IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 30th, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- A dead CM’s account of his 2002 encounter with Modi, now with rights panel
- NO change in US stand on denial of visa to Modi
- Gujarat riots: Witnesses want convicts to be tried for conspiracy
- Bangaru Laxman sentenced to 4 years jail in fictitious arms deal case
- Gujarat encounters probe panel may soon issue public notices
- Four arrested for placing meat at a temple
- Life term for 9 RSS-BJP workers in murder case
- No burqa in classes: Mangalore college diktat
- Abduct, demand and thrive: The new Maoist mantra
- Now, rape in police custody in Bengal
Opinions & Editorials
- A Decade-long inquiry and many more to go? – By Abhishek Bhalla
- Indian Government Owes Several Apologies – By Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association
- Stand By Bathani Tola In the Battle For A New and Just Bihar – By Dipankar Bhattacharya
- A bonfire of free speech – Editorial
- Nirmal Baba, Wikileaks And Misleading Mainstream Media – By Kumar Anand
- Abduction of Collector – Editorial
- Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India & The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India – By Subhash Gatade
US’ reaffirmation of visa denial to Modi welcomed by IAMC
Tuesday April 26, 2012
The Indian American Muslim Council (https://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos today welcomed the US State Department’s reiteration of its position on the issue of a US visa for Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congressman Walsh had called on the US government to lift the ban on issuing a US visa to Mr. Modi. On April 25, 2012, the State Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland responded to questions from reporters on Congressman Walsh’s letter. “Our position on the visa issue has not changed at all,” Ms. Nuland stated categorically, reaffirming the government’s position that Mr. Modi continues to remain inadmissible under current US law. Section 212 (a)(2)(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, makes foreign government officials ineligible for a visa should the State Department deem them complicit in severe violations of religious freedom.
Mr. Modi is the prime accused in a case filed by human rights organization “Citizens for Justice and Peace” and Gujarat carnage survivor Mrs. Zakia Jafri, where he is accused of conspiracy to commit mass murder, to influence the course of public justice and to destroy public records. An amicus curiae appointed by India’s Supreme Court has found sufficient evidence to charge and prosecute him for the carnage in 2002 that resulted in the killing of over 2,000 people and the displacement of over 150,000.
“Even after the horrific pogrom in Gujarat 2002, there has been no reprieve for the minorities in Gujarat. The continued violations of religious freedom in the state, in the form of extra-judicial killings, pathetic living conditions of people displaced since 2002, as well as economic discrimination against minorities reflect the culture of impunity cultivated by Mr. Modi and his administration,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. “The State Department’s refusal to reconsider the ban on Modi’s visa should also be seen in light of the ongoing struggle to secure justice and reparation for the victims of the Gujarat carnage of 2002,” added Mr. Khateeb.
IAMC has called upon India’s Supreme Court to look into irregularities in the functioning of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Court and to ensure that the masterminds of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 are brought to justice.
Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.
For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.
No change in visa policy on Narendra Modi: US
US Department of State – Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9
US lawmaker asks Clinton to reconsider decision on visa to Modi
Gujarat 2002 – The Full Coverage
“We have no orders to save you” – Report by Human Rights Watch
A dead CM’s account of his 2002 encounter with Modi, now with rights panel (Apr 28, 2012, Indian Express)
Late chief minister Amarsinh Chaudhary, who had faced two riots during his chief ministership, saw several flaws in the way his successor Narendra Modi handled the riots of 2002, one of them being the inadequate requisitioning of paramilitary force to control the violence. His 21-page affidavit, submitted before the Nanavati Commission in July 2002 when he headed the state Congress, has been annexed to the 400-page affidavit suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt filed with the National Commission for Minorities on April 25, in response to a complaint by one Niyazbibi Malek of Ognaj village in Ahmedabad who had alleged that certain records that indicated the state government’s complicity in the riots were missing.
Chaudhary’s affidavit (a copy of which is with The Indian Express) also mentions the controversial meeting on February 27, 2002, during which Modi allegedly asked top officials to go slow on rioting mobs.In his affidavit, Chaudhary says of his meeting with Modi, “When I learnt from him that only two companies of para-military forces were asked to assist local police, I told him I had summoned more than 100 companies even for the rath yatra”. Chaudhary, who was a Congress Chief Minister in 1985-1989 and 1995-97, further said in his affidavit that during the 1985 communal riots, Congress MLA Mohammad Hussain Barejiya was among those arrested.
Chaudhary died weeks before he was to be cross-examined by Jan Sangharsh Manch’s advocate Mukul Sinha before the Nanavati Commission in 2005. He was among those whom late Congress MP Ahsan Jafri called for help before he was killed by the mob along with 68 others at Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002.”I wanted to question Chaudhary because he had gone to meet the CM to apprise him about the violence, especially in Gulberg Society. I wanted to know what he told Modi and what Modi told him. We wanted to cross-examine Modi to confirm the same. However, we are not allowed to do so,” Sinha says.
In his affidavit, the late CM also mentioned his meeting with Modi. “Former MP Ahsan Jafri had made frantic calls to all those who could help him. He called me apprising me about the danger to his life and his family members at Gulberg society.” “I called police commissioner P C Pande, but he did not help. Then I had to rush to Gandhinagar with Naresh Rawal, Leader of Opposition, to meet Modi at 2 pm. I apprised him about the grave danger to the lives of Jafri and others. I did not find any response from the CM,” Chaudhary said in his affidavit.
“I personally experienced in my meeting with CM on February 28, 2002, that he did not want to help. The CM was acting and reacting to situations from February 27, 2002 onwards,” he said. On February 28, 2002, as Chaudhary went to meet Modi, he met Sanjiv Bhatt, who was returning from Modi’s forenoon meeting, according to his affidavit. Bhatt’s affidavit to NCM says that when Chaudhary and Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela sat on a dharna demanding action to stop the violence, Modi had snubbed Chaudhary saying he would meet the same fate as Muslims.
- 2002 riots: Sanjiv Bhatt writes to President for probe against Modi (Apr 28, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Gujarat government keeps legal expenses in riots cases under wraps (Apr 26, 2012, Times of India)
- ’02 Mehsana village killings: Court lets off all 109 accused, gives benefit of doubt (Apr 28, 2012, Indian Express)
- High court allows sale of Mevawala flats to Muslim builder (Apr 27, 2012, Times of India)
NO change in US stand on denial of visa to Modi (Apr 26, 2012, Rediff)
The Barack Obama administration has indicated that there is unlikely to be any change in the State Department’s policy to refuse a visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to visit the United States, and predicted that this will be the message it will convey to a US lawmaker who has launched a campaign to prevail upon the administration to grant a diplomatic visa to Modi. Last week, as reported exclusively by rediff.com, on the urging of his Indian American constituents, particularly hoteliers of Gujarati-origin, right wing conservative Republican Congressman Joe Walsh had written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to “consider granting a diplomatic visa to Modi.” On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, asked at the regular noon briefing if Clinton would be replying to Walsh and if the US would review its position in 2005, when it refused Modi a visa to come to the US, said: “Our position on the visa issue hasn’t changed at all.” Walsh, a freshman lawmaker, who is vulnerable in his district in the upcoming November elections and needs all the financial support he can muster as he has been targeted by Democrats as one of the most vulnerable incumbents, in his missive to Clinton had recalled that “in March 2005, Modi was denied a diplomatic visa to visit the United States. A State Department official said at the time that he was forbidden entry to visit the US under “Section 212 (a)(2)(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
This section of the law makes foreign government officials ineligible for a visa should the State Department deem them responsible for or directly carrying out severe violations of religious freedom. Walsh argued that “it should be noted that when reading this section of law further, it specifically states that these violations cannot have occurred 24-months prior to application for a visa.” He informed Clinton that “the communal riots that occurred in Gujarat in 2002 are undeniably tragic and resulted in many deaths of innocent Indians,” but noted, “This region has worked for years now to bring to justice those that committed serious crimes and many strides have been seen towards reconciliation among Muslims and Hindus in the region.” “Ten years have passed since the violence in Gujarat and much progress has been made. Modi has been recognised across the world for establishing Gujarat as the most business-friendly state in India and is widely believed to be a serious contender for the 2014 election for Indian prime minister,” he added. Thus, Walsh urged Clinton that “it is time the State Department reconsiders permitting Modi into the United States.”
The Indian American Muslim Council, slamming Walsh for launching a campaign urging the administration to permit Modi to enter the United States, said, “It is unfortunate that a sitting member of the US Congress should attempt to make a case based on ignorance of the law which was amended in September 2009, specifically to remove the 24-month restriction.” IAMC called on Walsh “to refer to the US Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9” to apprise himself with the law. It also argued that “in making the case that religious violations under Modi occurred a long time ago, Representative Walsh’s letter is also a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that those violations did indeed occur.” “Contrary however, to Congressman Walsh’s uninformed and presumptive defense of Modi, the religious violations did not end after the Gujarat carnage of 2002. They continue to this day, in the form of extra-judicial killings, lack of due process in law enforcement and economic discrimination against minorities,” IAMC said. It added, “Perhaps the respected Congressman would find it educational to read news reports of people displaced during the carnage of 2002, of which 16,000 are still living in refugee camps lacking basic amenities.”
The IAMC alleged that “while Modi is busy spending the state’s tax dollars in hiring PR firms like APCO to give himself an image makeover, the minorities in Gujarat continue to bear the brunt of his hateful ideology.” It said that “on January 26, 2012, a heritage cemetery belonging to Christians was desecrated by Hindutva fanatics that share Modi’s ideology. Not surprisingly, the Gujarat Chapter of the All-India Christian Council called for Modi’s resignation for failing to protect Christians.” “The campaign for a US visa for Modi is antithetical to the ideas of justice and human rights,” IAMC said, and argued that it’s also “against the conservative principles of religious freedom Congressman Walsh stands for.” It warned that “allowing Modi to gain the veneer of respectability he craves by granting him a US visa is an affront to the rule of law, and tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of multitudes who continue to suffer under his misrule.” In March 2005, Modi was denied a visa for his alleged complicity in Gujarat’s sectarian violence in 2002 – which left nearly 2,000 people, mainly Muslims dead – when he had applied for a visa to attend the annual convention of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, where he was to deliver the keynote address.
Interestingly, the refusal of the visa at the time to Modi came just two days after the visit to New Delhi of then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and although the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance government had no love lost for Modi, it summoned the then US deputy chief of mission at the American embassy in Delhi, who at the time was Blake, and lodged a strong protest over Washington’s decision called it “uncalled for.” The External Affairs Ministry at the time said, “The action on the part of the US embassy is uncalled for and displays lack of courtesy and sensitivity towards a constitutionally elected chief minister of a state of India.” The US embassy at the time said Modi’s tourist and business visa issued in 1998 had been revoked and there was no chance he would be issued a diplomatic visa either. Earlier, the US embassy said Modi’s tourist and business visa, issued in 1998, had been revoked and he would not get a diplomatic visa either. At the time, an angry Modi called the US decision “an insult to the Indian constitution and an attack on Indian sovereignty.” But the US held firm and did not issue him a visa, saying the decision had been taken under the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, “under which any foreign government official responsible for serious violation of religious freedom is ineligible for a visa.” The State Department said that “the US law is clear that states or government officials responsible for carrying out serious violations of religious freedom are ineligible for a visa”.
- No visa for Narendra Modi, reiterates US (Apr 27, 2012, Economic Times)
- US lawmaker asks Clinton to reconsider decision on visa to Modi (Apr 25, 2012, Indian Express)
- Indian-American Muslims ask US not to change policy on Modi’s visa (Apr 25, 2012, DNA India)
- Khurshid takes a jibe at Modi over US visa issue (Apr 26, 2012, Indian Express)
Gujarat riots: Witnesses want convicts to be tried for conspiracy (Apr 27, 2012, DNA India)
Witnesses of Sardarpura massacre case have demanded sentencing of convicts in the case under charges of conspiracy. Talking to media persons on Thursday, the witnesses alleged that it was a pre-planned conspiracy to kill people of the minority community in Sardarpura village in Mehsana district. Gulam Ali, one of the witnesses, claimed that on the eve of February 27, 2002, while working near Jain temple, he had heard two accused, Maganlal and Becharbhai, passing a remark that they would kill Muslims.
Another witness, Bashirabibi Shaikh, claimed that when she had gone to the shop of one Dahyabhai, he allegedly told her that she would be killed. Other witnesses also claimed that the streets lights of Sheikh Mohalla, where the massacre happened, were repaired and switched on a day before the incident. Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an NGO fighting for communal riots, said, “We have moved a petition challenging the verdict of the Sardarpura riots in which the lower court has not upheld the theory of conspiracy.”
She further said, “There are many witnesses who came on record and gave statements and testimony in the court that established the fact that the killing at Sheikh Mohalla was pre-planned. The SIT will establish the theory of conspiracy in the appeal filed before the HC.” The petition before the HC cited statements of many witnesses. Sabirmiya Akhumiya Pathan, one of the witnesses, stated that Haresh Bhatt, a leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, had come to the village and held a meeting at Mahadev Temple (the place from where the crowd came on the night of the event). “A meeting of Patel youth was held where Bhatt gave an instigating lecture,” Pathan said. In November last year, the designated court had awarded life imprisonment to 31 accused while acquitting 42.
- Sardarpura massacre case witness alleges boycott (Apr 27, 2012, Times of India)
- HC admits plea against acquittal of 31 in Sardarpura case (Apr 27, 2012, IBN)
- Sardarpura massacre: State, SIT move HC against 31 acquittals (Apr 28, 2012, Indian Express)
- Medha Patkar in court over her assault (Apr 25, 2012, Times of India)
Bangaru Laxman sentenced to 4 years jail in fictitious arms deal case (Apr 28, 2012, Times of India)
Former BJP president Bangaru Laxman was sentenced today to four years in jail by a Delhi court for taking a bribe of Rs one lakh in a fictitious arms deal case 11 years ago. Additional Sessions Judge Kanwal Jeet Arora sentenced 72-year-old Bangaru, also a former Union minister, holding him guilty of taking the bribe from fake arms dealers to recommend to the defence ministry to award them a contract to supply thermal binoculars to the Army. The court awarded him the prison term, rejecting his plea for leniency and ordered that he be taken in custody to serve the sentence.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs one lakh on Bangaru, who had been caught on camera accepting the money in his chamber in the party headquarters and had to quit as its president shortly after the sting expose which had created a huge political storm. “Balancing the twin interest of society and that of the convict, I am of the opinion that interest of justice would be met, if the convict is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a term of four years and to pay a fine of Rs one lakh for the offence under Section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” the judge said.
“It is often said that the accomplice of the crime of corruption is generally our own indifference. ‘Sab chalta hai’ syndrome has led us to the present situation, where we are, where nothing moves without an illegal consideration. People are forced to pay for getting even the right things done at right time,” he added. The judge, in his 14-page order on quantum of the sentence, said it is time to “shun” the “sab chalta hai” (It’s OK, whatsoever!) attitude and courts should deal strictly with persons found guilty of corruption.
“It is right time to shun this attitude. When Parliament, taking note of the grim situation, has taken first step to sternly deal with such persons by increasing the quantum of punishment which can be imposed, it is the turn of the court to follow suit, so as to implement the will and intention of the legislature by interpreting the provisions of the PC Act as per the dictates of the apex court,” the judge said. “The problem of large-scale and rampant corruption, more particularly, the political corruption is weakening the political body and damaging the supreme importance of the law, governing the society.”
“The wisdom in the saying ‘crime never pays’ is belied by the factual realities of the day. The crime scenario in our country is distressingly disturbing as it has shattered hopes of both the plebeian and intellectual society about a possible rejuvenation of a value-based society,” the judge said. The court had on Friday convicted Bangaru observing that the CBI had established the case of accepting Rs one lakh bribe against him. “Accused Bangaru Laxman stands convicted for the offence under Section 9 (taking gratification for exercise of personal influence with public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” the judge had said.
- 11 years after being nailed, guilty verdict for Bangaru (Apr 27, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Court jails Bangaru, says corruption worse than prostitution (Apr 28, 2012, Indian Express)
- Bangaru Laxman’s sentencing: Key points of the judgment (Apr 27, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Fresh probe ordered into chopper deal (Apr 26, 2012, The Hindu)
Gujarat encounters probe panel may soon issue public notices (Apr 26, 2012, Indian Express)
The Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, which has been formed to probe into 22 encounter cases of Gujarat and is headed by retired SC judge H S Bedi, is readying to issue public notices. Besides Gujarat, the notices would be issued in states like Uttar Pradesh and Kerala. The first notice is likely to be issued to the family of Sameer Khan Pathan, who was killed on October 22, 2002, 10 days after he was arrested by the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB). The DCB had claimed that Pathan was a Jaish-e-Mohammed operative and was on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Sources said Justice (retd) Bedi would hold his first meeting with the committee members on June 21, after which the panel would begin hearing complaints and statements related to the cases. They are likely to seek documents of the Pathan encounter case from the Chief Metropolitan Court in Ahmedabad where the matter is sub-judice. The committee comprises one officer from the State Human Rights Commission, the state DGP, Addition Secretary (Home), Inspector General (Law & Order), a magistrate and a member from outside Gujarat as its members.
The committee had in 2010 formed a special task force (STF) under an IGP rank officer and three Superintendents of Police (SPs) as its members to assist in the investigations. “Justice Bedi has decided that the cases would be probed one by one and work would be allotted among the SPs for the probe. The notices would be also issued case wise for the families, witnesses and anyone who wants to depose before the committee in connection with the respective incidents,” said a source.
The notices would be issued soon after the state government hands over an office space to the committee near Gandhinagar Range IGP’s office. During his last visit to Gandhinagar on April 18, Justice (retd) Bedi had asked the STF to be ready to start the probe by June. However, with the recent reshuffle, the STF is now left with two SPs – Sandeep Singh and RV Asari – as D R Patel was promoted to the post of DIG.
Sources said the STF has written to the government to name the third member at the earliest and the appointment is likely to be made before June. The SC had order the state government to form the monitoring committee on a petition of poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar and veteran journalist BG Verghese filed in 2007. The encounters to be investigated were reported between 2002 and 2006.
- Tulsiram case: Habeas corpus filed for missing witness (Apr 26, 2012, Times of India)
- Tulsiram probe hits a call log-jam (Apr 25, 2012, Indian Express)
- Mujeeb-Khamarunnisa’s deaths: Suicide or Gujarat model fake encounter? (Apr 24, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Sohrabuddin: Another HC judge recuses from hearing Chudasama’s bail plea (Apr 26, 2012, Indian Express)
Four arrested for placing meat at a temple (Apr 27, 2012, IBN)
Police here today arrested four members of majority community for allegedly placing pieces of meat at a temple at Kurmaguda that triggered communal violence in some areas of old city on April 8. The SIT of Hyderabad Police arrested Nagaraj, a sanitation supervisor, Kiran Kumar, Ramesh and Dayanand Singh, who under the influence of liquor allegedly planted cow leg pieces and also sprinkled green color on the temple premises on the intervening night of April 7-8 to throw blame on the members of Muslim community, a senior police officer said.
Subsequently, several incidents of violence took place in the communally sensitive areas of old city with members of two communities clashing and indulging in stabbing and heavy stone-pelting, prompting authorities to clamp indefinite curfew under Saidabad and Madannapet police station limits for almost a week. Even as the curfew was in force, similar incidents were reported where pieces of meat were found lying on the premises of places of worship in Kachiguda and Moghalpura.
According to the senior SIT official, the four accused have given confession and investigation has established that one Srinivas alias Salman Srinu, a private money lender and Niranjan, partner in a wine shop, decided to erupt tension between the two communities in Kurmaguda. It was Srinivas and Niranjan, who are absconding, hatched a conspiracy and instigated Nagaraj, Kiran Kumar, Ramesh and Dayanand Singh to create communal hatred, the police officer said. The SIT has so far arrested 23 persons in connection with violent incidents.
- Finally, SIT produces accused in riots case (Apr 28, 2012, Times of India)
- Fact finding Report: Hyderabad Communal Violence (Apr 24, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Sajjan conspired with police during 1984 riots: CBI (Apr 23, 2012, Indian Express)
- Riots hit all equally, not only minorities: Activists (Apr 22, 2012, DNA India)
Life term for 9 RSS-BJP workers in murder case (Apr 24, 2012, Times of India)
The Thalassery sessions court on Monday awarded life term to nine RSS-BJP workers who were found guilty in the murder of National Development Front (NDF) activist P V Muhammad at Punnad near Iritty on June 7, 2004.
Those who got life-term under Section 302 of IPC in the case are M Chandran (33), E Rathnakaran (42), P P Shaiju (31), P Pradeepan (38), P Baiju alias Vijeesh (31), K Babu (34), K K Padmanabhan (30), V Vineesh (31),and P Shaiju alias Unni (30).
Out of the 26 accused, 16 were acquitted. The court will hear the case of the 14th accused, Satheesan Ananthoth, later, as the defence lawyer said that he was mentally disturbed and undergoing treatment.
- Masood murder case: Accused says BJP pressuring husband to divorce her (Apr 24, 2012, Indian Express)
- Killer’s escape drama: 2 cops suspended (Apr 24, 2012, Times of India)
- Terror attacks claimed 458 lives in Mumbai since 2000 (Apr 26, 2012, Indian Express)
- NIA to appeal in HC for Pragya questioning (Apr 25, 2012, Times of India)
No burqa in classes: Mangalore college diktat (Apr 27, 2012, Hindustan Times)
St Aloysius College in Karnataka’s port city Mangalore has banned girl students from wearing burqa in classes and while writing exams, but allowed them to wear the outfit on the campus. The management of the autonomous educational institution has decided not to change its decision, taken earlier this month, despite criticism. The ban comes into effect from this academic year and has been conveyed in the prospectus issued to undergraduates.
“We want to maintain the sanctity of exams and also discipline in classrooms,” principal (in-charge) Fr Walter Andrade told mediapersons on Friday. He said students should be identified properly in examination halls and classrooms. He said criticism that the decision targeted Muslim students was unfair because the college respected all religions.
Mangalore Jesuit Education Society vice-president and rector of the college, Fr Joseph Rodrigues, said the decision was taken to maintain principles. He said a lecturer or an invigilator could not insult a student by asking her remove the burqa for identification. He added that the decision was taken after considering various factors.
The college registrar, AM Narahari, said the college had not witnessed a single instance of discrimination of grounds of religion in its 132-year history. A college official who did not wish to be identified said the decision should not be misinterpreted and likened to the ban imposed by France on wearing the burqa in public.
- Turban ban in Shimla convent school? (Apr 26, 2012, Indian Express)
- Why OBC minority quota for MBA not utilized at ISM-Dhanbad? (Apr 25, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- ‘Centre ignoring Muslim freedom fighters’ (Apr 29, 2012, Indian Express)
- Meerut varsity scraps Rushdie paper after Deoband’s ire (Apr 26, 2012, Daily Bhaskar)
Abduct, demand and thrive: The new Maoist mantra (Apr 27, 2012, Rediff)
Philosopher George Santayana’s prediction that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it is coming eerily true in the jungles of east and central India, where state governments have encouraged Maoist terror by succumbing to serial hostage deals. The kidnapping of Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon in Chhattisgarh last weekend came just days after the Maoists in Odisha released an Italian tour operator in return for the handing over of 27 imprisoned members of their group.
Odisha legislator and Biju Janata Dal leader Jhina Hikaka, meanwhile, was released on Wednesday after an extended captivity – one that did not seem to have caused various state governments to draw the obvious lesson of urgently tightening security measures. The Maoist groups in neighbouring Chhattisgarh were quick to read the message from this softening of the state; they are now holding Mr Menon in anticipation of more prisoner releases.
To be sure, state governments are faced with a difficult dilemma. It is understandably influenced by the very human impulse to rescue innocent victims, especially in the face of the considerable emotional pressure applied by the families of those who are kidnapped.
- Naxals targetting collectors who pursue development: Govt (Apr 26, 2012, Indian Express)
- Maoists kill 2 tribals in Gadchiroli (Apr 26, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Naxals have own intel network (Apr 26, 2012, Asian Age)
- NCTC essential for avoiding future abductions: Narayanasamy (Apr 27, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Now, rape in police custody in Bengal (Apr 24, 2012, Deccan Herald)
A twenty-seven-year-old woman lodged a complaint with the SDPO of Chandannagar in Hooghly district in West Bengal on Tuesday, alleging that she was raped inside the compound of a police station by the officer-in-charge of Bhadreshwar police station. The woman said the officer-in-charge of the police station, Mithun Banerjee, allegedly threatened her to physically compromise with him else he would slap false charges against her husband who was arrested two days before on charges of dacoity.
She said she was then forced into the officer’s quarter located inside the police station, where she was raped. The woman claimed that Banerjee even threatened her of dire consequences if she disclosed the rape. Additional SP of Hooghly district Amitava Verma ordered an inquiry into the incident. The victim was subjected to medical examination and a second opinion was taken, but no evidence of rape was found, informed Tanmoy Roychoudhary, SP Hoogly.
However, following the allegation of rape against him, Banerjee has been transfered to the Police Lines at Chinsurah, in Hoogly district. This is the second case of custodial rape in West Bengal. The previous incident occurred in 1989, when a Bangladeshi pavement dweller was raped by a policeman who was an office-bearer of the policemen’s union.
- School secretary arrested for sexually harrassing students (Apr 24, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- 13-year-old Surat girl ‘raped several times’ (Apr 25, 2012, Indian Express)
- 13-year-old abducted from Surat, raped (Apr 25, 2012, DNA India)
- Minor set afire for resisting rape attempt (Apr 27, 2012, The Hindu)
Opinions and Editorials
A Decade-long inquiry and many more to go? – By Abhishek Bhalla (May 5, 2012, Tehelka)
The Nanavati Commission, probing the 2002 Gujarat riots, has been given yet another extension of six months by the Gujarat government – the 18th for the commission since it was set up in 2002. The commission was set up in 2002 to inquire into the Sabarmati Express burning incident on 27 February 2002 in which 59 pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were burnt alive in Godhra, and the ensuing riots. Inordinate delays, overlooking of crucial evidence such as phone call records, ignoring witness statements, denying crossexamination of the powerful have again delayed justice to thousands who lost their loved ones in the riots of February 2002. Ten years after it was set up, the two-member commission led by Justice GT Nanavati has failed to finalise a report on the facts and circumstances of the 2002 riots – one of the worst pogroms in independent India. In eight years, the commission has not summoned Chief Minister Narendra Modi even once to inquire into their alleged role – despite rights activists crying foul. It did not act even after the 2004 notification of the Gujarat government that asked the commission to probe the role of the CM and his team. “The government had received representations for inquiry into the role and conduct of the chief minister and others. The government was of the opinion that it was necessary to widen the scope of terms of reference of the aforesaid commission in public interest so as to look into the role and conduct of the chief minister as well as other ministers,” reads the notification, dated 20 July 2004. Curiously, the scope of the terms of reference was revised after the UPA-1 government was formed at the Centre on May 2004. While the latest report on the Godhra train incident says it was a conspiracy by local Muslims, it remains silent on the other two crucial aspects – facts and circumstances surrounding the post-Godhra riots and the alleged role of the chief minister. Once again, the commission has missed its latest deadline of 31 March 2012.
Rights groups and activists blame the tardy and biased approach of the commission for the poor probe. Relatives of the riot victims allege that there are functional problems in the commission. “By not summoning Modi despite strong grounds, and ignoring crucial evidence, the commission is unable to unravel the truth. This raises serious questions on the commission’s intentions,” says Mukul Sinha, a lawyer representing Jan Shakti Manch, an NGO that has been fighting for justice of the post-Godhra riot victims. “Who was responsible for the violence that took so many lives? Does the commission want to know the truth? The way it is working, I think we are far from the truth,” he adds. The NGO sent two applications to the commission in 2007 and another in 2009 pleading that Narendra Modi be summoned as stated in the government notification of 2004. The commission turned down both applications in 2009, calling the allegation against Modi vague and based on unwarranted assumptions. Apart from not summoning the Gujarat chief minister, advocate Sinha blames the commission for not allowing him to cross-examine certain witnesses – former ministers IK Jadeja, Gordhan Zadafiya, private assistant to the chief minister Om Prakash, officers on special duty to the CM Tanmay Mehta and Sanjay Bhavsar.
“The reason given was that permission for cross-examination was at the discretion of the commission,” says Sinha. The commission was given records of calls made by the three members of the CM staff to Jaideep Patel, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader who played a key role in the post-Godhra carnage. Patel is also an accused in the riot cases. “Ministers like Zadafiya and Jadeja held important positions,” elaborates Sinha. “We should have been permitted to grill the people at the helm of affairs for the truth to come out.” Evidence in form of call details to prove that the rioters were in constant touch with politicians made available to the commission has not been analysed. Rahul Sharma, superintendent of police in Bhavnagar during the 2002 riots, had given these records to the commission. It was the proactive role played by Sharma that resulted in the mob being neutralised. Ironically, he was transferred to the police control room in Ahmedabad soon after. While assisting in the investigations into the Naroda Patiya massacre, Sharma collected call records of some crucial people in Ahmedabad. Sinha calls this data a “goldmine of crucial evidence” that the commission has ignored. “The same data was used by the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) to make certain arrests but strangely, the probe panel has not taken it into consideration,” he says. Sharma was later chargesheeted under the Official Secrets Act for keeping the call details with him without permission as he was later moved out of the probe.
Police officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who has been in the line of fire ever since he took on Narendra Modi for his government’s inaction during the 2002 riots, has also raised doubts on the state’s role in influencing the Nanavati probe. In a letter written to President Pratibha Patil, Bhatt has questioned the CM’s role in the adequacy of measures taken to prevent the violence. “The deliberate exclusion of Reference (c) has ensured that the role and conduct of the then chief minister and/or any other minister(s) in his council of ministers, police officers, other individuals and organisations is not examined with respect to the adequacy of administrative measures taken to prevent and deal with disturbances in Godhra and subsequent disturbances in the state,” states the letter dated 6 April 2012. The President’s Secretariat has forwarded the letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs. In the letter, Bhatt presses for a commission of inquiry to look into the role of the chief minister and his Cabinet in failing to deal with the violence. He also alleges that the state government is acting in a partisan manner by not allowing the commission to function properly. He further states that officials of the state government have been tutoring witnesses, who have to depose before the commission. Sinha and Bhatt are not alone in raising questions on the commission’s functioning; a public interest litigation has also been filed by one Jignesh Goswami on the delays in submitting the report. “In the past 10 years, Rs 36 crore has been spent on the commission, but the final report is still not out. Public money is being spent ruthlessly,” says KG Pandit, lawyer for the PIL.
“The last deadline was 31 March 2012, but now it has been extended by another six months. We want to know on what grounds the extension was granted,” he adds. TEHELKA contacted government pleader PK Jani, who has been appearing in the matter, but he refused to comment. In a major setback for the rights groups, the apex court refused to entertain a petition seeking summoning of chief minister Modi. The petitioner withdrew the petition after the court showed little inclination to entertain it. But the proceedings have created more doubts because the Supreme Court initially issued notices to the commission and the Gujarat government on 19 March, but a week later, the apex court made a U-turn stating that it is for the commission to decide who to summon, and passing any order to such an effect will amount to judicial overreach. Advocate General Kamal Trivedi has been representing the Gujarat government and the commission in the court. Even after repeated calls and text messages, he was not available for comment. “The court said that there was some misunderstanding while issuing notices,” said Shreeji Bhavsar, the lawyer who filed the petition. “We are wondering what could have happened. We don’t expect such misunderstandings on the part of the Supreme Court.”
- Muslims are Gujarat’s new outcastes: Survey – By Roxy Gagdekar (Mar 2, 2012, DNA India)
- Modi’s Ratings – By Hartosh Singh Bal (Apr 24, 2012, New York Times)
Indian Government Owes Several Apologies – By Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (Apr 15, 2012, Countercurrents)
The Indian government has rejected the ‘mechanical apology’ being offered by the US for detaining the super star Shahrukh Khan at the airport for 90 minutes too long. The US Deputy Chief of Mission has been summoned, and institutional mechanisms to ensure that there is no repeat of such an incident. Now, may we ask the hyper active and sensitive Indian government to tender apologies – and genuine apology please, not a mechanical one – for detaining (illegally), incarcerating, torturing – in short, destroying and tearing apart the lives of hundreds of its own citizens in supposedly fighting terror. – The government could do well by starting with apologizing to Md. Amir Khan, who has spent half his life in prisons before 17 of the 19 blasts cases in which he was accused, fell apart because there was simply no evidence against him. Could someone please say sorry to him: for a lost childhood, for his grief-crazed mother’s paralysis, for his heartbroken father’s early death, for his broken, crumbling home.
– Syed Maqbool Shah, surely deserves to be told that someone is apologetic that he had to spend 14 years in high security prisons because the Delhi police falsely claimed recovering the tyre of the stolen car used in the Lajpat Nagar blasts in 1996. In 2010, the courts pronounced Shah innocent. By then all that was left of his life could be bundled in a small pouch: his mercy petition, copies of handwritten letters addressed to all chief ministers of Jammu & Kashmir since 1996, Union home ministers and the International Committee of Red Cross pleading for justice, his jail diaries and a passport size passport photo of 17-year-old Shah, about the time he was arrested.
– Shakeel Ahmed Khan and six others who spent six years in jail after being booked under TADA for conspiring to assassinate BJP leaders MM Joshi and Jagmohan. His family was reduced to penury and survived by donations from a local shrine. Could this humiliation and indignity be ever compensated for? Perhaps not, but does Shakeel’s family at least not deserve a public message of apology from the government? – Who will pay for the three years lost in solitary cells of eleven men from Rajasthan for allegedly furthering the activities SIMI – allegations which could not stand the scrutiny of evidence.
– While the Andhra Pradesh government has channelized funds of Mecca Masjid administration by way of compensation to some of those wrongfully implicated in the Masjid bombings, an apology is still not forthcoming. – Dozens of those falsely implicated by the Special Cell of Delhi: Saquib Rehman, Bashir Ahmed Shah, Nazir Ali Sofi, Ghulam Moinuddin Dar, Abdul Majid Bhat, Abdul Qayoom Khan, Birender Kr. Singh (spent over 5 and a half years in jail before being acquitted in 2010); Imran Kirmani (spent 4 and a half years in prison); Gulzar Ahmed Ganai ad Mr. Amin Hajam (3 years). All were accused of being ISI, Laskar e Tayyaba or HUJI operatives and all were acquitted by the courts because either no evidence could be found, or because evidence was concocted. No apology still?
Does anyone, anywhere in the machinery of our government ever feel any remorse when young men like Rashid Hussain are picked up for questioning in serial blasts and when their employers Infosys � otherwise the paragons of corporate social responsibility � refuse to let them return to their jobs? Or when established model Tariq Dar was arrested upon his landing at the international; airport, tortured and accused of having LeT links, but charges which the Special cell could not even translate into a chargesheet after keeping Dar in custody for 90 days. They want an apology – for the wasted years, for the stigma, for the loss of dignity, and yes, for the pain and dehumanization of torture. Is it too much to offer one’s own citizens who have been wronged an apology?
- Secular agenda must return – By Ram Puniyani (Apr 24, 2012, Tehelka)
Stand By Bathani Tola In the Battle For A New and Just Bihar – By Dipankar Bhattacharya (Apr 23, 2012, Countercurrents)
Nearly 16 years ago Bathani Tola had shocked and shamed the nation as yet another site of a gory massacre in Bihar. An obscure sleepy hamlet in Sahar block of Bhojpur district in Bihar, Bathani Tola experienced a brutal feudal assault on a fateful July afternoon in 1996. As many as 21 lives, including 11 women, seven children and two infants were killed with a kind of barbarity that was to be seen on a much bigger scale six years later in Gujarat. Bathani Tola was indeed a precursor to the 2002 Gujarat genocide. With Bathani Tola, the country woke up to the sordid reality of the Ranveer Sena, an upper caste feudal private army massacring the oppressed rural poor with the avowed aim of exterminating the CPI(ML) and the radical peasant movement. Sixteen years later, Bathani Tola is back in the news. The oppressed poor of this obscure village, who have been waiting for justice for years together, have experienced yet another massacre. This time round, it is a judicial massacre perpetrated by the High Court of Bihar which has overturned the verdict of the lower court and acquitted one and all who were convicted for their heinous role in executing this barbaric massacre.
While acquitting the guilty, the High Court has apologised to some of the accused even as it has termed the witnesses liars spinning tales. Nothing could perhaps demonstrate the farcical nature of the judicial system than the failure or refusal of the system to mete out any punishment to anybody for a massacre of 21 persons that had taken place not in the darkness of night but in broad daylight. When Bathani Tola happened Bihar was being ruled by Laloo Prasad with the slogan of social justice. The government banned the Ranveer Sena but the ban was never enforced and the Sena went on massacring people at will. Laxmanpur Bathe, Shankarbigha, Narayanpur, Miyanpur � the list of massacres got longer even as Laloo Prasad himself told his audience in a public meeting that he was ready to team up with the devil to finish the CPI(ML) off. On one level Laloo Prasad waxed eloquent against the BJP, but in Bihar his own government continued to connive with the most reactionary organ of feudal-communal violence. Sixteen years later Bihar today is ruled by Nitish Kumar with the backing of an increasingly aggressive BJP. The slogan of social justice has given way to the rhetoric of development with justice. But for the predominantly dalit, and as in the case of Bathani Tola also Muslim, victims of feudal violence, justice clearly remains as elusive as ever.
What has happened to the Bathani Tola victims is no judicial accident. This has rather been the norm in Bihar and if this exposes for the umpteenth time the caste-class bias of the judiciary we must remember this bias is reinforced by the government of the day. This was true of Congress-ruled Bihar when upper caste politicians used to dominate in the government, and it has remained true all through the last two decades when Laloo Prasad and Nitish Kumar have been in the helm with slogans of social justice or good governance. We must remember that the first thing that Nitish Kumar did on assuming power was to abandon the Amir Das Commission set up in the wake of the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre to probe the political links of the Ranveer Sena. His government also made sure that Brahmeshwar Singh, the infamous supremo of the Ranveer Sena, came out on bail to vitiate the trial of various massacres cases. And Sunil Pandey, another notorious lynchpin of the Sena had already been acquitted and today he is the JD(U) MLA from the post-delimitation Tarari constituency that Bathani Tola comes under.
The abandoning of the Amir Das commission and the subsequent dumping of the Land Reform Commission reports have been two key steps of the Nitish Kumar dispensation that clearly reveal the pro-feudal character of the regime. The verdict delivered by the High Court is just a natural consequence. Equally ‘natural’ in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar is the conviction of people challenging the feudal order. Rupam Pathak, a teacher who had been fed up with being subjected to continuous sexual harassment by a BJP MLA has been issued life sentence and Bodhan Sada and his comrades, who had been fighting for the land rights and dignity of the landless rural poor of the Musahar community, christened Mahadalit by the Nitish government to win the community’s votes, have been handed out death sentences.
Even as Bathani Tola grapples with this judicial massacre, ruling class politicians continue to play their political cards. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram wonders why nobody is speaking out in favour of the Bathani Tola victims, Bihar government says it would now approach the Supreme Court for justice! While challenging the feudal bias on every front and level, the battle for justice for the Bathani Tola victims will have to rebuff this pretentious politics of crocodile tears. The renewed massacre and shame of Bathani Tola has revealed like nothing else what continues to ail and retard Bihar. For everybody aspiring for a better future for Bihar in the centenary of its administrative birth, the message is loud and clear. Bihar can only move forward by effecting a decisive rupture with the still well entrenched feudal forces and mindset, and the continuing politics of appeasement of and alliance with feudal forces is the biggest betrayal to the cause of both justice and development for Bihar. Let us stand by Bathani Tola in this battle for a new and just Bihar.
- A travesty of justice – Editorial (Apr 25, 2012, The Hindu)
- Bathani Tola Verdict: A Good Witness Is A Dead Witness – By Kavita Krishnan (Apr 23, 2012, Countercurrents)
A bonfire of free speech – Editorial (Apr 14, 2012, The Hindu)
There is an oppressive climate of intolerance towards dissent and free speech in West Bengal today. In an act of crude censorship, the government recently removed several newspapers from over 2,480 public libraries that it runs, aids or sponsors. Now, the police have arrested two people, including a professor from Jadavpur University, for allegedly defaming Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee through a cartoon they posted on a social networking site. These are blatant acts of authoritarianism that mock at constitutional values and freedoms and deserve to be condemned. The decision to purge the public library system of most mass circulation Bengali dailies and English language newspapers reflects a deep-seated contempt for democratic values.
This has been done, ironically, under the guise of developing free thinking among readers. But the Chief Minister has only to read the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association to understand how far removed her government’s views are from civilised practice. “Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation,” the charter states, affirming the right of readers to have access to all shades of opinion. Specifically, nothing should be excluded because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. What makes the decision of the West Bengal government particularly offensive is its calculated approach to suppressing ideas and information.
If democracy is to flourish, the public library system must be insulated from censorship. The Centre should strengthen the role of libraries and make their collections mandatorily inclusive. India’s public libraries must be governed by a specific freedom charter that spells out their rights and those of readers. This can be done by making it mandatory for libraries to consult the community they serve through public hearings, and acquire publications based on local demand. Such principles are universal, and even titles that are not available at a given moment can be specially requested by readers.
The repressive orders in West Bengal are aimed at chilling independent thought. School textbooks have been rewritten to remove the philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels because Ms. Banerjee has so decreed. And now, citizens are being arrested for merely lampooning leaders. State governments invariably pursue the goal of control of the media, and their favourite tool is grant or denial of government advertisements to bring about self-censorship. But in West Bengal, an era of a more direct assault on free speech seems to have begun. It needs a strong response from democratic forces.
- Freedom Of Expression Under Attack In India – By N.D.Pancholi (Apr 13, 2012, Countercurrents)
Nirmal Baba, Wikileaks And Misleading Mainstream Media – By Kumar Anand (Apr 19, 2012, Countercurrents)
“Any media organizations, by their very nature, are engaged in the political sphere. So the editors and publishers of media organizations have to sit down at the table with power groups, and they start becoming captured by these power groups.” Julian Assange, in an interview with Russia Today. Julian Assange is a relevant thinker on information in the present time. Through his writings and his activities at Wikileaks, he has given us a new perspective on the need for transparency in the flow of information. Assange has raised several important questions pertaining to transparency, information, censorship in cyber age, whistleblower protection, human rights protection through uninhibited, uncensored flow of information, among others. In the process, he has also raised some very relevant and topical questions on the dangerous trend of increasing corporatisation of media and how it affects our understanding of the world and compromises on our human rights. With traditional media failing us, shouldn’t we turn to a more democratic, transparent and unbiased medium of the internet, he asks. There are several instances where traditional media have failed us under political and/or commercial compulsions. The episode on Nirmal Baba, a fake godman figure who bought TV space to propagate his superstition and fool thousands of his blind followers, is the latest in the series. Because while exposing skewed priorities of news channels, the episode also explains the rise of the internet as a more transparent and a more potent medium of information.
While Nirmal Baba fooled the gullible public, certain news channels went about relaying his paid show without questioning his motives, even after certain websites exposed his misdeeds. A website was even served a legal notice and had to take down the content regarding Nirmal Baba; but other websites did not give up in the quest of exposing the fake Baba. Taking cues from website exposures, some news channels finally picked up the story. But had it not been for website reports, news channels may have preferred to turn blind eyes on Nirmal Baba. That brings us to question the compulsion of our newspapers and news channels in promoting superstition via a shady figure like Nirmal Baba. Are our news channels sold out to crooks? Where is our mainstream media headed for? Now, such incidents show that we have all the reason to distrust our mainstream media. What we receive through our newspapers and news channels are censored, biased information that are mediated by editors who are not necessarily entire unbiased. It is here that Assange’s view on media assumes special significance. From journalistic point of view, Wikileaks, a new media organization, has published some of the biggest stories of all time, including the Afghan war diaries, the Iraq war logs and Cablegate. Had it not been for the website, the lies surrounding Afghan and Iraq wars could never have come out. Because what came out in the mainstream Western media was a half-lie, half-propaganda stuff, meant only to mislead the viewers.
Wikileaks likes to identify itself as an organization that could stand true to what Assange calls “the principle of good journalism in service of better governance” – a principle that he says is missing from traditional media organizations today. In pursuing “good journalism in service of better governance,” Assange had run-ins with not just governments, powerful individuals and corporates – which was most likely to happen – but also with some powerful media entities including the New York Times and the Guardian among several others. There may be divided opinions on the validity of a mass medium like Wikileaks. But as an information organization, it strengthens our hope that journalism in the digital era can actually break free from limitations imposed by corporate and government influences and do what is required from it: i.e., to help empower the common man against the misuse of power and authority and help protect human rights by exposing power abuses. In other word, to protect truth an democracy, as it were. Shouldn’t media organization be answerable to public first, and then to governments, powerful individuals and corporate? What is the validity of a media organization that compromise on its purpose to serve truth and democracy? Assange’s take on journalism and media organizations from his very special vantage position is valuable. Through his personal experience, he helps us gain an understanding on the stand media takes today vis-a-vis people that it represents, or corporate and government that influence its opinion.
Assange has asked a pertinent question as to how much trust can we put in newspapers that are partisan and news channels that value advertisements more than news? Do our media organizations, through volumes of news stories and commentaries they spin day in and day out, bring us any closer to reality as it exists while at the same time playing to the gallery of powerful? Not necessarily. In fact, in many instances as in Nirmal Baba case, they deviate us from truth. So what should be the way out of this indirect but potentially dangerous war against transparency and against people’s right to know the truth? Perhaps, and that remains to be seen, digital age could show us the way to establish what Assange calls the “science of journalistic honesty” and help empower people through information. In his autobiography (Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography), Assange recounts an incident that led to the ‘Collateral Murder’ video that Wikileaks exposed showing American soldiers in Iraq killing civilians including children from Apache helicopters. While researching on the events that led to the assault by American soldiers on Iraqi civilians, Assange says his team came across several misleading, inaccurate news reports surrounding the events following the shootings in some leading media organisations. The media coverage on the exposure of video that showed two Reuters journalists being killed by the US army was not favourable for the Wikileaks either. In fact, some big, influential news organizations tried to toe the official government line on the issue, which makes Assange comment on the attitude of these organizations. “So puffed up are they with a sense of their own importance that, on seeing the video, the first debate they wanted to have was about our title (Collateral Murder), not about the contents.”
The incident is a reflection on how media power structure could be detrimental to truth and democracy when playing into the hands of abusive power. In yet another instance also taken from his autobiography, Assange says while dealing with the editors and reporters from organizations like the New York Times during the release of Afghan war logs, he experienced “how close American editors are to official government truth. They act pious and make a reckless bid for the high ground, pretending it’s all to do with responsibility and propriety and balance, but in fact they are compromising their journalistic independence at every other turn.” Editors and influential journalists are vulnerable to selling their integrity off to people in power just in order to enjoy proximity with them. In doing so, they are compromising their journalistic independence and integrity. And this is not the case with Western media alone but with Indian media as well. With traditional media failing us like this, may be internet will rise up and become a borderless stream of uninhibited, uncensored, and unbiased information. May be this will lead people to make informed decision on who they should vest their power in, and to what effect. It was not for nothing that Nirmal Baba, who’d influence news channels with his deep pocket, would be exposed by websites before it snowballed into a controversy that few news channels could afford to avoid. That internet would transform journalism was discussed decades ago. The emergence of Wikileaks has only taken this to a new level. As internet has grown in power along all these years, so has clamour to strangulate its autonomy through regulations. The move to regulate internet should be construed as an attack by vicious power to overtake our valuable public sphere and should be resisted. Because amidst the failings of mainstream media, internet is only getting stronger in its effort to safeguard truth and democracy.
- Media Follies and Supreme Infallibility – By Sukumar Muralidharan (May 5, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Abhishek Singhvi. And lessons from the third eye – By Shoma Chaudhury (Apr 28, 2012, Tehelka)
Abduction of Collector – Editorial (Apr 23, 2012, Central Chronicle)
The Naxals after playing hand in Odisha by abduction of ruling party BJD Legislator Jhina Hikkata have turned to Chhattisgarh. Here in Majhipura village function in the presence of 200 persons including Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Tehsildar, 12 Naxals abducted the Collector Mr.Alex Paul Menon after killing his 2 security staff. Much more than the gravity of abduction of the District Magistrate is the question of dare devil action to challenge the Government and their swift well planned scheme.
Last year in February 2011 the Naxal abducted Collector of Malkangiri district of Odisha, Mr. Krishna. Many years back the first abduction of Collector occurred in Andhra Pradesh. This sort of most demoralizing acts will continue till the government will follow the policy of arresting such persons and keeping in jail for long judicial trial and confinement to jails. The such abductions are carried out only to get the held up members released by the Government. These days it is being gone in Odisha to secure the release of Italians and the legislators.
Few years back our civilian plane was hijacked over the Indian Airspace by Islamic terrorists and taken to Khandhar in Afghanistan, which was under the Talibans at that time. It caused the international humiliation to the Government of India on being forced to release Pakistani terrorists from Punjab jails carrying them in our plane upto Khandhar to hand over safe to them and to pay ransom money.
The only way appears to be feasible and possible is not to arrest them but shoot them dead. Even if arrested their trial must be speedily conducted from Lower Court to Highest Appeal Court. The punishment must the death sentence and it be executed immediately. On the name of human rights and fair trail we should not put to ransom, we have seen number of such abduction and the demand for release of terrorists. Now nation wants to know as to how long it will go on. Do we not realize that we have enough of it.
- No Red Beacons – By Madhavi Tata (May 7, 2012, Outlook)
- Dealing with the Maoist threat – Editorial (Apr 24, 2012, The Hindu)
- ‘The state’s goals do not match those of the tribals’ – BD Sharma with Prakhar Jain (May 5, 2012, Tehelka)
- And Now ‘Operation Hakka’ – Editorial (Apr 21, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India
The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India
Reviewed by: Rohini Hensman
Available at: Pharos Media and Publishing, New Delhi, 2011; pp. 400, Rs 360.
The Spectre Of Fascism (Apr 23, 2012, Countercurrents)
If the message of both these books had to be summed up in one sentence, it would be this: The spectre of fascism is haunting India. Godse’s Children (hereafter GC) concentrates on the phenomenon of Hindutva terrorism, while The Saffron Condition (hereafter TSC) is divided into three sections: Saffronization and the Neoliberal State, Logic of Caste in New India, and State and Human Rights. There is thus an area of overlap between the two, with Hindutva terror also appearing in TSC, but treated in far greater detail in GC. ‘What could be said to be the first act of terrorism in independent India?’ asks Gatade, and replies, ‘Everybody would agree that the killing of Mahatma Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by a Hindu fanatic called Nathuram Godse constitutes the first terrorist act in independent India’ (GC 41). If ‘terrorism’ is defined as violence or threats of violence against civilians in pursuit of a political goal, then the assassination of Gandhi could indeed be seen as a terrorist act. The point being made here is that terrorism is not something new for the Hindutva agenda of creating a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in India: it was always part of it. The author outlines the conspiracy between members of the Hindu Mahasabha, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and V.D.Savarkar to eliminate Gandhi. An interesting fact that emerges is that the successful assassination was only the last of at least five attempts starting in 1934. This lays to rest the idea that it was Gandhi’s support for Partition that motivated the killing. Gandhi was a devout Hindu and fairly conservative socially; what made Hindu nationalists hate him so much that they made repeated attempts to kill him and finally succeeded? ‘In fact, the idea of people’s amity cutting across boundaries of race, religion, sex, etc., which Gandhi upheld all his life was..anathema to the exclusivist, Hindu supremacist world view of the members of RSS and Hindu Mahasabha. And, while “nation” was a racial/religious construct in the imagination of the Hindutva forces, for Gandhi and the rest of the nationalists it was a territorial construct or a bounded territory comprising of different communities’ (GC 44). The assassination of Gandhi could not prevent India from adopting a predominantly secular, democratic constitution. Another way of working for a Hindu nation was to launch periodical massacres of Muslims and, more rarely, other minorities, including the Nellie massacre of 1983 in which an estimated 3,300 Muslim men, women and children were killed. These have in popular parlance been called ‘riots’, but this is a misnomer since it suggests a spontaneous outbreak of violence, whereas all investigations show these events to be carefully planned and executed; ‘pogroms’ would be a more accurate description. As Gatade points out, one of the most disturbing aspects of these pogroms is that the ringleaders and all but a very few of the lower-level perpetrators have never been punished. Furthermore, ‘the same citizenry which is categorically opposed to terrorism would exhibit a strange sense of ambivalence towards such indiscriminate violence and arson’ (GC 62). Where the victims of terror are minorities or Dalits, impunity has been the rule.
This is the background against which Hindutva terror in the narrower sense emerges. The incidents mentioned in GC (including those where the terrorists killed themselves by accident, training was imparted to would-be terrorists, and blasts were designed to frame Muslims) are numerous. Including instances quoted from S.M. Mushrif’s book Who Killed Karkare? the list would go something like this: training camp in the use of gelatin sticks (Pune, Maharashtra, 2000); training camp in handling weapons and making bombs (Bhonsala Military School, Nasik, Maharashtra, 2001); a series of bomb attacks on mosques and madrasas (Saharanpur, U.P., 2002); firearms training camp (Bhopal, M.P., 2002); bombs planted at a Muslim gathering (Bhopal, 2002); manufacture and use of bombs in the Gujarat carnage (2002); weapons training camp for women (Kanpur, U.P., 2003); bombing of mosque (Parbhani, Maharashtra, 2003); bombing of madrasa and mosque (Purna, Maharashtra, 2004); bombing of mosque (Jalna, Maharashtra, 2004); accidental blast while handling explosives (Nanded, Maharashtra, 2006); deadly bombing of a Muslim festival (Malegaon, Maharashtra, 2006); deadly bombing of the India-Pakistan Samjhauta Express (Haryana, 2007); Mecca Masjid blast (Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, 2007); Ajmer Sharif blast (Ajmer, Rajasthan, 2007); detonators delivered to Muslim merchants (Wardha, Maharashtra, 2007); another accidental blast (Nanded 2007); bomb planted outside mosque (Pen Highway, Maharashtra, 2007); explosion at New Bus Stand (Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu, 2008); bomb attack on RSS office (Tenkasi, 2008); explosion at auditorium (Thane, Maharashtra, 2008); bomb discovered and defused at auditorium (Vashi, Maharashtra, 2008); bomb at cinema (Panvel, Maharashtra, 2008); accidental explosion (Kanpur, 2008); live bomb recovered from Belgaum-Hubli road (Karnataka, 2008); bomb blast at court (Hubli, Karnataka, 2008); bombing of marketplace (Malegoan 2008); bomb blast in marketplace (Modasa, Gujarat, 2008); low-intensity blast (Kanpur, 2008); bombing of church (Lalitpur, Nepal, 2009); explosion at Margao (Goa, 2009); live bomb defused (Sancole, Goa, 2009); bomb blast at primary health centre (Kanpur, 2010). For anyone who has not been following the news about Hindutva terrorist attacks, the sheer number and wide geographical distribution of these attacks is astonishing, and indicates, as the author suggests, a turn from communal pogroms to terror attacks as the favoured strategy for ‘the reactionary political project of building fascism’ (GC 320-21). It is apparent that at least in the 21 st century, Hindutva terror has been far more active in India than Islamist terror. Why, then, has this fact not been appreciated more widely? The answer to this question is extremely disturbing, and opens up the possibility that other terrorist attacks too that have been attributed to Muslims have actually been perpetrated by Hindutva terrorists. In the overwhelming majority of these cases, Muslims were the first to be blamed for the terror attacks. Here is one instance of the Kafkaesque manner in which innocent Muslims have been framed by the police: ‘The prosecution had claimed that the accused were arrested following a gunfight near Gurgaon-Delhi road on 1 July 2005. Delhi police had informed the court that the four accused in the car had tried to flee when they were asked to stop. It was also claimed that the accused opened fire on the police team. After the encounter, which lasted for a few minutes, the team was arrested by the police and an army combat uniform, fake currency of Rs 50,000 and a sketch of Palam Air Force Station were “recovered” from their possession. The judge discovered to his utter surprise that there was no such encounter on the intervening night of 1-2 July 2005, and an absolutely fake encounter story had been manufactured sitting in the office of the Special Staff led by Sub-inspector Ravindra Tyagi’ (GC 276). Similar stories are repeated in case after case: police personnel, often acting in collusion with intelligence agencies, arrest, incarcerate and torture innocent Muslims. (Appendix VI, GC 359, is an account of what was done to one of these victims.) Years later, when their cases finally come to trial, they are acquitted, but not before their lives have been ruined and their families devastated. Meanwhile, the real culprits are left free to kill again.
The honorouble exception to this rule was Hemant Karkare, chief of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad from January 2008. Meticulously following the clues in a spate of terrorist attacks, including especially the 2008 terror attack in Malegoan, Karkare began to unearth evidence against and arrest members of a Hindutva terrorist network comprising sadhvis and swamis, former and current military personnel, and other right-wing activists. One would think that he would be honoured for helping to make Maharashtra safe by putting terrorists behind bars, and there were indeed some who treated his work with the greatest respect and admiration. But leaders of the BJP, RSS, VHP and Shiv Sena called him a traitor, demanded that he be dismissed as ATS chief, and issued him with death threats (GC 141-44, 148-49). Karkare was killed during the 26 November 2008 terror attacks in Bombay, and evidence uncovered by his widow Kavita, Vinita Kamte (the widow of Ashok Kamte, another police officer killed along with him) and S.M.Mushrif revealed that the official account of his death was completely unreliable, fuelling speculation that he had been assassinated by Hindutva activists. Gatade quotes from an article in Hardnews which emphasises that the bullets which killed Karkare were never identified, and their trajectory – from the top of the shoulder downwards rather than from the front, back or side – suggests that they were fired by one of the police personnel inside the vehicle with him rather than by any terrorist outside (GC 152-53). He concludes that it is crucial there should be a separate commission of enquiry into the death of Karkare and the other police officers killed with him, a demand that has been echoed by others. Thus there is abundant evidence that the police and intelligence agencies are heavily infiltrated by accomplices in Hindutva terror. But the rot goes higher. The author points out that many bomb blasts (e.g. the Samjhauta Express blasts) are timed to sabotage India-Pakistan talks, the timing of which would not be known to lower-level functionaries; these planners and masterminds would be much higher in the state apparatus. He also observes that in BJP-ruled states, the trail of Hindutva terror inevitably goes cold even when policemen pick it up, demonstrating political involvement of the Hindutva forces at the highest levels. Among ‘ disguised terrorists ‘ the author includes elements in the media who ‘take the handouts of intelligence agencies as gospel truth’ instead of pointing out the ‘inconsistencies and loopholes galore in them’. ‘Honourable exceptions apart, the dominant media is hugely biased in favour of Hindutva ‘ (GC 336-37). Bar associations too have engaged in the unethical practice of refusing to represent Muslims accused of terrorism, even when these cases have been patently false. Gatade mentions two courageous lawyers who challenged this ban and faced physical violence as a consequence (GC 169-70), but strangely leaves out Shahid Azmi, who was shot dead in Bombay in 2010 after he had proved to the satisfaction of the court that his client, Fahim Ansari, had been framed by the police in the November 26 terror attacks.
Supposedly secular political parties have not taken up the challenge either. The only senior Congress Party leaders who have spoken out openly against Hindutva terror – Digvijay Singh and P.Chidambaram – were not supported by others in the party, supposedly in order not to antagonise ordinary Hindus (GC 325-26, 329-30). But it is hard to believe that the party is unaware of the distinction between the religion, Hinduism, and the political ideology of Hindutva. The result of Congress softness on Hindutva terror is that in Congress-ruled states too, innocent Muslims have been incacerated and tortured for terrorist acts they did not commit, while the perpetrators have been free to kill again. ‘The most disturbing aspect of this phenomenon,’ writes the author, ‘is that even the Left, especially its mainstream version, failed to rise to the occasion’ (GC 24). There is a striking resemblance between this situation and pre-Nazi Germany as described by Arthur Rosenburg in his essay ‘Fascism as a Mass Movement’ (translated by Jairus Banaji in Historical Materialism 20(1), 2012). Here it is pointed out that the fascist ideology which was later exploited by Hitler and the Nazis was widely prevalent decades earlier. In the case of India, the corresponding ideology is communalism. Unless Gatade’s urgent call for ‘an uncompromising struggle against communalism’ (GC 342) is heeded, India could be heading in the same direction. The resemblance with Nazism is even more striking in Gujarat under Narendra Modi, as the author points out in chapters entitled ‘Auschwitz of Our Times’ (TSC 42) and ‘Modi’s Gujarat’ (TSC 52). The horrific gang rapes and mass murders of Muslims in 2002, accompanied by arson attacks on everything owned by them or associated with them including places of worship, would qualify the statewide pogrom as a crime against humanity if not genocide as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The continuing ghettoisation and persecution of Muslims, the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators (which is being challenged in court by courageous survivors and their supporters), and ‘the absence of remorse among people of the state’ (TSC 59) are all indicators of fascism as a mass movement. The indocrination of children by means of falsified history text-books (including the glorification of Hitler) (TSC 109-111) constitutes an attempt to pass on this ideology to a new generation. The inevitable destruction of the rule of law is exemplified by the failure of the authorities to intervene when a young dalit woman student was gang-raped repeatedly by six of her teachers at a government teacher training college (TSC 60-65). We might add that prominent industrialists hailing Modi as a future prime minister and Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan acting as brand ambassador for Modi’s Gujarat indicates that certain sections of the elite favour fascism. The author repeatedly makes the point that while fully-fledged fascism might be the preserve of the Sangh Parivar, the soft communalism of other parties including Congress (the hostility of some members to religious conversions, for example) provides fertile soil for extremism to grow. Almost universal acceptance of a society hierarchically structured by caste is another factor facilitating this growth. Systematic discrimination against Dalits, forcing them to engage in demeaning occupations like manual scavenging, and frequent gang-rapes, mass murder and arson attacks, indicate that the evils of untouchability and caste oppression are far from being eradicated. But what could the remedies be? The section on the logic of caste (TSC 207-324) examines this question. The author also asks why, despite facing very similar oppression, Dalits and Muslims have failed to unite. On the contrary, Dalits and Adivasis have in some cases been recruited as storm-troopers in communal pogroms (e.g. in Gujarat), although others have acted in solidarity with Muslims.
Dalit intellectual Kancha Illiah has blamed this on Muslim intellectuals who have been indifferent to the issues of caste and untouchability, but Gatade correctly observes this cannot explain how the same Dalits who had been the targets of casteist Hindutva violence since the anti-reservation riots of the early 1980s could find common cause with their oppressors (TSC 223). He suggests this is a classic case of the submergence of the Dalit identity within the ‘larger canopy’ of Hindu identity, and points out the parallel with the large-scale participation of Hindu women in the pogroms following the demolition of the Babri Mosque, despite the fact that Hindutva is similarly oppressive towards women. Dalits, he explains, have only two paths to social mobility: either to reject the religious edifice that sanctifies the caste system and seek an alternative identity, or to climb the social hierarchy by imitating the dominant castes. Their absorption within the ‘Brahminical-Fascist project of the Parivar’ (TSC 230) is an example of the latter. Gatade examines the experiment of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in a particularly nuanced and illuminating way, showing that it has genuinely improved the position of Dalits in UP, and yet, by forming alliances with the BJP, soft-pedalling the activities of the Sangh Parivar, and Mayawati’s endorsement of Modi, has also served the Hindutva agenda. The conclusion seems to be that although state power can indeed be used to advance the interests of Dalits, the drive to capture it at any cost leads to adjustments that in the end undermine the cause of Dalit empowerment. The transition from a ‘Bahujan’ to a ‘Sarva Jan’ identity exemplifies the way in which electoral politics have affected the party’s agenda. The continued prevalence of atrocities against Dalits and the ways in which the Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989) are routinely subverted are eerily reminiscent of the ways in which those who rape and kill Muslims manage to get away with it. And in this case too, the role of ‘civil society’ is not edifying: ‘Civil society…is complicit in perpetuating caste based inequalities, indignities and violence against SCs’. The author comments that so long as ‘caste inequality is accepted both in theory and practice, a legal constitution has no bearing on the ethical foundation of caste-based societies’ (TSC 270). It seems to follow that abolition of caste is the only solution, and reservations as a form of affirmative action were instituted in this belief. Yet sixty years later, not only do Dalits still suffer discrimination and violence, but they are themselves split along caste lines and caste remains all-pervasive. A weakness of the book is that it does not discuss possible alternative strategies such as a campaign for equal opportunities legislation, which would also have the merit of bringing together Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims. The last section of TSC deals with a variety of ways in which the state attacks human rights: through legislation like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which allows the armed forces to violate human rights with impunity, extra-judicial killings, torture, clamping down on social protests, incarcerating human rights defenders and so on. The struggles of Irom Sharmila, on hunger strike against AFSPA for over a decade, and Binayak Sen, a human rights defender and doctor serving the poor, are described. Gatade belongs to the small section of left-wing writers and activists who take the task of combating the growth of fascism in India seriously. These important books should be read widely. However, a detailed index with sub-sections would have been helpful in both, since they are collections of articles, and pursuing a theme becomes difficult if the researcher has to go through several items in order to find a particular one. Hopefully this will be remedied in future editions.