-Andhra region met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi and expressed the “sense of deprivation” prevailing in Andhra and Rayalseema regions. During the meeting on Tuesday, Gandhi told them that a committee of three senior leaders will be formed, which will look into their grievances, as the ministers told her about apprehensions among people in their constituencies. The ministers, including M M Pallam Raju, K S Rao, K Chiranjeevi, J D Seelam, Panabaka Lakshmi, D Purandheswari and Kruparani Killi, are learnt to have raised the demand that Hyderabad should be retained as permanent common capital of two Telugu-speaking states on the line of Chandigarh. Two other Union ministers from the region, K C Deo and Kotla Jayasurya Prakasha Reddy, were not part of the delegation.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Chiranjeevi said Gandhi assured them that the grievances of the people from Andhra and Rayalaseema regions will be taken care of. “What we said that you have to take care of the interest of both. It should not be that you have taken care of only Telangana. Among Andhraites, there are a lot of apprehensions. And those people, who are having their interest, their future, their life and everybody’s life in Hyderabad and surroundings. You have to protect their interests,” Chiranjeevi said. Asked whether they are demanding that Hyderabad be made a common capital of Telangana and Seema-Andhra on the line of Chandigarh, he said “that’s what we are insisting on or a model like Delhi. It has to be there. The lieutenant governor should take care of it.

These are the things we are discussing.” He said the party is setting up a three-member committee to look into these grievances, which will be announced by All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge for Andhra Pradesh Digvijay Singh. To pacify the leaders from the Seemandhra region, the Congress has set up a high-level committee headed by A K Antony, sources had said on Monday. The committee, of which Digvijay Singh is also a member, has been tasked to pacify the agitating members of two regions.

Asked about the issues they have taken up with Gandhi, Pallam Raju said “We went and represented about all the agitations that are going on (in Andhra and Rayalseema regions. Our people are feeling insecure because of some of the pronouncements made by Telangana leaders and there is a feeling of deprivation… We represented those matters. She (Sonia Gandhi) said that she will be announcing the committee and she wanted us to express our opinion to that committee.”

“It will be a committee of party leaders, which the general secretary be announcing…we have explained the current situation,” Raju added. The talk in the party is that the Congress central leadership is keen that its ministers from Andhra Pradesh do not press their resignation. The ministers are also planning to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the three resolutions passed in Hyderabad on Saturday. One of the resolutions had demanded reconsideration of Telangana state decision and asked Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy to quit.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/make-hyderabad-permanent-common-capital-seema-andhra-leaders/20130806.htm

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17 of the 32 Mumbai legislators linked to serious crimes: NGO (Aug 13, 2013, Hindustan Times)

As if their poor performance wasn’t enough, more than 50% of the city’s legislators have serious criminal cases recorded against them, says a study. Data collected by the NGO Praja indicates that 17 of the 32 city legislators have been linked to serious crimes, which invite a punishment of two years or more. The study has obtained information about those MLAs that have been named either in an FIR or a charge sheet. The data reveals that some legislators, though started clean, have committed or been named in serious crimes after getting elected.

While 15 MLAs had FIRs against them before the elections, 10 got named in FIRs, which linked them to serious crimes, after the elections. Praja project director Milind Mhaske said some legislators had been named in more than one FIR, but the study had not counted it to avoid confusion. “It is entirely possible that some of these legislators have been involved in serious crimes more than once,” said Mhaske.

Overall, the average score that legislators have got for not having a criminal record has suffered. From getting 0.19 marks on 5 in 2011, the score has gone into a -0.63. Such negative marking, Praja said, indicates a higher level of serious crimes. “If they have no crimes then a legislator gets 5 marks, if there’s a crime which isn’t serious then they get 3. However, -5 indicates that the MLA has been named in an FIR or a charge sheet,” explained Mhaske.

The MLAs with most number of crimes associated with them are Samajwadi Party’s Abu Asim Azmi, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) MLAs Pravin Darekar and Shishir Shinde, who have been named the lowest. On the brighter side, 15 MLAs have no serious crimes associated with their name. Congress’s Amin Patel, Annie Shekhar, Ashok Jadhav, Baba Siddiqui, Baldev Khosa, Chandrakant Handore among others, were ranked the highest for having a clean criminal record.

Prabhat Kumar, former cabinet secretary, who was present at the report launch, said, “It is said you cannot expect good governance from bad politics. Hence, people need to make use of such information and elect good people.” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Yogesh Sagar, who was ranked number 1 for the second consecutive year, said, “It’s good to have been recognised by the study. I am trying to satisfy as many of my constituents as I can.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1107337.aspx

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Dalit scholar arrested for Facebook post on Durga (Aug 6, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Kanwal Bharti, noted Dalit scholar, eminent writer and recipient of several national awards, would never have imagined that commenting on a social networking site over the ongoing IAS officer Durga Shakti’s suspension episode would land him into trouble. State urban development minister Azam Khan’s media convener on Tuesday lodged an FIR against the Rampur based writer blaming his comment communal and an attempt to breach peace. Kanwal was arrested by the Civil Lines Police from his residence-Awas Vikas Colony under Kotwali police circle. However, he has been granted bail.

Kanwal, who recently got retired as president of Ambedkar hostel run by Social Welfare Department, Rampur, faced the action for his facebook post over the burning issue of Durga Nagpal’s suspension and the role of UP government in the whole issue. Fasahat Ali Shanu, Azam’s media convener in his report alleged that Kanwal’s comment was provocative and may spread disharmony among the people. The whole issue began after Kanwal in his recent Facebook post blamed the UP government for being ‘biased’ in Durga’s case.

“How come fastest? You don’t know that in Rampur an old Madarsa was bulldozed and its manager was put behind the bars for opposing the action. He is still in jail. But Akhilesh’s government didn’t suspend anybody in Rampur. Is it so that in Rampur its Azam Khan who rules not Akhilesh”, states the facebook post on which Shanu raised the objection. This the second time Rampur was the centre of attention for a similar issue within a week. Earlier, Azam Khan had issued a statement holding Gautam Buddha Nagar’s district magistrate equally responsible in Durga’s case and demanded his suspension.

Shanu further blamed that Kanwal had also mentioned that Azam Khan can do anything in Rampur which is his constituency, even god could not stop him. “There is nobody above god. Such type of comments may create disharmony among the locals during the ongoing month of Ramadan so such comments should be banned”, said Shanu. Police arrested him and produced before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) VK Pandey where he was released on bail. Kanwal Bharti, son of a Dalit cobbler Bhagwan Das, who was raised in the slums of Rampur, is a famous poet and writer. Many of his poems have also been included in the syllabus of Post Graduate studies in various national universities.

However, his arrest has had no impact on his Facebook followers and admirers who resorted to protests on Facebook and strongly condemned the act. Kanwal’s work has also been included in the books prescribed by Delhi University, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Allahabad University, Aligarh Muslim University and Lucknow University.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1104208.aspx

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Opinions and Editorials

‘Development plus’ and saffron politics – By Badri Narayan (Aug 8, 2013, DNA India)

Development sounds good as election agenda – we wish it became a reality. Sad though it may be, it fails to organise the masses. Development does not ensure that they push the buttons in electronic voting machines (EVMs) during elections. This is the grim tale of Indian democracy. Perhaps that’s why in Bihar, Nitish Kumar has to align caste equation with development. In Gujarat, Narendra Modi, despite being the ‘face of development’, falls back on power and communalism’s propaganda and fear psychosis. In Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chauhan has to mix development with the memory of Hindutva and the backward card.

Now, with the fear of the collapse of Narendra Modi’s ‘Vikas Purush’ image, a new image is being invented. He is being linked both with the Ram Janmabhoomi issue and the backward caste that he belongs to. In BJP-ruled states, development is not just development. It’s being mixed with communalism, identity hysteria, along with power, propaganda and fear springing from it. This strange alchemy is now packaged as ‘development plus’. These days Amit Shah, the face of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, has shifted his base to Ayodhya, signalling fresh political ramifications. Plans are afoot to bring alive the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi once again and whip-up religious frenzy.

The meetings of Avadh Pranth (region), hitherto held at Lucknow, were taking place at Ayodhya, beginning last month. Ram Janmabhoomi and Ayodhya are being added to the ‘development champion’ image of Modi to convert it into the desired ‘development plus’ package. Furthermore, since Narendra Modi has been declared the BJP chief of the election committee, VHP leader, Ashok Singhal, has set up a camp at Ayodhya. He too is making every effort to rake up the Ram Janmabhoomi issue in the forthcoming elections.

A meeting of sants (seers) and sadhus, chaired by Singhal, was held on June 27. It was decided that during the Chaurasi Parikrama (84 circumambulations) of Ayodhya, beginning August 25, the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi shall be stirred up. The second plus being loaded on to the development issue, by Shah and BJP, is the backward card, with Modi at its epicentre. Modi’s backward caste and Sardar Patel as a backward caste icon is being played as a well-planned strategy by the BJP. World’s tallest statue of Sardar Patel, named as ‘Statue of Unity’, is being erected in Gujarat. In Gujarat villages, old farming implements, made of iron, are being collected from farmers as part of a strategy. BJP is trying to spread it, on the basis of the politics of Shilanayas, to the villages.

But, there is a major challenge. It needs to be seen how Modi is accepted by the masses in north India. Secondly, the myth of Ram is very different from that of Patel. Another ‘plus’ in BJP’s ‘development plus’ is the rule of Samajwadi Party in UP. During the rule of SP, fanatic Muslim elements have created skirmishes in small towns and kasbas. It was during the SP regime in the past that Ram Mandir and Babri Mosque issues gained credence. Misinformation of ‘Hindu victimisation’ is being created among the non-BJP Hindus. All attempts are being made to polarize the Hindus and thus convert it into a safe vote bank. It needs to be seen how BJP would use all its pluses, in UP and Bihar, to garner votes in its favour, in the 2014 elections.

http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/1871470/column-development-plus-and-saffron-politics

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Challenging a verdict – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Aug 23, 2013, Frontline)

The conviction of the alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Shahzad Ahmad in the 2008 Batla House encounter case for murdering Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police and injuring two others has evoked mixed reactions. While the Delhi Police feel vindicated, several human rights activists, who had raised doubts about the police’s version of the encounter, plan to move a higher court against the decision. On July 30, the court of Additional Sessions Judge Rajender Kumar Shastri in Delhi sentenced Shahzad to life imprisonment and imposed a penalty of Rs.95,000 on him. The court declared that Rs.40,000 of the fine should be given to the family of the deceased police officer. It found Shahzad guilty of murder, attempt to murder, obstructing and assaulting public servants and grievously injuring police officers. Pointing out that it “was not a sudden confrontation”, the judge said: “The police had information, based on which a raiding party was formed well in advance. The accused had no licence to fire at police persons who came there to investigate a case. They were expected to assist the police, not attack them.”

Shahzad was being tried for murder and assault in the present case while in another court he was being tried for his alleged IM links. He is the lone accused in the case of the murder of Inspector Sharma. The Batla House encounter is one of the three most controversial encounters of the recent past, the others being the Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin Sheikh killings. The Batla House encounter happened on September 19, 2008, six days after the Delhi serial blasts, which killed 30 people and left more than 100 injured. According to the police, the Special Cell received a tip-off about suspected IM operatives involved in the blasts hiding in Flat number 108 at L-18 in the Batla House area of South Delhi. An encounter ensued between the alleged terrorists and the team of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police headed by Sharma, which had gone there for a routine investigation. During the investigation, two suspected terrorists, Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajjid, allegedly opened fire on the police but were killed. Sharma was killed in this shootout. The police claimed that they arrested two residents of the flat while two others, one of whom was Shahzad, managed to escape. Shahzad was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police in February 2010 in his hometown, Azamgarh, in eastern U.P.

Given the continually changing police versions of the event, several Congress leaders and residents of Batla House alleged that it could have been a fake encounter. In the course of the hue and cry over the encounter, the Supreme Court refused to institute a judicial probe and instead appointed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to conduct an investigation. The NHRC report in 2009 declared the encounter genuine. However, activists rejected it as the NHRC team did not visit the spot or talk even once to the residents of Batla House or the arrested individuals. Instead, it relied completely on the documents released by the police. The Union government remained clueless about handling the case as it felt that the probe could affect the morale of the police force, which had lost one of its most decorated officers in the shootout. The judgment of the Additional Sessions Court also relied mostly on the prosecution case and human rights activists alleged that the defence case, despite being a very strong one, was ignored. The judgment relied mostly on circumstantial evidence and police witnesses as the investigating police team could not produce any solid evidence. Three pieces of evidence produced by the police in the court became crucial. One, the expired passport of Shahzad was allegedly found in the flat where the incident occurred, suggesting that Shahzad was indeed a resident of that flat. Two, police witnesses claimed that Shahzad had fired at Sharma and other policemen before escaping. Three, the police claimed that Atif Ameen, who was killed in the shootout, had been in touch over the phone with Shahzad earlier and had booked a railway ticket to Azamgarh for September 24, 2008, for him. The police claimed that Shahzad had planned his escape from the city after carrying out the serial blasts.

On July 31, the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) released a report titled “Beyond reasonable doubt? The conviction of Shahzad Ahmad”. The report, which offers a critique of the judgment and a point-by-point rebuttal of the police version, points out that the murder weapon mentioned by the police was never recovered. It says at least the shells of bullets that Shahzad had allegedly fired could have been recovered, but these were missing in the recovery items. It notes that Flat No 108 was on the fourth floor in a heavily congested area and it was impossible for any person to escape from there when the police had surrounded the building from all sides. It further states that Shahzad was first referred as Pappu and that in different depositions before the court the police had identified Pappu with different names: Shahnawaj, Shahbaz and Shahzad subsequently. It says no independent witness of the Batla House encounter was produced by the police. All witnesses presented were police personnel, who told the court that they did not see Shahzad escaping. Questioning the veracity of the police version, JTSA president Manisha Sethi toldFrontline: “Firstly, if the police claim to have phone records of conversation between Shahzad and Atif, why were no voice records produced in the court? Secondly, no other belongings of Shahzad were recovered from the flat which could very well mean that Shahzad’s passport could have been planted there. How do the police claim that Shahzad was a resident of that flat? Thirdly, is it possible that a terrorist books a railway ticket to escape 11 days after the blasts?”

The report further notes that even the post-mortem reports of Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajjid were not examined by the court. “The post-mortem reports could have been the most important pieces of evidence. It clearly shows bullet wounds on the back of Atif’s body. Sajjid’s body had firearm injuries only on the head. Physical wounds made by some blunt and sharp object were also found on Atif’s body,” Manisha Sethi said. The JTSA report also notes: “The entry points of each of these gunshot wounds – and the fact that all but one bullet is travelling in a downward direction – strongly suggests that he [Atif] was held down by force (which also explain the injuries on the back and leg region), while bullets were pumped down his forehead, back and head. In which genuine crossfire do people receive injuries only in the back and head region?” Describing the judgment as “riddled with tautology and obfuscations”, the report says: “All that is proved, beyond inconsistent police testimony, is that it is possible that the accused knew the deceased. And this possible association is the only ground for conviction. In sum, the judgment has merely accepted the case put forward by the prosecution. The prosecution merely gives the version provided by the police that are inconsistent. These inconsistencies are ignored. The judgment merely argues for the possibility of the police account and in a strange and twisted logic such possibility, accepted on the most flimsy grounds, provides the basis on which a conviction for the most heinous crimes is carried through.”

http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/challenging-a-verdict/article4982619.ece

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Tension in Tonk – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Aug 23, 2013, Frontline)

The Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan is hopeful of retaining its position in the State in the Assembly elections which will be held later this year. According to opinion polls conducted recently, the incumbent government may yet have a slim chance of continuing in office given the slew of welfare measures it has initiated over the past one year. However, large sections of the minority community do not feel the same way about the Gehlot government as they did when it assumed power five years ago. A spate of incidents involving extreme police action and measures against the minorities during its tenure have created a sense of insecurity among these communities and infused cynicism into the electorate at large. Memories of the police firing in Gopalgarh in Bharatpur district in September 2011 (“Targeted Attack”, Frontline, October 21, 2011), which claimed 10 young lives, were fresh in their minds when another incident of police insensitivity put the government in the dock.

On July 11, the very first day of fasting in the month of Ramzan, a skirmish broke out between two communities over the high decibel levels of the music that was played in a marriage procession. Two groups of local youth clashed with each other, a motorcycle belonging to a member of the minority community was set on fire, and some musical equipment belonging to the other side was damaged. The police claimed that the incident had the potential to become a serious issue. “It is a hypersensitive district,” said a senior police officer. The next morning, Tonk District Collector Lal Chand Aswal called a peace committee meeting where, interestingly, local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were also present. That evening, a huge police contingent, comprising personnel of the Special Task Force (STF) and the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (RAC), was stationed outside the Chavani mosque, where around a thousand persons, including children and old men, had assembled for the evening prayers. Members of the Keer community, a peasant caste known traditionally to cultivate on riverbeds, assembled on the road opposite the mosque.

What happened next is unclear. But what it resulted in was very visible. As prayers continued inside, the police pushed their way through, tear-gassing and lathi-charging anyone who came in their way. Not even eight-year-olds or 85-years-olds were spared. In the mayhem, a tear gas shell ripped the eye of a young man, killing him instantly. It was claimed that the police entered the premises because stones were thrown from the ramparts and roof of the mosque and adjacent homes at the Keers who had assembled there. Nearly four dozen persons sustained injuries, including fractures and injuries to the head. “The action was totally disproportionate to the incident,” said a retired major in Tonk city. The District Magistrate dismissed the matter as a “freak incident” and a “coincidence”, stating that everything was under control. Superintendent of Police S. Parimala justified the action on the grounds that there was stone-throwing and that the situation could have gone out of control. She also claimed that the dead man was a history-sheeter and had no business being there offering prayers as he was from a different area. According to police sources, he had mobilised mischievous elements in order to create trouble.

Local people and leaders of the minority community who Frontline spoke to explained that it was not uncommon for members of their community to offer prayers at any mosque, especially if they happened to be passing by. “Even if he was a history-sheeter, where does it say that he should die like this?” asked Mohammad Hasan, a retired professor of geography at the University of Rajasthan, who visited the place. Members of the minority community claimed that there was provocation from the Keers who were armed. When stone-throwing began from both sides, some STF personnel got injured and that seems to have been the trigger for the police action. They said the theory that mischievous elements were present in the mosque as part of a pre-planned strategy was false. “It was not a communal clash, a Hindu-Mussalman fight. The administration is to blame. They had no right to beat us up like this,” said Haji Ahmed Sayeed, a muezzin who sustained injuries on his hand as he tried to protect himself from the blows. Members of the community alleged that they were beaten up brutally, taken to the police station and made to stay there in their undergarments.

The parliamentary constituency of Tonk-Sawai Madhopur is represented by Union Minister Namo Narain Meena, who people say is hardly bothered by such incidents. “We got him elected from a general seat against Colonel [K.S.] Bainsla of the BJP who led the Gujjar agitation for reservation, and this is what we get,” said a local leader. The majority of the Assembly segments here, including Tonk, are represented by Congress legislators. The Congress party’s election observer for the constituency is Brajendra Ola, son of another Central Minister, Sis Ram Ola, who, minority community members say, has rarely bothered to visit the place or inquire about the situation. Mujahid, a Congress worker, whose father, an 86-year-old, was beaten up, wonders what good staying in the party has served him. “We are unhappy that this should happen in a Congress-led regime. Whatever be the reason, the action was in excess,” he toldFrontline. Shamsuddin, a government employee with the Irrigation Department, was equally perplexed. “There were small children and old men praying. If the intention was to create trouble, then why would we bring them along? My 13-year-old grandson was also arrested,” he said. …

http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/tension-in-tonk/article4995445.ece

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How Many States Do We Want? – By Ratnadip Choudhury (Aug 17, 2013, Tehelka)

Soon after the Congress Working Committee announced its decision to grant statehood to Telangana on 30 July, in the Northeast of the country, violent demonstrations and protests broke out on the streets. Various ethnic groups came out, demanding the formation of separate states on ethnic and historical lines. If Telangana could be carved out, they felt, why not our state? In Assam alone, five different statehood demands re-surfaced after years of uneasy calm. On 31 July, Diphu, the district headquarters of Karbi Anglong district, erupted in flames, when angry mobs took to the streets, vandalising and setting fire to more than 60 government offices, several vehicles and houses of senior Congress leaders. Railway tracks were uprooted at several places, cutting off the region from the rest of the country. Members of the Karbi Students’ Union and the NSUI feel that now is the time for the Centre to honour their 26-year-old demand for a separate Karbi autonomous state under Article 244A of the Constitution, the unique provision that allows for the formation of an autonomous state. At the time of this going to press – and despite a curfew, army flag marches, and shoot-at-sight orders – the district is still reeling under the aftermath of the violence.

In the neighbouring Dima Hasao district, the Dimaraji (Land of the Dimasas) demand for a separate state by the Dimasa tribals has gotten louder with the Hill State Democratic Party (HSDP) joining the Karbi chorus. Interestingly, the HSDP wants a separate tribal state comprising the twin districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao. “If Telangana can be formed,” says HSDP General Secretary Kanjang Terang, “then there is no reason why there cannot be a separate state of the Karbis and the Dimasas. Our demand is much older than Telangana and we will go to Delhi for a clear word.” The scene is not much different in the plains of lower Assam, where the Bodoland agitation has been fanned by the announcement on Telangana. From the late 80′s, the Bodos, the largest tribal group in Assam, have been demanding a separate state of Bodoland, a demand which the Centre had managed to quell with the creation of a territorial council. But, on 1 August, Bodo groups called for a 48-hour bandh in the state, leading to a situation, where the Northeast was effectively cut off from the rest of India. “The Bodoland demand is a legitimate one that dates back to 1967,” says Promod Boro, president of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU). “We have seen two councils, one of which was an autonomous council, but the step-motherly attitude of the state government has meant that nothing has been of help and now we want a separate state. If Telangana is justified, then the Centre has to explain to us why Bodoland cannot happen.”

In 1987, under the leadership of Upendra Nath Brahma, ABSU first gave the call “Divide Assam 50:50″. The Bodo Peoples’ Front that rules the Bodoland Territorial Council, and is an important ally of the Congress government in Assam, has threatened to withdraw support, unless the Centre is pressured to pass a resolution for a separate state of Bodoland. Simultaneously, the Koch-Rajbongshi community in lower Assam led the All Assam Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRASU) in various agitations in support of the long-standing demand for a state of Kamtapur. The region has seen violence in the past in this quest for a separate state, a demand the Koch-Rajbongshis of Assam share with their counterpart in North Bengal. In the hills of North Bengal, the Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has renewed its call for a state of Gorkhaland. An indefinite bandh has been called in the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. GJM chief Gurung has resigned as the head of the Gorkha Territorial Council (GTA) in protest and party general secretary Roshan Giri along with top GJM leaders are camping in New Delhi to push for statehood. Gorkhaland supporters have torched a few government offices and bungalows in Darjeeling, but sentiments peaked after two supporters tried to immolate themselves, one of them, Mangal Singh Rajput from Kalimpong, even succumbing to his burns.

“If Telangana happens, Gorkhaland has to happen,” runs the by now familiar strain from Gurung. “We will not compromise, we will take the fight for Gorkhaland to the streets.” Forever trying to establish a one-party rule in the Darjeeling hills, Gurung has even reached out to his political rivals to take to the streets and jointly fight for Gorkhaland. “It is time we unite,” he says ominously. So fierce and widespread have these movements been that both the Centre and the state governments have had to urge the various groups to come to the negotiating table. Assam, which has already seen three divisions in the creation of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, could be the worst affected. West Bengal too has seen partition and would be loath to experience a similar period again. “Eastern India and the Northeast in particular has a history of separation and violence, but ethnic aspiration is the result of years of neglect by the people in power,” says Guwahati-based human rights activist Ranjan Baruah. “For the Centre, Telangana is more important because it has numbers, which the Northeast cannot offer.”

A total deadlock in North Bengal, a 3,000-hour bandh called by Karbi rebel groups, 36-hour bandh by the Koch -Rajbongshis, Bodo groups threatening to launch indefinite economic blockade and demands of other separate states – Garoland in Meghalaya, Frontier Nagaland and Greater Nagalim in Nagaland, Kukiland in Manipur and a separate Tripuri state in Tripura . Was New Delhi completely oblivious of the fallout the creation of Telangana would have, or is the east too far away from its political radar? Either way, it will now have to somehow douse these fires.

http://www.tehelka.com/how-many-states-do-we-want/

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Fighting Fire In Seemandhra – By Ashhar Khan and G Vishnu (Aug 17, 2013, Tehelka)

It was obvious to the Congress high command that granting statehood to Telangana was fraught with perils. As people vented their anger in Seemandhra (the residual part of Andhra Pradesh comprising coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) by calling for bandhs and torching statues of Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi, nervous party leaders are hoping the frenzy will die down soon. The Congress is more worried about holding on to its seven MPs from Seemandhra who are threatening to abandon the party before the Food Security Bill is tabled in Parliament. Even as Congress MPs from Telangana were celebrating that the party leadership had acquiesced to their longstanding demand for a separate state, seven Lok Sabha MPs and one Rajya Sabha MP hailing from the Andhra region tendered their resignations. More than 25 MLAs also threatened to resign. However, Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Botsa Satyanarayana pacified the MLAs by presenting a resolution to party general secretary Digvijaya Singh on 5 August. “We have requested the party high command to maintain status quo and avoid bifurcation,” says Satyanarayana. “If Telangana is indeed inevitable, then we want Hyderabad to be a Union Territory or the shared capital.”

When the Congress Working Committee announced its decision on Telangana on 30 July, jittery Union ministers hailing from Seemandhra made a beeline to their constituencies to get a first-hand assessment of the ground situation. They included Union Human Resource Development Minister MM Pallam Raju, a four-time MP from Kakinada. On 2 August, they regrouped in New Delhi and decided to convey the anti-Telanganamood prevalent in the region to the party high command. Despite burning the phone lines, all they could muster was an appointment with Digvijaya Singh. Armed with their resignations, the delegation of ministers, which also included JD Seelam, D Purandeswari, J Surya Prakash Reddy and Kruparani Killi, met Singh. The meeting lasted for two hours, where they tried to impress upon Singh that they would be committing political suicide if they failed to send a strong signal that they were against the creation of Telangana. The ministers also conveyed that apart from their own future, the party’s fortunes were also at stake in Andhra. Singh acknowledged that the party leadership was aware of their problems but was adamant that tendering resignations was no solution. Finally, it was decided that Singh will propose to party president Sonia Gandhi the setting up of a high-level committee to look into all the issues and remove imbalances.

This committee, headed by Defence Minister AK Antony, will interact with the leaders of Andhra and Rayalaseema before the new state of Telangana comes up. This move has pacified the ministers, at least for the time being. The Congress is also planning to cool the simmering anger by announcing special packages, which will include many welfare schemes and a favourable water-sharing agreement. Congress leaders believe that some resignations are inevitable. “While taking theTelangana decision, the party had taken into account the resignations that will pour in,” says a senior Congress leader, adding that the party leaders will have to work overtime to douse the fire in their constituencies. They believe that the anti-Telangana mood will subside with the passage of time. Congress insiders claim that the trouble witnessed in the Seemandhra region were in areas that predominantly are strongholds of either the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) led by former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu or Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress. The Congress has little hold in these areas. Dismissing rumours that some MLAs and MPs are planning to abandon ship and join Jagan’s party, a senior Congress leader from Andhra told Tehelka on the condition of anonymity that the deserters would not be more than three MLAs and two MPs, whereas leaders from other parties might join the Congress.

Five senior YSR Congress leaders from Telangana have already resigned. Konda Surekha, a leader from Warangal, her husband Konda Murali, Balakrishna Reddy, KK Mahendar Reddy, Raj Thakur and Puvvada Ajay Kumar tendered their resignation to party president Vijayamma on 31 July. Rumour has it that they will join either theCongress or the TDP. “The bifurcation of the state will improve the Congress’ chances in Andhra andRayalaseema regions,” says Congress MP Madhu Goud, who represents Nizamabad inTelangana. “Some of the MPs who are threatening to quit are the same ones who had earlier signed a letter backing Jagan Reddy as chief minister.” But YSR Congress leaders beg to differ. “The Congress did not consult any of the parties before deciding to bifurcate the state. It’s only in Telangana that some of our MLA aspirants are leaving. In coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, members of both theTDP and Congress will be joining our party soon, as we have a better winnability factor,” says senior leader DA Somayajulu. In 2009, despite being an incumbent party, the Congress won 156 of 294 Assembly seats and 29 out of 42 seats in the Lok Sabha. In Telangana, it won 12 seats, whereas the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) managed only one. Much of the Congress’ worries began after the then chief minister late YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s son Jagan started his own party and attracted renegades from the Congress and the TDP. In the subsequent bypolls, Jagan’s party won 17 Assembly seats.

The Congress received a confidence boost from the recent sarpanch elections. Much to the party’s surprise, it topped the tally with 4,342 posts, followed by the TDP (4,275),YSR Congress (2,739) and the TRS (1,117). YSR Congress’ performance was lacklustre inSeemandhra. The prevalent thinking in the Congress is that the creation of Telangana will prove to be a calculated risk. The first target is to capture all 17 Lok Sabha seats in the new state, including Hyderabad, which is represented by Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. Even though the TRS is yet to keep its promise of merging with the Congress, onceTelangana becomes a reality, the signs remain positive. “We will cross the bridge when we come to it,” says Kavita Rao Kalvakuntla, the daughter of TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao. “Our terms are simple. We are willing to share Hyderabad as the capital for 10 years, not any longer. Hyderabad will be the 10th district of Telangana, and arrangements will be made for the Andhra administration to function fromHyderabad.” Behind the theatrics, has the Congress actually managed to wriggle itself out of a mess? Whereas it is too premature to draw conclusions or map out the long-term political ramifications, the party does seem to be making all the right moves – pacifying wherever it’s necessary and readying to let go of bad apples.

http://www.tehelka.com/fighting-fire-in-seemandhra/

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Tragic eye-opener – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Aug 23, 2013, Frontline)

The death of 23 children after consuming a midday meal contaminated with an organophosphorus pesticide at a primary school in Mashrakh block of Saran district in Bihar on July 16 brought to the fore a range of issues regarding the midday meal programme in the country. But a few others such as the welfare of midday meal workers and the role of private sector initiatives in the midday meal scheme got scant attention. An embattled Bihar government sought to stave off criticism amid various conspiracy theories, but an inquiry report by the Additional Secretary of the Union Human Resource Development Ministry blamed the State government for “grave negligence”. The cooking was done in the open in the school, which was run from a community building. The oil used for cooking was procured from a shop owned by the husband of the headmistress. The government, stung by criticism, suspended the headmistress and directed teachers to henceforth taste the cooked food before serving them to children. These are at best superficial measures even as systemic ones like that of appointing regular coordinators to maintain accounts and supervise the system have been ignored. Corruption is a serious issue in the midday meal programme.

The midday meal programme in the country is said to be the world’s largest school feeding programme and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government does not tire claiming credit for it. However, the incident in the Bihar school has exposed not only the cavalier attitude of the Central and some State governments as far as the monitoring of the scheme is concerned but also the free hand given to private operators which allows them to flout the guidelines of the scheme. Measures like tasting the food before serving it obfuscate the real problems that bog the scheme down—for instance, the manner in which midday meal workers are treated. “The only incentive for them, working at such pitiable rates, is the one free meal they get,” said A.R. Sindhu, secretary, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). In a memorandum to Jiten Prasada, Union Minister of State for Human Resource, the All India Coordination Committee of Mid Day Meal Workers (affiliated to the CITU) pointed out that a number of schools in the country did not have proper kitchens or storage space. Supply of cooking gas was erratic and where there was no gas connection, workers had to collect firewood, it said.

The workers, all from socially and economically backward communities, are expected to provide the best of service under the worst of conditions. They have no regular wage or social security. Employed on a part-time basis, they work for more than six to eight hours a day and are paid an honorarium of just Rs.1,000 a month, and that too for only 10 months a year. Sindhu said that the honorarium was not paid in full and given after six or seven months. The government, the delegation pointed out, turned a blind eye to the unanimous recommendation of the trade unions at the 45th Indian Labour Conference that those employed under the midday meal scheme be recognised as workers and given minimum wages and other social security benefits. Most often, workers who suffered injuries while cooking could not avail themselves of first aid or proper treatment. In the case of the school in Bihar, there was no decent public health facility where the children could be administered treatment. The delegation that met the Minister also felt that it was unfair to burden the teachers with preparing midday meals.

In a shocking move that discriminated against midday meal workers, the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments issued a circular stating that only those women would be retained as workers whose children studied in the same school. “What if the worker has older children who have got married? Why isn’t a similar conditionality placed for the teacher?” a worker asked. There have been regular protests by midday meal workers against their arbitrary retrenchment. On July 29, the Udupi district unit of Akshara Dasoha Workers Association submitted a memorandum to the Karnataka Chief Minister demanding the regularisation of their work and an end to the privatisation of the midday meal scheme. The association said the move to privatise it would deprive at least one lakh women of their livelihood. Rather than outsource it to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the government should monitor the scheme, it said. While the focus has been on the poorly run scheme in government schools, the situation in the privately managed, centralised kitchens run by corporates and large NGOs has not been any better. Many child rights organisations that castigated the government over the tragedy in Bihar failed even to mention that the midday meals provided by private agencies also needed to come under the scanner. The delegation that met Jiten Prasada told him that the job of preparing food by agencies such as The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), the Akshay Patra Foundation, the Naandi Foundation and corporates such as Vedanta needed to be stopped immediately. The Haryana government has given the ISKCON Foundation the contract to run the midday meal scheme in four districts through its centralised kitchen.

Jai Bhagwan, general secretary of the midday meal workers’ union in Haryana, told Frontline that there were innumerable cases where lizards and other insects had been found in the food cooked in the centralised kitchens run by private entities. “There should be government fair price shops that supply raw materials locally. In a centralised system, there is a lot of corruption. As it is made in bulk, a lot of raw materials can be siphoned off. Often the food is prepared early in the morning, packed in tiffin boxes, and by the time it reaches schools by noon, it becomes stale. There are 16 items listed by the State government that should be part of the midday meal diet. But private entities like ISKCON that run centralised kitchens in some districts in the State provide only six items. The number of people that are hired in the centralised kitchens are also small as compared to those who prepared the food locally,” he said, listing some of the concerns. The midday meal scheme, Sindhu said, should be included in the Food Security Act as it was an issue concerning the food security of children. It also needed to be extended to cover children studying up to class 12, she said. “Instead of taking measures to fill the gaps in the inputs and the implementation of the scheme, there is a very conscious move from many quarters, taking advantage of the fear and anger of the beneficiaries, to malign the scheme and privatise it,” the delegation told the Minister. …

http://www.frontline.in/social-issues/tragic-eyeopener/article4995308.ece

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Book Review

The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India

Author: Gyanendra Pandey
Reviewed by: Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed
Available at: Oxford University Press, Ground Floor, YMCA Library Building, 1, Jai Singh Road, Post Box 43, New Delhi – 110001, India, 2012, Pages: xxxiv + 318, Price: Rs.445. http://global.oup.com/
Review:
A subaltern view (Aug 23, 2013, Frontline)

Recognising the enduring legacy of Gyanendra Pandey’s The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India, Oxford University Press has brought out the title under its Oxford India Perennials series. This is the third edition of the book, which was first published in 1990. … Pandey is a founder member of the Subaltern Studies Collective, an informal group of historians and scholars that introduced a new paradigm into the historical thinking of South Asia when it burst on the intellectual scene in the 1980s. … Pandey’s work needs to be understood in the context of his association with the Subaltern Studies Collective as a founder member. His research on the construction of communalism stands out among other works on the same theme for its reconceptualising and reworking of the notion of communalism as he tries to wrench it out of its traditional and parochial “elite” understanding while also questioning the way in which the term has been used in colonialist and nationalist historiography.

He provides a caveat early on when he says that the book is not a “comprehensive history” of Hindu-Muslim relations in north India but is “…an attempt to examine what we accomplish when we apply the term ‘communalism’ to this history…”. Pandey writes that for the colonialist, communalism emerged as a valid form of nationalism in the South Asian context. On the other hand, communalism represented the opposite of nationalism for Indian nationalists, and the concept itself was moulded in the 1920s and 1930s through the tumultuous decades of religious strife. The interesting point that Pandey makes here is that there is some overlap in the interpretations of communalism by both nationalists and communalists. According to him, both the colonialist and the nationalist positions derive from the same liberal ideology in which “rationalism and secularism operate as adjacent elements of thought”. At the same time, these interpretations, whether they are rooted in “essentialist” or “economistic” reasons, are elite understandings of communalism.

Pandey disagrees with the work of some prominent historians such as Bayly, whose work on the prehistory of communalism emphasised continuities in Indian history. He sees this as a reiteration of an older colonialist position. He also critiques the work of Francis Robinson, who has acquired a reputation as one of the foremost authorities on South Asian Islam. Robinson’s work on sectarian strife (Separatism of Indian Muslims, 1974), according to Pandey, draws a sharp line between elite and mass mentalities and does not take into account an important part of the historical experience. Pandey shows how the colonialist construction of Indian history incorporated religious bigotry and conflict as a distinctive feature of Indian society. This was an essentialist understanding of Indian history as religious conflict was accepted as a valid part of Indian society. Pandey’s close examination of the various colonial accounts of the Banaras riots of 1809 demonstrates this essentialist reading of an event. The reductionist tendencies of the colonialist discourse made it appear as if the disturbances were part of a continuum of Indian society and, thus, provided justification for colonial rule. He establishes how the British created a “master narrative” of communalism to understand sectarian strife. …

Pandey then turns to the question of the formation of the Hindu community, which he says has not been as adequately researched as the formation of the Muslim community. He does this by examining the action that was taken to protect the cow as a symbol of the Hindu religion in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. He concludes that while it cannot be said that the notion of a “Hindu” community or a “Muslim” community had no meaning for the vast majority consolidations were more local and happened on the basis of caste and kinship groups. According to Pandey, colonialism was responsible for the creation of an all-India Hindu community. In another interesting chapter, the author discusses the contradictions of the nationalist thought as there was tension between the post-Enlightenment ideas of a “nation” and the pre-colonial “community” that had prevailed in India. Before the 1920s, the Indian nation was constructed as a “collection of communities”, but as the notion of a nation began to alter to mean a “collection of individuals”, the concept of communalism also began to be articulated in nationalist thought. Nationalism and communalism were simultaneously articulated in the imagination of the Indian nationalist.

It was also during this time that the communitarian mobilisations that were accepted earlier by nationalists came to be regarded as a distorted and distorting tendency. For the nationalists, this distortion stretched to the point where the politics of religion began to be seen as not real politics at all. In this nationalist version of the Indian nation, history was used to emphasise the essential unity of all Indians before the British disturbed the peace. Pandey says that this oversimplified reading suffered because it ignored “any sense of the common people as historical agents”. In the new afterword that accompanies this edition, Pandey discusses the problems in writing a history of religious violence when the term “communalism” does not apply as readily as it once did. A significant point he makes here is that the nature of the state has changed from colonial India as there is clear evidence of the power of the centralised state, and the state appears far less neutral as it has been reinvented in a chauvinist Hindu image. He calls this “statist chauvinism”. …

http://www.frontline.in/books/a-subaltern-view/article4985489.ece

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