IAMC Weekly News Roundup - April 1st, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 1st, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

US lawmakers paid Rs 9 lakh each to praise Modi: report (Mar 30, 2013, Indian Express)

Amid a raging controversy over the funding of the visit of three members of the US Congress, who have spoken for an American visa for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the Congressmen rejected allegations questioning the legitimacy of their trip. The visit of a group of Americans including the three Congressmen – Aaron Schock, Cynthia Lummis and Cathy M Rodgers – and some businessmen has now been mired in a controversy following reports that the team members may have been paid between $3,000 (Rs 1,60,000) and $6,000 (Rs 8.68 lakhs) each for the trip. Organised by Chicago-based National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI), the trip included visits to Bangalore, Tirupati, Jaipur, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and Golden Temple in Amritsar and a ‘Bollywood Extravaganza’.

The team met Modi on Thursday, praised his work and invited him to visit the US, saying they will work to get him a visa, denied by the country for his alleged role in the post-Godhra riots of 2002. Following reports in an ethnic Indian daily in the US on the trip, the Congress and BJP traded attacks on each other. Congress Spokesperson Rashid Alvi said it was a “shame that the Congressmen were paid for getting a visa and certificate of development for Modi”. Vijay Jolly, convenor of Overseas BJP, rejected the charges, saying the Congressmen have spent their own money and there was no impropriety involved.

When questioned about the charges, Schock first reacted asking what was the issue involved. “All I would say is that our trip here was signed off by the appropriate authorities in our government… and specifically by the House of Representatives. I would simply say that three members of Congress don’t just leave the country. “So I am not going to get into all the nuances. Certainly some people do not like the fact that we are here… perhaps some people do not agree with what we are saying here… but certainly as American members of Congress we have a free right to come over here,” Schock said. “I have checked appropriate boxes necessary to make this trip legitimate and well within all the rules and accordances of US Congress,” he said.

NRI businessman and founder of NIAPPI Shalabh Kumar said, “There is a very strong House Ethics Committee that disapproves or approves visits by Congressmen to other countries”. “So an organisation like NIAPPI, that is a think-tank, sponsors visits, and trade people who want to go and establish business,” Kumar said. Alvi said, “One feels ashamed over this kind of news. It is an insult to a nation. The Congressmen were given Rs 9 lakh each so that America can give him (Modi) visa and a certificate of development. “This is unfortunate. If the money had been spent in Gujarat for the poor and development, then it would have been much better,” he said. Jolly said there was no controversy at all. In America, people even pay for attending a dinner with the President. “The US businessmen wanted to come to India. They spend their own money. They have been attracted by Narendra Modi’s governance,” he said, attacking the Congress for making an issue of the trip.

Gujarat Congress billed the visit as “nothing but a marketing gimmick by some global public relations firm to market Modi’. Congress President Arjun Modhwadia alleged that an impression was created as if it was an official US delegation and the US government itself has extended the invitation to Modi to visit America. Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said in a tweet: “Modi says give visa I will give you business, Americans say give business we will give you visa. Who is bribing whom is a million dollar question.” Ahmed, who is the AICC in-charge for West Bengal and Jharkhand, said “people say the visit of US lawmakers along with a delegation to Modi means that you give us business we will give you Visa. Isn’t it a bribe?.” AICC Secretary Praveen Davar hit out at the US delegation for inviting the Gujarat Chief Minister describing it as “thoughtless” move. “I strongly condemn the three Republicans for inviting Modi to the US. Have Americans forgotten who masterminded 2002 Gujarat genocide? Repeated victory at the hustings does not absolve Modi of alleged crimes against humanity. Lawmakers must withdraw their thoughtless invite,” Davar said.



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Did aggressive Hindutva agenda cost BJP dear? (Mar 31, 2013, The Hindu)

The Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a serious setback in its bastion – coastal Karnataka – in the urban local body elections, putting it in a spot of bother ahead of the Assembly elections on May 5. Now, the question is whether the defeat can be attributed to the aggressive Hindutva agenda the party and its affiliates pursued here over the last five years and if these activities alienated the youth from the party. Since 2009 and as recently as early March, the region witnessed a series of attacks on churches. There have been vigilante attacks – big and small – including the pub attack and ‘home stay’ attack in Mangalore in which young men and women were thrashed. These attacks caught national attention. The perpetrators were seen as immune to the rule of law and protected by the ruling party.

The BJP saw a 10 per cent decline in the number of seats it won in the recent ULB elections compared to the 2007 polls in coastal Karnataka. The biggest blow was in the Udupi Municipal Council, which went to the Congress after a gap of over four decades. Political observers say that people’s rejection of the militant face of Hindutva may be one explanation for this. However, various other factors related to anti-incumbency and disillusionment of the people who believed BJP to be a “party with a difference” also contributed strongly to the change in the political tide.

Associate professor at Mangalore University Rajaram Tolpady pointed out that the “bodily attack” as in the case of the ‘home stay’ case of July 28, 2012, came to be criticised by “people of all ideologies.” Militant Hindutva poses “a big threat to individual liberty which nobody tolerates,” he said. Retired professor at St. Aloysius College Rolphie Mascarenhas said minorities had been apprehensive since the beginning of the BJP rule and their fears have come true. The ULB poll results could partly be because of the cumulative effect of this.

The incidents were not isolated, but appeared to be the handiwork of an “organ of the government.” But a stronger reason for the vote against the BJP was the utter disappointment of people about the very governance of the BJP. “There was no government from day one,” he said. But political analyst G. Rajashekar suggested that the Hindutva ideology had ramifications beyond the context of elections. He hoped that the party’s poor show would create a self-doubt about Hindutva politics.

Prof. Mascarehnas suggested that it was desertion of the BJP followers that caused the damage. Even K. Ram Bhat Urimajalu, former Puttur MLA, who rebelled against the interference of RSS in BJP matters, said that “breach of trust” by the party that went against its promise of a corruption-free and selfless government was to blame for its debacle in the ULB elections. He does not accept that Hindutva agenda of the party had anything to do with it. Mr. Tolpady said that Hindutva would not work as a long-term strategy and the BJP would realise this sooner than later. He gave the example Narendra Modi in Gujarat who no longer speaks of Hindutva but keeps harping on the more acceptable “development” agenda. Experts point out that people in rural areas are much more disillusioned with the BJP than the urban voters, who expressed their preference in ULB polls.



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Police make 5 dead accused in Dhule riots (Mar 28, 2013, Indian Express)

Five of the six people killed in police firing during the Dhule riots of January 6 have been named accused. Four of them, including a minor, were shot in the back, while one received a bullet in his neck. Police have named the five in a remand application filed before judicial magistrate first-class, Dhule, on January 13. Interestingly, the name of the only victim shot from the front, Rizwan Shah (22), has been omitted from the FIR. His injuries below the waist suggest police followed rules.

“We first used teargas and then lathi-charge. As we could not control the riot, we opened fire that killed five rioters,” inspector P D Pawar of Dhule Crime Branch said in the remand application. The dead who have been made accused are Asif Ansari (32), Shaikh Nasir (25), Saud Patel (17), Imran Ali (25) and Yunus Shah (22). As per the post-mortem report, the first four had bullet entry wounds in their backs, while Shah was shot in the neck and died four days later on January 10.

Prima facie, all the said accused seem to have died in police firing which was not in accordance with the police manual. “Firing must aim low and at the most threatening part of the crowd with a view not to cause fatalities but to disperse. As soon as the crowd shows signs of breaking up, firing must stop,” the manual says. The remand application also states the rioters used acid to attack police. This was not mentioned in the two FIRs police filed soon after the riots.



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Mumbai police face defamation suit for false terror circular (Apr 1, 2013, Mumbai Mirror)

The Jamat-e-Islami Hind, a wellknown organisation that runs more than 500 educational institutions across the country, has threatened to sue the Mumbai police for defamation if they do not apologise for a Special Branch circular that alleged that members of its women’s wing “were indoctrinating college girls and imparting training in jihad.” The Girls Islamic Organisation is a branch of the hardline Jamat, one of India’s largest Islamic organisation that runs 40 high schools and 3 junior colleges in Maharashtra. On Sunday, Jamat office bearers told Mumbai Mirror that they are preparing legal action against the Mumbai police for defaming their organisation. Additional Commissioner of Police, Special Branch, Naval Bajaj, whose signature the memo bears, sought to distance himself from the controversy and said the communication was an internal circular that was never meant to be in the public domain.

“The circular was meant for internal purpose only,” Bajaj told this newspaper. “It was not supposed to be in the public domain but unfortunately it is now in the public domain. And the damage has been done. No officer will write a report on his own without getting the information.” The circular, issued in the third week of March, read: “The group GIO is an offshoot of the 65-year-old Jamat-e-Islami Organisation and is currently active in Kerala. The purported aim of this organisation is to make more and more Muslim women aware of their religion and the holy Quran.

But the real objective of this organisation is to brainwash college and school girls and train them for jihad.” The circular also names two women – Saleha Baji and Sumayya – as heading the organisation. The Jamat dubbed the circular as a conspiracy to malign Islam and Muslims. “We run 40 high schools and three junior colleges just in Maharashtra,” said Mohammad Aslam Ghazi, spokesperson, Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Maharashtra. “There seems to be no rhyme or reason to relate the Girls’ Islamic Organisation to terrorist activities. We are meeting Bajaj with a delegation on Monday to ask why the circular was issued. If he doesn’t apologise, we will file a case of defamation.” Ghazi said the Jamat-e-Islami Hind was a socio-religious organisation working for peace, justice and to fight against prejudice injected by the state machinery.

“GIO is our daughter organisation, instituted to provide girls with both Islamic and modern education,” said Ghazi. “The defamatory circular is a result of the communal minds deeply ingrained among our administrative, intelligence and security agencies.” Activists slammed the Mumbai police for what they said was a prejudiced and baseless circular. Mumbai-based criminal lawyer Majeed Memon said such circulars only created panic, suspicion and avoidable controversies.

“While it is true that the security of citizens is paramount, it is equally important that policemen do not abuse their powers under the guise of security by harassing a section of the society,” said Memon. “Aren’t policemen expected to keep an eye on everyone; why Muslim women alone?” Rizwan Merchant, another criminal lawyer, said “Every religious group is free to practice and preach their own religion. On the other hand by issuing such circulars it shows that the roving eyes of the police and it also means invasion of privacy of Muslim women.”



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Eight policemen convicted in Gonda fake encounter case (Mar 30, 2013, Times of India)

Eight policemen have been convicted by a special CBI court here in a 31-year-old fake encounter case in Gonda district in which 13 people, including a deputy superintendent of police, were killed. Special CBI judge Rajendra Singh convicted the eight yesterday and fixed April 5 as the next date to fix quantum of sentence. One policemen Prem Singh was acquitted of the charges. In all 19 policemen were made accused in the case of which 10 died during the course of the trial.

Dy SP and circle officer K P Singh and 12 other people were killed in the fake encounter in Madhopur village in March 1982. Police initially claimed that Singh was killed by criminals, but his wife Vibha Singh suspected foul play and moved the Supreme Court, which ordered a CBI inquiry. The CBI filed charge sheet against 19 policemen of which 10 died during the trail.

Those convicted include the then PAC commandant Ramakant Dixit, station house officer R B Saroj, sub-inspectors Naseem Ahmad, Mangal Singh, Parvez Hussain, Rajendra Prasad Singh, head constable Prem Narain Pandey and constable Ram Karan. The eight convicts were sent to jail.



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Civil group to move court seeking release of Nimesh Commission Report (Mar 29, 2013, Muslim Mirror)

To put pressure on the Samajwadi Party government of Uttar Pradesh to release the RD Nimesh Commission report, a civil group is moving Barabanki district court which is hearing the case of terror accused Hakim Tariq and Khalid Mujahid. The commission inquired into the 2007 arrest of the duo in connection with the serial court blasts of that year and submitted its report in August 2012 but the state government of Akhilesh Yadav has not yet released it. Awami Council for Democracy and Peace is going to file an application under section 311 of Code of Criminal Procedure seeking summoning of the RD Nimesh Commission report in the Barabanki court where the trial of the duo is going on in the blasts case.

The duo is being trialed on the basis of the charge-sheet filed by the police while the government-appointed commission has found that the very arrest of the duo was illegal. That’s why in the larger interest of the public we are going to file the petition seeking summoning of the Nimesh Commission report,” Asad Hayat of Awami Council for Democracy and Peace told Muslim Mirror over phone. He informed that he would file the petition on 2nd April.

On 23rd November 2007 several blasts took place at court premises in Varanasi, Faizabad, Lucknow. The state police picked Hakim Tariq on 12th December 2007 in Azamgarh and Khalid Mujahid on 16thDecember in Jaunpur. However, the police presented the duo before the media on 22nd December in Barabanki. The police claimed the duo was arrested with arms and ammunition. As the villagers had seen picking of the duo, there was huge protest and demonstration against the 22nd Dec. claim of the UP police. Succumbing to the public pressure the then chief minister Mayawati announced to set up a commission to look into the arrest of Tariq and Mujahid. About five years after the constitution, the commission submitted its report on 31st August 2012.

However, over six months have passed since, the SP government has not made the report public. The report has been leaked out and is available on internet. As the commission has raised questions about the claim of the police regarding the arrest of the duo, civil rights groups and family members of the duo have been demanding the state government to make the report public. “It is a serious matter of human and civil rights. The state government should not sit on this precious report. As it is sleeping on the report, I am moving the court to put pressure on the government,” Hayat said.



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Facebook post sparks protests in Maharashtra (Mar 29, 2013, Indian Express)

A post on Facebook sparked tension in parts of Bhiwandi and Thane on Thursday, with shops remaining shut through the day. The police said the post hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims. Angry crowds staged protests, demanding the arrest of the person who posted objectionable photos denigrating the holy mosque at Mecca.

According to local residents and the police, the post was initially seen by a few residents of Rabodi in Thane on Wednesday. More than 100 people from the locality staged a protest at around 8pm on Wednesday, and approached the Rabodi police station seeking action against the person who posted the pictures. By midnight, the news about the post spread to the outskirts of Bhiwandi.

A mob of around 200 people then blocked the Mumbai-Nashik highway, stopping traffic movement for more than an hour. The police had to resort to mild lathicharge to disperse the mob. Some protesters moved towards Bhiwandi. Protests were also held at Nizampura, Shantinagar, Vanzarpatti and Bhiwandi town. After the protests, the police sought permission from a metropolitan magistrate court to block the Facebook page, and by evening the page was removed.



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Karnataka BJP law-maker in sex CD row, to stay away from May 5 assembly polls (Mar 28, 2013, DNA India)

A CD allegedly showing Karnataka BJP law maker Raghupathi Bhat in sexual acts has surfaced, prompting him to announce that he would not contest the May 5 assembly polls in the state. Bhat, a second-time law-maker from Udupi, about 400km west of Bangalore, however, denied he is the man shown in the CD and sought a probe to establish the truth.

State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Pralhad Joshi told reporters here that the party would take action only after it is proved that the man in the CD is Bhat. Bhat told Kannada TV channels from Udupi that he too had received a copy of the CD only late Wednesday and he suspects a “political conspiracy” against him. The channels did not telecast the CD on the ground that it was too explicit. Bhat said his decision to stay away from the assembly poll was intended to avoid embarrassment for his party.

Joshi also said the development would not affect BJP’s prospects in the polls. Bhat, 45, is not new to controversies. His wife Padmapriya was found dead in an apartment in Dwarka locality in southwest Delhi in July 2008 after remaining missing for five days. Karnataka Police have termed the death of Padmapriya, who was 32 at that time, as suicide and Bhat’s childhood friend Atul Rao has been charged with abetting it. The trial in the case continues.



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Kerala minister KB Ganesh Kumar quits after wife alleges domestic violence (Apr 2, 2013, Deccan Herald)

Kerala’s Forest Minister K B Ganesh Kumar handed over his resignation to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy late on Monday night after his estranged wife accused him of ill-treatment. Forty-six-year old film star-turned-politician was accompanied by his friend and State Labour Minister Shibu Baby John and other friends from the film industry including ace director Shaji Kailas and producer Suresh Kumar at the chief minister’s official residence. Though earlier in the evening he refused to resign, K.B.Ganesh Kumar was forced to change his mind after his estranged wife Yamini Thankachi, a medical professional, complained about his ill treatment of her in written to Chandy.

Chandy accepted the letter and asked her to approach the nearest police station. The chief minister then called the director general of police, K.S.Balasubramanion, and his senior cabinet colleagues and held closed door discussions. Speaking to reporters Chandy said that Kumar’s wife had come with a written complaint against the minister. “I called the DGP and handed over the complaint. In the morning Kumar had also registered a complaint at the police station. “And now in the light of this he has decided to resign and his resignation will be sent to the governor tomorrow,” he said. Kumar, in the presence of Chandy, said he was stepping down to keep the high moral standards.”For an impartial inquiry into the allegations that have been levelled, it’s improper for me to continue as a minister and hence I have stepped down.”

Earlier in the day, Thankachi accused Chandy of “cheating” her by not accepting her complaint of domestic violence by her husband who was now moving to divorce her. She claimed to have been assured by Chandy for his intervention to solve the matter amicably. But hours later Kumar filed for divorce, alleging harassment including physical torture, by his doctor wife Thankachy. “I had a complaint with me but the CM did not accept it and told me that he will intervene and bring an amicable settlement. Chandy dismissed the charge. “The last date according to the agreement was yesterday (Sunday) and I spoke to the CM yesterday (Sunday) also but today (Monday) I hear that the minister has filed a divorce petition. I was cheated by the CM,” said Thankachi. “I have been facing the brutal physical assault against me by the minister for the past 16 years and everyone in his family (including his father and former minister R.Balakrishna Pillai) is well aware of my sufferings. “I placed a lot of hope on the CM but he too cheated me,” she added.

Earlier in the day, Kumar refused to resign in the wake of the allegations and accused her of demanding Rs.75 lakh to be deposited in her name. Reacting to Thankachi’s allegations, Chandy admitted having assured her of his intervention to solve the dispute. “She had not given me any written complaint.” “I did my best to intervene to solve their issues and in the first round, I succeeded. The agreement was made out but it failed in the implementation part. I feel she is being prompted by some external forces,” he said.

Meanwhile, the opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) accused Chandy of misleading the assembly and demanded his resignation. “If a minister’s wife is not able to get her issues sorted out in a domestic violence case and Chandy totally hid this from the assembly when he made a statement last month. He has no other go but to quit,” former home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told reporters. Leader of Opposition V.S.Achuthanandan also jumped into the fray and demanded Chandy’s resignation for misleading the house on the issue of domestic violence in the case of the minister and his wife.



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Marathi writer charged with rape of three Dalit women, absconds (Mar 27, 2013, IBN)

A manhunt has been launched to trace leading Marathi writer Laxman Mane, who has been booked for raping three Dalit women working at a school he runs, police said on Tuesday. Mane’s family meanwhile dismissed the charges. “He is still absconding and police teams are investigating the matter,” an official from Satara police control told IANS.

A former Maharashtra legislative council member, the 63-year old Mane has been charged with raping three women who were working as temporary cooks at a residential tribal school he runs at Jakatwadi in Satara, around 250 kms to the south-east of Mumbai. According to police, the complaints were lodged on Monday night by the trio – married and aged between 30-35 – alleging Mane raped them under the lure of making them permanent employees of the school.

The victims – all aged between 30 and 35 – have claimed that he raped them between 2003 and 2010 in the school premises, at his home in Satara and at a guest house in Pune. After registering offences under Indian Penal Code Sec. 376 (rape), police teams have visited Mane’s home and other known places frequented by him, but so far he remains untraceable, the official said.

Meanwhile, Mane’s family has stoutly denied the allegations against Mane and claimed that he is being framed in the false case to malign his reputation. Mane was conferred the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1981 and Padma Shri in 2009, besides several other awards and honours during his writing career.



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Opinions and Editorials

Narendra Modi’s re-induction: How to tackle BJP’s incompatibility with the RSS – By T K Arun (Apr 1, 2013, Economic Times)

Ever since the Mad Hatter admonished Alice for confusing ‘saying what she meant’ with ‘meaning what she said’, we have had clarity on the distinction between the two, one whose significance gets reinforced with every passing day in the wonderland of Indian politics. Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Uma Bharti and Varun Gandhi, faces of hardline Hindutva, have been elevated to the BJP’s central leadership, while Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar , who represent reform and commitment to governance, fail to find a place in the constellation of 82 announced Sunday. Does this increase the chances of Narendra Modi being made the party’s prime ministerial candidate before the elections? Absolutely not. Does the exit of Shanta Kumar and Vasundhara Raje mean that former chief ministers have lost favour?

But Sadanand Gowda, former chief minister of Karnataka, has been roped in. Nor does Hema Malini’s exit mean any generalised fall in the stock of actresses: Smriti Irani has been elevated. But one thing is clear. Modi’s stock has risen. His former minister of state for home Amit Shah, accused of masterminding the Sohrabuddin Sheikh killing, is now a general secretary of the party, while Modi himself is the only serving chief minister to find a place in the 12 member central parliamentary board. The truth is, the BJP does not declare who its leaders really are, nor are its declared leaders the real men who matter. The BJP was created by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as its political arm and has remained as such. The RSS decides who the party’s president would be and for how long. The RSS chose Nitin Gadkari as party president and then replaced him with Rajnath Singh.

This is not in the party’s constitution but then, so what? If the BJP ends up in a position to form the government after the 2014 elections, the RSS will decide on the prime minister. An individual leader’s popularity does not really cut much ice with the RSS, who sees the BJP and the governments it forms as means to its ultimate goal: upturning liberal democracy with a political order that puts Muslims in their place as second-class citizens. The RSS’ quarrel with Modi is not ideological. Rather, the problem is that Modi is not amenable to control by the Sangh. He has rendered the Sangh toothless in Gujarat, making himself larger than life in the state. Can the Sangh risk such dentistry at the national level as well? But this real reason for silence on a pre-poll PM candidate does not have to be revealed.

A worrying paucity of allies willing to rally under ‘Modi for prime minister’ is sufficient, for the time being. The immediate challenge before the BJP is to salvage Karnataka, the first southern state to elect a BJP government. With the exit of its former strongman Yeddyurappa, the BJP faces a very tough fight there. Party president Rajnath Singh has invited none other than Narendra Modi to lead this crucial battle. Modi, sensibly, has declined this invitation to play a national role, which, by sheer coincidence, of course, also promises to be a suicidal one. But the BJP suddenly sees a ray of hope in Karnataka – Rahul Gandhi. The Congress vice-president, preaching inner party democracy, has autocratically imposed rank outsiders on the Karnataka party.

CM Ibrahim, whose chief service to the nation has been to abort a new airline mooted by the Tatas as civil aviation minister in the United Front government, is Gandhi’s choice for campaign strategist. Of course, no Congressman is mad enough to play Mad Hatter to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. So Congressmen are likely to assert inner party democracy the most effective way they know: ensure the defeat of externally imposed leaders. It is safer to play contrary on the quiet. So, impetuous Sushma Swaraj – she broke into dance at Raj Ghat once – who has turned responsible, of late – she did not demand that 10 Pakistani prisoners be killed in Indian jails in return for the one Indian prisoner who died in Pakistan – could take up the challenge. But the BJP’s real problem is the fundamental incompatibility of the RSS project with democracy. Contrary, after all, is not the same thing as contradictory. How to tackle this contradiction is the real challenge.



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From Hermitude To Holography – By Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay (Apr 8, 2013, Outlook)

…I asked him about the boundaries of existence his political clan has enforced on non-Hindus and the need for them to accept Hindu ideas and ideals as their own. Modi replied: “Yes, that was the basic argument (in the course of the Ayodhya agitation, that Muslims also must accept Lord Ram as the symbol of national identity), the main philosophy – that he also was a mahapurush (great man) of this country. And that everyone in this country should believe in this – those who led this agitation campaigned for this.” At this point of the interview, it becomes evident that Modi strongly believes that if minorities wished to coexist and feel safe in the state governed by him, it was mandatory for them to abide by the beliefs and value systems of the majority community. Meanwhile, I prodded on as Modi was opening up, and this was my best chance to get to the core of Modi’s understanding of Hindutva and I asked him: “India has a composite culture. There is tremendous social diversity. How do you look at inter-community relationships and the relationship of different social and religious groups with the State?” Modi did not answer my question explicitly but said: “People can have different forms of puja and rituals can also be different – but that does not mean that the country, the traditions of the land can become different. …

Modi’s first hurdle after he became chief minister in 2001 was to find a safe seat and become member of the state assembly within the mandatory six-month period. But this was not easy for two reasons: Modi had never contested any election in his political career, and secondly, with the BJP traversing a rough terrain, finding a safe seat was difficult. As we have seen, Modi did not have apolitical home. He had been mostly Ahmedabad-based since joining the RSS in the early 1970s and ideally wanted to contest from a city seat – where he would personally know party workers – vacated by a party colleague. But an easy entry to the state assembly proved difficult for Modi because Haren Pandya, whose seat Modi wanted, did not oblige.

If such provocation was not enough, Pandya courted further trouble in the aftermath of the 2002 riots when he appeared before the Concerned Citizens Tribunal headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Krishna Iyer in May 2002. The deposition was made on an understanding that he would not be named. However, Modi’s intelligence wing, which an unnamed source says was fine-tuned after he became chief minister because Modi had been inspired by “Shivaji’s spy network” and wanted to develop an intelligence web like that, kept track of Pandya’s movements. Even his mobile phone was tapped – media reports claimed – as a result of which Modi got to know about Pandya’s deposition in almost real-time in May 2002.

Modi, however, was not satisfied at easing Pandya out of his government. In assembly elections, held in November-December 2002, the friend-turned-foe was not nominated by the party even after the intervention of stalwarts such as Advani and Vajpayee. The media reported gleefully that in order to avoid being pressurised into nominating Pandya, Modi checked into a hospital and stopped taking phone calls from New Delhi. After this, Pandya receded from the limelight and lived a quiet life till March 26, 2003, when everything was over for him. On that dreadful morning, an unknown assassin’s gun silenced Pandya when he was returning from a morning walk in the sprawling Law Garden, a public park in Ahmedabad.

The Haren Pandya murder case became the first of the several high-profile non-2002-riots court cases in Gujarat that cast a shadow over Modi’s regime. In police parlance, the Pandya murder case was termed a cut-out murder, where the chain from the conspirator or instigator to the eventual victim is impossible to establish. A police contact explained it like this: “A wants to murder Z and instructs B to execute the order. B tells C who does not know that A is the instigator. Instructions are passed in this manner from C to D and then to E and it goes down all the way. The final contract killer does not know where the order originated from. If investigations turns nasty, then all A has to do is to make any of the people in the chain a cut-out – take him out by beginning another chain.”



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The Fight For Muslims Is Fundamental For The Survival Of Our Democracy – By Shoma Chaudhury (Mar 28, 2013, Tehelka)

Some years ago, at a TEHELKA press conference, a young Muslim man walked up to TEHELKA Editor Tarun Tejpal and held his hand in deep gratitude. “If it had not been for your journalists, we would long have picked up the gun. Your work gives us hope, Sir,” he said. “You help us believe we belong to this country.” It was one of those rare moments of vindication journalists live for. The young man’s father, a respected maulvi, was falsely incarcerated then. We had just written his story. He would be acquitted a few years later. In a sense, it is immaterial who that young man was. Over the past few years, TEHELKA journalists have documented hundreds of stories of innocent Muslims languishing in jails – often brutally tortured – on flimsy or false charges. It is easy to blank that phrase out, to be inured to it: “Hundreds of Muslims arrested on false charges”. But each case hides hair-raising stories about prejudice, incompetence and deliberate malafide. Each case also holds stories of pain, destroyed lives and hollowed futures.

Innocent Muslims have been jailed with impunity in India over the past decade because it was easy to jail them. Within hours of any terror attack, a bunch of Muslim boys would be arrested and their names aired in the media as “masterminds”. Then they would disappear from mainstream consciousness. Their guilt was assumed: it did not need to be proved. Since 2001, a terrible maxim had seeped into the Indian mainstream: All Muslims may not be terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims. It did not matter if you caught the wrong ones. No one needed veracity. Everyone only wanted the illusion of security and “action taken”.

It wasn’t easy to report on these stories and ask the hard questions. The few human rights and media groups who did, were scorned as “anti-national”. Or doctrinaire liberals. The key point was missed. It is no one’s position that those who plant bombs should go unpunished. Those, like us, who were raising flags had only two simple arguments to make. One, take the long route, catch the real culprits, remain constitutional: that is the only way to real security. Two: do not make false arrests and breed fresh despair, triggering new cycles of hate and revenge. In the clever calculations men make about security and State, they underestimate the power of human despair. When you lose faith that a system will play fair by you, it can breed fatal recklessness. It can make you abdicate from the rules that cement human relations. Despair can turn you from citizen to perpetrator. From the hunted to the hunter. Despair can be a deadly weapon.

Fortunately – even if slowly – this dangerous tide has begun to turn. The dogged exposés are paying off. Over the past few months, there have been some very significant developments. First, in November last year, nudged by a committed citizens’ group – People’s Campaign against the Politics of Terror – CPM leader Prakash Karat took a list of 22 Muslims to President Pranab Mukherjee and demanded the Centre take immediate steps to help such victims of “State-led injustice”. The demands included fast-track courts; rehabilitation and compensation for those falsely jailed; and a review of the UAPA Act. Most importantly, Karat’s delegation to the President made the idea of ‘justice for Muslims’ front-page news. The sound-proof towers had been breached.

In March this year, in another unprecedented move, in the Rajasthan High Court Infosys agreed to pay a compensation of 20 lakh to Rashid Husain, a young Muslim engineer who’d been questioned by the police and unfairly sacked from his job soon after. Hopefully, this will set a blueprint for all those whose lives and reputations have been similarly destroyed. Young men who’ve spent decades in jail; who cannot find jobs or houses to rent even when they’re acquitted; whose families find themselves ostracised and sisters find themselves unmarriageable because their brothers have been stigmatised. Finally, in a potentially far-reaching move, this week – perhaps driven by cynical electoral concerns – Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde wrote to parliamentarian Mohammed Adeeb that the government was considering setting up fast-track courts to expedite trials of Muslims in terror cases. It is absolutely crucial that this letter of intent does not go into oblivion. The fight for justice for Muslims is not an act of chivalric charity towards minorities: it is a fundamental act of survival for Indian democracy.



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Rethinking National Counter Terrorism Centre – By Bhaskar Menon (Apr 1, 2013, Twocircles.net)

Those opposed to an unconstitutional National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) with a dangerous combination of Intelligence and Police powers should propose an alternative: a National Intelligence Centre (NIC) with statutory powers over all other civilian agencies and a Director reporting directly to the Prime Minister. This will result in the entire Intelligence establishment being brought within a constitutional framework and made accountable to Parliament. It will also ensure that reforms necessary for coherence and efficiency will get continuing attention at the highest level. The legislation on the matter should: Provide for reform: Parliament should mandate the NIC to carry out a thorough review and appraisal of existing Intelligence agencies and arrangements and recommend comprehensive changes to improve their coherence and effectiveness. Changes should aim to create dedicated capacities to monitor the full range of strategic developments in economic, social and political sectors within the country and outside, with the NIC integrating information flows and making overall analyses. That broad approach will throw into high relief the motivations and means driving significant trends and point to countries, groups and individuals that merit special attention. This process should also make clear the requirements in terms of personnel, training, technical development and budgeting for the continuous improvement of Intelligence activities. In sum, the reforms will build capacity for pro-active policy and action.

Require public reporting by the NIC: In an open democracy public understanding is critically important to counter domestic anti-national forces and foreign subversion. Parliament must mandate that relevant portions of the analytical work of the NIC be made public in regular and special reports. These must be subject to debate by central and state legislators and in the media. Require cooperation with civil society: No Intelligence agency can be effective without cooperation from members of the public. At present such cooperation is ad hoc, and can depend on anything from a general fear of officialdom to intimidation and blackmail, Parliament should mandate the NIC to create a regular, structured relationship with civil society, especially in gathering information on communal issues. On other matters affecting national security such as corruption in defence procurement and financing of violent groups within the country the NIC should have a mandate to inform and educate the media so that reporters know basic facts and policy parameters and cannot be manipulated by “leaks” from interested parties. The NIC should also work with other statutory bodies such as the National Press Council to call public attention to issues of systemic anti-national bias.

Create an Appeals Mechanism: If Intelligence operatives infringe on the rights, liberties and lives of Indian citizens there should be a mechanism to address problems without public disclosures harmful to national security. Parliament should create an easily accessed and responsive Grievance Mechanism providing for appeals up to a Parliamentary Standing Committee with confidential procedures that could, when necessary, bring matters to the attention of the Prime Minister and President. Use of this mechanism should not preclude legal options for affected parties. Promote understanding of India’s strategic interests: Intelligence agencies can only be effective within a clear strategic framework. Most developed countries, especially those with global interests, have such frameworks but few spell it out. Britain, for instance, has its famous “permanent interests” that are unspecified but boil down to the benefit it can draw from any situation. The United States is unique in publicly defining its overall national strategy as the promotion of democracy globally. That reflects the country’s anti-colonial foundation and its evolution on the basis of a set of inalienable values.

The Indian constitution draws heavily on the American and so the global expansion of democracy is also its fundamental strategic interest; but it is not the only one. Equally important is increased social equity as the country’s diverse communities move ponderously from many different stages of development into a shared economic and political system. So is the maintenance of India’s traditional values at a time when the verities of Western “progress” must be overwritten in the interests of a liveable planet. The strategic picture is further complicated by the existence of many foreign proxies within India, an unavoidable legacy of colonial rule. Under these conditions a primary national imperative is broad public awareness of what is necessary for the country’s continued evolution according to its own best lights. Parliament must make provision for these issues to be debated nationally in a continuing and constructive process that draws in educational and training institutions, including those that shape government officials and Intelligence operatives. With these parameters the NIC can be more than an effective guard against foreign and domestic enemies; it can be a powerful support for India’s vast transition to a new age.



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Criminalising People’s Protests – By Anand Teltumbde (Apr 6, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)

Public protests signify that democracy is alive and well. Whatever its form, the essence of democracy is the space it provides for people to voice their protest against the government. However, while India has managed to flaunt for decades that it is the world’s largest functional democracy, it has systematically decimated such space for the masses. Today, this space has been symbolically reduced to small designated pockets in every state capital where aggrieved people can gather and shout to their hearts’ content only so that they can hear themselves. Not much unlike jails, with their barbed wire fences and narrow openings guarded by a thick posse of armed policemen, the authorities do not let public protest infect the people at large. The maximum the people protesting at these places can reach is the police sub-inspector seated there to receive their memorandums. Indian democracy has not, however, been content with this general strangulation of democratic space; it often takes offensive against the protesters by slapping criminal charges on them. Examples are legion but the recent proceedings against Irom Sharmila, the iron lady of Manipur, who was brought to Delhi to face trial for her “crime of attempting suicide” at the Jantar Mantar best highlights this trend.

Sharmila’s protest began with her indefinite fast on 3 November 2000, a day after 10 persons were shot down by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian paramilitary forces operating in Manipur, while waiting at a bus stop just outside Imphal. The incident later came to be known as the “Malom Massacre”. Within days, Sharmila was taken by the police, and since then, she is being force-fed a liquid concoction of nutrients in a hospital, which serves as her prison. After every year in detention, she is released for a day and rearrested for attempting to commit suicide, because she refuses to call off her fast until the government repeals the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), which is in force in Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and parts of Arunachal Pradesh besides, Jammu and Kashmir. Now in its 13th year, her protest is the longest hunger strike in recorded history, which has shaken the entire world but failed to sensitise the Indian rulers. On the contrary, they chose to actuate their penal machine and charged her with an “attempt to commit suicide”, which is unlawful under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

The AFSPA against which Sharmila reiterated her protest to the metropolitan magistrate, Delhi however continues on the statute. This draconian Act that giving the army the unquestionable powers to shoot to kill, arrest and search or even destroy property on mere suspicion and enacted as a short-term measure to allow the deployment of the army in India’s north-eastern Naga Hills, has been in existence for over five decades. According to a report entitled “Manipur: Memorandum on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions” by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the United Nations, altogether 1,528 people, including 31 women and 98 children were killed in fake encounters by the security forces in Manipur alone between 1979 and May 2012. Of these, 419 were killed by the Assam Rifles, while 481 were killed by combined teams of Manipur Police and the central security forces. These are gory statistics but they do not tell the human tragedy that befell entire generations that grew up under the shadow of the gun. It is a usual sight in Manipur to find even school kids sitting in protest against the atrocities by the armed forces.

The government cites the ongoing insurgency in the hilly state to explain its stand against the repeal of AFSPA. According to its argument, nearly 15 militant outfits are active in the state and in the period between 2007 and 2011, over 1,500 people were killed in militancy-related violence, among them were 1,011 militants and 406 civilians. This argument itself should prompt a simple question, if the army, with a free hand, has not been able to control the so-called insurgency over five decades, what is the justification for the Act? It may even be argued that the insurgency, given the government’s own statistics, has increased during the currency of the Act. This is because the excesses committed by the armed forces with impunity alienate people and impel them to take up the gun. If one dispassionately looks at the north-eastern states, comprising about 7% of India’s total area and 3.7% of its population, bigger than many countries but devoid of any notable development, one cannot but get a feel that they are like a colony governed by the armed might of India. The Constitution does provide for emergency clauses but they are meant to be short-lived. The arguments the government and its army establishment proffer for continuing with AFSPA are, interestingly, the same as the arguments advanced when the 1942 ordinance was enacted in order to keep the British Empire intact.

The same logic extends to the protesting people in mainland India. There are scores of draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, the National Security Act, and various provisions in the penal code, like “sedition”, which continue to mock at our claim of being a democracy. Given the increasing divide between the majority of people mired in abominable poverty and powerlessness and a miniscule minority with all the pelf and power, people’s protests are a natural outcome. During the initial decades of post-Independence India, when the ruling classes had not yet consolidated themselves, these protests were responded to by the state with colonial decency. But by the mid-1970s, an oppressive Emergency was declared, and after a spell of political turmoil, the country entered the neo-liberal era that ideologically trashed social protests and legitimated the oppressive social Darwinist ethos of the rulers. The enforcement of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) in 1985 succeeded by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in 2002 and thereafter UAPA in 2004 during this era, duly aided by global “security syndrome” unleashed by 9/11, should be seen in that light. …



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Katju’s Cure – Editorial (Apr 6, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)

Ever since he took over the chairmanship of the Press Council of India in October 2011, justice Markandey Katju has been in the news – not so much for reviving the virtually defunct Press Council but for airing his views on a range of subjects from politics to foreign policy to the media. He was applauded for his intervention on the paid news phenomenon leading to an investigation that exposed the extent to which major media houses willingly sold editorial space to politicians. Yet he was criticised for his off-the-cuff and generalised remarks on the state of the media. The latest in his diatribe against the media is his suggestion that minimum qualifications be made mandatory for journalists just as they are for doctors and lawyers.

In principle, there is nothing wrong in this suggestion. In fact, the majority of mainstream media houses do insist on minimum qualifications, usually a university degree, and in some cases also a diploma in journalism. While some smaller newspapers might not insist on degrees and do recruit people without them, this is not the norm. Also, many Indian language papers with district editions have enlisted stringers who are not trained journalists. But their inputs are processed by professionals. The advantage of having such stringers has become evident in the expansion of news coverage to areas that remained outside the purview of most media.

And then there are several small community newspapers and radio stations that have come up in the last decade serving the needs of their immediate community or region. These rural journalists, many of them women with only basic literacy skills, have learned how to report, interview and edit. If justice Katju’s recommendation of minimum qualifications were to be applied, none of this vibrant community media would exist.

There are several aspects of justice Katju’s recommendation that are problematic. For one, he is conflating the problem of a drop in standards in the media with the absence of educational qualifications in journalists. A major reason for fall in standards is the state of our institutes of higher education. Where once a basic university degree was considered an achievement, today it is barely enough for entry-level jobs. Every profession is faced with the poor quality of learning in those who are products of the majority of our educational institutions. Merely raising the bar on minimum qualifications for any profession is no guarantee that the people recruited will be better equipped for the job.

What is also forgotten is the absence today of mentoring or on-the-job training within media houses to the extent it prevailed in the past. This is important because apart from some basic book knowledge, journalism is a skill that can best be learned on the job. Today, in the highly competitive environment that prevails, this kind of training is largely absent in most media houses. As a result, journalists with paper degrees but without the necessary skill sets are expected to jump into the deep without knowing how to swim. …



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