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Sanjiv Bhatt

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 29th, 2012

by newsdigest on October 30, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Bhatt moves HC to summon Narendra Modi before Nanavati panel (Oct 28, 2012, Indian Express)

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt and voluntary organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties jointly moved a petition before the Gujarat High Court on Thursday seeking directions to the Nanavati-Mehta Commission probing the riots cases to summon Chief Minister Narendra Modi before it. They have also sought a direction to the panel to submit its final report before the Governor and not the government.

According to the petitioners, the government has amended the Commission’s terms of reference while including to assess the role played by Modi and other ministers during the 2002 riots. However, so far, the Commission has not summoned Modi. The petitioners further say that the Commission submitted its first report before the government, and so far, no action has been taken on the same.

The petitioners have also sought a direction to the Commission to direct the government to provide the documents sought by Bhatt related to the riots. A division bench has kept the petition for hearing on October 5.


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‘Modi gave Rs 5.27 cr to RSS NGO in Tamil Nadu from CM relief fund’ (Oct 24, 2012, Indian Express)

An RTI application filed by a Mumbai-based NGO has revealed that Chief Minister Narendra Modi gave away Rs 5.27 crore from CM Relief Fund to Seva Bharthi, a Tamil Nadu-based NGO run by RSS, for post-tsunami rehabilitation works. Kutch-based businessman Ramesh Joshi, who runs NGO Kutch Ladayak Manch in Mumbai, had sought the expenditure details of CM Relief Fund for the last 12 years. According to Joshi, Modi also gave Rs 10 lakh to Nagpur police commissioner from CM Relief Fund for foiling a terror attack at RSS headquarters in 2009.

The land line number posted on Seva Bharthi’s website was found to be belonging to RSS office. The organisation’s website claims, “Seva Bharthi is a socio-cultural organisation carrying out service activities based on the ideals propounded by great men like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr K B Hedgewar and Sri M S Golwalkar… Since its inception in 1989, it has progressively expanded its activities to cover all the 28 states and 7 union territories of India.”

The RTI replies also reveal that on December 26, 2004, Modi sent Rs 5 crore to Tamil Nadu, Rs 2 crore to Andaman Nicobar, Rs 1 crore to Andhra Pradesh and Rs 1 crore each to Orissa and Pondicherry governments after these states were hit by tsunami. However, the Orisaa government returned the money for the reasons unknown. “The saddest part of Mr Modi is the fact that on December 23, 2004, three days before he sent Rs 10 crore to five states, five poor families of Bharuch district had suffered a crisis due to a fire incident. One of the victims, Maniben Prabhubhai Machhi, received only Rs 2,000 from the CM’s fund which is supposed to give relief to people belonging to the state,” Joshi said in a press release.

State government’s spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas and Finance Minister Saurabh Patel, in a joint statement, said, “This is an attempt to defame the CM out of malice by the NGO Kutch Ladyak Manch. The assistance of Rs 5.27 crore was given for the rehabilitation of people affected in tsunami which was certified by the district revenue department officer, Nagapattinam.” “Gujarat had taken an initiative at that time for this relief work in the country… The Tamil Nadu government had recommended Seva Bharthi to help in this project. Everything related to the fund and related works has been documented and photographed,” they said.

Additional chief secretary Varun Maira, who is holding chief secretary’s charge at present, said he had no information in this regard. He, however, added: “It is not an arbitrary thing as there are set procedures to release money from CM Relief Fund and it goes through various checks.”


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Income Tax department begins probing Gadkari’s companies (Oct 25, 2012, Rediff)

After Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the Income Tax department too has launched a probe to trace the source of funding of various firms that invested in Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari’s company Purti Power and Sugar Limited. “We will trace the source the funds of the companies including the 18 companies that invested in Purti,” a top IT official told PTI on condition of anonymity.

He said prima facie ‘shell’ companies (inactive firms used as a vehicle for various financial manoeuvres or kept dormant for future use in some other capacity) had pumped money into PPSL.

Sources in the department said a report would be submitted to the Central Board of Direct Taxes shortly. “We have already started gathering documents relating to these companies,” they said, adding officials in the investigation wing of the department in Mumbai and Pune were involved in the probe.

Officials of the investing companies would be summoned in due course and, if needed, the BJP chief would also be asked to be present, the sources said. Gadkari is at the centre of a raging controversy over funding of PPSL with media reports claiming that major investments and large loans to Purti were made by Ideal Road Builders group, which had won contracts between 1995 and 1999, when the BJP chief was the public works department minister in Maharashtra.

Media reports also claimed that shell companies were floated for making investments and their fake addresses were submitted to the Registrar of Companies. On Tuesday, Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily had said that Registrars of Companies would inquire into the allegations. On his part, Gadkari has denied the allegations and said he was prepared for a probe.


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HC asks ex-BJP minister Rathore to surrender (Oct 27, 2012, Indian Express)

The Rajasthan High Court Friday asked former BJP minister and current party chief whip in the Assembly Rajendra Singh Rathore to surrender before a trial court or the CBI at the earliest. Rathore, main accused in the Dara Singh fake encounter case, was discharged on May 31 by the District and Sessions Judge in Jaipur as the trial court could not find material evidence to frame charges against him. Following revision petitions filed by the CBI and Dara Singh’s wife, Sushila Devi, the High Court set aside the lower court’s order and asked Rathore to surrender.

Dara Singh, a local liquor smuggler, was killed in an alleged fake encounter in Jaipur on October 23, 2006. The state Special Operations Group that was trying to arrest him claimed he fired at them and therefore had to be gunned down. The police chased him on foot and shot him near the Kamla Nagar flyover.

Justice Ajay Rastogi, who delivered the judgment on Friday, said the CBI was allowed to force Rathore to surrender if he did not willingly do so. According to the chargesheet filed by the CBI, Dara Singh was allegedly detained illegally by officials of the Special Operations Group, who took him to an isolated place near Amber and killed him.

Rathore, who was then Parliamentary Affairs Minister, was arrested on April 5 this year for his alleged involvement in the killing. Fourteen police officials including ADG A K Jain and IGP A Ponnuchami are in judicial custody.


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4 killed, 5 hurt in Akot riots (Oct 26, 2012, Indian Express)

Alleged stone-pelting on a Durga procession sparked riots in the communally sensitive Akot town in Akola district on Tuesday and Wednesday, resulting in the death of four persons and widespread destruction of property. While three deaths occurred on Tuesday night, one took place on Wednesday. Five persons were injured. Over 17 houses, 16 shops and ten vehicles were burnt in the arson that reportedly spilled over to Wednesday despite curfew. Sub-Divisional Police Officer Narendra Tapre said, “The shops were gutted in a fire caused by an electrical malfunction on Wednesday.”

He said trouble began after stones were reportedly hurled at the procession around 7 pm on Tuesday. “The processionists started running as there was a rumour that a house in their part of the town had been burnt. The house had in fact caught fire due to an electrical malfunction. The two sides then started pelting stones at each other. We intervened and the procession continued till idol immersion was completed around midnight. The two sides, however, again came face to face on Wednesday morning and resumed stone-pelting. Curfew was imposed and the situation was brought under control.”

Collector Parimal Singh told The Indian Express, “The riots broke out on Tuesday night when three persons were killed. The fourth death happened on Wednesday. All injured are stable.” Collector Singh, Inspector General of Police (Amravati Range) Bipin Bihari, Akola Superintendent of Police Virendra Mishra and a posse of over 500 police personnel, two companies of State Reserve Police and 70 Home Guards drawn from different parts of the district have been maintaining vigil.

Akot and other towns and villages in Akola and adjoining Amravati district have a history of communal tension. Yogesh Mahadev Rekhate (25), Manohar Maroti Budhe (65), Mohd Yasin Mohd Idu and Abdul Jafar Abdul Karim (17) were killed in Tuesday-Wednesday’s violence.


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Azad Maidan riot: 3 get bail, cops get court rap (Oct 24, 2012, Times of India)

The Bombay high court on Tuesday granted bail to three accused in the Azad Maidan violence case-the first to get bail on merits. In a major setback to the Mumbai police, the court also questioned charging the three alleged rioters for murder. “Though the case relates to riots and huge destruction of public property, prima facie the charge of murder and attempt to murder seems without basis,” said Justice Abhay Thipsay.

The judge ordered that the trio – Amin Chaudhari, Nazar Siddique and an SYJC student Omair Ansari – who who have spent over 70 days in prison be released on a bail of Rs 30,000 each. The court has also given them a month’s time to produce two sureties of Rs 15,000 each. Chaudhari, Nazar Siddique, who suffered a gunshot wound, and Ansari claimed that they were not part of the mob, but were passersby who were hauled up by the police.

Additional public prosecutor Usha Kejriwal opposed granting bail to the accused, saying the police was yet to carry a test identification parade of the accused. The court, however, said that the police had been given time to carry out the identification parade earlier, but they had failed to do so. The court has scheduled the bail application of another accused Akbar Khan for hearing on October 25.


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Protest effect: 25% jump in rioting cases over last year (Oct 29, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The Delhi Police are now filing cases of riots almost every week in the wake of an increasing number of antigraft protests. Since a number of protests have turned violent, the number of riot cases registered this year has seen a jump of 25% over last year. Till October 24 this year, 59 cases of riots were registered in comparison to 46 last year in the same period.

Apart from anti-graft protests, the ‘AkbarabadiMosque’ protests and the clashes in Khoda village near Mayur Vihar Phase III too played their part. “This year has seen more violent protests in comparison to last year. We were forced to register cases of rioting as protesters vandalised public property,” said a senior police officer.

Police said the rise had begun in 2011 itself when the city saw two big protests – Anna Hazare’s anticorruption movement and Ramdev’s campaign against black money. However, this year, the story was different. Many police officers say the protest at the ‘Akbarabadi mosque’ site was the most sensitive of all and continues to keep them busy to date.

“Our forces are still deployed there. Arvind Kejriwal’s (activist-turned politician) protest was just for a day,” said the police officer. “After forming a political party, Kejriwal has been holding protests almost every week. Whenever his party members indulge in violence, we book them for riots.”

In 2011, the Capitalsaw a high jump (almost double) in the number of processions and demonstrations. In 2010, the Delhi Police had to make arrangements for 3,093 demonstrations, rallies or protests, which rose to 7,864 in 2011.


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We were kept in the dark, says Fasih family (Oct 23, 2012, Indian Express)

To the family of Fasih Mehmood, news about his deportation from Saudi Arabia and arrest in New Delhi came only from journalists or television channels. Information remained as vague as it had been in the last few months since the Saudi agencies reportedly picked him up. “We have got no official intimation on what is happening with Fasih – what is the basis for picking him up,” said his wife, Nikhat Parveen, on Monday. “We found out through TV reporters who called us,” she added. Nikhat, who is eight months pregnant, boarded a train for Delhi from Darbhanga today.

The only time the family got any information was in June, when the Karnataka government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in response to a habeas corpus petition by Nikhat. Fasih’s brother, Sabih, who has quit his job in the Middle East to be with his mother, heard about the deportation and arrest from television channels. Accompanied by Fasih’s advocate, he reached Tis Hazari court in the capital and waited in vain for his brother to be produced. Only in the evening did the family receive a call from the Delhi Police Special Cell, saying the advocate could meet Fasih in police custody on Tuesday morning.

Since Fasih’s last call from Saudi Arabia months ago, “we don’t know what has been happening”, Sabih said. In Barh Samaila village in Darbhanga, Fasih’s father is relieved that some news has finally come but questions why he was “kept in illegal detention” for over five months. “I have heard the news from TV. The investigating agency does not have the courtesy to inform us. Though I am happy to finally hear some news about my son, I am not sure of a fair investigation,” said Firoz Ahmed, a government doctor.

Fasih’s mother, Amra Jamal, is a schoolteacher; she is accompanying Nikhat on the train to Delhi. “Our family is educated and cosmopolitan. We are patriotic people. My brother could not have done what they say he has done,” said Sabih. Fasih has been named as an accused in the Special Cell’s chargesheet in the 2010 Jama Masjid firing and attempted blast. He is also suspected to have been one of the co-conspirators behind the Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts in Bangalore.

“There are no allegations against him except for the statement of one of the alleged Indian Mujahideen members arrested by the police, saying that Fasih had introduced Yasin Bhatkal to him back in 2003. Fasih was a student then and there is nothing to link him with terrorists,” said his advocate Syed Irfan Alam.


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Starved, herded and assaulted at State-run ‘shelter’ (Oct 28, 2012, Times of India)

On Saturday, around 60 women housed in the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh in Mankhurd, a state-run shelter for women rescued under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act, tried to escape after a fight with the caretakers. Of the 36 who scaled the compound wall, 13 were caught while 23 are still at large. One of them is a 24-year-old from Kolkata (who is not being named to protect her identity) who came to Mumbai four years ago to earn a living. She has a six-year old son who stays with her parents back home. She was working as a waitress at a city orchestra bar when the police nabbed her in a raid in May this year after which she was sent to the protective home. Mumbai Mirror traced her through a friend who gave her shelter immediately after her escape. In this meeting at a restaurant in a central suburb on Saturday, she spoke about the horrors she lived through at the home.

I used to work as a waitress in a bar. In May, the police raided the place and nabbed three of us. They took us to the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh from the police station. On the very first day we realised that the place was hell on earth. Living conditions were pathetic, food was never enough, and the place was overcrowded. But all that seemed trivial in front of what we witnessed next. Late one night, a group of six to seven drunken men armed with knives and choppers barged into the home. They randomly picked up a few girls who were sleeping and started kicking them. They then raped the girls. We were all too scared to intervene. When the girls who were raped told the caretakers the next day, they just shrugged it off like nothing had happened. In the past four months, I have personally witnessed at least half-a-dozen such incidents. Those who are picked have to suffer while the rest just huddle up in one corner and dare not create a fuss.

The boundary wall of the home is porous and men walk inside as they please. The woman constables and a lone male guard posted at the home sit near the main gate. Even if the girls who get picked up in the night cry for help nobody comes to their rescue. Most nights, we would stay awake through the night fearing that men would walk in and pick us. Not long ago one such group assaulted two girls. When the girls protested they were brutally beaten and then raped. One of the girls was so disturbed after the incident that she started wandering around the house naked. A couple of weeks later, the authorities called her parents and let her go as she had become a liability. There are over 350 girls in the home at any given time. Recently a large group of girls rescued from a brothel in Grant Road (Simplex) were brought there. The place was swarming with women. Of the two toilets in the home, only one is open. The other has been locked ever since a girl committed suicide in it a couple of months ago. Just one toilet for more than 350 women.

The food was equally pathetic. They gave us small portions of dried and stale vegetables for breakfast. Lunch was unheard of. For dinner we got watery dal and rice. If we asked for chapattis we were abused. The ‘kitchen mummy’ would often force us to work for hours without a break. Those who refused to work were beaten with pans. After a few weeks of torture I realised that there was no point complaining. I just continued to suffer. In the meanwhile, two of my friends who were rescued with me developed severe medical complications — one of them was bedridden and could barely swallow any food or water. Despite repeated pleas for medical help, the authorities never called a doctor or shifted my friends to a hospital. On Friday night, another group of men armed with knives barged in as usual. They picked up four women and raped them.

On Saturday morning, some of the girls decided enough was enough and demanded that the authorities increase security at the home. We told the chief caretaker about the incident. Instead of giving us a patient hearing she said there was little she could do. One thing led to another and in no time we started complaining about food and living conditions. After a while the argument got out of hand. Just then we realised that the women constables and the lone male guard had come over to the caretaker’s office to check on the commotion. We spotted an opening in the fencing above the compound wall and made a run for it. I just ran out on to the main road and got into an auto-rickshaw. Only when I was far away did I ask the auto driver for a phone to call a friend for help. I will never ever go back to that place. I would rather die than go back there.


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Dalit leaders allege harassment by cops (Oct 29, 2012, Times of India)

Nearly 50 cases of atrocity against dalits registered under the SC/ST Atrocity (Prevention) Act in various police stations under the city police commissionerate’s limits were rejected in the past three years. Police disclosed the details of cases registered under the act and those which were rejected with B report at a SC/ST grievance redressal meeting held at the Police Commissioner’s office in the city on Sunday.

Dalit Sangharsha Samiti leader SP Anand told police commissioner Manish Kharbikar that there were many instances where complainants were harassed at the women’s police station. “They behave rudely with complainants and there are instances of torturing them too,” Anand alleged and demanded action against such officers. Responding to Anand’s complaint, the commissioner asked him to file a writing complaint detailing specific incidents. “We will surely take action, if any officials are found guilty,” Manish said.

Further, Anand demanded a detailed investigation into the case of death of construction worker Basavaraj, who died at a private hospital in the city. “Basavaraj was admitted to the hospital following complaints of fever. However, his workplace supervisor Vasanth has filed a case of unnatural death at Mangalore East police station. Vasanth also had complained that Basavaraj jumped from the fourth floor,” Anand said. The commissioner directed cops to seek expert doctor’s second opinion on the postmortem report of Shobha (23), a dalit girl who died while working as a housemaid in a house in the city about eight months ago.

Shobha, daughter of Sesa and Saroja from Shirlalu village in Belthangady taluk, was serving as maid at the house of Leonel Mascarenhas at Shivbagh in the city for one and half years. Shobha’s parents and dalit leaders had alleged foul play in her death. Meanwhile, the postmortem report also could not ascertain the actual cause of death. Hence, the commissioner took the decision of reviewing the postmortem report through an expert doctor at the meet.


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Opinions and Editorials

Embracing the darkness – By Jyoti Malhotra (Oct 23, 2012, The Hindu)

In the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, Judas Iscariot agreed he would hand over Jesus to the priests for 30 pieces of silver. Last week when the British government agreed to embrace Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it should have lent an ear to one of its own citizens, Yusuf Dawood of West Yorkshire, two of whose brothers were lynched by a rampaging mob in the Gujarat riots of 2002. Saeed Dawood, 42 at the time, and Sakil Dawood, 37 at the time, were travelling to Surat along with Mohammed Aswat and Imran Dawood on February 28, 2002, when their car was attacked by a mob about 70 km from Ahmedabad. All four were British citizens.

Aswat’s body was found alongside Imran Dawood in a field, but at least Imran was alive. He was flown back to the United Kingdom, while Aswat was buried in a village near Surat. The other two went missing, but a month later in March, DNA from bone fragments found in an abandoned factory supposedly near the site of the attack was matched to a sample from Saeed Dawood’s mother. The Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory, in a report to the British High Commission on May 8, 2002, concluded that Saeed Dawood had been killed by a mob. The BBC reported last week that “an internal British report at the time (had) described the violence as pre-planned with the support of the state government.” Clearly, the David Cameron-led government has now decided that 10 years is long enough in the life of a nation to wipe the tears from the eyes of one of its own – and move on.

The British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire didn’t forget to pay lip service to Dawood and his friends killed in Gujarat 10 years ago, when he commanded the British High Commissioner to India to visit Gujarat and meet Modi. “This will allow us to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer cooperation…The U.K. has a broad range of interests in Gujarat. We want to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed in 2002…” Swire said. Perhaps, the fact of being condemned to lowly economic growth, between 1-1.5 per cent since the recession kicked in four years ago, is enough to alchemise your principles; and, all the big names, from Ratan Tata to Mukesh Ambani and even Amitabh Bachchan have been successfully wooed by Narendra Modi, so why should the British be left behind?

Modi has recently returned from Japan where he was treated like a prime minister-in-waiting. The Gujarat investment summit in 2013 lists the Australia India Business Council, the U.S. India Business Council and the Japan External Trade Organisation as partners. It’s clear the U.K. is just about broke – remember the furore some months ago when Britain lost the $11 billion contract to sell 126 fighter jets to India to the Europeans? – and seems ready to sacrifice human rights at the altar of common commerce. Maybe it will now stop meddling in Kashmir? More than likely, the British move on the eve of the Gujarat elections in December, is meant to anoint itself as one of Modi’s cheerleaders, since he is expected to win the vote hands down; all that remains to be seen is the margin of victory, and if this is respectably large, then not even the naysayers inside the Bharatiya Janata Party today can deny him his move to Delhi as prime ministerial candidate for 2014.

The British can then say to their friends and allies the Americans who continue to hold out, that we were there first. The irony is that London is reaching out to Modi within weeks of the jailing of one of his closest aides, Maya Kodnani, for 28 years for her role in the Naroda Patiya riots in which 97 people were killed. Suffice to say Britain’s got it all wrong. This is a common problem with former powers who somehow fail to read the present correctly. Even if Narendra Modi wins the elections in December, his fourth after the Gujarat pogrom, the fact is that India is changing. Yusuf Dawood may have been betrayed by his own government, but India will remember and one day, avenge the injustice.


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Gadkari’s Bad Company – By Ashhar Khan (Nov 3, 2012, Tehelka)

BJP President Nitin Gadkari is facing what is perhaps the worst crisis of his political career. Though his party had agreed to appoint him for a second term at its national executive meeting at Surajkund last month, it already seems quite unlikely. Questions are being raised about the funding of Purti Power and Sugar Limited (PPSL), of which Gadkari was the chairman till last year. Ideal Road Builders (IRB), a Maharashtra-based construction firm, has made major investments and given loans to PPSL. IRB is alleged to have bagged several contracts for infrastructure projects in 1995-99 when Gadkari was Maharashtra’s PWD minister. As media reports have recently exposed, most of the companies that invested in PPSL had fictitious addresses and directors who were associates of Gadkari or his family. Gadkari was the RSS candidate for BJP president. When his name had come up, senior BJP leaders raised concerns about his business interests in Maharashtra, but Gadkari suited the RSS very well. A swayamsevak all his life, he had no qualms about openly accepting the RSS’ influence over the BJP.

Soon, however, things started going wrong. In 2010, when Gadkari called RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav a “dog”, it had the RSS squirming. Then, just before the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, despite opposition within the party, including from LK Advani, Gadkari allowed Babu Singh Kushwaha into the BJP, a former minister of the Mayawati government, who had been removed on corruption charges. This was later counted among the reasons for the BJP’s abysmal performance in the state. Again, during the Rajya Sabha election, though both Advani and Sushma Swaraj were keen on having SS Ahluwalia, the then BJP’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, to be re-elected from Jharkhand, Gadkari scuttled Ahluwalia’s chances by nominating his close acquaintance Anshuman Mishra, an NRI businessman little known in politics. Following protests within the party, the RSS intervened and Mishra was dropped like a hot potato.

Things got worse when Mishra started attacking senior leaders like Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and Arun Jaitley. Jaitley even filed a defamation suit against him. Finally, Ahluwalia was made the candidate, but he lost the election. After that, Gadkari got his close associate Ajay Sancheti elected to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra. This marked a new low in Gadkari’s relationship with his senior party colleagues. The RSS, too, was not pleased with these developments. Then came the allegations by Anjali Damania and Arvind Kejriwal. Surplus land acquired by the Maharashtra government to build dams had been given to Gadkari’s firms and not returned to the farmers. Gadkari was allegedly working in collusion with then irrigation minister of Maharashtra, NCP’s Ajit Pawar. In the current mess, the media has been agog with reports of Gadkari’s PPSL having dubious investing companies.

The shadow over Gadkari forced senior BJP leaders to meet the top brass of the RSS individually, asking them to intervene and stop him from assuming the office of party president for a second term. Murli Manohar Joshi even told Bhaiyyaji Joshi, the RSS second-in-command, that the BJP was getting a bad name with Gadkari as president. The RSS leaders are reportedly working out a strategy to deal with the Gadkari situation. After all, he was the organisation’s choice as BJP president. With allegations flying thick and fast, he has now become a soft target – someone who could embarrass the party as well as the Sangh Parivar.

On his part, Gadkari met RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat to put his point across. “As a swayamsevak, probity in public life is a must. An investigation may clear the air, but till that happens, any swayamsevak in an important post should quit,” says a senior RSS functionary on condition of anonymity. There are indications from the RSS that Gadkari ought to be given a face-saver. This could mean that he won’t go in for a second term till the time his name is not cleared. The final decision will not be taken till December when Gadkari’s term actually comes to an end. But it is clear that the BJP president’s image has taken a major hit.


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A Sting On Media – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Oct 28, 2012, Countercurrents)

The Jindal expose of the Zee TV has actually brought into limelight the delicate media industry relationship. It has also highlighted that how media has been selective and using the news to make and unmake people, tarnish reputation and develop perception without doing its home work. Sting operations are not acceptable legally but then media never cared for that and finally became its own victim. The Zee TV-Zindal episode has raised serious question about the working of the media and its ‘underworld’. For years, this factor is a known fact that ‘paid news’ became an accepted feature in major news organizations and one of the biggest newspaper chains in the country actually mentioned shamelessly that news is a product. The press council also worked on it but the major news organizations did not bother except for late Prabhas Joshi, the indefatigable founder editor of Jansatta, the Hindi daily who would always question it and strongly wrote against it.

There are grave realities are about media and it need to be understood in today’s world. That so called national media is not ‘mission’ as many of them used to do their journalism under a ‘mission’ whether they belong to any particular thoughts but there were nationalistic concern. Those serious people would not sit with the political leaders to seek favors or demonize them if the favor is not done. There was a quality in the class of their writings. But in the post 1990s, journalism has passed through serious changes and now after the advent of electronic media, it look seriousness is gone and media has assumed role of middle class upper caste protagonist. Media’s reach has grown and now there is a cut throat competition among them hence to strengthen their TRPs, they have to resort to all the nonsensical gimmicry using superstition, religion, films, cricket and crime stories. In fact, middle class crime stories are a huge hit if it has sex in it.

As happens, the Media particularly the electronic media and its programmers are suffering from a manglomanic disease about their ‘influence’. There is no doubt about their reach which has grown but today they are not just reporters and anchors but they consider us their Gods. Many of them speak intimidating language and ‘cross examine’ people in the ‘witness box’ crudely. Ofcourse, those who accept the invites also understand that they reach the large masses but the fact is people do not remember so many faces unless somebody informs them that they appeared on the media but them middle class hunger for appearance on visual medium is too high and is used. That media can make and unmake political leaders and set the agenda for the country is the new threat which has been unleashed by them. In their zeal they have continuously ignored the ethics and gone like a propagandists for a particular thought and persons. The campaign against corruption has a strange irony. It had support of media as well as ‘industries also. It is also a well-known fact that the campaign targeted the political class only and never bothered about the hugely corrupted and equally powerful other sectors such as business world, cinema, cricket etc. It was not for any reasons that many of those who claim to be part of the campaign may not be that clean in their public life.

The anti-corruption movement helped the media to strengthen its grip over the power structure. None can deny the fact that media is a business today and is used to blackmail, pressurize and safeguards the interest of the owners and their vast business empire. It is not for unknown reasons that many of the newspapers and news channels are surviving not because of their circulations and reach but because their owner want them to run to exert the political pressure on the powerful people. It is not for nothing that many powerful individuals leave the big media houses and join the nondescript ones just to work as PR for their companies and business interests on huge remunerations. The anti-corruption movement has not helped the people and it was never meant to help those who are victim of corruption but to help the middle classes who actually bribe the officials. The media has over rated their influence and hence it became a victim of its own practices. Long back, I had an opportunity to interact with a hugely reputed international channel to work with on a particular issue. The task was difficult and a good footage would only have been possible through hidden camera. They categorically rejected the idea and in fact asked us to ensure that each interviewees who is being interviewed or filmed would give in writing or those who were illiterate would speak on the camera about their voluntary interview and being informed fully about the issue. In India it has become a fashion to do a sting on your opponent and blackmail him. Sting is a disease and should be used in rarest of the rare cases. Media must stop using public forums to Kangaroo trials in their TV studios. They are not having any reasonable debate as the anchors want you to respond to them according to their perceptions. Many people after coming out from the studios inform how they were sidelined. It is clear, the media has already decided who they should give time and who they should not, who is an authority on certain issue and who is not. And they do not go beyond those few ‘experts’ who themselves are nothing more than mouthpieces and using media to build their own ‘brand values’. Sting operations are mostly done with an idea to create public perception as sting is not really acceptable in the court of law. It is a conversation between different people and not a legal signed deal between the two parties and you can call it is ‘off the record’ talk. But then media has always violated this principles and journalists used the ‘off the record’ information to blackmail the people resulting in untimely end of political career of many.

The Jindal group sting operation of Zee TV is a perfect example of media being trapped by the monster it had created. Definitely, Jindals are equally powerful and too can run a media house. The big companies do not require media but media require them more as the salaries, remunerations of the journalists rise too high and once they are part of market, how would they critique a structure which they are so closely associated and enjoyed every bit of it. Now, the Zee News is completely rejecting the sting operation and saying that Jindal tried to purchase them. Of course, when the news is a purchasable commodity then there must have been bargained and when they fail the operation is actually called sting. Now, the media particularly electronic media will have to think more on desisting targeting people without ample evidences and starting a public trials. There are due processes in India and if media has them, they can give those evidences to the lawyers. News cannot be edited according to the conveniences of the editors and owners. The image of a person cannot be tarnished and crucified of an event which you have recorded. That is building a perception for your political purposes. Now, how can the media reject the sting operation conducted by Zee News if they have used sting to crucify others. Media is the watch dog of democracy and its role has broadened now from just providing information to entertain and also build up perceptions but it is also being watched by the people. Now, it is possible that when media people go to meet a political person to seek a favor or anywhere, they may also face sting as the wall of trust is breached now. …


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Protecting India’s Sunshine Law – By Shailesh Gandhi (Oct 25, 2012, Economic& Political Weekly)

India’s Right to Information (RTI) Act has been rated as the second best in the world by international agencies. However, the actual implementation of the law leaves a lot to be desired. RTI users across the country have been trying to ensure improvement in its functioning. Concerned citizens have adopted the Act as their own, and zealously warded off government’s attempts to weaken it with amendments so far. While institutions of the state are supposed to implement laws, in this case it is citizens who are enforcing the law. They badger public information officers (PIOs), the first appellate authorities and commissioners to ensure that the Act works properly. RTI exposures are responsible for unearthing many of the scams that have been making the headlines of late. However, two events in the recent past are very disturbing as far as the future of RTI is concerned.

The first was the Supreme Court’s (SC) judgment in the Namit Sharma vs Union of India in wp (C) 210 of 2012 on 13 September. It says Information Commissions (ICs) will have to hear all appeals and complaints in two-member benches, one of whose members has to be a retired high court judge. The RTI Act provides for a maximum of 11 commissioners (and thus 11 benches). The SC’s judgment reduces these to a maximum of five benches. The other alarming event was the prime minister’s (PM) speech at the Central Information Commission’s annual convention on 12 October. The PM voiced his concerns regarding frivolous and vexatious RTI applications, citizens asking for information to highlight mistakes committed, voluminous information being sought which, in turn, means taking up a lot of official time and intruding on the privacy of individuals. Besides this, the PM also expressed worry at citizens seeking information about public private partnerships (PPP) that might discourage private enterprise.

These two events are separate but coming within a month of each other, they should serve as a warning for concerned citizens. I decided to look at four judgments of the SC in the last one year, which appear to reveal its mind on the RTI Act. I am listing the main points in the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Namit Sharma case that may have a very damaging impact on the implementation of the RTI: (1) The judgment reduces the number of benches under which commissioners can hear cases to a maximum of five (11 earlier). There are serious practical problems in getting retired judges for this task, which the Court does not appear to have thought about. (2) The reduced number means that it is unlikely they will clear over 3,000 cases per bench, i e, 15,000 cases per commission annually. The Central Commission, the Maharashtra Commission and the Uttar Pradesh Commission get over 20,000 cases each year and the number is only growing. The aam admi, in whose name we profess to act, will no longer use RTI, just as he/she has moved away from consumer forums and the judiciary. In that event, the potential of the RTI Act to change the face of Indian democracy will be lost. It will also result in the pressure on public servants to respond to RTI queries being reduced considerably. …


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The Armed Forces Special Powers Act : The Lawlessness Of A Law – By Anshul Kumar Pandey (Oct 26, 2012, Countercurrents)

Despite being a state in the throes of modernization, the Indian law and law enforcement agencies have had a soft corner for its colonial legacy. Many of these colonial era laws have made a splash on the national scene recently, the most famous of them being the Sedition act of 1870 which was used to put India against Corruption cartoonist Aseem Trivedi behind the bars. It was also slapped on Booker prize winner and respected writer Arundhati Roy for her remarks on Kashmir as well as on eminent pediatrician Dr. Binayak Sen for his alleged links with Maoists. There are many other colonial era laws that the Indian state uses with depressing frequency to muzzle dissent within its borders. However, the most draconian law that exists in the rulebook of the Indian state is a gem of its own creation. The Armed Forces Special Powers act was passed first through an ordinance in 1942, and was then polished and passed as an act in the parliament in 1958. Originally intended to apply only to the states of Assam and Manipur, the act was later extended in 1972 to cover all the seven states of the North East. In 1990, in the face of utter chaos, the act was also imposed on Jammu and Kashmir. Currently it is applicable in two districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir.

Contrary to what its name suggests, the act does not glorify the armed forces in the north east. Rather, it has over time reduced them and the law to an embodiment of much that is wrong with our internal security. Far from restoring order to the “disturbed” areas where it has been brought into effect, AFSPA has instead fuelled popular anger and discontent. The brutality of the law is manifest from the examples of inhumane ruthlessness that it has helped produce. The sweeping powers that the act gives to armed force personnel in a “disturbed” area has thrown up blood curdling instances of rape, torture, extrajudicial and summary killings etc. Consider these examples. On 2nd November 2000, as Sinam Chandramani and nine other civilians waited at a bus stop in Malom, the troops of 17 Assam Rifles, who had been attacked earlier in the day by “insurgents”, opened indiscriminate fire. The 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner was immediately killed along with all the other nine civilians. The reverberations of this gross atrocity were felt across the state and on 4th November, Irom Sharmila Chanu, a Grade IV Veterinary worker from the state started her indefinite fast to protest against the killings and to demand a repeal of AFSPA. Having spent more than 500 weeks on the fast, the Iron Lady of Manipur would complete 12 years of her protest this year, making it the longest hunger strike in the entire documented human history, with no signs of ending soon.

Later in July 2004, the body of a 32 year old woman named Thangjam Manorama was found riddled with bullets in Ngariyan Maring Village. She had been picked up by the personnel of 17 Assam Rifles (again) in the middle of the night for her alleged links with the People’s Liberation Army and had been brutally tortured and summarily executed. Bullets and wounds were found on her chest, on her buttocks and even in her vagina. Demanding a proper investigation into the circumstances leading to her death and punishment for her killers, Manorama’s family has refused to take her body and it lies, till date, in the morgue of Regional Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal. Manorama’s brutal execution brought the simmering discontent against the armed forces in the state on the surface. Major women groups across the state announced a 48 hour shutdown and brought life in the state to a grinding halt. In what turned out to be the most powerful protest against the law, hundreds of women protested in front of the headquarters of Assam Rifles naked, holding placards that read “Indian Army, Rape Us!” The enormity of these crimes and the subsequent ignominy heaped upon the victim’s kith and kin can be gouged by the fact that the Home Ministry has consistently denied requests for sanction to prosecute army personnel believed to be involved in these crimes.

It is an irony that AFSPA is a legislative act for it violates both Indian as well as International Law. As pointed out by the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre, AFSPA runs afoul of Article 21 (Right to Life), Article 22 (Protection against arrest and detention), The Criminal Procedure Code, The Army Act etc. under the Indian constitution and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Customary Law and International Humanitarian Law under the International Law. However, for the “mainland” politicians of this country, who are pressurized only by the popular two minute fasts like that of Anna Hazare and are connected to the land of Chinese and Bangladeshi looking people through the “chicken neck” coverage in the mainstream media, this hypocrisy and lawlessness has taken a backseat in the favor of more appealing jingoist nationalism. AFSPA is in the interest of “national security”, they say, and national security is a sensitive issue which acts as a vacuum pump for the voices of disagreement. Sucked in this vortex of national security against human rights, individual concerns do not find much air to hold on to.

For a country that takes immense pride in the procedure and justice meted out by its judiciary, these glaring legal anomalies only serve to rake up more dirt on a legislation that gives powers even to a non gazette officer to shoot any person on mere suspicion. It is no wonder then, that in the Wikileaks cables the then Governor S.S. Sidhu is caught describing these north eastern states to the then American Consul General in Kolkata Henry Gardiner, as “more of a colony and less as a part of the Indian state”. In March this year, Christopher Heyns, the UN Special Rapportuer on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions asked India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers act. For a country whose Prime Minister heeds foreign media and agencies than the domestic ones, this recommendation too has gone unheeded. In fact, the government has been sitting on the recommendations of a committee that it had itself appointed (Jeevan Reddy Commission) and which had also recommended a total repeal of the act. Despite having promised back in 2004, to replace the existing law with a more “humane” law, all that the people affected by AFSPA have got till now are empty words and death packed bullets. Max Weber said that State has a monopoly on violence. While this dictum may hold true in the contemporaneous sense, the protests and fasts of people like Irom Sharmila have added more color to it by conveying that the state may have a monopoly on violence but the monopoly of resistance still lies with its free thinking citizens.


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Haryana’s Rapist Regime – By Anand Teltumbde (Oct 25, 2012, Economic& Political Weekly)

After the Manesar incident that exposed the unlawful labour practices of Maruti Suzuki and other leading capitalist enterprises in Haryana, backed by the state government, the province is once again the focus of attention, this time for its feudal traits. There have been 19 gang-rapes of dalit girls, one more gruesome than the other, in a single month. While the government’s response has been lethargic, the notorious khap panchyats of the dominant caste, the Jats, have, in a way, justified these rapes by advising that girls should be married off before they reached the age of puberty to avoid rapes. Important politicians unashamedly endorsed this shocking solution in public; some of them even dismissed the rapes as basically consensual acts turned sour. These are not one-off examples of reckless statements by some discredited individuals; the sexual assaults and the care-a-damn attitude of the state’s political establishment represent an abiding pattern that makes the state a veritable hell for dalits. …

Recall the 16 October 2002 lynching of five dalits by a large and violent mob on the main road outside the Dulina Police Post, near Jhajjar town in full view of the police and several senior district officials. The victims were accused of skinning a cow, the killers were glorified as heroes who had avenged the death of “our gau mata”. The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Parmanand Giri had openly stated that those who had killed the “gau-hatyare” (killers of the holy cow) must be honoured. The VHP President Giriraj Kishore justified the killings, saying that “the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being”. Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Sarva Khap Panchayat openly lent support to the killers and opposed any action against them. Such is the terror of the Jats, who take pride in their valour (read criminality), that the then district commissioner of Jajjhar had expressed his helplessness to a visiting team of activists of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, saying that no administration could function in the area without pacifying the sentiments of organisations like the VHP, and negotiating with the khap panchayats.

On 27 August 2005, 55 to 60 dalit houses were burnt down by a violent mob of 1,500 to 2,000 Jats in Gohana with full support of local police. On 21 April 2010, two dalits were killed in Mirchpur and their houses set ablaze. Last year, 70 dalit families of Bhagana village in Hisar were ousted following their social boycott by the Jats. In all these cases, there was arrogant support for the perpetrators of crime. The khap panchayats’ honour killings, public justification of such killings by Jat spokespersons and politicians, their passing of a resolution against the struggling Maruti Suzuki workers’ union, and several such actions are nothing but a manifestation of the naked roguery of the rich Jats of Haryana.

Dalits live in perpetual fear of Jats in Haryana. On account of worsening of the female sex ratio (there are just 877 females per 1,000 males, far below the national average of 940 as per census 2011) the incidence of incest is high. But when the khap panchyats issued a fatwa against the within-clan marriages, dalit girls increasingly became the victims of sexual assault. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports show that the number of rape cases where dalit girls/women are the victims has consistently gone up from 21 in 2007 to 56 in 2011. While at the national level, the number of rape cases wherein dalit girl/woman are the victims went up by 15% over the period, the increase in Haryana was 167%. In September 2012 alone, there have been 19 cases of gang-rapes of dalit girls. Among these, there was the case of a 16-year-old girl who was gang-raped by a dozen upper caste men in Darba village of Hisar district on 9 September. The rapists had filmed the horrific act and circulated the video. Unable to cope with the situation, her father committed suicide. Another dalit girl of the same age, who was also gang-raped in Sachcha Kheda village in Jind district, burnt herself to death. A five-month pregnant dalit woman was abducted and raped by two youths in Kalyat. Practically, the gangs of bahubalis, with the patronage of politicians, can rape and kill dalit girls with impunity. Haryana has witnessed such rape cases in several districts, including Rohtak, Hisar, Jind, Bhiwani, Yamunanagar, Panipat, Sonipat, Ambala, Karnal, Faridabad and Kaithal in September this year.

Unlike the dominant Jats, the dalits are poor and without protection. They can be easily terrorised by the upper castes, which exert pressure on the family of a rape victim not to report the matter to the police. If the family still approach police, the latter dissuade the former and do not easily register the case. Only under public pressure do the police seem to register crimes against dalits and arrest the culprits. When the case is registered, most victim families are coerced by the Jats to go in for an out-of-court settlement, and accused of destroying the village’s inter-caste harmony if they refuse to succumb. While the victim’s family incurs the wrath of the powerful Jats of the village, the police do everything to weaken the case. Traditionally dalits have relied on the state as a neutral arbiter and hoped it would do them justice. The colonial state created this hope and the postcolonial state, pretending to conduct itself as per the Constitution, which dalits believed to be the code of Ambedkar, reinforced this reliance. Despite persistent disillusionment over the last six decades, this trait appears intact, perhaps for the lack of any better alternative. The state has not only been callous; it has also itself been a perpetrator of atrocities. In every atrocity that has come to light, the complicit or active perpetrator’s role of the state has been evident. Besides, the state has consistently acted against the poor of which the dalits have been a preponderant part. In recent years, the security syndrome has come handy for the state to label them as Naxalites and persecute them. The state is completely exposed in its anti-dalit role. The anti-people col¬lusion of the legislature and the executive apart, even the judiciary – that was held in high hope – with its biased judgments, has failed to create confidence in dalits. …


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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 1st, 2012

by newsdigest on October 2, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


India’s response to its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations disappoints human rights groups – India refuses to agree to adequate steps to protect members of minority religions

Sunday September 30, 2012

The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of internationally-recognized human rights, and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, have jointly expressed their concern over India’s failure to accept key recommendations that guarantee Human Rights for its minorities while commending India for its general acceptance of certain critical principles.

On September 20, 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on India. In May of this year, dozens of countries made a total of 169 recommendations as to how India could better comply with its human rights obligations, including its obligations pertaining to religious minorities. After months of internal deliberations, the Indian Government on September 18 committed to only 67 of the UPR recommendations, some in substantially watered-down form.

As many countries noted in their recommendations, India has failed to ratify Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT). Torture, as defined in the CAT, is not criminalized under Indian law. India has been apathetic toward the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteurs as well as related recommendations from many countries, including Australia, Austria, Botswana, Brazil, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Maldives, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.

During the September 20 session of the Human Rights Council, several leading international human rights organizations expressed serious concerns regarding India’s decision not to adopt the many recommendations relating to ending the systematic impunity enjoyed by Indian security forces, and not to accept recommendations for a comprehensive framework to deal effectively with communal and targeted violence.

India committed to training police on Human Rights procedures, however, it fails to ensure their compliance with Human Rights principles by refusing to amend or repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. India also failed to adopt a Prevention of Communal Targeted Violence Bill that would ensure the accountability of civil servants, facilitate the redress of Human Rights violations, and help prevent communal attacks against religious minorities.

India adopted Austria’s recommendation to ensure a safe working environment for journalists. It also agreed to continue to cooperate and further coordinate efforts between its Human Rights institutions and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights defenders, as recommended by Egypt and Spain. India adopted Egypt’s more general recommendation verbatim, but declined to commit to Spain’s recommendation to implement specific measures guaranteeing timely, effective, and independent investigations of human rights violations. And despite its general commitment, India was notably silent on recommendations to implement specific measures to protect the rights of the defenders of religious minorities.

India also declined to accept Mexico’s recommendation to prioritize access to education for marginalized groups and birth registrations for religious minorities.

“The definition of terrorism currently employed in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) increases the arbitrary detention of religious minorities and vilifies them as criminals and traitors due to a presumption of guilt,” says Jennifer Prestholdt, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights. “India failed to commit to the implementation of the Prevention of Atrocities Act or counter terrorism strategies, as recommended by Germany, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, and thus has shirked its obligation to reduce the arbitrary detention of minorities.”

“The policy machinery in India is responsible for Enforced Disappearances as defined by the Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,” notes Jawad Khan of IAMC who attended the Universal Periodic Review of India in Geneva in May, 2012 as part of the The Advocates for Human Rights’ delegation. “The police have tortured and killed Muslims under the guise of encounter killings and continue to unlawfully imprison and torture religious minorities with impunity. India continues to ignore recommendations to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Where is the assurance that India will stop these terrible human rights violations?”

In summary, with regard to the protection of the rights of religious minorities, India adopted in the entirety nine (9) and partially adopted two (2) of sixty-one (61) recommendations. “India summarized the recommendations and eliminated critical nuances that could potentially reduce the violation of religious minorities’ human rights. India must attend to the nuances of the various recommendations. Accepting watered down ‘summaries’ of the UPR recommendations manifests a weak declaration of India’s respect for human rights, and only a small and tentative step toward ensuring the rights of religious minorities are respected,” says Ms. Prestholdt of The Advocates.

The Advocates for Human Rights and Indian American Muslim Council note that the accepted recommendations lack a sense of urgency and are not action-based. India adopted only the most passive and diluted recommendations; it shied away from details within the recommendations that instructed it to amend or institute policies, bills, or laws that would ensure the protection of religious minorities. Nonetheless, during the September 20 meeting, the Government of India pledged to work assiduously on all issues highlighted during the UPR, regardless of whether it had formally accepted a particular recommendation. The Advocates for Human Rights and Indian American Muslim Council continue to call on India to make tangible commitments to the protection of the rights of religious minorities.

The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is dedicated to the impartial promotion and protection of internationally-recognized human rights and holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. To learn more visit

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation. The mission of Indian American Muslim Council is to promote peace, pluralism and social justice through strategic advocacy. IAMC is a Washington, D.C. registered non-profit 501(C)(3) tax-exempt organization established in August 2002. For more information please visit our new website at


Jennifer Prestholdt, Deputy Director
The Advocates for Human Rights
Phone: (612) 341-3302

Jawad Khan, Executive Director
Indian American Muslim Council
Phone: (800) 839-7270

Forward email

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Communal Harmony

Communal harmony delegation visiting Faizabad and Ayodhya (Sep 28, 2012,

A delegation of young social activists from both Hindu and Muslim communities is visiting Faizabad and Ayodhya to spread message of peace, humanity and harmony. The visit has been scheduled in the wake of communal tension persisting for over a month in Mirzapur village of Faizabad district in Uttar Pradesh. According to Ravi Nitesh of Mission Bhartiyam who will lead the delegation, the tension is over construction of a mosque-temple in the Mirzapur village, and for being in the neighborhood of Ayodhya, security has been beefed up in the locality.

The delegation will spend 29th and 30th September in Faizabad and Ayodhya respectively. In Faizabad, the peace activists will distribute pamphlets in the tense village and its surroundings to spread message of humanity, harmony, unity. Members will sing peace songs in the area. They will hold a candle vigil for harmony at Shaheed Smarak in Faizabad. Next day the delegation will move to Ayodhya. On the way to Ayodhya, the members of the delegation will distribute pamphlets sing songs of harmony. They will also be meeting with local activists at Saryu Kunj (Jugal Kishore Shastri’s Ashram), District Administration, Mahant Bhavnath (President, Samajwadi Sant Sabha & Priest Hanuman Garhi Ayodhya), Acharya Satendra (Priest, Ram Janambhoomi).

Mirzapur is a village in district of Faizabad, about 7 km from Ayodhya. The place is presently facing a pain of communal tension. The root cause of the tension is dispute on issues related construction of temple and mosque. Police have been deployed at the village. Due to the location being near Ayodhya, it becomes a matter of serious concern to work towards establishing and promoting communal harmony there to avoid any tension more, said Ravi Nitesh. “Now, when the communal harmony is in danger, we feel that as a concerned citizen of this country and as a human being, we have responsibility to do whatever we can as per our capability to spread the message of peace, love and harmony,” he added.

The delegation will include 15 members from both the communities who will join from various places. Members of delegation: Ravi Nitesh, Gufran Khan, Satish Kumar, Shadab Bashar, Litil Kumar, Shariq Naqvi, K.M. Bhai, Maaz Khan, Jitendra, Afroz Alam Sahil, Hansraj, Gyan Kumar, Sagar, Lav Kush, Aditya Dubey.

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Seminar in Chandigarh focuses on role of education in ensuring communal harmony (Sep 27, 2012, Times of India)

A Sadhbhavna Seminar was organised here by the Sadhbhavna Club of Local Mohindra College in collaboration with Punjabi University’s Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur National Integration Chair at the college campus. While inaugurating the seminar, Arjuna Awardee Principal Rupa Saini emphasized the need for educating and empowering youth to promote national integration in India.

Chair Professor Baltej Singh Mann of Punjabi University in his presidential address said that the changing scenario in the country due to globalisation, rapid technological advancement and the emergence of India as the global economic power has necessitated the training of youth in life and employable skills.

“Such type of seminars are helpful not only to students, but to teaching faculty also if we really want to enrich them with required knowledge” said Khushwant singh, a teacher. Dr. Mann emphasized the role of education in nourishing communal harmony in the country for the co-existence of all the great religions in India. Among others who spoke at the occasion included Prof. Suresh Kumar Sharma, Dr. Swaraj Singh, Prof. Varinder.

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2 years, 5 cities, 6 cases – and ‘proof’ everywhere is the same magazine (Sep 26, 2012, Indian Express)

On April 16, 2006, Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh was tense. There had been communal clashes a week ago during Eid-e-Milad. In the afternoon, policemen from the Kotwali police station arrested two women, 20-year-old Aasiya and 23-year-old Rafia, daughters of one Abdul Hafiz Qureshi. The police, in their seizure memo, claimed to have recovered “incriminating material” from Aasiya – three copies of an April 2004 issue of a Hindi magazine, Tehrik-e-Millat, and a SIMI donation receipt towards “office construction fund” (receipt no. 0033359, dated January 25, 2006) with the name “Kumari Aashiya Khan” in Hindi for an amount of Rs 500. SIMI was banned in 2001. If an underground outfit issuing a donation receipt for a building on their old stationery seems unlikely, the story of the magazine is even more odd.

All the three copies of Tehrik-e-Millat allegedly recovered from Aasiya have her name written by hand in Hindi as “Aashiya” on the cover. The police also claimed to have seized two copies of Tehrik-e-Millat with “Rafia” written by hand in Hindi on the cover. Tehrik-e-Millat is a fortnightly published from Kota in Rajasthan. Though the Kotwali police station in Khandwa later booked the magazine’s owner-editor M A Naiem, the magazine has never been proscribed. This is not all. In the space of two years, these same copies of the April 2004 issue of Tehrik-e-Millat – with the names of the Khandwa sisters written by hand on the cover – travelled to at least two other states. Several cases later, the police even started referring to the magazine as “Tehrik Millat Aasiya” and “Tehrik Rafia” in their official records. However, other than their names on the magazines, the two sisters were never mentioned in police records.

July 2006, Pune: After the July 11, 2006, bomb explosions on local trains in Mumbai, the magazine popped up in the chargesheet filed by the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Mumbai. Among the 13 people arrested was Sohail Mehmood Shaikh of Bhimpura, Lashkar, Camp Area Pune, who was held on July 25, 2006. The ATS claimed Sohail went to Pakistan via Iran in November 2002 for arms training with the Lashkar-e-Toiba. They also said a search of Sohail’s house in Bhimpura on July 30, 2006, had led to the recovery of six books including the “April 2004 Tahrik-e-Millat Asia” that had “Aashiya” written by hand on the cover. Police claimed to have recovered the same magazine, with the same handwritten “Aashiya”, during searches at the homes of the other 7/11 accused – Mohd Faisal Ataur Rehman Shaikh of Bandra, Muzzamil Ataur Rehman Shaikh of Mira Road, Jameer Latifur Rehman Shaikh of Vallabhbhai Patel Nagar and Dr Tanvir Ahmad Mohd Ibrahim Ansari of Agripada, all in Mumbai.

July 2006, Mumbai: In an affidavit filed before the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act) Tribunal in 2010, Assistant Police Inspector, ATS, Mumbai, Rahimatullah Inayat Sayyed, spoke of Danish Riyaz Shaukat Ali Shaikh, an “active member of SIMI”, who was arrested on July 30, 2006. According to the affidavit, a raid on Shaikh’s home led to the recovery of several Islamic books in Urdu such as Jihad Fi Saabi Illah, Jihad Asghar and Jihadi Fishbilliah, besides ‘Tehrik Millat Aasiya’, the same magazine. August 2006, Mumbai: According to an affidavit filed by Inspector, DCB, CID, Mumbai, Milind Bhikaji Khetle, a case was registered at Kandivali police station on August 13, 2006, against Mohd Najib Abdul Rashid Bakali and some of his “SIMI associates”. The affidavit said that on August 14, 2006, police seized four SIMI booklets from Bakali’s house. One of the alleged ‘SIMI’ booklets was a copy of the April 2004 issue of the Tehrik-e-Millat magazine with “Aashiya” written by hand in Hindi on its cover.

September 2006, Malegaon: On September 8, 2006, powerful blasts ripped through the Bada Kabaristan area of Malegaon after the Shab-e-Barat prayers, killing 37 people and injuring over 100. An FIR was registered at Azad Nagar Police Station, Malegaon, and Noor-ul-Huda Shamsudoha, a labourer, was arrested under the UAPA for being a SIMI member and for “popularising and publicising” SIMI. During a raid on Noor-ul-Huda’s home at Jafarnagar, police claimed to have seized “objectionable books” that included the copy of the April 2004 issue of the Tehrik-e-Millat magazine with “Aashiya” written by hand in Hindi on its cover. On September 19, 2006, the investigation was transferred to ATS, Mumbai. Within days, Noor-ul-Huda became one of the main accused in the Malegaon blast case. Eight more people were later arrested as the ATS, Mumbai, claimed to have solved the case. Noor-ul-Huda and the other accused had already spent six years in jail in Mumbai by the time the case took a new turn following Swami Aseemanand’s confession in January last year. On November 16 last year, Noor-ul-Huda and the other eight were granted bail. …


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18 years on, SC acquits 11 in Gujarat terror case (Sep 27, 2012, Indian Express)

More than 18 years after they were arrested on charges of terrorism, the Supreme Court Wednesday acquitted 11 persons from Gujarat. “The SP and IGP and all others entrusted with the task of operating the law must not do anything that allows its misuse and abuse and ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because ‘My name is Khan but I am not a terrorist’,” said a Bench of Justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad.

The 11 persons were arrested by the Gujarat Police in June 1994 for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to attack the Lord Jaganath Yatra in Ahmadabad, and, subsequently, convicted by Gujarat’s courts. The Supreme Court, however, quashed the conviction on the ground that the state had not followed the legal requirements of TADA. The court hailed the role of police in fighting terrorism but said the safeguards in law should be scrupulously followed to ensure the liberty of a person is jeopardised.

“We appreciate the anxiety of police officers entrusted with the task of preventing terrorism and the difficulty faced by them. Terrorism is a crime far serious in nature, more graver in impact and highly dangerous in consequence. It can put the nation in shock, create fear and panic and disrupt communal peace and harmony,” the court said.


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Indian Muslims don’t fare well at all, says US report (Oct 1, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Two India reports by the US-India Policy Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, has noted a steady decline in key human development indicators ofMuslims, apart from high hunger levels in Gujarat, one of India’s fastest growing states. The UPA government had rolled out multiple welfare programmes after the 2006 Sachar Committee report on disadvantages faced by Muslims.

The research, which takes a post-Sachar look, suggests that the government’s minority welfare agenda could be floundering due to inadequate outreach and exclusion, the very drawbacks it aims to plug. The research was anchored by Abusaleh Shariff, lead economist of the Sachar Committee report, and is due out in December. University of California, Riverside economist AnilB Deolalikar, the lead author of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s India Hunger Index, is also on the US-India Policy Institute’s panel.

The institute’s Gujarat paper, titled Relative Development of Gujarat and Socio-Religious Differentials, says the state had high levels of hunger, while “simultaneously boasting” high per capita income. It also is among the lowest beneficiaries from a national rural jobs programme. Shariff said new evidence indicates that despite funneling over Rs 7,000 crore for multi-pronged plans in the past five years, exclusion could still be holding back socio-economic recovery of over 150 million Muslims. The main philosophy behind the Sachar report, according to Shariff, was to enable minorities to gain social and economic access in line with their population share. “However, some of the initiatives… are aimed at providing immediate benefit. Such policies will have little if at all priority in the bureaucratic scheme of things,” Shariff said. The current approach, whereby government creates specific schemes for minorities, could create a wedge between competing communities, he added.


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Sanjiv Bhatt, PUCL want riots probe panel to summon Modi (Sep 28, 2012, Times of India)

Another PIL has been filed in the Gujarat high court demanding that chief minister Narendra Modi should be summoned by the Nanavati commission that probes the 2002 riots. This time, it is People’s Union for Civil Liberties ( PUCL) and suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who have sought HC directions to the probe panel to issue notice to Modi “so as to enable his appearance and examination”. Earlier, similar demands were rejected by the high court. Bhatt has implicated Modi in the 2002 riots, but his claims have been disregarded by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.

The petitioners have requested the court to direct the inquiry commission to order the state government under provisions of section 4 of the Commission of Inquiries Act to ask the secretary to protect and preserve all documents that are laying with the state intelligence bureau. These documents were sought by Bhatt last year from the SIB for the purpose of deposition before the commission. The same documents were sought again in February this year. The petitioners have also requested the court to direct the commission to forward certain documents and all ‘representations’ referred to in the Notification of July 20, 2004 to them.

The PIL seeks HC order to commission to summon Bhatt and examine him and/or summon Modi. Bhatt was examined last year by the commission. He offered to depose further before the commission on condition that he is summoned to do so. He said he could not volunteer to reveal facts about the 2002 riots otherwise he was bound by oath of secrecy as an intelligence officer.

The PIL has also expressed reservation against retired judges – G T Nanavati and Akshay Mehta’s gesture of submitting a report on first reference about the train burning incident to Modi. The petition demands that the commission should submit its final report to the governor instead of Modi, whose role is under scanner. A bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala heard the case and posed certain queries before the state government. The issue will now be heard next month.


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Sohrabuddin case: SC transfers trial from Gujarat to Mumbai (Sep 27, 2012, Indian Express)

The Supreme Court today rejected CBI’s plea to cancel the bail granted to former Gujarat minister Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, but agreed to transfer the trial from Gujarat to Mumbai. “We are against the plea for the cancellation of the bail and the petition is dismissed,” a bench comprising justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said. “We, however, allow the transfer petition and agree to transfer the case to Mumbai,” the bench said.

The court also permitted Shah to enter and travel in Gujarat in view of the upcoming assembly elections. The CBI had approached the apex court against the bail granted to Shah by the Gujarat High Court in the case of fake encounter killing of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and for shifting the trial of the case to a place outside Gujarat. Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi were allegedly abducted by Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) from Hyderabad and killed in a fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005.

Shah, a close aide of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was arrested by CBI on July 25, 2010 and had spent over three months in Sabarmati Jail in Ahmedabad. Shah had to quit the Modi government in July last year after having been slapped with charges of kidnapping and murder in connection with the case. CBI has alleged that he was the “kingpin” of the conspiracy in the case. The agency had earlier urged the apex court to transfer the trial outside Gujarat arguing that witnesses were being intimidated and the trial could not be held in a free and fair manner.


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CBI arrests dy SP in Sadiq Jamaal case (Sep 25, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The CBI arrested Gujarat deputy SP Tarun Barot in the Sadiq Jamalfake encounter case on Tuesday. Barot – an accused in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case – is the first policemen to be arrested for Jamal’s killing. In July, the CBI had arrested a Mumbai-based scribe, Ketan Tirodkar.

Jamal – who was killed in a staged shootout in January 2003 – was the domestic help of a Dubai-based Indian businessman, who allegedly had connections with the underworld. But after a petty fight, the businessmen allegedly got Jamal deported to Mumbai, where he ended up in police custody.

It was Mumbai’s encounter specialist Daya Nayak, who had kept Jamal in illegal detention. Barot, then an inspector with the Ahmedabad crime branch, accepted Jamal’s custody from Nayak. After bringing him to Ahmedabad, a crime branch team including Barot allegedly shot him dead.

The crime branch, headed by DCP DG Vanjara, claimed Jamal was a LeT-trained terrorist, who had been tasked with the assassination of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. In 2008, Jamal’s brother Shabir moved a petition in Gujarat high court and sought a CBI probe into the murder.


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Maha govt gets ATS report recommending ban on ‘Abhinav Bharat’ (Oct 1, 2012, Deccan Herald)

Maharashtra government today informed the Bombay High Court that it has received a report from the state Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) recommending ban on right wing organisation ‘Abhinav Bharat’, the members of which were alleged to have carried out terror activities in 2008 at Malegaon. The state government, however, said it needs some time to forward the proposal to the Central government for consideration.

The submission was made before a division bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and P D Kode which was hearing a petition filed by a trust of the same name, seeking direction to the charity commissioner to cancel the registration of the right wing group, alleged to be involved in terror acts. According to the petition, the trust had registered its name on January 29, 2002 with the charity commissioner and is involved in charity-related activities in the city. However, in February 2007, another trust based in Pune, got itself registered under the same name.

The bench today expressed its disapproval over the state government’s failure to file an affidavit clarifying its stand, despite being directed to do so last year itself. The court has directed the government to file its reply by October 12. During the hearing, the court also suggested the petitioner to consider changing its name as even if the other outfit was deregistered, the name might still continue to cause confusion and bring disrepute to the petitioner trust.


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Bajrangi threatened them in jail, blasts accused tell court (Sep 25, 2012, Indian Express)

A designated court for the 2008 Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts case on Monday ordered the Sabarmati Central Jail authorities to inquire into the allegations levelled by the blast accused that Babu Bajrangi, convicted in the Naroda Patiya riot case, was trying to create communal atmosphere in the jail. The complaint comes following a verbal fight between Bajrangi, a former Bajrang Dal leader, and three of the blasts accused Ismail Mansoori, Abbas Sameja and Javed Ahmed last week.

In a complaint in court, Mansoori has claimed that Bajrangi and his accomplices “hurled abuses, spoke scornfully of our community and religion” during medical check-ups at the jail dispensary. “Bragging about his political clout, he threatened to kill each of us and said they would teach us a lesson like they did during the 2002 riots,” says his complaint, which has been signed by 49 other accused in the serial blasts case. A total of 68 accused facing trials in the serial blasts case are lodged in the jail.

According to the complainant, when the three approached senior jailor Dinesh Vankar, he too vented his anger and prejudice towards them. The complainant has expressed apprehension over their security while stating that the jail authorities were planning to put them in “solitary confinement”.

The complainant has also claimed that Bajrangi and his accomplices have been given a free hand in the jail and keep roaming freely. I M Munsi, the defence lawyer in the case, said the magistrate has ordered the special public prosecutor H M Dhruv to look into the complainant and posted the matter for hearing on September 29.


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Hyderabad on boil as Telangana march begins amid clashes (Sep 30, 2012, Deccan Herald)

Violent clashes broke out between pro-Telangana supporters and the police in several parts of the tension-ridden city today with the activists torching police vehicles, pelting stones and damaging rail and private property. In a massive show of strength, thousands of protesters defied prohibitory orders and joined the ‘Telangana march’ to press their demand for a separate state.

A bandh has been called by a pro-Telangana student group. The Osmania university has postponed examinations scheduled for tomorrow. At a late night press conference, Police Commissioner Auriga Sharma said certain Left wing extremist groups have infiltrated the movement and were suspected to be behind the violence. He said SP (Intelligence) Rajashekhar was seriously injured in the clashes which also left an inspector and 17 constables with injuries. He said five protesters were injured.

He said 25 police vehicles were damaged of which three were torched. He said several people including some TDP MLAs, who were staging a dharna outside the Secretariat have been taken into preventive custody. Violating prohibitory orders, the Telangana supporters headed towards the Necklace Road at Hussain Sagar lake, the venue of the event, and clashed with security personnel on their way. Incidents of violence were reported from the Osmania University campus, Khairatabad and the Andhra Pradesh Secretariat.

When they were stopped from passing by the Secretariat road and some other areas where prohibitory orders were in place, the protesters pelted stones and tried to remove the barricades which prompted the security personnel to lob tear gas shells after trying to chase them away. The Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), spearheading the agitation, which had asked its supporters to stay put at the venue of the ‘Telangana march’, ended the rally shortly before midnight due to inclement weather.

JAC Chairman M Kodandaram announced that the event has been ended as it was raining heavily. “We are ending the rally as it is raining heavily. Our agitation for separate Telangana will continue,” JAC chairman said. He said the JAC would organise a fast on October 2 here and also launch a fast-unto-death soon in support of its demand for formation of separate Telangana state.


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Dead silence in Than a day after police firing (Sep 25, 2012, Indian Express)

On Monday, an eerie silence gripped Than town in Surendranagar district where three dalit youths died in police firing on Saturday and Sunday. The kin of victims who had refused to take their bodies finally relented and performed their last rites in the morning, but through the day, even the bylanes and alleys in the town remained deserted, except for the presence of policemen. On Sunday, the violence erupted at Than at a time when Chief Minister Narendra Modi was about to begin his Swami Vivekanand Yuva Vikas Yatra from nearby Limbdi in Surendranagar district, just 50 km away.

On Saturday, the police had opened fire on a group of dalits demanding action against the Bharwads who had allegedly beaten up dalit youths during the famous Tarnetar fair organised by Than Nagarpalika. The firing incident happened at the railway crossing that divides the localities populated by dalits and Bharwads, who are shepherds. At the same spot, the police opened fire again the next day, killing two more dalit youths. “The two were shot in a matter of three minutes,” said Natubhai Parmar, uncle of Prakash Parmar, who was hit by three three bullets, all in the chest, and died along with 17-year-old Mehul Rathod.

Natubhai was among the protesters. He said while they did pelt stones, the police never resorted to lathicharge or firing in the air before opening fire at the crowd. By the time CM’s function ended around 1.30 pm, the mob was dispersed. “Police did not even help us shift the injured to hospital. We took the injured on our shoulders to Than Civil Hospital,” said Dana Rathod, a dalit leader from the town whose nephew Sumara was hit by a bullet while he was returning from the fair. The road cut by the railway crossing was still strewn with big and small stones that were pelted by the mob the previous day. Three dark patches, within a distance of less than 30 metres from each other, were where the three youths fell.

Of the 50,000-odd inhabitants of the town, around 10,000 are dalits. They had been accusing S-I Jadeja of supporting Bharwads against them and demanding his transfer. Though the transfer orders came in July, Jadeja was still serving there since as he was not relieved by the district police headquarters. On August 30, dalits sat on dharna again, demanding Jadeja’s transfer. In another twist, the Than Nagarplalika, which traditionally organises Tarnetar fair, had roped in a private firm owned by the Bharwads to organise the fair. “As the fair’s management was in the hands of Bharwads, they abused and beat us up on the last day,” said Pravin Gogia, who received injuries on Saturday night after being allegedly beaten up by the Bharwads.

Dalit ministers in the Modi cabinet, Fakirsinh Vaghela and Ramanlal Vora, had visited Rajkot Civil Hospital Sunday night after the victims’ families refused to take their bodies. The two ministers were able to pacify them only after promising an inquiry by CID. In-charge DGP Chittaranjan Singh said CID (crime) DIG R V Jotangia had been asked to investigate the incident. “He will probe if there was any negligence on the part of police and if it is proved, action will be taken against them,” said Singh. Police sub-inspector Jadeja, against whom the dalits had been demanding a case of murder, was on Monday suspended. The state government also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of victims.


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Opinions and Editorials

Reporters as police stenographers – By Jyoti Punwani (Sep 27, 2012,

Will the English press ever again report verbatim what the Delhi Police’s Special Cell tells them? The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association’s just-released report on 16 cases of terror filed by the Special Cell that ended in acquittal, is an indictment not just of the functioning of the Special Cell, but also of the English press. The report cites examples of reports in national newspapers such as The Times Of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express, and Hindustan Times, which carried verbatim, often without the use of the word “alleged”, the version given by the Special Cell at press conferences where often, the arrested innocents were produced as “hard core militants’. Among the many paraded this way was 24-year-old Kashmiri Imran Kirmani, an aeronautical engineering graduate who had just landed a job in Delhi. His background came handy for the Special Cell to describe him as “part of an LeT module” planning to carry out a “9/11 plot”. “Prize catch” was the caption given by The Hindu to his picture on page one, surrounded by Special Cell plainclothesmen. Four years later, the judge acquitted Kirmani. “And when I was released, there was no media, no cameras waiting to tell the world that I was innocent. It wasn’t a story,” Kirmani told the Kashmir correspondent of The Indian Express Muzammil Jaleel.

The JTSA report cites only the Express as having bothered to talk to Kirmani. But The Telegraph’s Muzaffar Raina did so too. The paper carried the story on page one. Not that this in any way compensated for Kirmani’s trauma. “My dream (of becoming an aeronautical engineer) has died,” he said more than once to Jaleel. “Who will give me a job now?” It wasn’t just Delhi’s Special Cell that ruined this blameless young man’s future. The English press also played a part. This columnist has tried for years to find an answer to the question: why do reporters implicitly believe the police when they claim breakthroughs in “terror” cases? Because the police bear the authority of uniform? They are the ones who should know? Even when the country’s first big terror strike took place on March 12, 1993 in Mumbai, there were doubts whether everyone picked up was part of the conspiracy. At that time, the lawyer of one of those arrested approached me with his client’s story. His client claimed that his only offence was that he had rented out a scooter, something he did everyday to strangers. How was he to know what it would be used for? (It was used to plant a bomb.) The TOI refused to publish the story, which was based entirely on the lawyer’s plea filed in court. The man was eventually discharged after spending three years in jail.

This was just after the 92-93 Mumbai riots, wherein the Mumbai police had shown just how aligned its men were with the Shiv Sena. The Times’ reportage of the riots had exposed some of this and earned it the abuse “Times of Pakistan” from the RSS. But riots were one thing, simultaneous bomb blasts across the city, killing random innocents, were a different kettle of fish. Would publishing that story have made the Times look like it was supporting the terrorists? Is that what stops newspapers from expressing doubts about police claims? April 2006 should have been a turning point for investigations into bomb blasts. That was when the Nanded blasts took place and the RSS hand in the bomb blasts became clear. But even after Nanded, the police stuck to its only-Muslims-are-terrorists theory. Given the well-known anti-Muslim prejudice of the police, that was understandable. But what prevented the press from questioning this theory after April 2006? Indeed, what prevents the press till today from picking holes in theories put out by our investigative agencies when it comes to crimes allegedly committed by Muslims? Why do reporters become “police stenographers” as the JTSA report calls them?

After the 2006 serial train blasts in Mumbai all newspapers faithfully reported the theory given out by the ATS. The seven bombs were assembled in a tiny room in a Govandi slum, open to all passersby. Then, from the north-east of Mumbai, they were carried to the north-west, to Bandra. They were kept in pressure cookers. These pressure cookers were kept in train compartments. Whatever you say, sirs. Never mind if the final charge sheet in the 2006 serial train blasts case has no mention of pressure cookers. Pakistan was involved, said headlines. Never mind that when it came to actually presenting evidence to Pakistan, the ATS developed cold feet. The most bizarre aspect of the 2006 train blasts is that another branch of the Mumbai police, the Crime Branch, discovered in 2008 that quite a different set of persons were behind these blasts. The ATS had laid the blame on SIMI’s door. But an alleged Indian Mujaheedin member arrested for a series of blasts in 2008, reportedly “confessed” to the Crime Branch, headed by the legendary Rakesh Maria, that it was the IM that was behind the train blasts. Both police units stuck to their respective claims. In 2009, this man who “confessed”, Sadiq Shaikh, was discharged by the court on an application filed by the ATS which said he had no role in the train blasts, a crime to which he had reportedly “confessed”! And these are the agencies we blindly trust. Among them is the Delhi Police Special Cell, as high profile as Maharashtra’s ATS, and, as the JTSA report shows, as dearly beloved of the Delhi press.

On September 23, 2007, The Times of India carried a news item titled: “Indian Intelligence informer spills the beans”. The report was sensational. It quoted a letter from Tihar Jail by an ex-IB informer detailing how IB, working with the Delhi Police’s Special Cell, plants its own “jehadi maulvis” to lure Muslim youth to commit terrorist acts. The CBI, directed by the Delhi High Court to investigate the case in which this informer was arrested by the Special Cell as an Al Badr terrorist, had corroborated the most important accusations made by the informer, said the report. In November 2008, the CBI filed a closure report in the case, gave the two accused a clean chit and recommended legal action against three sub-inspectors of the Special Cell: Ravinder Tyagi, Vinay Tyagi, and Subhash Vats, for “fabricating and planting evidence to implicate” the accused “for an oblique motive.” In its closure report, the CBI revealed that the mobile phone records of one of the accused showed that he was in constant touch with IB officers. Despite the Times following this story, these sensational findings were not widely reported in the English press. Even the Times did not do any larger article based on this “mind-numbing” report. (This phrase was used by the Times to describe one of the many so-called terror conspiracies solved by the Special Cell.) However, subsequent developments in the case were reported, including a complaint by CBI officer Santosh Kumar that one of the indicted Special Cell men had threatened him. So it can be safely said that the entire English press was aware of the CBI’s findings against the Special Cell. …


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Narendra & Narendra Ltd – By Saba Naqvi (Oct 8, 2012, Outlook)

…Modi’s Vivekananda yatra is an exercise in deploying a well-oiled state machinery and keeping the cadre motivated to ensure polling and booth management is efficiently done. … The juggernaut moves on. In Radhanpur town, the entire population is out, stalling all movement. A truck moves playing Maa Tujhe Salaam…, sung by the ubiquitous A.R. Rahman. The carnival-like atmosphere is similar to the mood that prevailed in the early days of the Anna Hazare agitation. There are roadstops on the way and the next big meeting is in the Sankeshwar Jain temple complex. The rhetoric takes a subtle communal shift here. Modi says the Centre does not offer any relief on cotton. “But they give relief to meat packers/traders. They want to turn Gujarat into a katalkhana (slaughterhouse). They call it the pink revolution….” The traps are in place, the Congress can walk into it, engage in a jousting session that would surely immediately be projected as an insult to Gujarati pride, or avoid any engagement on communal lines. …

A day before, another Modi is revealed in Gandhinagar where he is addressing an industry convention at a massive, gleaming, state-of-the-art auditorium he calls the Mahatma mandir. (From Gandhi to Sardar Patel to Vivekananda, they are all icons Modi has appropriated, convincing many in Gujarat that he is part of the tradition). Modi first speaks in English for the foreign guests and then switches to Hindi. He says suggestively: “Leadership ko lekar bahas chal rahi hai (There is a debate on the leadership issue). I believe you can make leaders by training them. I make all my ministers undergo a week-long training….” (An advance warning perhaps of what lies in store for national leaders of the BJP!)

But away from the crowds that follow him, is Modi still clicking on the ground? In the course of a separate journey through Kheda, Anand, Godhra and Dahod districts, it’s rare to find any anti-Modi people, except for the Muslims who are clear they will vote against him. In Salon village of Kheda, an OBC farmer mutters that he voted BJP last time but will not do so again as “they are for the rich and do nothing for the poor”. After that, in village after village, the Patels say they are with Modi “like a rock”. In Saurashtra, they say, some Patels may go the other way because of Keshubhai’s departure from the BJP. In this Patel-dominated stretch, though, they are all fans of the CM. In Dahod, where the 2002 riots had seen many adivasi attacks on Muslims, the situation is unclear. The adivasis say their sarpanch will decide who to vote for. But Godhra’s townspeople say the adivasis are more conscious than ever now of their Hindu identity. Modi may have defanged the VHP-RSS structures, but the administration still does the job for him.

Ode in Anand district was one of the scenes of the big massacres of 2002—among the worst in rural Gujarat. In April this year, a court convicted 23 for the bloodbath. On March 1, 2002, 23 people, including nine women and nine children, had been burnt to death in a house in the Pirwali Bhagol area of Ode village by a mob. Today, the village looks peaceful and the many Patels gathered in the square near the bus stand say they aren’t upset that some of their community members have had to go to jail for the riots. As Rajinder Patel, a government servant, says, “Modi raj will continue because he is a revered figure for us.” Another young man, chatting with a Muslim resident, says quite nonchalantly, “Let’s face it. Modi is quite a man.”

Down a narrow street we meet Saiyad Rafiq Ghulam Rasool, who walks through the lanes and points to the still abandoned homes, burnt buildings, repaired homes. The final stop is that house in Ode where the entire family was burnt alive. It is now a ruin. In a plot across the house, a Ganapati puja is in full swing. Lalabhai Patel saunters across and helpfully offers the information that the land on which they are doing puja belongs to the dead family. “They have all disappeared. They were like our brothers. We don’t know what happened that day. I don’t know why the police has sent two of my uncles and my brother to jail for what happened.” The conch is blowing at the Ganapati puja, and well-dressed women and children walk in and out. This is Modi’s Gujarat that prospers under him.


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Back to politics old style – By Revati Laul (Oct 1, 2012, Tehelka)

It was an irony that Anna’s team missed entirely as they fended off a curious media in Delhi Monday, 1 October. The camera crews and posse of journalists were waiting hawk-like as Anna Hazare sat in a huddle inside ND Tiwari Bhawan to discuss the next stage of the anti-corruption movement. ND Tiwari – a name that has come to symbolise all the old world corruption, sleaze and dishonesty in politics, as he was dismissed as the governor of Andhra Pradesh after a sleazy sting operation showed him soliciting women in the governor’s house in 2009. The Anna movement in September 2012 then is a far cry from August this year and light-years away from the throng of the last; this time, there was barely a trickle. From hogging the headlines and the space for self-righteousness, the Anna movement is now a shadow. The man behind it searching for a new space as the old movement was split wide open two weeks ago. Now on the eve of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, as Arvind Kejriwal and his team are set to launch their political party, Anna’s team says they want to hold on to the political high ground – the space of resistance movements. And not sully their hands in “dirty party politics”. But the words find few takers outside his home town of Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra.

In Delhi a dubious gaggle, some curious, rally around his new core group. Kiran Bedi – seen last in Arvind’s team has switched camps post the August split. So has sportswoman and former core team member Sunita Godara. Amongst the media handlers are Shivendra Singh Chauhan – former keeper of the India Against Corruption Facebook page. And journalist turned anti-corruption activist turned Anna camp follower, Sharmistha. Some of Anna’s old team are also gone. Like his close aide Suresh Pathare. Officially, his new team is tight lipped about why Anna’s right hand man left (or was asked to leave). Unofficially, they concede Anna was unhappy with Pathare’s alleged leaking of his meeting with Baba Ramdev to the press in Delhi two weeks ago. But the real question is this: why was Anna’s meeting with Ramdev meant to be secret? In a movement that is about transparency and accountability, what does Anna want to keep out? “We are not being funded by or supported by the RSS or Ramdev,” Kiran Bedi explained. And added, “Anna ji and Ramdev have been working together against corruption since the very beginning. They shared the stage in April last year and supported each other in August this year. So what’s new?” Glossing over the controversy a year and half ago when Ram Madhav of the RSS was escorted off stage in April 2011, causing Baba Ramdev to be thoroughly miffed with the anti-corruption team. And glossing over also how Arvind and his new team have repeatedly positioned themselves as anti-right wing, and therefore, against any association with the RSS.

Where Anna’s movement will go from here is not at all clear yet. What is amply clear is that the man from Ralegan Siddhi may just be back to where he began. Political agitation in his home state – Maharashtra. But in positioning himself stridently against Arvind, Anna has not left without raising even more questions than ever, about Arvind, and his reputed top-down style of functioning. Of leaving the middle class masses wondering if the man in the Gandhi topi was being pushed by Arvind in a direction; much against his will.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Arvind’s team has attempted to recover from Anna’s very public outburst against them by telling the press, including an exclusive interview to Tehelka’s Atul Chaurasia that the idea to go into mainstream politics was, in fact, Anna’s. On Gandhi’s birthday, they gear up to launch their political party, based largely on Arvind’s take on Swaraj. By which he is using the metaphors of the Indian freedom struggle and appropriating them to his own brand of patriotism. Strengthening Panchayati Raj institutions, socialism aka the JP movement are the expected order of things. But the big question Arvind has to tackle before all of that is: who will he finally take along with him? So far, a robust team of advisors have included eminent political scientist from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies – Yogendra Yadav and journalist Madhu Trehan.

Stalwarts from the grassroot movements such as Medha Patkar, who were once on his side, have now preferred to keep their distance. But the questions Anna has raised against Arvind rise like a phoenix from the ground – how will Arvind set up a ‘clean set of political candidates’ or even ‘clean sources of funding?’ And in joining the mainstream, what will separate him from the rest? These are, however, questions that equally plague Anna, even as he chooses to stay out of Arvind’s political formation and protest loudly against his face and name being used for the party. For observers from a distance and the temporarily mesmerised middle classes, the sheen of Gandhi-giri has worn thin on either side of the wedge. And whatever symbols they choose – Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, or the JP movement – to the increasingly skeptical masses, they have begun to sound almost exactly like the parties they’ve been riled up about. To them, it all reads clearly like politics old style.


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Vicious cycle of Islamophobia – By Ram Puniyani (Sep 21, 2012, Countercurrents)

We are going through strange times. While the science, technology and rationalism has given us physical and intellectual tools to better the lot of humanity, we are witnessing the production of provocative material, literature and films in particular, which demonize the particular religion, Islam to be precise, and the prophet of Islam. On the other hand there is a section of community, feeling threatened and insecure coming to the streets to protest against such humiliation and insult of their religion. There are debates on freedom of expression, but how come the freedom of expression always goes to humiliate and demonize one particular religion only? Currently (September 2012), there are massive protests in different countries against the American embassies, resulting in death of four from the US staff, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi. Different countries are asking Google, the owner of YouTube, which is hosting this provocative and insulting video clip, ‘Innocence of Muslims’, to withdraw the film clip. At places the video clip has been withdrawn and blocked. US sticks to its ‘Freedom of Expression’ stance and the many protesters are still on the streets.

The film clip, of around 14 minutes duration is part of the full length feature film made by Nakoula Basseley, a US based Christian. The film is very insulting to Islam. In this film large number of modern day mob of bearded Muslims is shown to be attacking Christians. It also takes the audience back in time to show a distorted life of Prophet Mohammad with negative and aggressive traits of personality. It is crude film, made in extremely poor taste and has generated strong reaction amongst large section of Muslims. It must be pointed out that this is not the only type of reaction to this film. There are sections of clerics who have asked the Muslims to keep restrain. Quoting the moral precepts from Islam, Quran, they said that Islam is a religion of peace and no violent protests should be held. The best response to this despicable film has been from a section of Muslims distributing the book on life of Prophet Mohammad, the prophet of peace. During last several years, it has become a sort of standard pattern by many in the West and some here in India to demonize Islam. We remember the Danish cartoon of Prophet, where he is shown as a terrorist, with a bomb tucked in his turban. A Florida Pastor went on to burn this holy book, Koran, saying that Koran teaches violence. Some US soldiers in Afghanistan also burnt copies of Koran, on the ground that the terrorist elements had written messages on those copies.

The demonization of Islam and Muslims has a pattern and agenda. The cartons and films are the outcome of the deeper political processes, which aim to control the oil wells in West Asia. The imperialist greed of United States marshaled the flag of “Islam the New threat” since Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran, overthrowing the US stooge Raza Shah Pahlavi. Later the slogan was worsened with US setting up Madrassas in Pakistan to train Al Qaeda-Taliban to initiate the Muslim youth to fight against the occupying Russian armies in Afghanistan. The word, Jihad and kafir were distorted to indoctrinate the Muslim youth in these Madrassas. With later trajectories and the event of 9/11, World Trade Center attack, the US media with all its guile, popularized the phrase ‘Islamic Terrorism’. The phrase was picked up by the media all over the World and later became part of the social common sense. This is a major abuse of religion for political goals by the imperialist power. One can understand this demonization of Islam as a part of US policy, a cover to hide its agenda to control the oil. To understand it in the way Noam Chomsky ‘coined the phrase’ Manufacturing Consent’, the coining of the word Islamic terrorism is part of the US mechanism of manufacturing consent of the world to give assent to the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.

This US policy gas given rise to twin processes. On one hand the phenomenon like a Florida Pastor Terry Jones burning Koran or the Danish cartoonist drawing Prophet Mohammad as terrorist or the present film has been the outcome of the intense propaganda against Islam. This US propaganda has been backed up by the US sponsored ideology of ‘Clash of Civilizations’, according to which the current era of World History is the era of assault of backward Islamic civilization on the advanced Western civilization. This distorted perception, this ideology was used as a cover for US agenda in West Asia. The other process which got unleashed was that the psyche of global Muslim community started being affected. The perception came up that Muslims (Afghanistan and Iraq) are being attacked, they are under threat. In India the added aspect was the rise of RSS type politics, bringing up Ram Temple issue and starting hatred for Muslims. A large section of Muslims started feeling intimidated and besieged. It became easy for mobilizing them around identity issues. Any community which feels besieged, section of it becomes vulnerable to easy provocation and identity based mobilization.

It is a vicious circle, the Islamophobia on one side and besieged community on the other. In this scenario the Muslim clerics who are asking for peace are the beacon lights of hope for the community. The Muslims who are distributing the books on life of prophet need to be complimented. This is what the sane response from the community has to be. What about US, imperialist designs and its mighty propaganda machinery doing all the mischief in the world? Can there be a process of controlling that? Under Kofi Annan, when he was Secretary General of United Nations, a high level committee produced a report, ‘Alliance of Civilizations’. This report got lost under the barrage of Islamphobia. It is time the world as such takes note of the deeper humane values which have developed by humanity over a period of time, the values which have led to the reports of type of ‘Alliance of civilizations’, the UN conventions which have conceptualized the Human rights for all. The trigger which has incited the demonization process of religion and films like this one are provoking these insane reactions from a section of Muslims. Can United Nations be revived as a global platform for monitoring the norms for Nations, media and other aspects of our global life evolved to ensure that democratization and human dignity is promoted. Can the World come forward to check the aggressions of ‘The Super Power’? That’s when such films will cease to act as factors promoting violent reactions. And even such crude attempts at insulting others’ religion will come down. May be with such norms and restraints on US policies we can hope that such incidents will come down. Even if there are elements making some films like this there will be others making a film giving their own versions of Prophet’s Mission of peace in the World. And finally we also need to preserve the concept of freedom of expression moderated with its limits. We also need to cultivate methods of protest where hysterical emotions are kept at bay and rational approach is brought to the fore.


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If The Soot Don’t Wash – By Saba Naqvi (Sep 8, 2012, Outlook)

On the embers of the coal scam a national contest has begun. As the countdown for 2014 starts, the soot seems to have settled on the visage of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who held charge of the coal portfolio for a long stretch. Still, it’s a game of ash, smoke and mirrors, with the BJP resorting to the scorched-earth tactic of disrupting Parliament to force the PM to resign. The BJP believes it occupies the moral high ground. The Congress has responded by trying to spread the coal ash around a little more evenly, and maybe also blacken the rival’s face. It’s a “tera muh bhi kaala” (your face is also black) display of competitive politics. The coal scam raises critical questions about how policy pertaining to national resources should be formulated and implemented. Both sides have also had their say on it. With Parliament derailed, last week the debate continued in the TV studios and, for the more complex points, politicians shifted to the editorial pages of newspapers. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley wrote an opinion piece in The Hindu, the same day Union law minister Salman Khurshid wrote his take in The Times of India, while Congress spokesperson and MP Manish Tiwari made his points on the op-ed page of Indian Express. In typical Congress style, the PM’s defence was upgraded from routine to high-decibel after Sonia Gandhi asked the troops to rally behind. She told party MPs to fight back “aggressively”, adding: “Blackmail has become the bread-and-butter of the BJP…this is the handiwork of just one party, the BJP…once again showing up the scant respect it has for democratic values.”

Called to attention, the very next day the Congress produced Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal at its 24 Akbar Road headquarters as Parliament took a day off for Onam (the session continues at the time of writing in spite of disruptions). That was the day the Naroda Patiya verdict came and a former minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet was convicted. In ordinary times, the Congress could have been expected to take a few swings at the BJP in general and Modi in particular. But on August 29, the party had tapped into a new purposefulness. Sibal gave the most thorough and political defence of the PM on Coalgate. A document titled, ‘Selective Amnesia, Mr Jaitley?’ was circulated which sought to list the occasions when the BJP had questioned CAG. (About the CAG report on the Centaur Hotel divestment in February 2004, Arun Shourie, then minister for disinvestment, had said, “…the methodology of computing national losses is idiotic, sorry peculiar”. In 2001, when the CAG report on coffin purchases came out, Jaitley had said, “The CAG is an institution appointed to find faults.” And then defence minister George Fernandes had added that “CAG has acted unethically”.) Another document, titled ‘The boot is on the other leg, Mr Jaitley’, was also released. This sought to highlight the procedure for coal allotments followed by the NDA and the questionable deals of the BJP. Sibal and Jaitley, two great rivals of Delhi’s legal and political circuit, were sharpening their knives for the coal battle. Clearly, there is no end to the amount of mud one side can fling on the other when it comes to coal allotments (perhaps the original sin vis-a-vis India’s criminal approach to its natural resources). The PM may be the most clear, visible face linked to the scam at the present juncture but there is no end to the BJP’s loot in Jharkhand, not to forget its links to the notorious Reddy brothers, the mining barons of Karnataka/Andhra, and other dubious figures. There is, for instance, the matter of Ajay Sancheti-a contractor with close links to BJP president Nitin Gadkari who has been rewarded with a Rajya Sabha berth. His name crops up in the Adarsh scam in Maharashtra. The Chhattisgarh CAG report mentions a mine he has been allotted by the Raman Singh government. Besides, according to CAG findings, on June 29, 2010, the state government did him the favour of staying a tax penalty of Rs 17 crore ordered on his company, Shivnath Infrastructure Ltd! Just after the report was tabled, BJP MP and ex-mining minister Ramesh Bais echoed, “If Gadkari’s close associate can get a coal block, then why not me…I am a member of Parliament after all.” Why not indeed.

So clearly when a leader like Sushma Swaraj states that the Congress got “mota maal” (lots of cash) from coal allocations, she also opens her flanks to a counter-attack. Which is why one must pause and ask, why has the BJP taken the pitch so high? Why has the party risked middle-class censure for further undermining an institution like Parliament? What has got them so worked up that even someone like Jaitley-who enjoys the thrust and parry of a good parliamentary debate and usually opposes disruption-has made an argument for disorder? There’s a simple political calculation at the heart of the BJP tactic. The belief that the Congress is sinking and this is the opportunity to corner it. Senior party leaders concede that the muck is also being flung at them. But they feel it is not sticking and the greater damage is being done to the Congress. As a political force, the BJP’s DNA is very different from the Congress, which is a rambling sort of organisation. The BJP, by contrast, is a more cohesive unit in spite of all the factional feuds and existential issues that confront them. And currently the party has sensed opportunity both on the corruption and communalism planks. First, the Anna Hazare movement, once backed by the RSS, appears to be unravelling and strategic decisions have been taken by the Sangh parivar that the force of the cadre should now be shifted back to the party as opposed to what was presented as a spontaneous people’s movement. There is therefore an attempt to channel the anti-corruption urban rage back in a direction that would have a more conclusive political outcome. The Muslim settlers debate triggered by the Assam events also creates a climate that the BJP finds more salubrious, a national atmosphere when issues that it calls “emotional” are more likely to click with and galvanise potential voters. The BJP is after all a proven practitioner of the technique of outshouting opponents and of repeating something so many times that the public at large finally starts to believe it. The current strategy is not to force a mid-term election as the party knows it does not have control over that scenario. It is to keep the Congress off balance as it enters the season of crucial assembly polls. There are critical BJP-Congress contests in the run-up to 2014.

First the big face-off in Gujarat that the Congress will almost certainly lose (although there is always the hope that somehow Modi’s victory margin can be reduced). As the Himachal Pradesh elections take place at the same time, the Congress is hoping a victory there against the ruling BJP will help it enter the year 2013 with its honour intact. In May 2013, the Karnataka elections take place. This is one state the Congress should logically wrest easily from the BJP, the third smaller player being the JD(S). Yet Congress insiders worry about factionalism, the leadership question and the greater money power of the BJP. So here too there is anxiety, and about a state that should have been a cakewalk for the Congress. Worse news could come for the party in October next year when four assemblies, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi, go to the polls, all states where direct Congress-BJP contests take place. Currently, two are held by the Congress and two by the BJP. But while the general perception is that the BJP will hold on to Chhattisgarh and MP, at the Congress headquarters people say with certainty that Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot will be defeated and that Delhi will be a “close call”. And this is happening at a time when 12 ministers of the Shivraj Chauhan regime in MP face CVC inquiries and several scams have erupted. Yet the BJP is seen as almost invincible in certain states.

Which is why the BJP has currently decided to gloss over the troubling questions of leadership and maximise whatever little opportunity it sees in the future. In the process, the party is certainly taking risks, exposing its own flanks and coming through as an irresponsible force with scant respect for institutions. There has also been some difference of opinion with allies but the larger belief is that ultimately the smaller parties – who are playing a wait-and-watch game – will rally around if the strategy appears to be working. The Congress conversely is rattled and waiting for some sort of clarity in September when a cabinet expansion/reshuffle is expected and, more significantly, Rahul Gandhi could come out to play a bigger role and give some deliverance from the current season of hopelessness. At the party headquarters, a veteran observed gravely that the fact that Sonia Gandhi has taken the initiative to counter-attack (after a long time) is being seen as a “good sign”, besides of course the fact that Rahul Gandhi “has to take the plunge as there are no choices left”. As usual, in the unique power-sharing arrangement between party and government, the members of the dynasty remain untainted while the PM and his regime absorb all the taint from coal dust.


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This is why farmers can’t afford fertilisers – By G Vishnu (Oct 6, 2012, Tehelka)

To droughts and abject poverty, farmers can add another crisis: sky-rocketing fertiliser prices. The issue has prompted eight chief ministers of large states to seek the intervention of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers (MoCF) in the matter. Consider, for example, di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and muriate of potash (MoP), two fertilisers that used to have massive demand in India – now unaffordable by lakhs of farmers across the country. A 50-kilo sack of DAP that cost Rs 9,350 in April 2010, today costs Rs 25,300; and MoP that cost Rs 4,455 in April 2010 today costs a whopping Rs 23,100 – an unbelievable 170 percent and 418 percent rise, respectively. The problem lies in the pricing and subsidy policy that has been adopted by the MoCF. The startling bit about the existing pricing policy is that Srikant Jena, minister of state, chemicals and fertilisers, has on at least three occasions informed the Department of Fertilisers on how the private players are making massive profits at the expense of poor farmers. Both international players as well as Indian companies have been hiking the prices of fertilisers, taking advantage of the existing pricing policy.

In notes written on 19 March, 15 June and 4 August, the same issue was raised by the MoS. “By decontrolling retail prices of P&K (phosphatic and potassic) fertilisers, it was never the intention of the government that the firms are at their free will to gain undue profits at the cost of poor farmers, and if it is so, government should stop providing subsidy on decontrolled fertilisers,” Jena said in his 4 August note. However, the department has not even begun to recognise the problem, let alone seek an alternative policy. What’s more interesting is the political conflict it has triggered between Srikant Jena and the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers M K Azhagiri. In fact, the differences over pricing-policy turned into a full-fledged war, when in July this year, Azhagiri reportedly wrote to PM Manmohan Singh asking Jena to be removed from the MoS post alleging obstructionism.

The problem is identified by bureaucrats who have worked at the Department of Fertilisers. “The entire industry is in a state of anarchy. The State’s fertiliser policy has absolutely no control over the practices of these private players. The market is completely unregulated and it is the poor farmer who suffers the most,” says a former official with DoF on condition of anonymity. So why is a sector meant to uplift farmers completely unregulated and riddled with crony practices? “They (private players-manufacturers-importers) cite everything, from international prices to the exchange rates as the reason for hike in fertiliser prices. With DAP, for instance, in no way should the hike exceed Rs 21,000. But it still crossed Rs 25,000,” he adds.

According to government figures, the total quantum of fertiliser subsidy released in 2011 was a whopping Rs 65,836 crore. To understand how this works, consider Urea, the highest consumed fertiliser in India. Cost of production of Urea varies from Rs 8,000 to Rs 40,000 per metric tonnes (MT) depending on whether natural gas or Naphtha is being used for production. Currently, the market rate of Urea stands at around Rs 5,300 per MT. The difference between cost of production and the market price of the commodity is paid to the manufacturer by the government. Ministry officials say Urea is priced at Rs 11,200, with Rs 5,000 as MRP. This means for every MT of Urea, the government pays Rs 7,000 as subsidy. India produces around 22 million MT of Urea, while consumption is around 28 MT (the shortfall of 6 MT is covered through imports). The CAG in its 2011 report noted that due to subsidies given to companies without checking fraudulent claims, a loss of Rs 50,587 crore was incurred to the exchequer. The CAG also claims that between 2007 and 2010, a fertiliser importer company, Indian Potash Limited, got undue concession of Rs 782 crore after fudging its tenders.

Srikant Jena says the current policy itself is self-defeatist for the market. “Once the government fixes the prices on fertilisers and announces it, exporters inflate their prices accordingly – something they wouldn’t do if the government simply asked them for a price quote,” he explains, adding, “Why can’t we just buy the fertilisers at existing market prices, instead of letting the manufacturer determine the price once we declare our base price?” The trend is that exporters start hiking fertiliser prices October onwards as they know base prices are determined by the GoI around January-February every year. Explaining the method to the madness in the fertiliser sector and pricing, an official in the MoCF says the policy has many loopholes that benefit companies and spell doom for farmers. “On the one hand, Indian private players (manufacturers) jack up their prices to suit the market demand. If the farmer can afford a certain price, that price will be levied. There’s no upper limit, no regulations. The markets have been destroyed because the farmers just cannot afford the prices. Every monsoon, they jack up the prices as both demand and desperation is high,” he adds. …


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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – September 24th, 2012

September 25, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Communal Harmony When young hearts beat fast for peace and communal harmony News Headlines Make Hitler your idol instead of Vivekananda: Sanjiv Bhatt to Narendra Modi Naroda Patia case: Judge raps RK Raghavan over missing convict Tulsi fake encounter case: CBI’s ex-ADG is accused No. 17 Batla House [...]

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Coalition Against Genocide condemns SIT’s shoddy report on Gujarat violence

May 11, 2012

May 11, 2012 Coalition Against Genocide (CAG –, a broad coalition of over 40 organizations dedicated to the cause of justice and accountability, condemns the report filed by the Special Investigations Team (SIT) as shoddy investigation and a deliberate distortion of evidence. The Supreme Court appointed SIT’s closure report, on the complaint brought forth [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 5th, 2012

March 6, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Announcements Gujarat still starved of justice 10 years after carnage says Indian American Muslim group Indian American Group welcomes Congressional Resolution on Gujarat Violence of 2002 News Headlines U.S. House concerned at reports of Modi’s ‘complicity’ in riots Gujarat riot victims still awaiting justice: Amnesty Ten years on, [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 30th, 2012

January 31, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Announcements Narendra Modi’s fast in Godhra an exercise in political chicanery, says Indian American group Mahatma Gandhi’s Death Anniversary should be an occasion for National Introspection says Indian American group Communal Harmony They spring a unique approach to harmony News Headlines Prosecute CM or not? SIT seeks legal [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 16th, 2012

January 16, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines Gujarat CM, HM culpable in 2002 riots: Ex-DGP Amid bouts of amnesia, Zadaphia puts Modi in dock CBI grills Amit Shah for 8 hrs in Tulsi case Justice eludes victims falsely arrested in Mecca Masjid blast case Batla House encounter returns to haunt Congress Surya Namaskar [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 26th, 2011

December 27, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines Modi is ‘dramatis personae’ of Gujarat ‘carnage’ 2002: Sanjiv Bhatt CBI questions Chudasama, Patel in Prajapati encounter case Father of alleged IM operative sues N Ram, Praveen Swami Sangh Parivar playing pressure tactics to freeze terror cases: PFI Pass anti-communal violence Bill: minorities Slice of OBC [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 19th, 2011

December 19, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Announcements Harvard’s decision to drop courses by Subramanian Swamy, a welcome step says Indian American group News Headlines Grill me, Modi and ex-DGP jointly: Bhatt to riot panel Riot panel brings ‘intelligence fund for bribe’ on record Ishrat encounter: CBI case against 20 policemen CBI arrests 13 in [...]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 21st, 2011

November 21, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Communal Harmony Measure in place to observe communal harmony week News Headlines Hindu radicals disguised as Muslims planted Malegaon bombs? Justice is yet to be fully delivered in the post-Godhra riots Gujarat riots: SIT concealing evidences to protect politicians, say victims There’s threat to life, but it’s not [...]

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