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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 25th, 2014

by newsdigest on August 26, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

RSS is threat to the nation, says MPCC (Aug 20, 2014, Business Standard)

Terming the RSS a “threat” to the nation, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) today said its ideology is against the secular constitution of the country. “We have a secular constitution, as per which every individual has a right to follow the religion of his choice. But people like (RSS president) Mohan Bhagwat try to divide people by making communal statements,” Thakre said here referring to Bhagwat’s recent remark that India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva is its identity.

Thakre was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function organised to celebrate the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi today. He said that although it was the Congress that initiated the metro rail projects in Maharashtra, the Opposition was trying to take its credit. “Whether it is in Pune or Nagpur, it is the Congress that has initiated the metro rail projects for the benefit of the people of Maharashtra. But the Modi government is trying to take undue credit. We will not let them mislead the people of the state,” he said.

The statement comes a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Nagpur to lay the foundation stone for the 39 km Nagpur Metro project. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had recently refuted allegations of State Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar that the Centre had cleared Metro project for Nagpur ahead of Pune for “political gains”.

Thakre added that the party leadership has not instructed Prithviraj Chavan about not sharing stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The CM has not been asked to stay away from events involving PM Narendra Modi. But he has been asked to avoid public rallies with him,” Thakre said.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/rss-is-threat-to-the-nation-says-mpcc-114082001380_1.html

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Activists demand FIR against Bhagwat over Hindu comment (Aug 20, 2014, Times of India)

Objecting strongly to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s controversial statement that India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva is its identity, a group of Muslim community leaders and activists have approached the police to file a complaint against Bhagwat. On Wednesday, a delegation reached the MRA Marg police station to lodge a case but an officer told them that they would file an FIR against Bhagwat only once instructions come from higher police authorities.

“We will not allow Bhagwat to go unchallenged. His statement is a hidden threat to minorities. He wants to say that non-Hindus in the country must forsake their religious and cultural identities. It is an assault on our multicultural ethos,” said All-India Milli Council’s M A Khalid, who was among the leaders trying to file the FIR.

Human rights activist Dr Azeemuddin said Bhagwat’s statement is shocking, but not surprising. “RSS has been nursing the dream of making India a Hindu nation. With the BJP in power at the Centre, the Sangh Parivar feels encouraged to push this long-cherished Hindutva agenda. But this is a dangerous tendency and will weaken the country’s secular fabric. The government must rein in such elements before it is too late,” said Azeemuddin.…

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/40525399.cms

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PUCL seeks probe into inflammatory Rajasthan police intelligence note (Aug 20, 2014, The Hindu)

There is outrage among the minority community over a Rajasthan police (intelligence) note, which claims that mosques were coming up on lands that poor Hindu families here had been given incentives to sell. The note, signed by the Additional Director-General of Police, has stated specific instances and recommended “appropriate action”.

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties on Tuesday demanded a panel inquiry into the allegations in the note after two local newspapers reported the matter on August 15. The note, sent to the Special Branch on July 16, says, “[P]oor Hindu community members who live next to Muslim abadi (populated) areas, are being provided incentives to sell their land for construction of religious places.”

It further says that this was being done by an organisation called Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) and names several industrialists who support its activities. Following a fact-finding mission — the PUCL came to the conclusion that the leaking of the note suggested vested interests were seeking to polarise communities.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/pucl-seeks-probe-into-inflammatory-rajasthan-police-intelligence-note/article6332538.ece

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567 FIRs, countless promises later, riot victims still wait for justice (Aug 26, 2014, Indian Express)

A little more than a year after the Samajwadi Party came to power in Uttar Pradesh, riding largely on the support of Muslim voters, communal riots ravaged Muzaffarnagar. The violence, which began on September 7, 2013, soon spiralled out of control, claiming at least 65 lives and displacing more than 50,000 Muslims.

The aftermath saw mass exodus of Muslims from villages, which had been their homes for decades, to seek refuge in hastily erected camps across the district. As horror stories of murder, rape and destruction poured in, police went from camp to camp, registering complaints and promising swift justice.

But, despite a total of 567 FIRs being filed and several promises by the state government, victims are still waiting for justice. A year after the riots, investigations are still underway and court proceedings are continuing at a sluggish pace. …

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/crime/567-firs-countless-promises-later-riot-victims-still-wait-for-justice/99/

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Quarrel between children sparks communal clashes in Hapur (Aug 22, 2014, Indian Express)

A minor quarrel between two 15-year-old school children, one Hindu and the other Muslim, spiralled out of control after their families clashed in Bahadurgarh village in Hapur district on Thursday afternoon, pelting stones and setting vehicles ablaze, according to the police. Though the communal flare up did not result in any casualties, about half a dozen shops belonging to both sides were burnt down, while a mosque was also damaged.

“One of the kids, Chand, was from Qureshi community while the other, Gaurav, was from Lodha community. They got into a fight at their school, Lal Bahadur Shastri Inter College, over a trivial matter. Soon after, they informed their families who clashed in the MARKET. This happened at around 2 pm in the afternoon. An FIR has been registered against the rioters under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and 10 persons have been arrested so far,” said R P Pandey, SP (Hapur).

Pandey said that the mosque was being repaired by the district administration and added that the investigation was on to identify others who were involved in rioting. “Due to stone pelting, the side wall of the mosque sustained some minor damage. Also, some miscreant stole the loudspeaker from the mosque. The loudspeaker has been replaced and the mosque is being repaired,” he said.

Heavy police force has been deployed on the ground at Bahadurgarh with civil police officers from Hapur and Ghaziabad districts and the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) present. “Although there won’t be any violence now, there might be some tension at the school. A force has been deployed at the school for a day tomorrow,” an officer said.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/quarrel-between-children-sparks-communal-clashes-in-hapur/

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Woman killed in communal clash in Kanpur; 5 cops suspended (Aug 25, 2014, Free Press Journal)

A 50-year-old woman, who was injured in a clash between members of two communities in Ghatampur area here yesterday, succumbed to her injuries today. The deceased, whose house was set on fire by irate mobs, had received 70 cent burns and died in Ursula hospital here, police said. A battery shop owner had also succumbed to burn injuries after his shop was gutted last evening, they said.

With this, death toll of the communal clash has reached to two while four others are undergoing treatment. Meanwhile, five policemen including Chowki incharge of Bheetar village R P Singh, have been suspended for dereliction of their duties, SSP, Kanpur, K Emanuel said. According to police, situation in Bheetar village is limping back to normalcy. Shops in the MARKET have started opening and children have also started going to school, they said.

However, there is still a posse of policemen deployed in the area keeping a hawk’s eye on the troublemakers. So far, 11 people have been arrested and search for around a dozen people is on. Police said the accused will be charged under the National Security Act (NSA).

http://freepressjournal.in/woman-killed-in-communal-clash-in-kanpur-5-cops-suspended/

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Why is BJP adding communal colour to crime against women? (Aug 24, 2014, Daily Bhaskar)

With an aim to give crime against women a communal colour, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday said communal violence is increasing in Uttar Pradesh because of the involvement of a “particular community” (implying Muslims) in sexual violence against women.

Although the BJP dropped the term “love jihad” from its political resolution passed in Vrindavan on Sunday, the last day of the two-day state executive meeting, to protect itself from controversies, but the saffron brigade included in its agenda for the state the rephrased version of the two words. The resolution said “crimes of rape by people of a particular community” and “conversion of Hindu girls” are matter of “serious concerns”. …

The official figure makes it clear that the saffron party is selectively protesting against those crimes against women where victims are Hindus and accused are Muslims. The term ‘Love Jihad’ was coined by the Sangh parivar. It is an alleged activity under which young Muslim boys target girls belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love.

http://daily.bhaskar.com/news-ht/UP-why-is-bjp-adding-communal-colour-to-crime-against-women-4722929-NOR.html

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Assam-Nagaland border clashes: Three killed in fresh police firing; curfew imposed (Aug 20, 2014, Indian Express)

Three persons were killed and six others were injured in fresh police firing in Assam’s violence-hit Golaghat district. Following the incident, curfew imposed in the town and Rongajan.

Earlier in the day, a police man was injured and a police vehicle and three trucks were set ablaze in Golaghat by a mob that blockaded NH 37 protesting against the police action at Rangajan.

The protestors accusing the police of an unprovoked attack on them at Rangajan on Tuesday, attacked police personnel at Moinapara under Golaghat police station with bamboo sticks and injured one of them seriously, police said.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/assam-nagaland-border-clashes-three-killed-in-fresh-police-firing-curfew-imposed/

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Kanpur court gives 10-year jail term to top cop in rape case (Aug 20, 2014, Indian Express)

A local court in Kanpur on Monday sentenced suspended Deputy Superintendent of Police Amarjeet Singh Shahi to 10 years’ imprisonment in the case of a minor Dalit girl’s rape. A native of Punjab, Shahi was in the Army before he joined the UP Police force.

Prosecuting Officer, Kanpur, Chander Lal Sonkar said the court had also imposed a fine of Rs 65,000 on Shahi and directed that Rs 50,000 from it should be given to the victim. He added that Shahi was also sentenced in other sections of the IPC which include abduction and molestation and all these sentences will run simultaneously.

Shahi was last posted in Pratapgarh district and was put under suspension after he was charged with abduction and rape of the girl. The prosecution produced nine witnesses while defence examined 10 witnesses. On Thursday, the court declared him guilty after which Shahi, who was out on bail, was taken into custody.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/kanpur-court-gives-10-year-jail-term-to-top-cop-in-rape-case/99/

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JTSA writes to NHRC demanding immediate intervention in encounter killing of man wanted in cop murder; family alleges it was cold blood murder (Aug 22, 2014, Twocircles.net)

The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) has written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanding their intervention and probe into alleged encounter killing of 28 year old Firoz alias Fauzi by the Delhi Police on 19 August. His family maintains that he was killed in cold blood, alleging that he was arrested earlier, which in fact was reported in a local Hindi daily. A local daily, Navodaya Times had reported in Hindi on August 18 that “Firoz alias Fauzi, who had over a dozen cases registered against him, was arrested August 17″.

Delhi Police maintains that Fauzi, who was wanted in murder of a cop, was killed in encounter, after he fired at the police. In a press statement, the DCP of the Special Cell, Mr. Sanjeev Yadav, stated: “A shot fired by Fauzi hit inspector Shiv Kumar on his bullet proof jacket and another hit the Gyspsy. The police party fired back in self defence. Fauzi sustained bullet injuries and was moved to GTB hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.”

Fauzi family claims that both he and his wife were missing since July. There is still no news of his wife, but family suspect that she too might be under detention. In the letter to the NHRC, JTSA notes that the alleged encounter killing of Fauzi has “all the markings of a fake encounter,” urging them to “ensure that the NHRC guidelines on encounter killings are followed.”

JTSA has demanded a magisterial enquiry report into the 2006 Sonia Vihar encounter killing be made public, pointing that the said encounter too on 19 August (Tuesday) on Pushta Road, which falls under the Sonia Vihar Police Station. JTSA alleges that the Sonia Vihar seemed to have become a “favourite haunt of encounter specialists.”…

http://twocircles.net/2014aug22/1408699808.html

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Opinions and Editorials

For an India of Equal Liberty – By Martha C Nussbaum (Aug 14, 2014, Open the Magazine)

As we celebrate India’s independence this week, it is easy to focus on economic growth and the competition between nations for advantage in the global MARKET. These issues are certainly important. But we should remember, too, the crucial role of political liberty in creating a nation that remains a model of democratic achievement for the developing world. …

These freedoms are not set in stone, and they are periodically threatened. Freedom of speech is threatened when books are banned and pulped. Freedom of religion is threatened when religious minorities face mob violence. Freedom of association is threatened when individuals are harassed for their group membership, whether left or right, and when sodomy laws make people risk prison for their intimate relationships. All these problems, and still others, make the liberties insecure in today’s India. But their defense is vital to a strong nation, for two reasons. …

People are not truly free to participate in politics, to practice their religion, to speak in public, or to associate, unless they have the chance to choose a wide range of functions for which education is an indispensable prerequisite. If liberties are not just an empty space, but actual human capabilities, then a nation must produce human capabilities, not just refrain from interfering.

Economist James Heckman, winner of the Nobel Prize in 2000, has shown that early intervention in primary education is a win-win for society: if the programs are well designed, including nutrition and work with families, the payoff we observe years later is great. Crime is reduced, the recipients are more productive actors in the economy, and their personal welfare is also greatly improved. So it is not necessary to choose between justice for deprived groups and economic efficiency. A successful economy needs and profits from an educated and healthy work force. Such workers are also enjoying the promises of truly equal political and associational liberty OFFERED in India’s very distinguished Constitution.

http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/voices/for-an-india-of-equal-liberty

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Modi’s silence is most troubling – By Sidharth Bhatia (Aug 22, 2014, Free Press Journal)

No one who has followed the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or indeed the Bharatiya Janata Party over the years will be surprised at RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s contention that India is a “Hindu” country. The emphasis on Hinduism, as the RSS sees it, or its political iteration, Hindutva, as the BJP proclaimed it, are built into their very DNA. M S Golwalkar, one of the most important voices of the RSS in its early years, had outlined the concept of the Hindu nation in his book, ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’ and that forms the basis of the organisation’s worldview. In the late 1980s, seeing an opportunity soon after V P Singh’s cynical appeal to the Other Backward Castes, the BJP took out its Hindutva card, which polarised the nation and paid it good electoral dividends. So why this hue and cry over the RSS chief’s comment? Surely he has not said anything drastically new? If he had repudiated that theory, that would have been news.

More than what he has said we have to take note of when he has said it. The context matters. Barely three months after Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister, Hindutva forces of one kind or the other have come to the forefront and begun pushing their agenda. The books of Dinanath Batra, the man who frightened Penguin into pulping copies of Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism, are now being OFFERED as supplementary reading in Gujarat, while not a day passes without someone or the other declaring that all Indians are Hindus. But none of them is as important as Mohan Bhagwat. He heads the RSS, which is like the mother ship of all Hindutva organisations in the country and when he talks, everyone listens. More worryingly, given the number of RSS appointees in the BJP’s upper echelons, it could soon start taking the shape of policy. …

In a country such as India, any push to create a uniform identity, that too based on religion, is downright dangerous, to say nothing of unconstitutional. Imposing such a programme could result in large scale social upheaval and violence—our sub-continental history is full of such instances. India’s diversity is our great strength and despite flare-ups, that diversity has stood the test of time and contributed to our nationhood and to our growth as a society. At a time when there is a sense of purpose in the country and an optimism about the future, to bring up such disruptive ideas is troubling.

The votaries of Hindutva may not see it that way. They find nothing wrong with either their views or the timing or indeed proceeding with their agenda. Their government is in power with a full majority—who is to stop them from doing what they want? But that should not be allowed to happen. The Prime Minister and the government itself must make it clear that this will not be tolerated. The government was elected on the promise of Achche Din—social disorder will definitely not lead us to that goal.

http://freepressjournal.in/modis-silence-is-most-troubling/

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The silence on the rising communal tempers is deafening – By Harsh Mander (Aug 24, 2014, The Hindustan Times)

In the three months since Narendra Modi’s spectacular triumph, many corners of the country have begun to smoulder in slow fires of orchestrated hate and distrust against India’s Muslims and this is mostly unnoticed by the majority. Only a few violent episodes make it briefly to the front pages of the national Press and television news. But what is unseen is that cumulatively, many small communal skirmishes have contributed to a sustained but decentralised campaign of sectarian hate. This and the studied silence of the prime minister through all of this – except a welcome reference from the Red Fort – have created mounting disquiet and fear among the country’s largest minority.

The patterns are familiar. A multitude of ever-growing Hindu nationalist organisations – some mainstream, some fringe – deploy and refashion small local disputes to spur rage and suspicion against the Muslim people, each time reviving and fuelling old stereotypes. The manufactured flashpoints are also familiar: disputes over land for shrines and graveyards, an offending loudspeaker in a place of worship, charges of young Muslim men sexually harassing hapless Hindu women in a sinister campaign of ‘love jihad’, sometimes with the added twist of forced conversions, or cow slaughter. …

A sense of dread slowly therefore mounts almost invisibly over the country as communal tempers are cynically and perilously being overheated for a series of electoral harvests, and for drawing larger and larger sections of low-caste Hindus to stand with their upper-caste oppressors against the Muslim ‘other’, who is portrayed as their common enemy. The Congress, socialists and the Left are too dispirited to convincingly take to the battle. The struggle to preserve the idea of India has to be fought outside Parliament, by ordinary people, on the streets and in our homes, in places of worship and secular assembly, but most of all in the hearts of the young.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1256008.aspx

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Levels of Distrust – By Sanjay Kumar (Aug 23, 2014, Indian Express)

The recent report “Strategy for making police forces more sensitive towards minority sections” prepared by three directors general of police, Sanjeev Dayal, Deoraj Nagar and K. Ramanujam, could not be more timely. There seems to be a sense of shared anxiety amongst Muslims after the BJP assumed power at the Centre. It is for the Modi government, more so for the home ministry, to act upon some, if not all, of the report’s recommendations which could help build confidence in the BJP among Muslims.

The report concludes that there is a trust deficit as Muslims perceive the police to be communal, biased, insensitive, ill-informed, corrupt and lacking professionalism. Surveys across countries indicate that the level of trust among people in the police is very low, much lower compared to other institutions. In India, the DGPs’ report moves one step further in endorsing such a perception. …

Changing perceptions is a very challenging task, more so when it is about an institution like the police. Such perceptions could be changed largely by social interaction. The report rightly suggests steps like training, outreach programmes, forming specialised cyber wings to combat rumours and similar efforts for building long-term trust in the police. The positive side to this story is that, despite the trust deficit, many Muslims are not averse to getting in touch with the police if the need arose. In fact, there is hardly any difference of opinion on this issue among Hindus and Muslims.

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/levels-of-distrust/

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Controlling the party – Editorial (Aug 21, 2014, The Hindu)

The influence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the Bharatiya Janata Party is always greater during periods when the party is in power. While the Sangh is sometimes ready to appear twice removed from the government, it is keen to exercise control over the party’s organisational affairs. Little surprise then, the newly elected president of the BJP, Amit Shah, chose to pack the top rung of the party with those from the Sangh. Former RSS spokesman Ram Madhav is now general secretary and ideologue Vinay Sahasrabuddhe is vice-president; four of the joint secretaries (organisation) are RSS members without much of a background of work in the party.

Despite the nominal distance it maintains from the organisations of the Sangh Parivar, the RSS ensures that its writ runs where it matters: in the BJP, and in the BJP governments at the Centre and in the States. With its organisational strength, and the large number of committed cadre, the RSS is the backbone of the BJP, and not just an ideological mentor. In the 2014 general election, workers of the RSS and its affiliates threw their weight behind the BJP and contributed in no small measure to the party’s revival in States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It was only natural for the BJP, especially Mr. Shah who was in charge of the party’s electoral management in Uttar Pradesh, to recognise this fact and accommodate RSS leaders in the decision-making structure of the party.

What is problematic, however, is how the RSS will wield its influence in the BJP to remote-control the government. Mr. Shah enjoys a close rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and it is feared he might indeed function as an extra-constitutional authority. Now, with the BJP being led by RSS hands, the party’s influence on the government can only get bigger. Decision-making may not be confined to the Cabinet or legislative bodies, but may extend to party forums and Sangh meetings. Going by the statement of RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat that Hindutva is India’s identity, the RSS’s relations with the BJP and, by extension, with the government, could raise serious concerns in the public mind, and particularly among minorities.

Prime Minister Modi spoke of ruling by consensus and not by the party’s majority in the Lok Sabha, but statements such as those made by Mr. Bhagwat seeking to equate Hindutva with Indianness and Hindustanis (Indians) with Hindus can only create doubts whether the BJP intends to return to a divisive majoritarian agenda. Mr. Modi and the BJP need to distance themselves from such statements if these are not to be taken as reflective of the thinking of the ruling establishment. Otherwise, the Sangh, the BJP and the government would be widely seen as just different forms of the same entity.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/rss-controlling-the-party/article6335653.ece

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Off With Its Head – Editorial (Aug 23, 2014, EPW)

Much like the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland who kept saying “Off with its head”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decreed that the 64-year-old Planning Commission should be disbanded. No known consultation within the central government, no consultation with the states, no mention in the election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party and no prior consultation with the citizenry. The 15th of August was chosen to announce that a new body will take the place of the Planning Commission and now we have the charade of everyone being asked to give their suggestions on the internet.

The Planning Commission, as the agent of “state planning”, has been, in the eyes of free MARKETERS, the biggest culprit of all that apparently went wrong in the economy in the first four decades after Independence. Those without a sense of history do of course have the luxury of projecting self-serving opinions. The planners themselves in hindsight did accept that many errors were made during the heyday of planning in the late 1950s and early 1960s, especially in their neglect of the wage goods (food, clothing and such consumer goods) and export sectors.…

Given the absence of widespread discussion prior to the decision to abolish the Planning Commission, one has little idea of what the new body that will replace it will look like. One can be reasonably certain that it will be a body that will oversee or provide the intellectual justification for a further rollback of the state and a dismantling of welfare programmes. At the same time, one will see an expanded role for the Ministry of Finance (as a resource-controlling agency) and a greater centralisation of decision-making on economic policy in the Prime Minister’s Office. This is not something the country can look forward to.

http://www.epw.in/editorials/its-head.html

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 10th, 2013

by newsdigest on March 11, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

I hope for justice: daughter of Ehsan Jafri, 2002 riot victim (Mar 4, 2014, Hindustan Times)

Nishrin Jafri Hussain, daughter of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed during the 2002 riots in Gujarat, narrated graphic details of the incident at the London School of Economics last evening and said she and her family continued to hope for justice. Hussain, who is based in the United States, was overcome with emotions as she showed pictures of her father and other victims of the 2002 riots to an audience that mostly comprised students. She said she was speaking on “behalf of victims of Gujarat”.

“I still have hope that we will get justice. No one came to help us on that day. Why did neighbours not help? My mother is fighting for justice; she is not going to give up. Why are we not protecting our minorities?” she said.

Speaking at an event titled ‘Gender and the Hindu right in India’ organised by the LSE Gender Institute, Hussain said she met several women who had allegedly been raped during the riots. “When political power comes up, why attack girls? Why don’t you feel that we are the same people? There has to be way by which every girl is protected, whatever their religion,” she said.

Besides Hussain, speakers Angana P Chatterji, Meena Kandasamy and Kalpana Wilson highlighted the many incidents of rape in India and criticised the status of women in the world-view of the RSS family personified by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Hussain’s mother Zakia Jafri had filed a petition against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of complicity in the riots. In May 2013, a Gujarat court upheld a Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) clean chit to Modi in the 2002 Gujarat communal riots.

The SIT, appointed by the Supreme Court in 2008 to determine whether Modi should be tried for his alleged role in the riots, said in its report in 2012 no prosecutable evidence was found against the Gujarat CM.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1190766.aspx

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A Warning For Siddharth Varadarajan (Mar 6, 2014, Outlook)

First the facts of the case. Senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan today posted the following on his Twitter and Facebook account: Four thugs recently beat up the caretaker of my flat in Delhi. The incident took place near our home, with the thugs saying, ‘Tell your sahib to watch what he says on TV.’ They also issued a threat to my wife, Prof Nandini Sundar, about her Chhattisgarh case. We don’t know who they are, but it’s clearly aimed to intimidate. The caretaker is recovering. While the police have been helpful and are reviewing neighborhood CCTV footage, I am making this incident public on the advice of friends who believe it may serve some deterrent value.

What exactly these goons had taken offence to remained unclear, since he’s virtually on TV everyday. Varadarajan lives near Jorbagh, in the heart of the capital, barely 2 KMs away from the Prime Minister’s residence. Neither Varadarajan, nor his wife were home when the thugs visited. The incident took place on February 23, near the Varadarajan home, where the caretaker was approached by four thugs who enquired about Varadarajan and his wife. “After confirming his identity, they punched both sides of his face and kicked him,” Vardarajan said, but added that the caretaker is fine now, recovering from the shock.

“I racked my brain at the time but couldn’t think of any issue that would have provoked this kind of goondaism. But then we are not exactly dealing with rational, civilised people here,” he said in response to Outlook’s query. On being asked whether he had ever received any threats before, Varadarajan said that his wife, Nandini Sundar, “has often been harassed on the ground in Chhattisgarh by Salwa Judum types but nothing has ever happened to me before.” Sundar is a professor of sociology with the University of Delhi and has been fighting for the rights of tribals in Chhatisgarh and was one of the original petitioners against the illegal militia Salwa Judum set up by the Chhattisgarh government on the basis of which it was eventually declared unconstitutional and banned by the Supreme Court in 2011.

“The police in Chhatisgarh has often tried to link her to the Maoists through innuendo and disinformation. Once when they did this, I personally complained to the Chief Minister, after which the campaign eased off a bit. But again there is an effort by some in the Chhatisgarh police to discredit her ongoing PIL by claiming she is acting in behalf of Maoists etc,” Varadarajan said. But he added that the police response in Delhi has been exemplary. “We don’t know who to suspect quite frankly because there are no leads. But my flat’s caretaker said they were ‘political type’ people,” he said.

While Varadarajan refused to speculate on who these goons may have been, the immediate conclusion on Twitter, Facebook and initial reports about the incident connected it with his being a “Modi critic”. Varadarajan was the first non-dynastic professional Editor of The Hindu newspaper, for nearly two years, until he resigned in October last year. The new editor-in-chief, at that time, had criticised Varadarajan for not giving adequate page one coverage to the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rallies. Varadarajan is also the editor of Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy and recently reviewed Manoj Mitta’s The Fiction of Fact Finding: Modi & Godhra for Outlook.

http://blogs.outlookindia.com/default.aspx?ddm=10&pid=3193&eid=31

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Himachal BJP MP booked, caught taking cash on camera (Mar 6, 2014, Times of India)

The Himachal Pradesh vigilance and anti-corruption bureau on Thursday booked sitting BJP parliamentarian Virender Kashyap who was allegedly caught accepting cash on camera. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has retained the one-time MP from the Shimla (reserved) seat.

“A case against Kashyap was registered under section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” a police official told IANS. “The case was registered after the authenticity of the video CD was proved by the central forensic science laboratory of Chandigarh,” said the investigating official.

In November, the Himachal Pradesh high court issued notice to Kashyap on a petition for quashing a police inquiry report giving a clean chit to him after he was allegedly caught accepting cash. Petitioner Devashish Bhattacharya has alleged that the state government inquiry in 2010 was not fair and aimed at hushing up the matter. He also sought a fresh inquiry into the case.

Police reinvestigated the case after the intervention of the high court. Official sources said the video CD was in circulation in January 2010 in which Kashyap was seen accepting a bribe from a private party for helping it secure permission for setting up an educational institution in the state. At that time, the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government was in power.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/31549238.cms

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NHRC ‘indicts’ home ministry, cops for Delhi encounter (Mar 8, 2014, Times of India)

The National Human Rights Commission “severely indicted” the home ministry, the Delhi government and Delhi Police for their “specious arguments” to its notices in a 2006 encounter case where five people were killed in the capital. The rights panel found the encounter “doubtful” and recommended Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the five people killed. The proof of payment must be submitted by April 17.

In 2003, NHRC had issued guidelines to all states to hold magisterial enquiries after any encounter where there was loss of life. All state governments had accepted the guidelines and acted on them. “The egregious exception is in the National Capital Territory where the Delhi Police, which appears to be deeply apprehensive of any impartial scrutiny of its actions, opposes magisterial enquiries and has an extraordinary veto on these decisions,” said the NHRC.

The government had refused a CBI probe in the 2006 encounter case, which the NHRC believed was essential. In a statement, the NHRC deplored the “intransigence of the authorities concerned for refusing to accept its recommendation to hold a CBI enquiry in this case”. The NHRC set aside MHA’s contention that “the Delhi Police have amply proved that the encounter was genuine and therefore no justification for the relief”. Taking a strong view, the NHRC called the MHA’s response to its showcause notice “an extraordinary assertion made without any mooring in facts”.

NHRC said it was unable to understand how the MHA claimed “the Delhi Police has managed to prove that the encounter was genuine”. “On the basis of the material on record, the Commission has found the encounter doubtful,” said an NHRC statement. The panel had registered a case following intimation by the father of one of the five people killed. According to the NHRC, “There was total non-cooperation from the Delhi government. The police did not forward all the relevant documents to the Commission such as seizure memo of the articles recovered from the scene of occurrence and map of the scene of occurrence. There was no explanation for non-collection of scientific evidence.”

During enquiries, the NHRC found the encounter took place at Yamuna Khadar area and that the Delhi Police was helped by the Uttar Pradesh Police. “This self-serving evasiveness of the Delhi Police is supported by the Union ministry of home affairs, though it is the nodal ministry for the protection of human rights in India. This is a sad reflection on the Delhi Police and on the ministry’s understanding of its responsibilities on human rights,” the NHRC said. Since no magisterial probe was held, the NHRC use its powers to direct the district magistrate of northeast Delhi to probe. …

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/31637329.cms

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NHRC issues notices to MHA, Delhi Police on wrongful confinement of youth in jail (Mar 10, 2014, Yahoo)

The National Human Rights Commission on Monday took suo motu cognizance of a media report carrying the story of Mohammad Amir, who was released in January after a 14-year-long incarceration in jail, destroying his youth due to wrongful arrest on 27th February1998, from Old Delhi as an alleged ‘terrorist’ when he had just turned 18. While Amir remained confined to a solitary high security cell in Tihar Jail, he had little idea that his father had passed away in penury, and his mother had got paralysis suffering a brain haemorrhage and losing speech amidst a social boycott.

The Commission observed that the issue raises serious questions on the functioning of the police, and if true, the contents of the press report amount to grave violation of human rights of the victim Amir who was implicated in false cases. In the notices issued to the Secretary of Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi Police Commissioner, under case no 1361/30/9/2014, Justice D. Murugesan, Member, NHRC, has asked them to submit detailed reports in the matter within four weeks. Further, the Delhi Police Commissioner has been directed to submit the entire record of the 12 cases filed against Amir along with his report.

According to the media report, carried on the 7th February 2014, Amir left his small home near Azad Market in Old Delhi for Pakistan on the 12th December 1997 to visit his sister who was married there and returned on the 13thFebruary, 1998. A fortnight later, he was arrested on the charges of executing the bomb blasts subsequent to his training in Pakistan. Amir, with the charges of murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation, was named the main accused in 20 low intensity bomb blasts executed between December 1996 and October 1997 in Delhi, Rohtak, Sonepat and Ghaziabad.

Five of these explosions had occurred during a single evening in places as wide apart as Sadar Bazar in Delhi and Ghaziabad, many miles away. The charge sheet filed in April 1998 said that Amir had been trained in Pakistan by the dreaded Abdul Karim Tunda’s gang. It also mentioned that Amir and co-accused Shakeel collaborated to make bombs out of a factory rented by Shakeel in Pilakhua in Ghaziabad.

However, Shakeel was discharged before the start of hearing in ten cases. But in 2009 he was found hanging from the ceiling of his barrack in Dasna Jail. The then Superintendent of Dasna Jail, V.K. Singh, was charged with Shakeel’s murder. Amir was acquitted in 18 of the 20 terror cases for lack of evidence against him after the prosecution failed to produce a single witness in any of the cases connecting him to the blasts. The police produced no witness to support the arrest, and the public witnesses, who were present during the Pilakhua raid, flatly refused to support the prosecution during the trial. …

http://in.news.yahoo.com/nhrc-issues-notices-mha-delhi-police-wrongful-confinement-124108152.html

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Kandhamal Christians “live in fear because of Hindu fundamentalists” (Mar 4, 2014, Asia News)

“The life of Christians in Kandhamal is an ongoing trauma, because they live in fear of the radical Hindu groups”, The president of theGlobal Council of Indian Christians (GCIC ) Sajan George tells AsiaNews, after yet another attack against the religious minority in the State of Orissa. On 27 February, several members of the Sangh Parivar (umbrella group of Hindutva organizations and movements -ed) damaged a prayer hall under construction in the village of Pradhanpada, threatening the 15 Christians engaged in the work.

After the attack, authorities have deployed around 70 law enforcement officers to ensure safety. Police arrested two people and launched a manhunt for the other attackers. Kunwar Vishal Singh, Kandhamal district chief of police, explains that there is a willingness to resolve the matter amicably, as the incident is linked to a “family dispute” over the land on which the prayer hall is being built. The Police Chief has instead denied that religious hatred is behind the attack.

However, Sajan George calls the attack “shameful” and says that “despite five years having passed since the pogroms in Orissa, the Christian community continues to be denied justice and is still subjected to daily acts of discrimination and intimidation. This latest episode, a few days before the beginning of Lent, clearly intends to intimidate and threaten freedom of religion and worship in Kandhamal”.

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Kandhamal-Christians-live-in-fear-because-of-Hindu-fundamentalists-30464.html

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Muzaffarnagar riots: Politicos condemn UP BJP’S plan to seek tickets for four riot-accused MLAs (Mar 11, 2014, Business Standard)

Cutting across political lines, leaders on Monday condemned the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit plans to seek Lok Sabha tickets for the four BJP MLAs booked on the charge of fuelling Muzaffarnagar riots.

The party plans to propose fielding Kairana MLA Hukum Singh from the Kairana Lok Sabha seat, Bijnore MLA Bhartendu Singh from Bijnore, Sardhana MLA Sangeet Som from Muzaffarnagar seat, and Thana Bhawan MLA Suresh Rana from Saharanpur.

The proposals will be put before the BJP central election committee meeting on March 13.

http://www.business-standard.com/video-gallery/general/muzaffarnagar-riots-politicos-condemn-up-bjp-s-plan-to-seek-tickets-for-four-riot-accused-mlas-5254.htm

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Chhattisgarh: 200 Naxals attack security personnel in Sukma, kill 20 (Mar 11, 2014, IBN)

Twenty security personnel lost their lives in a fierce encounter with Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Tuesday. There were 44 personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Chhattisgarh Police in the road opening party when it was attacked by over 200 heavily armed Naxals.

The dead included 15 CRPF members and 5 state police personnel. Chhattisgarh Police ADG Mukesh Gupta confirmed the deaths. “The incident happened at around 10:30 am. Causalties on Naxal side have not been determined yet. The injured security men have been taken to the hospital,” said Gupta.

“The joint police party had gone out for road opening at 9 am. The party started at Tongpal area and was ambushed by Naxals as they moved ahead. We had losses because of topography which was not favourable to us. There were 44 men in two teams. The forces fired back and as a result the other isolated party was saved,” he said.

He denied that standard operating procedures were violated. “Operating procedures change according to situations. There was no violation of the operating procedures. The forces have fought valiantly. The opening of Jiram post was a major setback for Naxals,” he added.

The encounter took place near the Jiram Ghati area of Sukma and lasted for about 30 minutes. According to police sources, the Naxals overpowered the security personnel at the site where construction was going on a road. Sukma is where Naxals had killed top Congress leaders in an attack in May 2013.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/chhattisgarh-200-naxals-attack-security-personnel-in-sukma-kill-20/457152-3-235.html

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Girl in police protection gang-raped (Mar 7, 2014, Times of India)

A gang rape survivor was kidnapped from police protection, gang-raped again on Tuesday night, strangled and dumped in the farm fields of Ferozabad on Wednesday apparently after the accused presumed she was dead. Though the kidnap took place in the presence of two constables posted for her security, the Ferozabad police rounded up her family members claiming they had packed her off to some place to implicate those who were accused of raping her.

The girl was found lying unconscious in the farm fields the next morning. She told the doctors she was gang-raped once again, strangled and dumped apparently after the perpetrators presumed she had died. Doctors at the district hospital too confirmed that the girl was gang-raped and injury marks on her neck suggested serious attempt to strangulate her. Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Ferozabad Rakesh Kumar described her condition as “not serious”.

Two armed police constables posted for her security at her house claimed they were having dinner when the crime took place. When they heard a commotion they came out see what had happened but returned quickly to wear their shoes. By the time they put on with their shoes, the accused had escaped. Though this statement was offered by one of the constables while talking to TOI on phone from the scene of crime barely an hour after the incident, the SSP told TOI that the constables had informed him the kidnap never took place.

Prime accused in the first gangrape case is Dalbir Singh. His wife is a pradhan and has a strong influence across 18 villages in Firozabad. The couple are said to have secured over 30,000 votes for SP MLA Ramveer Singh Yadav, leading to his victory in the 2012 UP assembly elections. Ramveer Singh Yadav is another important part of Akshay Yadav’s election campaign which could be the reason police did not take action. Despite a named FIR no action was initiated against the named accused in the gangrape case till date.

The girl was kidnapped from her house in Jeragaon village under Eka police station of Feorzabad on November 5, last year. Initially police were reluctant to lodge an FIR and it was only when the district police chief intervened that a case was registered 14 days after the incident. The delay by police helped the rape accused as nothing substantial could be found against them in the medical examination of the girl 14 days after the crime. …

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/31565771.cms

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Inspector Harassed and Assaulted Me, Says Dalit (Mar 9, 2014, New Indian Express)

Residents of Vaiyur village, led by Aadhi Tamizhar Peravai, on Saturday gheraoed the T Kallupatti police station, protesting the alleged harrassment and assault of a dalit worker by an inspector on Friday. Sources said that Palpandi, son of Alagiri from Vaiyur, is a sanitary worker. On Friday, both his daughters had gone to the Vaiyur Panchayat Union primary school, but the younger one, Mahalakshmi did not return home. Later, Palpandi came to know that she had not attended school that day.

Palpandi searched for the girl till evening but she was not found. So, he, along with the headmaster of the school and panchayat union office-bearers went to T Kallupatti police station to lodge a missing complaint. While they were there, locals spotted the girl sleeping behind Palpandi’s house. When the news reached the police station, inspector Paathamuthu allegedly accused Palpandi of trying to lodge a false complaint.

“Mahalakshimi did not go to school. Fearing reprimand by her parents, she hid at a place behind the house, which was covered with bushes,” said a panchayat union office-bearer. “He (the inspector) asked me, which caste did I belong to? When I told him that I belonged to a scheduled caste, he started abusing me, using my caste name. The officer even slapped me on the face and kicked my back,” claimed Palpandi, who sustained internal injuries.

Trouble did not end for Palpandi as a high-ranking police officer threatened him not to make a furore over the issue at the Tirumangalam government hospital, where the former was taken for treatment. “It is a shame that a police officer, who is supposed to protect the common man, behaved in this manner. That too inside the police station,” said R Selvan, Suburban District Secretary, ATP, who demanded that a case under the SC/ST (POA) Act be registered against the inspector.

Reacting to the issue, DSP (Peraiyur range) Balasubramanian said, as a police officer, Paathamuthu was aware of the laws. So, chances of him abusing or assaulting Palpandi were less. Nevertheless, the DSP has assured of further investigation into the matter.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Inspector-Harassed-and-Assaulted-Me-Says-Dalit/2014/03/09/article2098619.ece

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Opinions and Editorials

The RSS Hand in Militant Hindutva – By Shaj Hameed (Mar 10, 2014, Twocircles.net)

The February month cover story of the popular narrative magazine, The Caravan, published from Delhi, has already been discussed and debated a lot. Hindutva extremist Aseemanand, speaking to the magazine’s journalist Ms. Leena Regunath, revealed that all the bomb blasts carried out by his team had been with the RSS leadership’s knowledge and approval. Furthermore, the RSS’s national leaders including its general secretary Mohan Bhagwat and national executive member Indresh Kumar had met Assemanand in person and pleaded with him to go ahead with the attacks, at the same time advising him to take care as to not link such terror acts with Sangh Parivar Organisations, especially the RSS. Aseemanand, who has been accused in five bomb blasts across the country which killed a total of 199 innocent people, also revealed that Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections, was a fan and supporter of his extremist activities.

That the RSS has several wings promoting different agendas, all culminating in the aim of converting India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is no secret today. It has also been revealed by different investigations that militant Hindutva is one of the major methods used by the RSS to achieve this goal. On several ocassions, RSS leaders have openly declared their intention tp replace the Indian Constitution with the ‘Manusmriti’, and to establish a social order based on caste-system and untouchability, gender discrimination, denial of basic human rights and superstitions and social evils. When BJP-led NDA had come to power at the Centre, one of the first things it did was to appoint a Commission to review the Indian Constitution. Only because the BJP lacked a simple majority in the Parliament, the country was saved from being sent back to the stone-age.

Today, Aseemanand, Pragya Singh Thakur and Col. Srikant Purohit have been identified as the kingpins of Hindutva terrorism. Aseemanand has long been considered as a stalwart of Hindutva fanaticism in Hindutva terror’s biggest laboratory, Gujarat. In the interviews published by ‘The Caravan’, Aseemanand has stated that creating fanaticism in the minds of Hindus is the best way to stop them from converting to Christianity. He is proud of all the violence he has supervised in the name of ‘stirring Hindutva’ among people. He has reiterated his loyalty to militant Hindu nationalism.

Other Hindutva extremists are worse. Pragya Singh Thakur’s only regret in her bombing escapades has been the low numbers of Muslim casualities. Col. Purohit used his army uniform to further the cause of Hindu extremist nationalism. He used the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik, Maharashtra, as the base of his terror operations. In 2001, this school held a 40-days training camp, in which 115 RSS and Bajrang Dal activists from different parts of the country were taught bomb making, exploding bombs and weapons training. Retired and serving army officers and retired senior IB officers were among the trainers. This was revealed in the book ‘Who Killed Karkare?’ by S.M. Mushrif. Media also revealed that Purohit had stolen about 60kgs of RDX from the army. Apart from using this deadly explosive to carry out bombings, some of it was also used to frame innocent Muslims in arms seizure cases. However, what is still unclear is whether all the 60 kgs stolen have been tracked down.

The RSS has always been aware of the activities of what is now called ‘Abhinav Bharat’. Aseemenand and Pragya Singh Thakur were actively associated with RSS branches, and held responsible positions in the Sangh Parivar. Aseemanand was the top-most national leader of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), animportant Sangh Parivar wing. Pragya Singh was a national executive member of ABVP, the Sangh’s students’ wing. Indresh Kumar, another accused, used to be a national executive member of the RSS. Aseemanand was honoured twice by the RSS, for his ‘achievements’ in perpetrating violence against the minorities, especially those in Gujarat’s Dangs district. Sunil Joshi, yet another accused, who was later murdered allegedly by his partners in violence, used to be a district leader of RSS in Indore. Initially, when Pragya Singh Thakur’s role in terrorist activities was exposed by investigating agencies, the BJP was quick to disown her. However, this angered senior BJP leader Uma Bharti, who complained that BJP wasn’t doing the right thing by disassociating itself from her. However, the BJP later ran to Pragya’s help, alleging that she was being tortured in jail. They did this only after photographs emerged which established that Pragya was well connected to top-most national leaders of the RSS and BJP, including Narendra Modi. Similarly, the RSS ran to Indresh Kumar’s rescue, as soon as the NIA started closing in on him. Perhaps he knew too much. …

http://twocircles.net/2014mar10/rss_hand_militant_hindutva.html

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Holy Cow And Unholy Silence – By B.F Firos (Mar 9, 2014, Countercurrents)

A recent explosive book on self-styled saint and god-woman Matha Amrithananda Mai by one of her former personal attendants and the subsequent blackout by Kerala’s leading newspapers and TV channels need to be analysed in the context of how media houses tend to play second fiddle to the power wielded by some of the veritable spiritual empires with financial, social and political clout.

Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness, written by Australian-born Gail Tredwell, recounts her two decades’ harrowing experiences with the Matha’s Ashram in Kerala. The book is a damning indictment on the spiritual empire built assiduously over the past many years by Sudhamani, born in a poor fishing family in a non-descript village in Kerala’s Kollam district. She attained ‘godly’ power at a very young age by reportedly being ‘possessed’ by Lord Krishna. Years later, she built a spiritual empire worth millions of dollars, with millions of dollars received as donation by the Ashram every year from followers around the world.

The controversial book says Tredwell suffered in silence all the persecutions and trauma in her quest to find Indian spirituality till she left the Ashram in 1999. She was raped by the lieutenant of the God-woman many times in the Ashram. According to her, the true self of Amma is a far-cry from her preaching and public utterances. Buried under the false veneer of divinity and universal love are tales of torture, rape and financial misappropriation. She also alleges that a major portion of the donations are not being used for welfare of poor but instead gobbled up by the family members of ‘Amma’.

The explosive revelations were first reported by newspapers like Madhyamam and news channels like India Vision and Media One. Despite a studied silence by the leading newspapers and TV channels, the issue refused to die down, thanks to the social media, especially Facebook where the contents of the book were widely posted. One leading news paper, instead of reporting about the book, carried only the reaction by the Ashram. In fact, this paper front paged a positive news item about ‘Amma’ in an apparent bid to blunt and deflect the seriousness of the allegations. …

In fact, the withering attack made by Gail Tredwell is not the first one; in the past there have been attempts by rationalists to unravel the sordid saga unfolding within the portals of the self-styled hugging saint’s Ashram. A leading rationalist Sreeni Pattathanam had written a book exposing the many mysterious deaths inside the Ashram.

http://www.countercurrents.org/firos090314.htm

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India’s ‘Conversion’ Laws Threaten Religious Freedom – Heiner Bielefeldt with Vishal Arora (Mar 10, 2014, Wall Street Journal)

India’s laws restricting religious conversions–intended to protect people from being forced to change their beliefs – are an obstacle to religious freedom, a senior United Nations figure said in an interview.

Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, spoke to The Wall Street Journal last week. The laws he discussed apply in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and vary state by state.

The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, for instance, says a person who wants to convert to another religion must first get permission from the district magistrate to do so. Mr. Bielefeldt argues that the laws place unreasonable restrictions not only on people’s right to convert to another religion, but also their right to propagate their own religion.…

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/03/10/un-official-indias-conversion-laws-threaten-religious-freedom/

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Muslims of BTAD are exiled in their own land post 2012 riots – By Nilim Dutta (Mar 7, 2014, Twocircles.net)

If one types in the above location coordinates into the ‘search’ in Google Earth, it immediately takes one to the image of an empty field somewhere in Gossaigaon Revenue Circle of Kokrajhar District, one of the four Districts in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) of Assam, in the satellite topographic imagery dated 3 May 2010.

When I arrived in that paddy field just off the National Highway 31C on 2 March 2014, nearly four years after that satellite image was taken, the field was no longer empty. More than a hundred ramshackle shelters built with bamboo and covered with multicoloured tarpaulin sheets now dotted the patch of land. For many suffering the paranoia of a relentless ‘silent’ Bangladeshi invasion of Assam, these could even be passed off for new encroachment of Bangladeshi settlers who have sneaked into Assam in recent years.

A visitor would, however, find that most of them speak fluent Assamese, using beautiful literary vocabulary of the written language, even though with a distinct accent. He or she would find many of the younger women to be assertive and articulate, a clear hint of being educated, and speaking in Assamese with the fluency of someone who have been speaking the language all their lives. This alone should dispel any notion of their identity, but they have further proof of where they come from, receipts of land revenue their forefathers had paid as early as 1935 to the Government of Assam under the British in a village about 20 Kilometers north east of their present settlement called Ramfalbil in the neighbouring Dotma Revenue Circle of the same Kokrajhar District.

How have they ended up in this squalid settlement in Joymaguri village in the Gossaigaon Revenue Circle of Kokrajhar District? When the violence against the Muslim villagers broke out in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts in July 2012, these Muslim villagers from Ramfalbil were compelled to flee with their lives to relief camps in Bilasipara in the neighbouring Dhubri District of Assam. Unlike most other villagers from their community who are overwhelmingly cultivators or agricultural labourers, a majority of them were petty businessmen, traders and shopkeepers, and perhaps comparatively more upwardly mobile. When government relief camps for the Muslim victims of the 2012 violence began to be forcibly closed down, even before any compensation were paid, or even before they were enabled to return to the destroyed homes they had fled from, 163 families, mostly from Ramfalbil, finally found their way into this patch of land in Joymaguri.

The land the displaced Muslim villagers now live on, however, is not government land that any accusation of encroachment can even arise but ‘myadi land’ belonging to two generous elderly Muslim gentlemen of Joymaguri village, Karim Ali and Qader Ali. Karim Ali, on whose land the greater part of the present settlement of the displaced Muslim villagers from Ramfalbil is situated, was among those whom I had the wonderful opportunity to meet that afternoon. For someone who has lost all earning from that land, and who can actually ill-afford that loss, it is indeed a generous gesture. It is gestures like these that reaffirm our faith on humanity.…

http://twocircles.net/2014mar07/bengali_speaking_muslims_btad_are_exiled_their_own_land_post_2012_riots.html

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Crony capitalism and state capture – By C.P. Chandrasekhar (Mar 21, 2014, Frontline)

It is a controversy that is unlikely to go away. Arvind Kejriwal’s salvo in the form of a first information report (FIR) against Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily and sundry policymakers and against the decision to double the price of natural gas in India to $8.4 per million British thermal units (mBtu) from April 1 has revived a controversy that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government hoped had died. There is no doubting that Reliance will be a major beneficiary of the decision. And that at a time when it is being accused of having inflated capital costs to garner a larger share of profits (than the government) from the KG-D6 fields leased to it and of having failed to ensure gas output levels and therefore shareable revenues promised in the original revenue-sharing contract. The loser has been the government.

With the general election barely weeks away, the controversy could snowball. But some, like Moily, who are seen as being behind the decision with support from “above” seem convinced that they can brazen it out and deliver a policy, the damage of which will have to be addressed by the next government. That damage could include huge losses in the power and fertilizer sectors and consumers having reduced access to power owing to both high prices and supply shortfall. Benefiting Reliance seems to be a priority, to which all else is being subordinated. Some say this is crony capitalism, where a state-, and not market-, determined price is used to boost private profit. Others see this as the result of “state capture” by big business.

There are many reasons why the decision of the government has been questioned. The first is that its argument that the gas industry will be starved of investment if prices are not raised goes against the evidence, as E.A.S. Sarma, a senior and respected retired civil servant with much expertise in the area, has argued. Second, the principles on the basis of which the new price has been arrived at by the Rangarajan Committee are open to question and not above suspicion of being part of a conspiracy to favour Reliance Industries Limited (RIL). Third, RIL has been charged with wilfully not meeting the production targets agreed to in its revenue-sharing contract with the government, and the matter is now under investigation. Many believe that RIL is hoarding gas to reap higher profits once the prices are raised.

Giving it the benefit of a higher price when this issue is under investigation does seem unusual. Fourth, the government’s claim that this will benefit the public sector oil companies as well does not sell because other parts of the public sector, such as the power producer NTPC, are expected to take a hit owing to cost increases, and the net impact of this on the public sector is unclear. Finally, the UPA government’s decision to implement, at the fag end of its tenure, the new price it had announced does suggest that it wants to be seen as having taken the decision to favour gas producers, including RIL. The allegation that there was a quid pro quo for individuals or organisations responsible for the decision is only a short step from there.

Even if all these strong reasons for concern over the government’s decision were not there, suspicion of undue favour by the government was more than likely. This is not just because of the controversies that have dogged Reliance’s rise to dominance in Indian industry, many of which have to do with its ability to bend the rules and swing government decisions in its favour. It is also because across a range of industries, in all of which Reliance is not necessarily the dominant player, the state is seen as having shown undue favour to big business. The allocations of 2G spectrum licences and coal blocks are just two more visible examples of decisions that middle-class India is convinced constitute evidence of an illegitimate or even illegal nexus between the state and big business, in which the latter is the beneficiary and sections of the former are on the take. All the more so because the evidence that the nexus between the state and private capital, to the “benefit” of both, has strengthened rather than eroded under India’s neoliberal policy regime is too obvious to ignore.…

http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/crony-capitalism-and-state-capture/article5746306.ece

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Birth of a State – By M. Rajeev (Mar 21, 2014, Frontline)

February 20, 2014, will remain a red-letter day in the history of Telangana. The passage of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014, by Parliament has brought to an end a saga of struggle for a separate State spanning five decades. The passage of the Bill for the creation of the 29th State in the country saw some acrimonious scenes in the two Houses of Parliament, including the infamous use of pepper spray in the Lok Sabha by the member from Vijayawada, Lagadapati Rajagopal, and the expulsion of six Congress MPs from Seemandhra.

The statehood issue was put on the back burner in the aftermath of the announcement on December 9, 2009, regarding the creation of Telangana by the then Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. The announcement came in the wake of a “fast unto death” launched by Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) president K. Chandrasekhar Rao and after students’ organisations, government employees’ unions and other sections of society joined the Telangana movement.

With Telangana heading for a shutdown on December 6 and 7, the State government headed by Chief Minister K. Rosaiah called an all-party meeting in which all the major parties extended their support to the creation of Telangana. The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and the Congress left the decision to the Congress high command. The minutes of the meeting were sent to the Congress leadership, and the announcement that the process for the creation of Telangana would be initiated followed.

The spate of resignations by Ministers and legislators from Seemandhra that followed the announcement forced the Central government to rethink the decision. Subsequently, it constituted a high-power committee headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna for consultations. The panel conducted an elaborate exercise, holding discussions with a cross section of the stakeholders for over a year, before submitting the report to the Union Home Ministry on December 28, 2010. It suggested six options; keeping the State united was its preferred option.

It opined that the Telangana State was economically viable but preferred maintaining the status quo keeping in view the larger scheme of things. However, a controversy erupted over the committee submitting a supplementary note in a sealed cover reportedly detailing the law and order implications, including the possible escalation of extremism. Challenging the report in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, pro-Telangana petitioners demanded that the contents of the sealed note be made public. The court upheld the contention on the grounds that “the committee travelled beyond the terms of reference in its endeavour to persuade the Union of India not to accede to the demand for Telangana”. The judgment quoted the report’s eighth chapter and said that “the manoeuvre suggested by the committee in its secret supplementary note poses an open challenge, if not threat, to the very system of democracy”.…

http://www.frontline.in/politics/birth-of-a-state/article5749866.ece

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