IAMC Weekly News Roundup - April 23rd, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 23rd, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Communal Harmony

Sangareddy riot: JIH relief work bridging communal divide (Apr 18, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Thursday, 29th March was a nightmare for the residents of Sangareddy. Communal violence rocked the town after a fanatic politico posted a derogatory photograph of a religious place on Facebook. The violence caused heavy damage to 58 shops, 34 vehicles and a Mosque costing over 1.34 Crores. It started at 10 PM on Thursday and continued till late night. While the public life seems to get back to normalcy, the extensive damage incurred by the ‘Common Man’ is yet to be compensated. Preliminary enquiry by the Government suggests the involvement of the local politician in organizing the riots. The enquiry report is also critical of the utter negligence and failure of the Police force in stopping the violence.

Communal Harmony and Tolerance have always been the hallmark of Indian society. Nevertheless, the vested interests have tried to disrupt the harmony for their Political Mileage since the pre-independence era. In most instances, they have been successfully able to capitalize it. However, the Sangareddy chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has exhibited an exemplary character with their Relief work.

The Jamaat along with its students’ wing, Students’ Islamic Organisation of India have helped not only affected Muslims but also the Hindus. An amount of Rs 4lakhs has been disbursed for this cause. Out of the total 77 affected people, there are 7 Hindus; the Jamaat has provided compensation to all of them. As part of the Relief plan, the total amount was divided into three slabs depending on the magnitude of damage caused; Rs 10,000 for Heavy damage, Rs. 5,000 for Medium damage and Rs. 3,000 for Low damage.

It is always the ‘Common Man’ who is at loss during such incidents. Jamaat’s relief efforts are a step towards leveraging the damage caused and rebuilding positive relations between the two communities. This endeavor is definitely a mile stone in safeguarding our Heritage of Communal Harmony. Peace can prevail only through Mutual Respect and Tolerance. Social Disturbances cause a major hindrance to the Progress and Development of the country. Strong awakening among the masses is need of the hour. Let’s stand United against the Dividing Communalism. Let’s restore PEACE!!


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Special Investigation Team too challenges acquittal of 31 persons in Sardarpura case (Apr 18, 2012, Times of India)

After the state government challenged the acquittal order in the Sardarpura massacre case, the Supreme Court-appointed SIT has also followed suit, challenging the special court’s decision before Gujarat high court. On November 9, designated judge S C Srivastava in Mehsana convicted 31 to life imprisonment, exonerated 11 persons for want of evidence against them, while letting go of 31 others by giving them benefit of doubt. Thirty-three persons were killed in this post-Godhra rioting incident in the north Gujarat village on March 1, 2002.

The state government as well as the SIT has not questioned the special court’s order in connection with those 11 persons, who were acquitted for complete lack of evidence against them. Like the state government, the SIT has also not sought enhancement in punishment for 31 convicts, who have been condemned to life imprisonment. In another case of 2002 riots – the Godhra carnage case – the SIT has sought death penalty against 20 persons, who were convicted to life imprisonment by a special court last year.

Meanwhile, some of the victims in the Sardarpura case have also challenged the trial court’s order of acquittal, but their plea was limited to the case of 14 accused persons. They claim that there was evidence against those 14 persons, yet they were acquitted. The government had sought the HC pardon for the delay in filing appeals, which the court granted on Tuesday. The bench of justices Jayant Patel and Presh Upadhyay has kept the cases for further hearing on April 27.



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State can recover compensation for custodial death from cops: HC (Apr 15, 2012, Times of India)

The Madras high court has upheld the state government’s move to recover 4.5 lakh from two police personnel, who were allegedly involved in a case of custodial death because of which the government had to pay the sum as compensation to the victim’s family. Justice K Chandru, dismissing the petitions of a special sub-inspector and an inspector, said: “The state’s liability to pay compensation (in case of custodial deaths) cannot be questioned. Similarly, the state’s power to recover the amount from the officers responsible for such misconduct also cannot be questioned. The contention that they (police officers) were acquitted by the criminal court and that the departmental proceedings ended in their favour will not debar the state from recovering the amount.”

B Kalitheerthan, inspector of police, coastal security, Nagapattinam, was a sub-inspector and K Subramaniam, now a special sub-inspector, was working as a head constable in Pollachi when they were charged with the custodial death of a lorry driver. The victim’s wife moved the HC demanding compensation. Finding the duo guilty, the court held the state as being vicariously liable for the offence and awarded 5 lakh as compensation. The police personnel are now before the court, challenging the government’s notice to recover 2,56,452 from Kalitheerthan and 1,93,548 from Subramaniam. They contended that they were acquitted and the departmental proceedings too had been given up. Therefore, the allegation of torture was not proved either in the criminal trial or in the departmental enquiry.

Therefore, based upon a high court order, that too without notice to them, the amount cannot be recovered from them, they said. Rejecting their contentions, Justice Chandru said when the relatives of the deceased filed a petition, the state government was a party and the court had clearly recorded that acquittal by the criminal court has no relevance on payment of compensation. The court said there was evidence of physical injuries on the body of the deceased which could have been inflicted only by the two officers who were instrumental in the arrest.



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Dalits beaten up by ABVP activists for holding beef festival (Apr 16, 2012, Twocircles.net)

The much controversial beef festival organized by Dalit organizations in historic Osmania University became a huge successes with more than 5,000 students participating in it on Sunday evening, but the festival ended in clashes between Dalits and members of Hindu right wing youth group ABVP. Dalit and some Leftist organizations in the Osmania University campus organized this event protesting against university administration’s decision for not including beef in the mess menu. Dalit organizations felt humiliated by the decision as beef eating is part of Dalit culture. Leftist organization gave unconditional support to Dalit groups as they felt the decision of the university authorities was against right to choose food.

Hindu Right wing organizations including its student wing ABVP had earlier warned the beef festival organizers of dire consequences if the festival was held in the campus, as according to them it was hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. But Dalit and leftist organizations went ahead and organized the festival behind the premises of Ambedkar hostel on Sunday. The organizations like TSSV, PDSU, SFI, AISF, and TRSV conducted this event under the banner of Democratic Cultural Forum. Many students and even professors of the university turned up in huge number to support the festival. The organizers of the event maintain that when right wing groups like ABVP install Ganesh or Durga idols in the campus and conduct 10 days festival each, no student protests against it, so ABVP should also be tolerant towards other festivals in the OU campus.

According to the festival organizers one more reason for the organization of this event was to tackle the growing influence of right wing forces in the campus and to enlighten the Dalits and make them feel proud of who they are and what their culture is. The festival started at 5: p.m. in the evening with heavy police protection as precaution against the likely clashes. As expected ABVP activists from in and outside of campus assembled at the event ground and started throwing stones, they set ablaze two vehicles belonging to the media who were covering the fest, and even beat students who were returning after attending the fest. In the clashes five Dalit students were injured. The dalit organizations retaliated and beat up ABVP activists with lathis and stones. Police intervened when the clashes between two groups became serious. Police restored to lathi charge and fired tear gas shells to disperse both the agitated groups.

The campus is still tense after late night clashes. It was the first ever beef festival organized in the campus. Prof Vishweshar Rao, one of the intellectuals who attended the fest told, “It is not just a festival, it is ideological war against the Hindutva and their culture. This festival has been a great success and expected to be copied in many universities in the country”. Dalit organizations have described this beef festival as reclamation of their lost culture, while right wing Hindu groups have warned sever consequences if this event is repeated elsewhere in the state.



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Nirmal Baba exposed as a fraud? (Apr 18, 2012, Siasat)

In yet another controversy involving Godmen, Rs 109 crore was found deposited in Nirmal Baba’s two bank accounts in just three months, according to a report published in Prabhat Khabar a Jharkhand daily on Friday. The report further said that Nirmal Baba asks for 10 percent of the salary from all those who visit him for solutions to their problems. Post this diclosure, Baba’s bank account has come under scanner where transactions are made from all over the country.

Meanwhile, the Income Tax department is going through his various bank accounts. The IT department will check whether he has paid his taxes properly on not, if there is any foreign deposits in his account and also if he has transferred any money to foreign countries. Nirmal Baba charges Rs 2,000 from every participant who wishes to be a part of his commune, ‘samagam’. This amount is trasferred directly into Nirmal Baba’s three bank acconts – one each in Punjab National Bank, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank. As per estimates Nirmal Darbar has an annual turnover of approximately 84 crore rupees.

Prabhat Khabar claims that Nirmal Baba transferred Rs 53 crores from one of these accounts into a private bank. The newspaper also claims that a fixed deposit of Rs 25 crores is held by Nirmal Baba in a leading bank. Nirmal Baba holds two accounts – one in the name of Nirmaljeet Singh Narula (Nirmal Baba’s real name), and the other in the name of ‘Nirmal Darbar’. Sushma Narula, Nirmal Baba’s wife, is registered as the nominee. Prabhat Khabar claims that Nirmal Baba transferred Rs 53 crores from one of these accounts into a private bank.

Meanwhile, Nirmal Baba told a news channel, “I never asked people to deposit money to solve their problems. I never assured them of any magical solution to their woes.” He also added, “Our aim is not to spread superstition but to lessen it and we don’t provide any amulet, talisman or good luck charm to our devotees.” He said all the allegations against him were baseless and he was ready to undergo a lie-detector test to prove himself right.

He explained, “I have been paying my income tax regularly. My annual turnover is Rupees 235 crore.” “People consider God’s blessings as magic and they have godly experience at Nirmal darbar. My promises have passed through the litmus test of science”, he added. He also mentioned that he utilizes the money deposited by his devotees only in the expenditure of samagams and advertising. People send money according to their own veneration.



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Old City violence: Muslim groups move State Human Rights Commission against police ‘high-handedness’ (Apr 17, 2012, Times of India)

Various Muslim groups on Monday filed petitions with State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) against the city police for torturing them during the recent communal clashes in the Old City. Three separate petitions were filed at the SHRC on Monday including one on the death of a youngster on Sunday night. In the first petition, it was alleged that Syed Ghouse alias Majju (30) jumped to his death while trying to escape the police dragnet. Ghouse was sitting with a group of friends in Asmangadh area in Malakpet on Sunday night when policemen descended on the spot. Ghouse reportedly tried to escape and jumped over a wall but landed on a tin shed covering a sump which gave way. Ghouse, who sustained severe head injuries died on the spot.

Hamid Mohammad Khan of Movement for Peace and Justice organization, who filed the petition said that in this particular case Ghouse was falsely implicated and chased. “The Muslim community is deeply affected by the police attitude. They have not only humiliated the community but also demoralized them. They seem not bothered about how the community would react due to this high-handed behaviour.” They also filed a petition against the West Zone police officials for their action against Mansoor Babukhan. The petitioners in their written complaint alleged that Mansoor Babukhan was picked up from Masab Tank on Tuesday and beaten till 3:30am without any proper reason. They further complained that West Zone DCP, Stephen Ravindra had also joined the rest of the police personnel in beating up Khan, whose only mistake was smoking a cigarette in front of the policemen, they alleged.

The petition expressed concern regarding the safety of common Muslims when a high profile man was treated like this. A separate petition was filed by Mohammad Lateef, a resident of Mallepally and a crockery businessman who alleged that the sub-inspector of Habeebnagar police station had instructed him to regularly give attendance at the station which he was complying with dutifully for some time now. He complained that in the early hours of April 12 while he was sleeping in the station, the SI arrived at 2am and abused him. He further added that, the SI beat him up with a lathi and had to be admitted to Osmania general hospital. He requested the commission to take suitable action against the concerned police official. Nisar Ahmad Kakru, chairman, SHRC admitted all the three cases and ordered the chief secretary, the secretary for home and director general of police (DGP), Andhra Pradesh to submit a report on these incidents ….



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Court acquits Mukhtar, who was accused of LeT terrorist (Apr 22, 2012, Times of India)

A Jammu & Kashmir resident accused by police of being a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist has been acquitted by a Tis Hazari court for lack of evidence. Additional sessions judge S S Rathi on Saturday acquitted Mukhtar after the special cell of Delhi Police failed to prove the case against him of setting up a base for LeT in the capital on the command of its leader Abu Alqama.

According to police, in 2007 it received intelligence alerts that on Alqama’s orders, a man was being sent from Jammu and Kashmir to the capital to expand operations, set up sleeper cells and a major base for terrorist operations. In the first week of June, police claimed in the chargesheet, sources tipped them off that the name of the militant was Mukhtar and he was staying in the Jama Masjid area. However, before cops could pick him up, the trail went cold. A few days later, police claimed, it received another tip-off that Mukhtar was once again on his way to Delhi with arms and explosives meant to be handed over to one Shabbir.

Police claimed that on June 12, 2007, they nabbed Mukhtar from Old Delhi and found he was carrying more than one kg of explosives with detonators. Mukhtar allegedly admitted being a LeT operative and spilled the beans on future attacks planned in the capital. His lawyer, M S Khan, accused cops of framing an innocent man. He said his client had come to the capital to take the Delhi-Lahore bus to go to Pakistan to meet his relatives. A court acquitted Mukhtar after cops failed to prove that the accused had come to Delhi to set up a Lashkar base.



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‘Revoke AFSPA, decrease troop presence in J&K’ (Apr 17, 2012, Indian Express)

Reiterating his demand for withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from areas not affected by terrorism, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Monday sought “progressive” decrease in the presence of security forces in the state. Addressing the CMs Conference on Internal Security, Omar said AFSPA played its role when insurgency was at its peak. “However, now that there is a distinct change in the security environment in the state and there is a good case for reviewing the continuation of AFSPA in areas which are not affected by the insurgent and terrorist activities.

As the situation is fast improving, the footprint of security forces need to be decreased progressively so that the people can feel the impact of the changed security scenario,” he said. He said 12 battalions of BSF and CRPF and 39 bunkers have been removed since 2009 and 24 more bunkers are being removed in coming months.

Omar said there was a decline of more than 30 per cent in militancy-related incidents as compared to 2010. Against the 488 such incidents in 2010, there were only 340 such incidents in 2011, and as against 47 civilians killed in 2010, 31 civilians were killed during 2011. The CM, however, said the threat to peace had not completely vanished. Omar also urged the Centre to take effective measures for implementing the recommendations made by the team of Centre’s interlocutors for Kashmir.



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Sukma collector’s abduction: Maoists set demands, deadline (Apr 22, 2012, Times of India)

Maoists today demanded release of eight of their jailed leaders in Chhattisgarh and a halt to “Operation Green Hunt” in exchange for freedom of Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon, who was safe, a day afer he was abducted and they also set an April 25 deadline. The demands were made even as spiritual leader Swami Agnivesh expressed willingness to mediate between the Naxals and the government to secure the release of the 32-year-old 2006-batch IAS officer, who was abducted yesterday at Majhipara village in Raipur district where he was meeting villagers for a government outreach programme.

Additional Director General of Police Ram Nivas (anti-Naxal operations) told reporters that the demands were made by an unidentified Naxal leader in an audio message to media organisations. The authenticity of the audio tape was being verified, he said, adding no Maoist group has got in touch yet with the state government. According to Nivas, the demands made were an immediate halt to “Operation Green Hunt” (anti-Maoist offensive), sending security forces in Bastar region back to the barracks and release of eight jailed Maoist leaders including two women. In the message, the Maoist leader has alleged that false cases have been foisted against the eight jailed ultras.

Nivas said police have received some vital clues and added that Menon was safe. Swami Agnivesh told PTI he was ready to mediate and was waiting for the government or the Naxals to approach him. Menon’s wife Asha in a fresh appeal said the Naxals should release her husband saying they were married only a few months ago and he had always worked for the people. She said that Menon had some health problems and was not carrying adequate medicines when he was abducted.

“He is an asthmatic patient and I request the government and the Naxals to understand that he is just left with two doses of medication,” she said, adding that he would not be able to cope up with in case of an emergency. The Association of IAS Officers in Chattisgarh held a meeting here today and appealed to the ultras to release the Collector unharmed. Locals in the area where Menon was kidnapped took out a peace march to demand his release. A large number of people, including school children, participated.



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Mumbai: Tainted cop booked for repeatedly raping inspector (Apr 18, 2012, IBN)

Disgraced senior cop Anil Mahabole, accused of gangland links and threatening a MiD DAY journalist in the past, is once again in the news for the wrong reasons. This time the assistant commissioner of police has been charged with raping a woman inspector who resides at VB Nagar in Kurla.

According to the police, the victim approached Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Rajnesh Seth and Jt CP (Crime) Himanshu Roy last week, alleging that Mahabole raped her several times. In her statement to the cops, the victim said that almost eight months ago Mahabole visited her Kurla house and offered her sweets laced with an intoxicant. The victim alleged that soon after having the sweets, she fell unconscious and was raped by Mahabole.

“She has alleged that Mahabole made an MMS clipping of the act and blackmailed her to continue having physical relations with him,” an officer from the Azad Maidan police station said. The victim further said that whenever her husband was not at home, Mahabole used to come over to her house and rape her.

Following the complaint, cops appointed a senior level officer to make preliminary inquiries into the matter. The inquiries confirmed that the victim was raped. Mumbai police’s spokesperson Nisar Tamboli said, “The Azad Maidan police have registered a case of rape against Mahabole.” Last year, Mahabole had been accused of playing a major role in the arrest of MiD DAY reporter Tarakant Dwivedi. In the past, there have been several allegations of Mahabole’s underworld connections.



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For residents of Bathani, it is a horror they cannot forget (Apr 19, 2012, The Hindu)

It was a July afternoon in 1996, and it took the marauding mobs less than a couple of hours to execute the massacre that took 21 lives. Among the dead were 11 women, six children and three infants. With that, Bathani Tola, an unsung hamlet in central Bihar, shot to fame as one of the many sites where the fearsome Ranbir Sena had left its bloody mark. Last week, the village was once more in the news, with the Patna High Court acquitting 23 men convicted of the gruesome murders. Bathani Tola was not the first, and would not be the last, in a series of atrocities committed through the 1980s and 1990s by the Sena, a powerful caste army of Bhumihars and Rajputs. Its victims were always landless labourers (Dalits in most cases), who, though poor and impoverished, had begun to get radicalised in the backdrop of the Naxal movement taking root in the State.

“We heard their howls of agony, but simply could not find the courage to come out,” recounts Naimuddin Ansari, one of the prime witnesses who lost six family members in the carnage. “The Sena men encircled our hovels, drew out the victims and slaughtered them,” recounts Sri Kishun Chaudhary, who lodged an FIR against 33 persons the day after the massacre. Among those named was Brahmeshwar Singh – the infamous Mukhiya and founder of the Ranvir Sena – who is said to have overseen the Bathani killings as well as the caste massacres that followed in Laxmanpur Bathe and Shankarbigha (81 Dalits were killed in the two villages). Fourteen years after the bloodbath in Bathani, the Ara sessions court sentenced three persons to death and awarded life sentence to another 20.

The acquittal of the same men by the High Court has come as a shock to Bathani’s residents. The court might have had its reasons – it cited “defective evidence” – for overturning the convictions, but the villagers are inconsolable and recollect every detail of the horror that visited them, including the fact that the Sena men killed women and children by design, not because they came in their way. “This government [the Nitish Kumar-led NDA] has sold out to the rich and influential. It is now up to the Party [the Communist Party of India (Marxist -Leninist)] to decide the next course of action,” says Mr. Chaudhary, fatigued and bitter from years of fighting the case.

Naimuddin too looks dejected and defeated. A bangle-seller at the time of the carnage, he lost his three-month-old daughter to the aggressors. She had not even been named, when she was killed, he reminisces, adding, “Baby,” as she was called, “was tossed in the air and thrust down the blade of a sword.” “My seven-year-old son Saddam saw it. They all saw it,” cries Naimuddin. One half of Saddam’s face had been mutilated by sword lacerations when Naimuddin finally reached the spot after the Sena men had dispersed. “As I picked him up, he [Saddam] said, ‘Abba save my life!’ It was then that I realised they had cut his spinal cord.” The child died within a week at the Patna Medical College and Hospital.

A Sena sympathiser, who spoke to this correspondent, justified the “reactionary mobilisation” of the upper castes against “those Naxals.” “The land is ours. The crops belong to us. They [the labourers] did not want to work, and moreover, hampered our efforts by burning our machines and imposing economic blockades. So, they had it coming.” Not surprisingly, there is panic in Bathani over the release of the Sena men. Their fear is compounded by the fact that their source of security, the CPI(ML), today lacks the necessary leadership at the ground level. In the 2010 Assembly elections, the CPI(ML) failed to bag even one of seven seats in Bhojpur district, which were split between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United). Naimuddin and others have one question for visitors: if those named in the FIR are not the killers, who killed the 21 residents of Bathani Tola?



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Opinions and Editorials

How the Ban on the RSS Was Lifted – By Rakesh Ankit (Apr 21, 2012, Economic& Political Weekly)

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was banned, for the first time, from February 1948 to July 1949 in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination. Its communal and secretive character, military training, and involvement in riots, especially the post-Partition riots in Punjab, were the reasons why Nehru’s government found it necessary to ban the RSS. The first attempt to engage with the government and get it to lift the ban was made over August-November 1948 by the head of the RSS (sarsanghchalak), M S Golwalkar. This story has been well-narrated. Even otherwise, the legal case against Nathuram Godse and others, their prosecution and the subsequent suppression of the RSS has been well-represented in the literature on the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination. However, not as well known are the attempts made behind the scenes from December 1948 onwards to reach Sardar Patel on behalf of the RSS for reconciliation. D P Mishra, Patel’s protege and home minister of the Central Province (CP) was the key interlocutor in the subsequent Golwalkar-Patel exchanges, along with other mediators like S L Karandikar (MLA, Bombay), D R Limaye (an office-bearer of the RSS from 1928-42), G V Ketkar (editor, Kesari), T R Venkatarama Sastri (lawyer, Madras) and H V R Iengar, ICS (home secretary, Government of India). This essay narrates this exchange focusing on the personalities of Golwalkar, Mishra and Patel and the period December 1948 to June 1949 when a second, and eventually successful set of attempts were made to declare the RSS legal again.

On 10 December 1948, a month after Golwalkar was arrested and put in Nagpur jail, D P Mishra held a press conference in Nagpur. A day earlier, on 9 December 1948, the RSS had launched a satyagraha. Terming the “misdirected” Sangh as a “source of great danger to public peace, tranquillity and progress”, Mishra addressed its leadership in interesting terms, alternatively friendly and threatening, capturing the ambiguity which both he and his mentor Patel harboured towards the outfit: … A fortnight later, the fi rst attempt at mediation between Golwalkar and the government was made by S L Karandikar who was a member of the Bombay legislative assembly. Karandikar, a self-styled well-wisher, wrote to Golwalkar on 24 December and handed it to Mishra while requesting permission from the home minister to meet Golwalkar. Conveying “the feelings of several well-wishers” in Nagpur and Poona as well as his own, Karandikar called the Sangh’s satyagraha “desirable neither for the Sangh nor the government”, requested Golwalkar to call it off and wished for his consequent release. Subsequent to that, he reminded Golwalkar of “the need to consider the future of Sangh”, “to avoid stagnation by being under a ban indefinitely”, and “to take any decision as to the desirability or otherwise of the reorientation of the Sangh ideology, programme and constitution”. Karandikar ended his letter by hoping for leniency to be shown to the Sangh by that “lover of democratic methods”, Patel. Two days later, Mishra forwarded this letter to Patel adding categorically that “we should ruthlessly crush the movement and not give any opportunity to these people to tell the world that they have negotiated an agreement with the government. The interview should, in my opinion, be refused”.5 Having been unable to make up his mind regarding the delivery of Karandikar’s letter to Golwalkar, Mishra sought Patel’s advice.

Patel replied promptly and agreeably while reminding Mishra to be careful in not giving the RSS any opportunity to make propaganda: ‘We cannot negotiate with those who have created so much trouble when we were otherwise engaged and there can obviously be no question of settlement so long as the present agitation continues. Before anything of this kind is even considered, there must be an unconditional withdrawal of the satyagraha demonstrations.’ Ultimately, neither did Karandikar’s letter reach Golwalkar nor was he allowed to see the RSS sarsanghchalak. Less than a week later, in the new year of 1949, on 3 January, D R Limaye (an office-bearer of the RSS from 1928 to 1942) approached Patel directly. Reminding Patel of a letter that he had written in Marathi on 18 December 1948 and citing his offered his services as an intermediary and requested an opportunity to see Golwalkar. Explaining his approach, Limaye wrote that “in the present peculiarities through which our country is passing, I am strongly of the opinion that there should not be any satyagraha on the part of any of our countrymen for any reason whatsoever”. Believing it his duty to support the government even if one felt that it was not being just to Golwalkar and the RSS, Limaye felt that the calling off of the satyagraha was necessary in order to create the proper atmosphere of dispassionate discussion and consideration of the case. In view of his past relations with the RSS, he felt confident of persuading Golwalkar to issue a statement calling off the satyagraha unconditionally and called on the government to be sympathetic. Before Patel could reply to Limaye, he was visited in Delhi by G V Ketkar, grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and then editor of the paper founded by his venerable grandfather, the Kesari. Ketkar too wanted to interview Golwalkar. Patel informed Ketkar of Limaye’s proposal and told him to meet R S Shukla, prime minister of the CP and Berar. Writing to Shukla, Patel suggested that if Ketkar is agreeable you can allow him to see Golwalkar subject to the same conditions as in the case of Limaye, viz, that he would press for unconditional withdrawal and that no publicity or propaganda will be made of the attempt. Simultaneously, Patel sent Shukla a copy of Limaye’s letter and intimated his assent to Limaye. The decks were now clear for Golwalkar to receive his first set of mediators.

Ketkar and Limaye met Golwalkar at Seoni (Golwalkar had been shifted two days earlier to the remote Seoni jail in Chindwara district of the then Central Province and now Madhya Pradesh from Nagpur) on 12 January 1949. Golwalkar did not agree to voluntarily withdraw the satyagraha unconditionally. On Ketkar’s persuasion, he agreed to advise the organisers of the Sangh to decide about calling off its activities. He also agreed to suggest to the Sangh’s followers that they abide by their decision “provided that Ketkar sends him a letter through Sardar Patel to this effect” (emphasis added), with the obvious object of indirectly making the government a party to the move. Adamant to begin with, particularly with Limaye, Golwalkar became more conciliatory towards the end of his conversation with Ketkar and did not appear “prepared to take the lead himself in calling off the satyagraha unless he was moved in the matter from outside particularly through Sardar Patel”, perhaps “to maintain his personal prestige (and) avoid public criticism”. Next day, Ketkar requested Patel to forward the accompanying letter to Golwalkar, “as a sequel to the understanding reached between us”, after receiving which “he has agreed to issue advice to his followers to discontinue the defiance of the ban”: Ketkar to Golwalkar (forwarded through the deputy prime minister of India), 13 January 1949: Dear Shri Guruji, I hereby confirm in writing the assurance given to you orally in our interview on the 12th instant that if you advise your followers to discontinue defiance of the ban I will use my good offices to the utmost and induce other important people also to do the same to enable you to open negotiations with government to get the ban lifted on the basis of formulating and publishing a constitution of the Sangh which will remove the doubts of the government with regard to the activities of the Sangh.

Before replying to Ketkar, Patel forwarded this letter to Mishra and sought his views. Mishra’s advice was unambiguous: ‘this insistence on the letter being sent through you appears to be due partly to pique and a desire to save his face and partly to make government a part though indirectly, to the withdrawal of the movement. Personally, I would not advice that you should agree to this condition … I think we should not ‘compromise’ and no one close to you should mix himself up in this business.’ Patel agreed and declined to be the channel of communication between Ketkar and Golwalkar “as that would give the impression, which probably Shri Golwalkar wants, that we are a party to what is going on between you (Ketkar) and Shri Golwalkar”. Reminding Ketkar that “the matter rests mostly with the Provincial Governments” Patel claimed to be quite convinced that “they will not accept anything short of unconditional abandonment of the satyagraha”. He, however, did allow Ketkar to meet again with Golwalkar. On 19 January 1949, Ketkar met Golwalkar for the second and final time. … On 11 July 1949, a communique was issued lifting the ban on the RSS. It mentioned the exchanges with Golwalkar, the draft constitution, the government’s suggestions and Golwalkar’s clarifications and recorded that Golwalkar had accepted the suggestions made by the government. It was concluded that the RSS should be given an opportunity to function as a democratic, cultural organisation eschewing violence and abjuring secrecy and, above all, being loyal to the Indian Constitution.



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Inquiry Commission – a farce? – By Girish Patel (Apr 4, 2012, DNA India)

We have almost a genetic tendency to abuse, distort, corrupt or pervert any public institution created for public good or in public interest. This is what has actually happened to enquiry commissions constituted under the Commission of Enquiry Act 1955. An institution meant for getting information about what, why and how of major events of public importance like serious disturbances, major scandals, natural calamities among others, has been converted into a government’s agency to fool people, to protract the discovery of truth and to serve the government’s narrow, political interests. Take a look at the Nanavati Commission appointed in 2002 by the Modi government to enquire into the Godhra train burning and post-Godhra communal carnage. To pre-empt the UPA government from appointing another commission to enquire into the role of the chief minister and his government, the Gujarat government expanded the Terms of Reference of the commission so as to cover enquiring into specifically the role and conduct of chief minister Modi, ministers and high officials during the pre-Godhra and post-Godhra riots.

Ten years have already passed, more than six crores of rupees have been spent and yet the truth, otherwise known to everyone in Gujarat, about the culpability and complicity of Modi government has not seen the light of the day. On the contrary, at a politically convenient time, before 2007 Assembly elections, the commission submitted the first report about Godhra train burning and unjustifiably gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi. What was to be really enquired was Modi’s role in post-Godhra massacre of Muslims, not Godhra train burning case. This is what the amended Terms of Reference specifically ask the Commission to do, and yet the commission even after many applications and important developments, exposing Modi’s role and conduct during the riots, refuses even to examine Modi on the special ground of commission’s discretion. This is really not a matter of discretion under Section 8 (b) of the Act, but a matter of statutory duty flowing from the very Terms of Reference. So far, the commission has worked in such a way as to lose its credibility and legitimacy. Its final report will be totally useless for the people except it will serve the interest of Modi government in the coming Assembly elections 2012. What a mockery of truth, justice and public morality.

Time has therefore come, for a fresh look, at the Act of 1955. Either scrap the Act or amend or enact a new law to make the enquiry commission powerful, independent, effective, transparent and accountable. One, the need for public enquiry into major socio-economic or political events in a modern complex society cannot to over-emphasised. Such events are multi-dimensional generally, beyond the purview of criminal law or civil law. Only a public enquiry can find out the truth about such events which will have great public significance. Two, the enquiry Commission has its rationale in people’s right to know and to be informed about such major events, under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. It is not a question of government’s privilege or discretion, but of citizen’s fundamental right to know. Three, such an independent enquiry Commission should be recognised as people’s agency of good and transparent governance, not government’s instrumentality for its narrow political purposes.

Four, it is absolutely important that appointment, composition and Terms of Reference of the commission should not be left to the discretion of the government as at present, or should be entrusted to a widely representative, independent body of eminent persons. Five, the judges need not always be appointed as members of commission for two main reasons – one, the judges by training experience and institutional constraint not always fit to perform this task involving complex socio-economic and political elements; and two, the judges should not be dragged into such public issues which would ultimately compromise the judge’s authority, independence and legitimacy. Six, the Commission should be sufficiently empowered so as to enable it to enquire in depth and exhaustively.Seven, the commission should be completely independent of political, commercial or professional connections. Eight, the commission should report the independent body which alone will decide actions to be taken thereon.

Nine, the report should be published and its recommendations must be accepted and implemented. Lastly, the commission should have complete legal status and its report may or may not be used in civil or criminal proceedings, it should not be bereft of any legal significance. The commission falls clearly within the constitutional and administrative law and must be subject to judicial review with of course its appropriate judicial standards. Such commissions are today much more needed when heads of state and public authorities are more and more engaging in crimes against humanity, violations of the constitution and operation of the people and they may not be brought within the purview or ordinary criminal law but should not escape from the domain of human rights. Only such public enquiries with legal powers can do the work.



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A Cowed-Down Nation – By Meena Kandasamy (Apr 30, 2012, Outlook)

It looks like Foucault’s “real political task” is what the organisers of the recent beef-eating festival at Osmania University set out to do: they fought the “food fascism” that kept beef out of the menu, reminded the secular state that a university hostel mess was not Sankara math, and criticised the imposition of caste-Hindu dietary diktats on Dalits from within the confines of a seemingly neutral educational institution. When they rapped “Beef is the secret of my energy” with all the soul of an outlaw anthem, it sounded like the secret heartbeat of an anti-caste cultural revolution. But the stone-pelting, vehicle-torching ABVP hooliganism and the OU vice-chancellor S. Satyanarayana’s statement that beef would not be served in hostels unmasked a pattern of political violence. Tucking into beef biriyani behind the smokescreen of the teargas firing at OU, one could imagine the rage of a caste-Hindu mob that lynched five Dalits in Jhajjar, Haryana, in 2002 for skinning a dead cow.

A week earlier, Hindu extremists had triggered communal disturbances in Hyderabad’s Old City area by hurling beef in the Hanuman temple at Kurmaguda. Both these incidents highlight the ideological framework of Hindutva mobilisation using a certain female quadruped political player who is capable of igniting riots, whose dead flesh could cause a city to disintegrate into communal violence. Instead of acknowledging the beef-fest as an act of Dalit assertion, right-wing commentators said it was a ploy to dent the Telangana struggle. They propped up pork to silence other minorities and cast this as a Hindu-Muslim stand-off when it was actually about untouchability. Dr Ambedkar had theorised that broken men (and women) rebelling against caste became untouchables because they were Buddhists and beef-eaters. Beef, being a Dalit food, was kept away from caste-Hindus and stigmatised. To enforce the strict regimentation of caste codes, beef-eating was prohibited for Hindus. And not just in the Manusmriti.

Because India is a Hindu state at heart despite all apparitions to the contrary, Article 48 of the Constitution requires the State to take steps to prohibit the slaughter of cows. Anti-cow slaughter laws in most states promise prison terms. In implementing Hindutva, nobody outdoes Narendra Modi. He sparked off the state-aided slaughter of Muslims a decade ago, but now tries to balance his karma by conducting dental and cataract surgeries for cows. Note: Hinduism only asks of a ruler to protect cows from slaughter. While Muslim victims of the Gujarat riots still languish in relief camps, Modi gloats that no cow has to travel more than three kilometres to reach a health camp. In this animal farm, Her Holiness Mother Cow is a first-class citizen with health insurance and a pension plan. Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians, being beef-eating minorities, cannot press for similar privileges.

She hasn’t always been treated with motherly respect, though: D.N. Jha’s book The Myth of the Holy Cow documented the problematic (and under-appreciated) history of Brahmin/Hindu beef-eating in ancient India, before the taboos evolved, while Manish Jha’s film Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women depicted the sexual abuse of a cow by sex-starved men. Perhaps that’s why when the BJP was in power, the National Cow Commission (2002) suggested forming a Central Cattle Protection Rapid Task Police Force and wanted amendments to pota to enable detention of those smuggling cows.

There is no point getting offended if someone enjoys beef in all its juicy glory. Since nobody is being force-fed, tolerance means digesting the idea that just as cows are meant to be milked, cows are also meant to be meat. There cannot be a shred of doubt that in a racist nation which advertises vaginal skin-lightening creams, the large, naive eyes and flawless complexion make the cow an attractive mother. Men take pride in being mummy’s boys, but it is high time Hindutva organisations and secular, state-run universities stop being swayed by bovine sex appeal, step out of their Oedipus complex and remind themselves that cows, at least the fertile ones, are only mothers of calves. Why kill for a cow, when you aren’t born of one?



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Custom-built communal riots – By Ram Puniyani (Apr 17, 2012, Tehelka)

In Saidabad and Madannapeth areas of Hyderabad (first week of April 2012) violence was unleashed against the local Muslims. Women were allegedly raped, houses torched and scores were left injured. What triggered the riots was an inflammatory speech by Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionary Praveen Togadia. News that fundamentalists (read Muslims) had thrown beef and green colour at a Hanuman temple in the locality triggered the communal strife. Just a rumour was good enough to instigate violence. But when police succeeded in arresting the culprits, it was discovered that those behind the ‘so-called riots’ were goons from different Hindu communal outfits. On New Year’s Eve, this year, in Sindagi town of Bijapur, the Pakistani flag was hoisted on a government building. The ‘news’ spread rapidly, leading to violence. The incident took an ugly turn and in no time government buildings, six state transport buses and many other vehicles were in flames. But as it turned out, those behind the incident were activists of the Sri Ram Sene which is headed by Pramod Muthalik, an ex-RSS pracharak. They were the ones who did the mischief and went about spreading the inflammatory news. There are many more dimensions of both these acts of violence, brought about by using religious identity, symbols and emotive appeals. Communal violence is a cancer which has spread in the body politic of our society.

The very foundation of communal violence is the ‘social common sense’ the ‘hate-other’ ideology built around the myths and biases prevalent against the minorities. As such, communal violence is the superficially visible part of the communal politics, a politics deriving its legitimacy from the identity of religion. To begin with, the hatred for ‘other’ community started getting consolidated around the communal projection of history, supplemented by the present social life of a community exaggerated and put forward in a derogatory way. In pre-partition India, violence erupted from both communities while the British chose to be neutral umpires. With partition, Muslim communalism got deflated; violence changed form and started assuming different trends leading to rise of orthodoxy amongst Muslims. The minority communalism promoted more conservative values amongst minorities but at the same time it stoked communalism on a larger scale. A quiet period followed the ghastly partition riots but violence started surfacing post-1961 in what is called the Jabalpur riots. In the wake of these riots, the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, constituted the National Integration Council, which has since been playing some insignificant role in promoting national integration.

Communal violence, where two communities are pitted against each other, has changed its character and now communal groups on a provoking and attacking spree have a clear goal of intimidating and subjugating the religious minorities. At the same time, the pretext is manufactured that Muslims are violent or Christians have attacked. They ignite the violence and then get the ‘deserved’ punishment. This again is a totally make-believe construct. The two incidents which have taken place amply show the anatomy of a manufactured riot. The majority of communal streams have gained strength by polarising the communities along religious lines. Founded on the deeper biases against minorities, rumours aid as trigger for violence, or rumours precipitate the ‘hate other’ sentiment. Violence anywhere is by and large planned but intelligently made to look like a spontaneous act, that too sparked by the minorities.

The Hyderabad and Sindagi incidents are no exception. Earlier also in the Kandhamal, violence was triggered on the pretext of the death of Swami Laxmananand, who was allegedly killed by Maoists. His dead body was taken in a procession through Christian minority areas, and rivers of blood followed. Gujarat violence, it is said, was stage-managed after the Sabarmati Express was torched at the Godhra station by merchants of death. Similarly, in Mumbai after the demolition of Babri Mosque, some Muslim youth threw stones at a police station. In turn, Shiv Sena activists threw gulal (orange colour of celebration used mostly by Hindus) on a mosque. It was enough to instigate violence, following which and Bal Thackeray called for ‘teaching them (the minority commuity) a lesson’. So far many inquiry commissions and citizens’ tribunals have pointed out the role of the majoritarain communal organisation. Starting from the report of Bhivandi riots (Madon Commission) to Mumbai violence (Sri Krishna Commission), their conclusions to a large extent are similar. Riots instigated in a pre-determined manner pan out in a fashion as if first blood was drawn by those from the minority community.

Dr VN Rai, a police officer, did his doctoral work on the theme of riots in 1968-80 (Combating Communal Conflicts), A longish quote from this book will enlighten us on the issue, “Very often the way in which the first stone is thrown or the first hand is raised in aggression, suggests an outside agency at work, an agency that wants to create a situation in which members of the minority community commit an act which ignites severe retribution for themselves. In order to guard them against external criticism and to preserve their self-righteousness, violence is projected to be started by Muslims. It is as if a weaker person is pushed into the corner by a stronger, forcing him to raise his hand so that he may be suitably punished for his ‘attack’. Before the punishment is meted out a suitable hue and cry can be made about the fact that because the person cornered is naturally wicked and violent, he is bound to attack first,” (pp 56-57). However, there are some changes in how riots are instigated these days. Now communal elements are gaining strength and resorting to very coercive and divisive means to trigger a riot. What has also changed is those affected by riots. In the 1980s, about 65 percent of the victims were Muslims, but by 1991 it the number swelled to 80 percent (Union home ministry data) and by 2001 this showed further increase. This data tells a story in itself, – communal violence has polarised communities along religious lines. A host of measures are required to curb communal strife and organisations deliberately inciting violence should be dealt with a very firm hand. A multi-layered approach should be adopted to bring peace and harmony in the society.



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Demonising migrants is silly – By Binoo K John (Apr 17, 2012, Tehelka)

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s declaration that he needs no visa to come to Mumbai and Raj Thackeray’s challenge thrown at him to try and hold a Bihar Day in Mumbai, are all the fallout from the sub-nationality politics that is the mainstay of both factions of the Shiv Sena. The very fact that a chief minister has to make a visa statement about a visit to Mumbai is in itself a matter of concern. This so-called ethnic rivalry is a manufactured one. Raj Thackeray is trying to use the anti-Bihar card to gain a political constituency as different from the original Shiv Sena. “We never go anywhere to celebrate our 50th year. Why do they need to come here?” was MNS leader Raj Thackeray’s question. Thackeray is only re-inventing the sub-nationalist plank of his uncle Balashaheb Thackeray. The question is: how much will it help him? Also, should Nitish Kumar be worried about Biharis working in Mumbai when other states are trying to get more labour from Bihar to work in their fields? The anti-Bihari sub-nationality plank is utterly flawed and will in the long run boomerang on Raj and his party. The world is no longer what it was when ‘anti-Madrasi’ anger was whipped up by the Shiv Sena. That too was manufactured and even today south Indian establishments and people from the south do well in Mumbai. There is no enmity, only cooperation.

The unifying factor is prosperity, Maharashtra being a top state in term of foreign investment, not to mention the fact that the richest people live there and it is the finance capital of the country. For the common man and for everyone in Mumbai, what matters is money and its growth: typical of what happens in a place where the stock market dominates people’s lives. It is here that Raj Thackeray is trying to create a divide, just like his uncle also did — with limited success. Before this, the states’ reorganisation , the problem was with Gujaratis, who then formed 18 percent of the population. Though there were huge agitations for Samyukta Maharashtra led by communists and also Bal Thackeray’s father Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, the reorganisation finally worked out. It is after this that Bal Thackeray took upon the ‘Marathi manoos’ as the defining politics of his party, something which his nephew has been trying to appropriate. In sub-nationalistic politics, to create hate objects is of primary importance. In the post-independence days of struggle for a Samayukta Maharashtra, the hate object was the Gujarati. SA Dange, who led the agitation for Samyuktha Maharashtra, gave the agitation a class spin, saying Marathis were reduced to working for the rich Gujarati. It is predominantly still the case, but the Gujarati is no longer a hate object in Mumbai.

Bal Thackeray left the Gujaratis alone and made the South Indian the new hate object, caricaturing them. There were attacks on South Indians, but things did not change drastically. South Indians survived, and so did Mumbai. So he found the new hate object — the Muslims — during the eighties and nineties. When, tor reasons other than the Shiv Sena’s campaign, there were anti-Muslim riots in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena too played its part. It is then that the Shiv Sena split, and Raj, in the last five years, has been focussing on creating a new hate object in the Bihari, in order to carve out a distinct political space. On the street this can also include the poor UP-ite, so basically the entire country ( the rest of India, so to say) has been off and on held up as hate objects to be thrown out of Mumbai. How much of this whipped up anti-Bihari sentiment will catch on? Will this also peter out like the earlier hate campaigns? The ethnic or sub-nationalistic strife that the Shiv Sena has sought to create has no basis in reality. The situation of the Bihari going to Mumbai or other states for jobs can be compared to Indians of all ethnicity going to the Gulf countries or the West for lower-level jobs, and this includes Marathis as well. This in fact helps brings down wages in that country and mostly spurs growth, as has happened in Mumbai. In Dubai, for instance, 80 percent of the population are migrants (with similar pattern in other Gulf states) and the government there has no issues. The Dubai government has made no mention of sending back Marathi labour, for instance.

Raj Thackeray’s war cry, apart from being anti-national, is self-defeating. The jobs which the Bihari occupies in Mumbai to a large extent are not the jobs the unemployed Marathi is looking for. He is aspirational and mostly educated. Given a chance, he would prefer not to drive a taxi. To capitalise on the frustration of the unemployed is a Shiv Sena ploy but that may not work any more because opportunities are growing. All the more in Mumbai. Raj must also realise that other states are looking for cheap labour, including Punjab, where there are not enough hands for agriculture labour. Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has asked for the national rural employment scheme to be suspended for the duration of the harvest season so that Bihari labour will migrate. If Bihari, Oriya and UP migrant labourers stay put in their home states (as is happening now thanks to the rural employment scheme), there will be a crisis in the agricultural sector. So the Bihari migrant worker is being welcomed elsewhere. They are loved for their hard work, uncomplaining nature, and for accepting wages much below the prescribed minimum wages. Only Raj Thackeray hates them. In any case, societies which welcome people of all ethnicities (look at the West) always thrive. Mumbai too is an example. So Nitish Kumar holds all the cards. He has an absolute constitutional right to hold the Bihar Day celebration in Mumbai, Bihari migrant labour is what will spur growth in Mumbai and many other states in the near future as it has in the past. Who else will work in the huge constructions planned for Mumbai? Hopefully, Mumbai will see through this narrow divisive politics of Raj Thackeray, like it did in all earlier occasions when hate politics and militant populism was sought to be forced upon the city. The cosmopolitanism of Mumbai should always win.



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And now, rape as political witch-hunt. The stories of 7 women – By Ratnadip Choudhury (Apr 28, 2012, Tehelka)

On 20 March, two tribal girls in their early 20s were allegedly tortured and gang-raped by a group of tribal men in Takka Tulsi, a remote hamlet in southern Tripura. The incident hardly found a mention in the national media. Even in the Northeast, the media failed to read between the lines of what this incident tells about the tiny state that boasts of a high literacy rate, rural development and political consciousness. But the pain and trauma of the victims can be felt and heard in almost every tribal belt in Tripura, the last bastion of the Left Front in India. Indeed, women have been at the receiving end of the Left Front’s 19-year rule in the state. They have been tortured, gangraped and even murdered at will. Kangaroo courts have been used to brand tribal women as witches, and their moral character questioned, all for ulterior political designs.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), Tripura had India’s worst crime rate against women: 46.5 per lakh population in 2010. Between April 2010 and March 2011, the Tripura Commission for Women (TCW) received 913 cases of crime against women, out of which 62 were against tribals. So, why this spurt in rapes against tribal women in Tripura? Historically, the Left Front had reigned supreme in the tribal areas but its support base has started eroding. Every day, tribals are deserting the CPM and joining regional parties because they believe that CPM leaders share benefits of government schemes only with their relatives and cadres. Rattled by the desertion and its debacle in West Bengal, the CPM cadres are trying every trick in the trade to retain power in next year’s Assembly polls. But for now, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and the TCW have some explaining to do about these shocking crime figures.

“The high rate of crime against women in Tripura is a concern,” says CPM state secretary Bijan Dhar, adding, “I agree that since we have been in power for 19 years, a section of our people got inclined towards power and at times ideology takes a back seat.” The magnitude of the political pressure is so intense that the watchdog TCW is almost parroting the state government’s tune. “Politics on a sensitive issue like rape is not desirable. We are alarmed by the increase in rape cases and we have been taking action but it is not like that the government is not sensitive,” says TCW chairperson Dr Tapati Chakraborty. But the Congress is in no mood to desist from politicking on the issue. “It is the tribal vote bank that has kept the Left in power for so long; they have done nothing for them,” says Leader of the Opposition and Congress MLA Ratan Lal Nath. “The CPM cadres have done heinous crimes against women and got away with it, but we will fight against this menace.”

TEHELKA travelled to some of the remotest villages to understand why the tribal women are at peril. The driver who took us around, gave us a primer. “Tripura has adequate power and good roads, even in remote areas. It has been the best state in the implementation of MGNREGA,” he says. “But the truth is that one can enjoy the fruits of development only if he/she supports the ruling party. Political rivals are boycotted economically and socially, mentally harassed and assaulted by CPM cadres.” There are numerous cases of violence against tribals that paint a shoddy picture of the state of affairs in Tripura, where the Left Front won 19 of the 20 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes in the 60-member Assembly in 2008. However, it’s not just the tribals who are bearing the brunt. The TCW records between April 2010 and March 2011 show that 28.37 percent of the crimes were against SCs, 13.14 percent against Muslims and 20.37 percent against OBCs. These numbers are enough for the Left Front to realise that its final bastion is in big trouble.



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Book Review

Challenges to Civil Rights Guarantees in India

Author: A.G Noorani and SAHRDC
Reviewed by: V. Venkatesan
Available at: Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 U.S.A., Feb 2012, Not Yet Published, Price: $60.00 (06) . http://www.oup.com/us
Primer to civil rights (Apr 21, 2012, Frontline)

We would feel somewhat relieved if we are told by the champions of civil liberties that there are only nine challenges to civil rights guarantees in India and that they are not as insurmountable as they appear to be. A reader of the book under review, Challenges to Civil Rights Guarantees in India, would expect such relief, going by the structure of the book, which is divided into nine distinct chapters, each devoted to the discussion of a single challenge and the possible remedies for it. However, neither of the expectations is true. The authors have structured the book so only for the sake of convenience. There are indeed far more challenges to civil rights guarantees than the nine identified in the book, and the challenges are so complex that they require eternal vigilance to stop them from overwhelming us. Nevertheless, the division of the book into nine chapters is an excellent idea to focus our energies on what appear to be clear and present dangers to civil rights in India. The authors, A.G. Noorani and South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC), are eminently qualified to help readers pursue such an ambition. At the outset, the subtle distinction between human rights and civil rights needs to be understood clearly and spelt out if only to avoid epistemological problems that may arise as a result of reading this narrowly focussed but easily readable book.

Human rights comprise economic, social or cultural rights, claims an individual has a right to. They impose on the state a positive obligation to provide the necessary resources so that individuals can enjoy such rights. These rights arise from natural law and are deemed as fundamental to living and survival, and, therefore, deserve protection irrespective of whether the law expressly recognises them or not. Some examples are the right to life, the right to freedom from torture and the right to free movement. Civil liberties, on the other hand, imply a claim to freedom from interference with that claim. They impose a negative duty on the state not to violate that claim. They represent the residual liberty to do anything that one wants unless the law provides otherwise. Civil liberties stem from positive law and include both political and civil rights. These are state-enforced rights. Examples include the right to free elections, the right to vote, the right to fair hearing and the right of the accused to silence. The distinction between a human right and a civil liberty is not watertight; most civil liberties are also human rights though the reverse is not true. Put in this context, this book deals with that facet of civil liberties, in whose protection rights awareness and rights education play a pivotal role. Protection of political rights, compared with those of civil rights, is easy because violation of political rights by the state is always blatant and invites prompt response in the form of vociferous protests from the affected groups and individuals. The right to vote, the right to form political parties and run for political offices and the right to express dissent in a democracy are all political rights that are jealously guarded by all concerned.

Protection of civil rights, on the contrary, requires eternal vigilance on the part of opinion-makers and people at large because their violation is always subtle and very often happens unnoticed and unopposed. That is why books such as this serve a useful purpose by bringing to the public domain unnoticed aspects of civil rights protection in India. According to Ravi Nair of the SAHRDC, the book is the result of collaborative discussions with Noorani. The impetus for writing the book and the inspiration for its content stemmed from Noorani’s articles on a range of civil rights topics that appeared in issues of Economic & Political Weekly and Sunday magazine in the 1980s. Ravi Nair and his team of interns at the SAHRDC provided flesh and blood to the articles (which Noorani describes as a mere skeleton), bringing them up to date so that they qualify as, what Noorani calls, essentially a primer to civil liberties. It is natural to ask what made the authors identify these nine challenges to the protection of civil rights rather than others for the purpose of the book. What made them choose nine and not eight or seven? A reader can easily infer that the authors feel more strongly about these challenges, perhaps in the order in which they appear in the book. The first chapter, on preventive detention, shows that right from the time of the constitution of the Constituent Assembly up to the present preventive detention laws in India have rested on a diversity of narratives used to justify perceptions of threat to the Indian nation and its democratic character. The “necessary evil” justification, first espoused by the framers of the Constitution with respect to the political and social turmoil of Independence and Partition, continues to be relied upon by the executive and Parliament. The only difference is that the contexts of Independence and Partition have been replaced by alleged threats from home and abroad, such as war, foreign relations, internal emergencies, public order, smuggling and terrorism. The authors, therefore, suggest a number of reforms to preventive detention laws and provisions under the Constitution. These include added protection for detainees against torture and other forms of abuse committed during the course of preventive detention; replacement of the standard of “subjective satisfaction” with specific reviewable criteria, as currently the law allows the courts to review only whether the detaining authorities took into account all the relevant factors; limitations on the time frame within which judicial review of a detention order must take place, most preferably by requiring that all detainees must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest as with ordinary detention; and repeal of Article 22(3)(b) of the Constitution, which denies a detainee under a preventive detention law this right and the right to be informed of the grounds of arrest and the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

The authors explain why the reform of preventive detention laws has received scant attention from our law-makers or the civil society, by citing former Chief Justice of India P.B. Gajendragadkar’s warning in 1967: “The tendency to treat (matters of preventive detention powers) in a somewhat casual and cavalier manner which may conceivably result from the continuous use of such unfettered powers, may ultimately pose a serious threat to the basic values on which the democratic way of life in this country is founded.” The second chapter, which is on extrajudicial killings, deplores the fact that the judiciary has yet to take effective action against the prevalence of encounter killings. Recently, the Andhra Pradesh High Court attempted to respond to the dangerous nature of extrajudicial killings, but the book says that its decision has been undermined by the Supreme Court. The High Court established three key elements of procedure that must be followed in the wake of an encounter death: If a complaint is filed against a police officer, police personnel are obligated to register a first information report (FIR). The names of the officers allegedly involved in the encounter need not be divulged in the report. Secondly, after an FIR is filed, an investigation must be initiated. The investigation should yield one of the three conclusions: that no killing took place; that the offending officer was justifiably exercising his right of self-defence; or that the killing was inexcusable and illegal. Thirdly, if unconvinced by the investigative report – specifically that the offending officer was legitimately exercising his right of self-defence – the judicial magistrate is empowered to take cognisance of the case. The book regrets that the Supreme Court’s decision to impose a stay on the High Court’s ruling demonstrates its pronounced interest in the idea of preserving police morale. The authors say that the court’s track record regarding deference to the police in other cases provides little confidence that the Supreme Court will uphold the High Court’s decision or otherwise provide effective safeguards against encounter killings.

In the third chapter, titled “Counter-terrorism and Human Rights”, the authors observe that the implementation of counterterrorism laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and the amended Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) has severely restricted various civil rights and has had an unduly harsh effect on the minority communities. At the same time, terrorist attacks have continued to occur. The authors quote from relevant Supreme Court judgments to argue that increasing the state’s arsenal of powers has not been and will not be effective in preventing terrorism. Such measures only add to the plethora of social grievances that often give impetus to violent struggles against the state, they say. The authors recommend the strengthening of the ordinary criminal justice system to better address the ongoing terrorist activities. Pointing out that conviction rates have dropped from 65 per cent in 1961 to 43 per cent in 2004, they attribute this to police corruption, political influence on the police and prosecution, and the immense backlog of cases before the courts caused by a lack of resources. In the fourth chapter, on the death penalty, the authors observe that despite the surface-level semblance of a test to determine consistently whether the death penalty should be imposed on a case-by-case basis through a proper weighing of all relevant factors, in practice the broad discretion afforded by the rarest of rare doctrine (laid down in a 1980 case by the Supreme Court) simply allows the courts to impose the death penalty arbitrarily as they see fit. … To sum up, the nine challenges to civil rights guarantees in India, as explained in the book in great detail, are indeed formidable. One cannot be under the illusion that the authorities will readily accept the remedies suggested by the authors to meet these challenges, unless there is strong public opinion in their favour. The book would have achieved its purpose if it succeeds in mobilising such opinion.