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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.


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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.


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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.


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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. …


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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. …


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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”.


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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.


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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.


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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. …


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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.


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Opinions and Editorials

The RSS Hand in Militant Hindutva – By Shaj Hameed (Mar 10, 2014,

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. …


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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.


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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.…


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

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.…


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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.…


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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”.…


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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 24th, 2014

by newsdigest on February 25, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Modi failed to announce relief for Gujarat Sikhs: Partap Singh Bajwa (Feb 24, 2014, Times of India)

Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Partap Singh Bajwa president on Sunday ridiculed the speech made by Narendra Modi at Jagraon rally, stating that Modi failed to address the problem of Sikh farmers of Gujarat who were facing displacement from their land.

Bajwa said that Sikh farmers living in Gujarat and people of Punjab had high hopes that Modi during his Punjab visit would make some announcement to withdraw Special Leave Petition (SLP) which the Modi government had filed in the Supreme Court against stay granted by Gujarat high court to Sikh farmers. He said that Modi made a political statement that every Gujarati and every Indian has the same right over Gujarat. He said that though he had made a reference to protect the interest of Sikh farmers, he had not made any commitment to withdraw the SLP.

Bajwa said that it was shameful that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was not able to convince Modi to withdraw SLP from the Supreme Court. He said that Gujarat government had ordered Sikh farmers to ‘get out’ of Gujarat and their land holdings were frozen. The Gujarat high court had given relief to farmers and stayed the orders of Kutch district magistrate. He said that Modi government had challenged the high court decision in the apex court. He said that unless the SLP was withdrawn, all talk on protecting Sikh farmers was meaningless.


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Naroda Patiya massacre case: SC dismisses Maya Kodnani’s bail application (Feb 24, 2014, Indian Express)

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition by former Gujarat minister and a convict in 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case Maya Kodnani for extension of interim bail on medical grounds and asked her to approach the High Court. Kodnani had filed the petition challenging the February 8 order of the Gujarat High Court declining to extend her three-month temporary bail granted on medical grounds in November last. She had sought extension of bail by 180 days.

The trial court had in August 2012 awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 others for Naroda Patiya incident. Last week the apex court had extended by one more week the interim bail of Kodnani and directed her to place a medical report on her burn injuries. A Bench led by Justice H L Dattu had granted Kodnani the final opportunity to adduce a certificate by a recognised medical practitioner, specifying the kind of injuries she suffered.

Displeased with Kodnani’s failure to produce the certificate despite adjourning the case twice earlier, the Bench had said that the photographs of her injuries failed to satisfy the court over the nature of injuries and she would hence have to file a proper medical report.


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NHRC seeks report on man’s custodial death in Odisha (Feb 18, 2014, Yahoo)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a report from the Odisha government on the death of a man allegedly in police custody, a petitioner said Tuesday.

Acting on a complaint lodged by human rights activist Akhand, the commission directed the secretary of the state home department to submit within four weeks the report of the district magistrate who also investigated the matter.

According to Akhand, the 30-year-old Hemant Nayak, a resident of Bhuinpur village in Khordha district, was picked up by police along with three others May 3, 2013, in connection with the case of a girl’s harassment.

But Nayak’s mutilated body was found hanging from a banyan tree in Badaberana, a nearby village, two days later, while the other three returned home. Nayak’s family and the villagers alleged that he was tortured and killed in police custody.

“I had sought an independent inquiry into the matter and registration of complaint against the local police. Besides, I had sought a compensation of Rs.10 lakh to the family of the deceased as he was the only earning member in the family,” said Akhand.


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26/11 call record issue may suffer under Maria: Martyr’s wife (Feb 18, 2014, Business Standard)

The widow of IPS officer Ashok Kamte, killed in 26/11 terror attack, today apprehended the matter surrounding the “discrepancies” in crucial call records of the 59-hours siege in 2008 provided to her would be put on the backburner under the watch of new Mumbai police chief. Rakesh Maria, who as Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) led the probe into the terror strike, took over as Police Commissioner yesterday.

The call logs were of wireless conversations between the Mumbai Police control room and Kamte’s van on the day of his death. Under the RTI, Vinita Kamte had sought information on the call records of the police control room on November 26, 2008 attacks. However, she had claimed to have found “serious discrepancies” in the information given to her in November 2009 and February 2010.

“I wrote to Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, appealing to him to order a probe into the issue of providing false information to me by the Government,” Vinita told PTI. Gaikwad then dashed off a letter to Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Amitabh Rajan asking him why a probe should not be ordered to find out how and why serious discrepancies crept in the information provided to Vinita.

“Rajan is yet to respond to Gaikwad’s letter. I suspect Maria might intervene into the matter as he himself was in the control room during the terror attack,” she said. Vinita has accused Maria of not telling her who sent her husband towards Cama Hospital where he was killed by terrorists even though Maria was in charge of the main Police Control Room during the first few hours of 26/11. The comments are contained in ‘To The Last Bullet’, a book co-authored by Vinita that released in 2009.

In the book, she has blamed Maria for not sending reinforcements when asked for, appearing to give wrong information about the shootout involving three officers, including Kamte and Lashkar-e-Toiba attackers, and also not helping them get medical assistance after they had been shot. Following the allegations, Maria had reportedly threatened to resign.


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‘Baig clean chit puts question mark on ATS’ (Feb 24, 2014, Pune Mirror)

Supreme Court (SC) lawyer Mehmood Pracha, who is the counsel for German Bakery blast accused Mirza Himayat Baig, on Sunday raised major questions over the integrity and work ethics of the State Anti Terrorism Squad’s (ATS) and its former chief and current Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria and claimed his client was ‘framed.’

Baig has been given a clean chit by the Delhi Special Cell, the Central Crime Branch in Bangalore, and most recently (on February 20), the National Investigative Agency (NIA). Pracha, who held a press conference in the city on Sunday, informed that next week, he will be filing a petition against Maria at the NIA court in Delhi, for creating false evidence, destruction of evidence and abetting terror by arresting people not proven guilty, and the murder of another blast accused Qateel Siddique. An application has also been filed in the Bombay High Court for Baig’s discharge.

Pracha said, “Baig has been given a clean chit from three investigative agencies, but the Maharashtra ATS framed him in 2010, which puts a huge question mark over the ATS.” Elaborating on ATS’ modus operandi under Maria’s leadership, Pracha said, “Whenever terror attacks take place, they create their own story and make arbitrary arrests. Then they lure the arrested into becoming approvers. Even the defence council is there in name only – they work against their clients and an in-camera trials are held where the press is not allowed.”

Pracha added, “The Delhi Special Cell and Maharashtra ATS are forever in a race to arrest terror accused, because of which they end up arresting innocent people. When the Special Cell declared that Yasin Bhatkal and Siddique had roles in the GB blast, the ATS promptly filed an FIR against Siddique for planning a blast at the Dagdusheth Halwai temple and got him transferred from Tihar Jail to Yerwada Central Prison where he was murdered.”

“Siddique’s murder was planned because he could have made more revelations to prove Baig’s innocence, but his death temporarily closed the chapter. Now, Bhatkal’s confession that Baig was not involved in the blast has brought ATS under the scanner again,” Pracha said. …


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Demand for repeal of UAPA gains momentum (Feb 21, 2014, Times of India)

Stating that the amended version of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) has become a tool to falsely implicate innocent persons, community leaders, activists and lawyers on Friday decided to launch a nationwide campaign for its repeal. They also decided to organize a public gathering -”People’s Conference against UAPA” will be held for the same in New Delhi on March 5.

To coordinate and monitor the activities, a joint platform -’People’s Movement against UAPA’ was also announced. Moulana Muhammad Wali Rahmani will be the chairman of the core committee while Kamal Faruqui and Muhammad Shafi will be the convener and joint convener, respectively.

About 50 activists and leaders took part in the discussion. They said after the POTA and TADA were revoked, the amended version of UAPA became a new tool to falsely implicate innocents. The convener Kamal Faruqui said people were being victimised by the misuse of UAPA across the country. …


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Cops again fail to arrest Muzaffarnagar riot-accused (Feb 21, 2014, Deccan Herald)

Hundreds of women, carrying batons and sticks, foiled a police bid to arrest gang rape accused at Fugana village in the riot-torn Muzaffarnagar district and the cops had to return empty handed. Security personnel from several police stations led by senior officials raided Fugana village on Thursday to arrest a gang-rape accused, who had been absconding.

The village had experienced large scale communal violence in September last year. The news of the police raid spread like wild fire and within moments, hundreds of baton-wielding women surrounded the cops from all sides. The villagers warned the police of serious consequences if they tried to arrest the accused. Finding themselves outnumbered, the cops left the village without arresting the accused.

Similar fate awaited the cops when they went to the Lank village also. The villagers confronted the police there too and forced it to beat a hasty retreat. The police also failed to arrest any accused person from the nearby Mohammedpur Raisingh village owing to stiff resistance by the locals, the reports said. The powerful khap panchayats have warned the UP government against what they alleged “indiscriminate” arrests of a section of the community by the cops in connection with the last year’s communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and have demanded a CBI investigation into the same.

Members of several khaps held a mahapanchayat (meeting) in the district on Thursday to discuss their strategy to protest the alleged ‘indiscriminate’ arrests of jat youths on charges of inciting violence and involvement in the riots. The khap leaders made it clear that they would not allow arrest of any youth of the community ‘come what may’ and would oppose their ‘persecution’ in a ‘peaceful manner’.

“Cases have been registered against 7,000 people in different police stations in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts in connection with the riots… while a large number of cases are against unidentified people, as many as 4,000 people had been named in the cases,” they alleged. A few days back, the villagers had fought with the cops, when they tried to arrest a youth in connection with a case of arson, which injured many.…


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All India Sikh Conference seeks action against police officers posted in Delhi during anti Sikh riots (Feb 20, 2014, Times of India)

All India Sikh Conference (AISC) held a demonstration against November 1984 anti Sikh riots outside police headquarters in Delhi on Thursday demanding to take stern action against those police officers who didn’t perform their duties during the 1984 anti Sikh riots and instead illegally disposed of thousand of bodies of Sikhs in an inhumane way. AISC burnt effigies of former chief justice of India, Ranganath Mishra and former police commissioner of Delhi Subhas Tandon.

AISC president GS Babbar told TOI on Thursday that they had earlier released a list of police personals of all ranks posted in different police stations of Delhi during November 1984 anti Sikh riots . The AISC has also blamed those officials for their inaction and have demanded their arrest and investigation into their role. AISC president informed that they had also submitted a memorandum to Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi stating that “It was the legal obligation of the Delhi Police to take these dead bodies in their custody, and they did fulfill it.

However, Delhi Police ‘neither’ lodged an FIR, ‘nor’ did they make a note of it in their diary, did photograph the dead bodies, conducted a post-mortem on the dead bodies, wrote the post-mortem report, issued appeal for witnesses to the killings, informed the kin of victims through a pubic notice, handed over the dead bodies to an heir. Taking a dig at the Centeral government, Babbar said that the Central government had allegedly conspired against the Sikh in a planned manner and told the Sikh people again and again that investigating committees were doing their job well and they would definitely get justice.

“This job of investigating committees lasted for 26 years and total 18 investigating committees were set up one by one in this long period. Unfortunately, it proved to be mere deception, a criminal conspiracy” he said. The AISC has urged Bassi to take immediate legal action against all the then senior officers – ACP, DCP, Joint Commissioner and Commissioner of Police including the SHOs and other officers posted in all police stations of Delhi.

“Besides, we have also demanded that on the basis of the given facts, let a strict action be taken against the topmost police officers and political leaders who made the police force do this heinous crime” said Babbar.


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Madurai police in trouble for defying high court order in dowry case (Feb 22, 2014, Times of India)

City police authorities, including two personnel from an all-women police station (AWPS), have been asked to appear before the Madurai bench of the Madurai high court for defying a court order in a dowry case. Apart from city police commissioner Sanjay Mathur, police inspector Hema Mala and sub-inspector Geetha Ramani of the AWPS have to explain why they wilfully disobeyed an HC order and illegally arrested a 30-year-old software engineer, S Arjun, working in the US when he returned to the country.

Arjun’s wife C Shailaja had lodged a dowry complaint against him and his parents before the AWPS, Madurai. To avoid arrest Arjun had filed a petition at the bench seeking anticipatory bail. The court granted him interim bail on September 12, 2013 and directed him to appear before the judicial magistrate court (JMC), Madurai, within 15 days. He again moved a plea at the bench seeking extension of time required to appear before the court as he was working abroad. On February 7, the HC, which granted this plea too, gave him two weeks time to appear before the JMC.

However, on February 9, Bangalore airport authorities arrested Arjun on the basis of a look-out notice issued by police and handed him over to the AWPS. Though, he informed the police here about the latest court order, inspector Hema and SI Geetha produced Arjun at the mahila court. He was released on bail after Arjun’s counsel told the judge about the HC order.

The HC directive of Thursday comes on a notice filed by Arjun stating that the police arrested him after wilfully neglecting the court order. He also apprised the HC bench that the personnel of AWPS did not submit his original passport at the JMC. In his petition, he termed the police action as contempt of court and hence called for punishing the personnel involved. Following it, the judge ordered to issue statutory notice to the city police commissioner and concerned inspector and sub-inspector and adjourned the case by two weeks. Counsel Babu Rajendran represented Arjun during the hearing on Thursday.


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Police delay action against stalker, minor dalit girl commits suicide (Feb 25, 2014, Times of India)

Upset over police inaction into her complaint of being stalked by an upper caste man, a minor dalit girl committed suicide at her house in Sisar village of Meham sub-division in Rohtak on Sunday night. The victim, a student of class X, was alone at home when she consumed poison. The girl’s family members rushed her to PGIMS, Rohtak, where she was declared dead.

The accused, identified as Naresh, has been arrested after a case was registered against him at Meham police station. Naresh, who lived near the victim’s house, has been charged under Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of IPC and various sections of Prevention of Atrocities Against SC/ST Act.

Police acted against Naresh only after the victim’s family refused to accept her body and added suicide abetment charge only after they refused to cremate her body, lying at PGIMS morgue after autopsy. Rohtak range inspector general (IG) of police, A K Rao, said district superintendent of police (SP) Rajesh Duggal was probing the allegations of inaction levelled against two policemen – Mahavir and Dharampal Singh.

The victim belonged to a poor family and was a student of a government senior secondary school. She was allegedly stalked by Naresh, who belonged to an influential family of the village, in September 2013. Her family members said they had initially taken up the case of her harassment with the village sarpanch and approached the police much later. They had even raised the matter with the state women’s commission, after they failed to get justice even after meeting the Rohtak SP at his office.

“The youth, instead, started stalking her more frequently and she finally took the extreme step of taking her own life. She didn’t want to see her mother and brother suffer because of her,” said Ram Parkash, a close relative of the victim.


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Opinions and Editorials

RSS faces a different Modi wave – By Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay (Feb 24, 2014, Business Standard)

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is among various organisations whose futures will be decided in the looming parliamentary elections despite it never contesting elections. In October this year, the RSS will enter the ninetieth year of its existence and this watershed year in its existence comes when the RSS has to take vital decisions regarding reorienting strategy to retain influence in Indian politics. …

Currently, the most intriguing relationship within the fraternity involves Modi and the RSS top brass. This association is completely based on mutual dependence. Despite differences with Modi’s style of working and his disdain for hierarchy within the RSS, its leaders made temporary peace because he provides the best opportunity for the RSS’ political agenda to stage a comeback.

For his part, Modi continues working within the mainframe of the RSS fraternity because he requires the RSS cadre, since the parallel set-up he developed has the capacity to only manage a campaign. The foot soldiers are missing and that is why he accepts the RSS, though its leaders at times breathe down his neck overpoweringly.

The RSS finally gave the go-ahead to the BJP in the summer of last year to anoint Modi as chief of campaign committee and later as official prime ministerial candidate. But the decision was carefully considered and the announcement made only after the assessment that Modi not only had a huge support within the organisation, but his winnability was also the highest among all rivals within the party. …

The basic crisis for the RSS stems from its inability to update ideology with changing times and evolve organisationally. It is no coincidence that when it battles political marginalisation, it is faced with allegations of promoting the euphemistic Hindu terror. Like in the Gandhi assassination case, the RSS repeatedly failed to control fringe elements. This gives rise to accusations that the leadership has always been in the know – be it the 1948 assassination, the demolition of the Babri Masjid or the Samjhauta Express blasts. …


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Here’s how you could stop the next communal riots – By Harsh Mander (Feb 19, 2014, Hindustan Times)

When working-class Muslim men and women in many parts of India recount to me their family histories, its markers always are successive riots – in which neighbours turn killers, loved ones are murdered, girls and women savaged, and homes built over lifetimes looted and burned down. They live life between these storms: interludes of suffering, healing, struggle and rebuilding. But these are also periods of waiting, of helplessly preparing oneself for the inevitable next riot. They never speak of what will happen if another riot rages. Instead it is always of what devastation will occur when the next riot will scorch their lives. Their certainty that riots will continue, almost in the natural order of their world, just as do floods, tempests and earthquakes, breaks my heart.

Sometimes laws if crafted with courage, wisdom and compassion carry the potential to change the destinies of a people. One such law – if we get it right – is the communal violence law, which could contribute to ending these periodic cycles of brutal mass violence that target people only because of their religious faith. It is therefore extremely tragic that the ruling government introduced its revised draft of the Bill with such unconscionably clumsy lack of preparation and conviction; and that the entire political opposition from the Left to the BJP joined hands to prevent even its introduction in the Rajya Sabha, without debating its provisions. Unless corrected, this will remain a shameful and painful betrayal of India’s vulnerable people and its secular foundations by the entire political class.

There can indeed be legitimate debates about specific provisions of this complex and sensitive legislation, but not about its objectives of preventing communal violence and ensuring reparation and justice to survivors. The first draft Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2005, but was rejected by most segments of secular public opinion. An entirely new draft was written in the National Advisory Council, with which I too was closely associated. This draft was also attacked in some quarters, especially for restricting its protections to minorities, and its alleged encroachments on the federal framework.

For a statute of such seminal significance, the Union government took far too long in amending the draft in ways that responded to these criticisms. It would have done well to initiate a public debate and invite leaders across political lines to assist in the amendments. But still the latest draft addresses most of the criticisms made by both Opposition parties and segments of secular opinion. The provisions of the new draft apply equally to all persons, majority and minority, and it takes great care not to violate the jurisdictions of state governments.

However, the government did not even share in advance this draft with various political parties before it raised it in the Rajya Sabha. Neither Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde nor law minister Kapil Sibal explained how the draft incorporates the concerns, suggestions and sensitivities of various political parties. The government’s resultant failure to even introduce the revised Bill seemed like a deliberate and cynical self-goal. It appears that the ruling government tried clumsily to earn the gratitude of minorities for trying to introduce the statute, but not the opprobrium of majoritarian public opinion by actually steering it through in Parliament. …


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Law for bad behaviour – By Martha C. Nussbaum (Feb 21, 2014, Indian Express)

These are grim times for scholars who study India. For years, in both India and the US, the RSS and its allies have bullied and attacked scholars of ancient history and religion who do not portray the past and the gods according to their narrow orthodoxy. What is different now is that the politics of fear is in the ascendant. People previously committed to open scholarship and public debate are running for the hills. And now, with the withdrawal and pulping of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History, the bullies have scored a major victory. Penguin, after fighting the legal case against Doniger for four years, suddenly folded, saying that it would be difficult to continue defending Doniger without “deliberately placing themselves outside the law” – the law in question being Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which forbids “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class of citizens”.

Penguin’s claim is ridiculous. The lawsuit is extremely weak. It is poorly written and argued, contains absurd errors (even the purported quotes from the book are inaccurate), and its attempt to satisfy the law’s demand for malicious intent is childish – accusing Doniger, a secular Jew, of “Christian missionary zeal” and suggesting that her historically accurate references to sexual elements in the tradition were motivated by her being “a woman hungry of sex”. Ironically, the parts of the book that, according to the lawsuit, show Hinduism in a bad light are simply parts that are true and there: the Hindu tradition is replete with non-judgemental allusions to a variety of sexual desires and activities, including those of the gods, whether the new Hindu fundamentalists like this or not. So how could anyone be convicted of defaming a religion simply because she points to texts that some people would rather forget? As Doniger said recently in The New York Times, the shoe is on the other foot: it is they who say parts of their own religion are bad, whereas she admires Hinduism’s treatment of sexuality as natural and beautiful.

Indeed, even a cursory study of Doniger’s career would reveal a passionate love of Hinduism, combined with scholarship of the highest order. Doniger, a woman of boundless energy, humour and joie de vivre, can be found teaching approximately double the required load, so eager is she to make sure that the major texts are taught in their original languages. She describes her career as motivated by a dissatisfaction with the narrowness and rigour of other religions, and a fascination with Hinduism’s more variegated and tolerant portrayal of human beings and the conflicts they face – “the difficulty of being good”, as Gurcharan Das put it in his book of that name, written after spending two years at the University of Chicago studying Sanskrit with Doniger.

The case, then, was eminently winnable, and Penguin’s attempt to hide behind the law is a transparent excuse for cowardly capitulation. The real story is told in Penguin’s statement that they “have a moral responsibility to protect our employees against threats and harassment where we can”. Fear of violence has won; the conglomerate caves before a vague (or perhaps not-so-vague) threat. Such things have, deplorably, happened before. This time, however, there is the prospect (on which the lawsuit’s primary plaintiff, Dina Nath Batra, waxes ecstatic in an interview to The New York Times) that the RSS will soon have the power to suppress all the books it doesn’t like.

What, then, of law? Is Section 295A utterly irrelevant to the current dire situation of free speech and scholarship in India? Certainly, law does not explain Penguin’s failure to fight a winnable case. But law, I would argue, is not nothing either: it does collaborate with the political situation, opening a door through which bullies may walk with their heads held high. Group defamation is a trendy topic in the law. Particularly in Europe, where incivility to minorities is distressingly common and well-meaning people want to protect their dignity, it has become fashionable to defend such laws or urge their adoption where (as in the US) they are not yet present. A particularly influential argument for group defamation laws was recently made by the eminent British legal scholar Jeremy Waldron, in The Harm in Hate Speech. Waldron’s concerns are admirable: equal respect and full inclusion. How, he asks, can Muslim immigrants ever feel themselves fully equal citizens when a sign can be put up on a New Jersey street saying, “Muslims and 9/11! Don’t serve them, don’t speak to them and don’t let them in.” (The example is apparently fictional.) Waldron argues that the usual ways of dealing with such insults (non-discrimination laws, social norms) are insufficient: the law must intervene, ensuring that minorities have confidence that their dignity will not be assailed by public utterances.…


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Misconceptions about Hyderabad state and Nizam – By Kaneez Fathima (Feb 19, 2014,

When the Telangana state bill for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh came in the Assembly for discussion Andhra MLAs and the chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy did not allow the house to have discussion on the bifurcation bill. In the House, there were remarks on the Nizam of Hyderabad, his rule and about his development to the state by TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu, P. Keshav, Narender and Legislative Affairs Minister, Shailajanath.

Mr. Babu claimed that he has developed Hyderabad which Nizam was unable to do in 400 years. Shailajanath, Legislative Affairs Minister gave a strong statement that, ‘anybody who takes the name of the Nizam, would not be tolerated’. On this MIM MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi questioned as to how the Nizam is responsible for the bifurcation of the state. And he said that those who are questioning and blaming Nizam do not have enough courage to name the people responsible for the bifurcation of the state.

As the debate continued in the AP Assembly, a public meeting was held on 3 February 2014 at the Press Club Basheerbagh, on the topic “Misconceptions on Hyderabad State and Nizam,” to bring out the facts of the Nizam rule and his development of Hyderabad. The public meeting was presided by Mohd. Abdul Rahim Qureshi, while Dr. K. Srinivas, Editor of Andhra Jyothy was the Chief Guest. Other speakers included Mr. T. Vivek, Prof. Bhangya Bhukya, Dr. K.Chiranjeevi, Captain L. Pandu Ranga Reddy, Mr. Nanak Singh Nashtar, Mr. Lateef Mohd. Khan, Dr. Mateen Quadri, Mr. K. Ramdas and Mr. M.A. Moid.

The meeting started with the introduction to the title “Misconceptions on Hyderabad State and Nizam”. Mr. Moid said that those who wrote about the history of Telangana or erstwhile Hyderabad state were either not sympathetic, or were ignorant, or else to please someone wrote distorted history. He said that the biased writing did affect last two generations, but the new found intellectual activism are bringing new insights and re-writing history of Hyderabad both in English and Telugu.

Speaking on the history of Hyderabad, Mr. T. Vivek from Telangana History Society said that have lost our history and culture after the formation of Andhra Pradesh, we have to recollect our place in society and to rediscover, history should form the basis. After 1948, some kind of alienation is there among Muslims especially in the Southern Hyderabad. Two imagined communities have been created, one which is stuck in the past time and another which is modern, educated and cultured, he said adding that some movies like Gullu Dada etc. have created negative image of Hyderabad and those who have done this have been misdirected. …


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Democracy in peril – Editorial (Feb 24, 2014, The Hindu)

Indian democracy has over time shown a resilience that has been marvelled at the world over. Yet, 67 years after its birth, the world’s largest democracy is faced with a crisis of faith too scarily large to be ignored. As the 15th Lok Sabha comes to an ignominious end, it is no longer possible to put off the question: are we a democracy only in name? Without a proactive course correction, India’s robust record in conducting elections could end up being just that – a ritualistic, five-yearly obeisance to democracy that hides the appalling state of the country’s institutions, in particular Parliament which today resembles a wrestling arena.

In truth, the comparison would insult the sport of wrestling, which is governed by well laid-out rules and regulations. By contrast, parliamentary misbehaviour would seem to have no boundaries, with new lows marked in every session, and progressively higher levels of tolerance required of presiding officers, who have had to throw up their hands in the face of aggression by those they have been mandated to monitor.

Even by this abysmal standard, few could have bargained for what happened in the concluding session of the 15th Lok Sabha. An irate MP from Seemandhra used pepper spray, causing immense distress to fellow- parliamentarians. A dark chapter was added to this saga when the Lok Sabha passed The Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Bill amidst a TV blackout. There cannot be a worse commentary on the state of democracy than the blackout of the proceedings of the lower House of Parliament where the collective will of the people is deemed to reside. It would seem only natural then that the 15th Lok Sabha should have recorded the worst performance in more than 50 years; productivity, which was 107 per cent in the third Lok Sabha, scaled a peak of 120 per cent in the seventh, only to crash to 61 per cent in the 15th; the outgoing Lok Sabha passed 177 of the 326 Bills scheduled for passage.

Tragically, Indian parliamentarians are second to none in legislative acumen and debating skills – as was witnessed during the debates on the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, as well as on the occasions when the Opposition skewered the executive on its interminable scams. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party also set aside their differences to help pass the Bills on the Lokpal and the Telangana state. This shows that with some will, Parliament can yet be salvaged. The time has come for presiding officers to redeem the pledge they have repeatedly made at countless conferences, to “evolve and observe” a “code of conduct” for legislators and create strong disincentives against disruption. The start for this has necessarily to be the realisation that India’s future is imperilled if its Parliament is imperilled.


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Justice For Kiran – By Nupur Sonar (Mar 1, 2014, Tehelka)

As Kiran Negi’s parents emerged out of the courtroom in New Delhi on 20 February, more than 300 women cheered for them. An endless battle seemed to be have been won. The women, mostly neighbours of the Negis, have been attending every court proceeding for the past two years, ever since Kiran’s body was found in Haryana on 13 February 2012.

Kiran’s mother, Ganeshi Devi, fainted in the courtroom, as the three accused were handed down death sentences. Kiran’s teary-eyed father, Kunwar Singh Negi, emerged from the court and said, “Today, my daughter’s soul will rest in peace. Our faith in the judiciary has been restored, but I know this is not the end of the battle for us.”

A year before the Nirbhaya gangrape in New Delhi captured India’s imagination, raising the cry for women’s safety in our cities, Kiran was abducted, raped and brutalised in the Capital, before being left to die bleeding in a mustard field in Haryana. Her brutal rape and murder did not attract newspaper headlines or television airtime. In fact, she was a mere statistic until TEHELKA reported her story (Before Nirbhaya, it was Kiran Negi. But the media ignored her) on 8 February 2014.

For the past two years, Kunwar and his wife have fought a seemingly endless and tiring battle. Rape laws were still lax when their daughter was killed. The case was transferred thrice to different courts, before it finally reached the fast-track court. Her father ran from pillar to post, consumed by paperwork and tracking his daughter’s case. He waited outside courtrooms as the case progressed. “I did not have the heart to enter the courtroom,” he says. …

The Negis have fought valiantly for the past two years and want the world to know about their daughter and what happened to her. Kunwar Singh has tried to give voice to his dead daughter by writing a biographical account of her life in the form of a letter. It starts with Kiran’s dreams and aspirations, before moving on to describe the gruesome details of the incident that put an end to her life, and goes on to demand death penalty for the accused. While the accused are expected to appeal in a higher court next month, the Negis know that the fight is far from over. Yet, they are willing to fight for justice till the end.


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Book Review

India: Social Development Report 2012: Minorities at the Margins

Author: Mushirul Hasan and Zoya Hasan, Eds.
Reviewed by: Vibhuti Patel
Available at: Council for Social Development 53, KK Birla Marg, Lodhi Gardens, Lodi Estate, New Delhi, 110003, 2013; pp xx + 298, Rs 795.
Inscribed In Cold-Hearted Ink (Feb 24, 2014, Outlook)

The volume under review is the product of a large number of area and sectoral studies on the socio-economic conditions of socially excluded sections. These include the poor among the scheduled castes (SCs), the scheduled tribes (STs), the denotified tribes (DNTs), the disabled, women and religious minorities.… The editors of the report, Zoya Hasan and Mushirul Hasan, clarify the concept of “social development” originally proposed by Durgabai Deshmukh, a founder of the Council for Social Development and who played a pivotal role in the debates in the Constituent Assembly of India. They point out the failure of the State to provide people with the basic minimum needed for survival and a dignified life due to its withdrawal from the infrastructure, social and agricultural sectors of the economy. They also highlight identity-based exclusion which targets the Muslim community the most. The Human Development Report, 2011 shows that Muslims account for 33% of the total below poverty line population. …

Part II of this volume is dedicated to the most neglected strata of India, namely minorities, who are confronted with social, political, economic and educational exclusion due to inbuilt biases in the social structure. The major exclusion of Muslims from planning and implementation in day-to-day governance structures and mechanisms allow the diversion of funds earmarked for them. The weak socio-economic and educational profile of Muslims has demanded greater attention from policymakers and politicians after the Sachar Committee’s report was released in 2006 by the Government of India. Abusaleh Shariff, Khursheed Anwar Siddiqui, Amit Sharma and Prabir Kumar Ghosh examine the factors responsible for the wage and non-wage incomes of different socio-religious groups.

Tanweer Fazal and Rajeev Kumar’s article “Muslims in India – A Study of Socio-economic and Educational Levels in Four Focus States” reveals the low retention and high dropout rates in education among Muslims in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar, Assam and Kerala. Mohammad Sanjeer Alam explains the modalities of exclusion of Muslims from formal education due to unequal distribution of opportunities and absence of affirmative action in the field of education by the state and non-state actors.

“Madarsas and Educational Conditions of Muslims” by Arshad Alam profiles the historical genesis of madrasas and their changing role in post-Independence India and the state policies on madrasas in UP, Bihar and West Bengal. The author calls for modernisation of the madrasas in order to equip Muslim children to meet the challenges of modern times.

Prashant Trivedi’s “Rural Power Structure, State Initiatives and the Muslims-Divergent Experiences in Four States” brings out the intersectionality of class and sociocultural variables in the nature of landownership, occupational pattern, health-related issues, availability of housing and electricity and drinking water among Muslims in UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. “Assessing UPA Government’s Response to Muslim Deprivation” by Zoya Hasan and Mushirul Hasan conducts a social audit of the Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme that focuses on education-related schemes, the multi-sectoral development programme for basic amenities, enterprise development, health delivery system, etc. They find inadequate funds for economic services, social services and welfare services for minorities and exclusion of Muslims from existing government programmes. The authors emphasise mainstreaming Muslims in all the decision-making bodies like ministries, departments and implementation agencies. …


IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 3rd, 2014

February 4, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines Not possible to forget Modi’s role in 2002 riots: Congress Sohrabuddin Case: SC Notice to Amit Shah and Other Accused Saffron terror attacks: Swami Aseemanand implicates RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Andhra Christian leaders demand govt. to ban Hindu Vahini 1984 riots: Court queries police on destruction [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 18th, 2013

November 19, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Communal Harmony The unsung heroes of Muzaffarnagar – an untold story News Headlines Gujarat riots return to haunt Modi as US writers brand him ‘the poster child of India’s failure to punish the violent’ US Republicans deny they invited Modi to address party Congressional leaders Snooping charges leveled [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 11th, 2013

November 12, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines Godhra is a stain on Narendra Modi, Vajpayee’s niece says Patel would not have recognized Modi as ideological heir: Rajmohan Gandhi CBI to spread net, may trouble Narendra Modi 3 RSS men held for CPM worker’s murder Several Hindu youths arrested for Patna serial bomb blasts [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 19th, 2013

August 20, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines HC confirms conviction of 9 for post-Godhra riots Hindu supremacist Narendra Modi should not be invited to the Commons Narendra Modi’s attack on PM on I-day leaves some BJP leaders squirming CBI finds common link in Haren Pandya murder, Ishrat encounter Karat sees BJP, RSS role [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 15th, 2013

April 16, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines Zakia moves court, challenges clean chit to Modi in Gulbarg massacre Narendra Modi failed to tackle Gujarat riots in 2002: JD(U) Fake encounter case: Non-bailable warrants against 19 policemen India policemen suspended for ‘taking bribes’ in Mumbai RSS worker on bike with explosives dies in blast [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 1st, 2013

April 2, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines US lawmakers paid Rs 9 lakh each to praise Modi: report Did aggressive Hindutva agenda cost BJP dear? Police make 5 dead accused in Dhule riots Mumbai police face defamation suit for false terror circular Eight policemen convicted in Gonda fake encounter case Civil group to [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 30th, 2012

April 30, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Announcements US’ reaffirmation of visa denial to Modi welcomed by IAMC News Headlines A dead CM’s account of his 2002 encounter with Modi, now with rights panel NO change in US stand on denial of visa to Modi Gujarat riots: Witnesses want convicts to be tried for conspiracy [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 19th, 2012

March 19, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Announcements TIME’s cover story on Narendra Modi a distortion of truth, says Indian American group News Headlines ‘General perception of public is that Narendra Modi is communal’ Denial of SIT report to Zakia Jafri violation of SC order ‘Same weapons in 2 encounters’ Mumbai constable among five arrested [...]

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