IAMC Weekly News Roundup - December 19th, 2011 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 19th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


Harvard’s decision to drop courses by Subramanian Swamy, a welcome step says Indian American group

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Indian American Muslim Council (https://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has applauded Harvard University for dropping courses taught by Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy over his exercise of hate-speech and demonstration of intolerance and bigotry, in an article for an Indian publication named DNA.

In the article published in DNA on July 16, 2011, Dr. Swamy spewed venom against Indian Muslims, by attempting to associate the entire Muslim population with acts of terror and calling for restraints on their freedom of religion, besides calling for anti-Constitutional measures such as declaring India a “Hindu Rashtra.” The article also called for the destruction of 300 mosques as retribution for what Dr. Swamy perceives are goals of “Islamic” terrorism.

“Mr. Swamy’s extremist and hate-filled views can be gauged from the fact that he has proposed various methods of profiling an entire population of 150 million Indian Muslims as a solution to the problem of terrorism in India,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC, in a letter addressed to Harvard President Dr. Drew Faust, expressing IAMC’s profound appreciation for Harvard’s decision to drop courses taught by Dr. Swamy. “History bears witness that when such ideologies of hate have been allowed to be propagated without corrective action it has led us to confront various evils like slavery, genocide, systematic segregation, extreme poverty, public humiliation and racism,” the letter added.

Dr. Swamy wrote in the article: “The first lesson to be learnt from the recent history of Islamic terrorism against India and for tackling terrorism in India is that the Hindu is the target and that Muslims of India are being programmed by a slow reactive process to become radical and thus slide into suicide against Hindus. It is to undermine the Hindu psyche and create the fear of civil war that terror attacks are organized.” Besides this kind of fear-mongering, Dr. Swamy sought to undermine the very basis of India’s Constitution, by calling for disenfranchisement of Muslims who refuse to acknowledge their Hindu ancestry “with pride.”

While Dr. Swamy is entitled to his bigoted views, in his individual capacity, his public pronouncements of hate against the Muslim population, and attempts to sow the seeds of strife and discord among people of different faiths cannot be allowed to go unchecked. Harvard’s decision to drop courses by Dr. Swamy, is in keeping with Harvard’s standing as an institution of higher learning where the faculty and students are held to high standards of responsible public behavior.

IAMC has called upon people of all faiths not to allow Dr. Swamy’s inflammatory rhetoric to adversely impact communal harmony and to work towards strengthening India’s pluralist society where people of all faiths can live together on the basis of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.

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.


There is no room for hateful rhetoric at Harvard

Harvard Drops Subramanian Swamy

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Grill me, Modi and ex-DGP jointly: Bhatt to riot panel (Dec 16, 2011, Indian Express)

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt today sought his joint examination with Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former DGP R B Sreekumar before the Nanavati-Mehta Commission in connection with the alleged undermining of judicial proceedings related to 2002 riots. A day after The Indian Express reported that the Commission has brought the intelligence-fund-for-bribe issue on record and allowed Bhatt and Sreekumar to file more on this in affidavits, the suspended DIG wrote to the two-member judicial panel. “In addition to my deposition before the Commission, the latest affidavit of Sreekumar also clearly refers to the direct role of Narendra Modi in undermining the judicial process connected with the Gujarat riots of 2002,” Bhatt said in the letter.

Bhatt, during his deposition before the Commission in May this year, had alleged that Modi tried to undermine the proceedings on a petition filed by social activist Mallika Sarabhai in the Supreme Court with regard to the riots. “It would, therefore, be entirely appropriate and in the interest of justice that Narendra Modi, R B Sreekumar and the undersigned (Bhatt) are jointly examined on oath by this Commission,” the senior IPS officer said in his letter. He said the alleged incident is squarely covered by the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Commission, which is probing the post-Godhra communal violence in the state.

“This would help in bringing out the truth with respect to a number of issues connected with the orchestration of the riots as well as the administrative complicity and connivance, not only in the carnage but also in the subsequent cover-up operations executed during the time-period covered under ToR of the Commission,” Bhatt further stated. The controversial police officer has sent copies of the letter to Modi, Sreekumar and Sarabhai. The Commission, in its order on December 13, had rejected an application of danseuse and activist Mallika Sarabhai to recall Bhatt as a witness in connection with his allegations that Modi had undermined the proceedings of her petition related to the riots before the Supreme Court.

In the said order, the Commission had suggested that Modi might have undermined the petition while ordering Bhatt to pay Rs 10 lakh allegedly to Sarabhai’s lawyer in that petition, Krishnakant Vakharia. Bhatt, however, questioned the Commission’s observations in this regard. “It may kindly be noted that certain observations contained in paragraph 12 of the said order are factually incorrect and grossly misleading,” he said in the letter. Following the Commission’s ‘direction’ to file an affidavit with reference to the alleged incident of misusing of secret service fund, Bhatt has sought directions to the Gujarat Police Authorities and the Special Investigation Team probing into the riots cases for the ‘requisition, discovery, production and inspection’ of the relevant documents and records.



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Riot panel brings ‘intelligence fund for bribe’ on record (Dec 15, 2011, Indian Express)

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt might have paid Rs 10 lakh from the intelligence branch’s secret service fund (SSF) to city-based lawyer and Congressman Krishnakant Vakharia allegedly to undermine a riot petition filed by danseuse and activist Mallika Sarabhai and others in 2002, suggests a recent order issued by the Justice Nanavati-Mehta commission. A copy of the order, which is with The Indian Express, says the Commission relied on evidence before it to indicate that the proceedings on the petition may have been compromised, and has allowed Bhatt and retired DGP R B Sreekumar to file more on this in affidavits, if they wished. This is the first time that the issue of Modi’s attempt to bribe lawyers to undermine a petition on the post-Godhra riots in the Supreme Court has come on record.

The Commission made these observations while rejecting Sarabhai’s application that sought to recall Bhatt for questioning over the alleged misuse of SSF to undermine her petition before the SC. Bhatt opened a can of worms when he first talked about this before the Commission when he was called for deposition and said his then boss and former intelligence chief Sreekumar was aware of it. Sreekumar later filed an affidavit giving details of his interaction with Bhatt on this issue, excerpts of which leaked out, after the Commission decided to keep the Sreekumar version confidential. The order says the Commission was open to Bhatt and Sreekumar filing affidavits to give more details on the alleged misuse of SSF to undermine the proceedings of Sarabhai’s petition, which would also help the Commission decide if this issue came within the purview of its inquiry or not.

The petition in question was jointly moved before the apex court by Sarabhai, along with civil rights activists late Digant Oza and Indukumar Jani, all of whom were defended by Vakharia in the SC. In his deposition before the Commission, Bhatt had stated that Chief Minister Narendra Modi had tried to undermine the proceedings of the petition before the SC as the latter felt it could be damaging to the interest of the state government. The petition had demanded various reliefs for the riots victims while seeking free and fair investigation in the riots cases. Giving a version of the said ‘attempt’ to ‘undermine’ the petition in its order dated December 13, the Commission said, “What is stated by Bhatt, during his oral examination before this Commission is that Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, had tried to undermine the proceedings of the said writ petition. That attempt is stated to have been made on April 9, 2002.”

Subsequently, the Commission has summarised the ‘version’ and turn of events related to the misuse of SSF. “The version about this event as can be gathered from the material before the Commission is that Bhatt was very close to Modi. He was given instructions by Modi regarding the said writ petition as it was felt that the said petition would damage the government badly. This development was reported by Bhatt to the State Intelligence Bureau chief (Sreekumar). Next day the SIB chief was directed by Modi to provide Rs 10 lakh to Bhatt from the Secret Service Fund. The SIB chief told Modi that SIB did not have that much amount. The Chief Minister told the SIB chief that the Chief Secretary would provide the required amount,” says the Commission’s order. “Thereupon, Bhatt assured the Chief Minister that upon getting the money, he would ensure that the said case does not create any problem for the State Government. The amount was to be paid to Vakharia, advocate appearing for Mallika Sarabhai in that petition. Thereafter on 12.4.2002, Rs 10 lakh were made available to Bhatt through the office of the SIB. Bhatt had after few days informed the SIB chief that he had succeeded in his objective,” it added.

The Commission has refrained from indulging into the question whether the version is true or not. “Without going into the question whether this allegation is true or not, we are inclined to reject the request of Sarabhai (to recall Bhatt for questioning) …” The ‘material’ available before the Commission presumably include the 8th affidavit of the then SIB chief, Sreekumar, over the issue. Vakharia, meanwhile, dismissed the allegations. “Nobody is saying that the money was given to me. It could be that somebody was asked to give it to me… And why should one give money to me in that matter when I was not even the advocate on record,” said Vakharia, who happens to be the head of the Gujarat Congress’ Legal Department according to the party’s website.



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Ishrat encounter: CBI case against 20 policemen (Dec 17, 2011, The Hindu)

The CBI on Saturday registered a case against 20 policemen in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case in Gujarat. The fresh FIR was registered by the Mumbai branch after the Special Investigation Team (SIT), probing the case, gave its complaint to the CBI on December 15. All the 20 – from constables to the then Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad – have been charged with murder and destruction of evidence, a CBI spokesperson said here.

Earlier this month, the Gujarat High Court directed the CBI to take over further probe in the case in which 19-year-old Ishrat, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The directive came as the SIT, constituted by the High Court, concluded last month that the encounter was staged by the police.

A report by metropolitan magistrate S.P. Tamang had stated that 21 police officers, including the then Crime Branch chief, P.P. Pande, the suspended DIG, D.G. Vanzara, the then Assistant Commissioner, G.L. Singhal, and ACP N.K. Amin were involved in the conspiracy. The High Court had ordered the CBI to also probe the claims made by the State police in the aftermath of the encounter that Ishrat Jahan and the other three were Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.



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CBI arrests 13 in the Bharatpur riots case (Dec 12, 2011, IBN)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested 13 people in connection with the Bharatpur riots case. Ten people had had died and over 40 were injured in Bharatpur clashes in September, 2011.

Clashes between two communities had led to police firing in Bharatpur in Rajasthan. The clashes took place in Jama Masjid area in Gopalgarh between Mev Muslim community and Gujjars over a land-related dispute.

An inquiry into the matter was referred to the CBI by the Ashok Gehlot government. The National Commission for Minorities had held the state government responsible for the clashes.



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Mosque ‘desecrated’ by police in Lucknow, SHO suspended (Dec 13, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Police resorted to lathicharge on Muslims while they were protesting against the desecration of Ayesha Mosque in Charbagh area here on Tuesday. Later in a damage control exercise state government suspended the erring SHO to pacify the Muslims. Ayesha Mosque is situated in Charbagh with one Bajpayee Hotel adjacent to its wall. As per reports, the Masjid committee was constructing a side wall of the masjid which was objected by the Bajpayee Hotel owner. The matter reached local court which restrained the committee from further constructing the wall but allowed finishing work.

On Tuesday, the masjid committee was busy in finishing the wall when the Bajpayee Hotel moved court stating that they are constructing the wall. The court directed the local police to take stock of the situation while ordered that a commission be sent to get the ground reality. SHO, Naka Hindola, Mr Sarang Dwivedi reached Ayesha Mosque and misbehaved with the Imam Maulana Hifzur Rehman Nadwi. The SHO also allegedly desecrated the mosque by entering the premises wearing shoes. This infuriated the Muslims who started assembling at the masjid. On the other hand, Bajpayee Hotel owner too managed sizeable crowd in his support.

Imam, Aishbagh Eidgah Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli also reached the scene and soon the crowd spilled over busy Lucknow-Kanpur Road blocking the traffic. Police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd. This further worsened the situation as the news spread like wildfire across the city. Thereafter the matter was taken up at high level and DIG Mr DK Thakur ordered suspension of SHO Naka Sarang Mr. Dwivedi. He has been replaced by Vimal Srivastava. The action pacified the Muslims and they returned. “We will obey court’s directive and the matter is subjudiced. Our main demand was action against guilty police official which is done, so there is no more issue,” said Farangi Mahli. Police force has been deputed in the area to maintain peace.



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2 MNS MLAs suspended for creating ruckus in Maha assembly (Dec 13, 2011, Hindustan Times)

Two MLAs of the Raj Thackeray-led MNS were suspended for the day by assembly speaker Dilip Walse Patil after they waved banners in the House about Indiabulls’ donation of Rs 2.5 crore to the Bhujbal foundation, headed by high-profile public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal. The duo, Prakash Bhoir (Kalyan West) and Nitin Bhosale (Nashik city), along with other MNS MLAs, including its group leader Bala Nandgaonkar, were holding a banner demanding Bhujbal’s resignation on the issue.

When the House proceedings commenced, opposition benches raised slogans, demanding Bhujbal’s resignation. The Speaker asked them not to disrupt the House proceedings. However, despite his directive, the banner was not withdrawn, leading him to announce suspension of the two MNS members. Walse Patil also adjourned the House for an hour. Eyebrows were raised in political and industrial circles recently over reports of Indiabulls’ donation of Rs 2.5 crore to the Bhujbal foundation, which has been organising the prestigious Nashik festival since 2009. Indiabulls is a leading group engaged in real estate, power and financial services.

Bhujbal recently said that besides Indiabulls, a large number of industrial houses and individuals, also donated to the foundation. “We spend the amount received from industrial houses and individuals for the Nashik festival. It will be wrong to link the Indiabulls donations to major contracts allotted to it in the Nashik region,” Bhujbal had said.



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Jamiat submits memo to MP guv against saffronisation of education (Dec 16, 2011, Twocircles.net)

A delegation of Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind, Madhya Pradesh Unit called on the state Governor Ram Naresh Yadav and submitted to him a memorandum protesting the saffronisation of education in schools by the Bharatiya Janata Party ruled state Government.

The memorandum pointed out that the education policy of the state government is flawed as Hindu’s religious education is being introduced in government schools wherein lessons of Geeta Saar, Surya Namaskar, Bhojan Mantra etc. have been included. The memorandum said that this is against the basic principles of Indian Constitution which is totally secular and does not allow imparting of education of any one particular religion.

Governor gave a patient hearing to the delegation and reportedly assured of action on the points mentioned in the memorandum. The Governor expressing his views on the subject said that if religious education of all religions such as Islam, Christianity, Guru Granth of Sikhs etc. are also included in the school curriculum then it would be a right step.

The delegation was led by Freedom Fighter Maulana Mufti Abdul Razzaq Khan, who is national vice president and Madhya Pradesh president of Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind (Maulana Arshad Madani Group). The other members of the delegation were Mufti Ziaurrahman Qasmi, Adv. Abdul Hameed Khan and Mohammad Riaz Khan, general secretary and secretary respectively of Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind, Madhya Pradesh Unit.



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Minority welfare plans floundering, MPs tell PM (Dec 13, 2011, Hindustan Times)

Over two dozen Muslim Congress MPs have told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the government’s minority welfare plans were floundering, prompting the PM to say that he would personally assess the situation with top bureaucrats “soon”. The MPs said despite funds and schemes that look good on paper, the ground reality hasn’t changed much beyond what the high-level Sachar panel on disadvantages faced by Muslims had reported. The criticism, by Congress’ own MPs, could be politically embarrassing for the party ahead of the UP polls.

The latest criticism follows a recent four-year study by the Delhi-based Centre for Equity Studies, which said the government’s minority welfare agenda was being hobbled by unspent funds and inadequate outreach. For instance, the study found only 22% of funds for infrastructure upgrade had been utilised by the middle of the third quarter, 2010-11. The MPs cited the report in their briefing.

The MPs closed ranks to take on the Planning Commission’s “lip service” approach to minority welfare in the forthcoming 12th plan period (2012-17). They include several Congress MPs, including Rajya Sabha deputy chairman K Rahman Khan and Hameedullah Sayeed, apart from others such as CPM’s Moinul Hasan and Hyderabad MP Assaduddin Owaisi. “The PM has said he would personally call a meeting of secretaries to discuss this,” Khan told HT.

The MPs said the 12th plan did not, for example, heed to the call that rather than pick the minority-inhabited districts for development, minority-concentrated “blocks” (smallest unit of administration) should be picked to better target minorities. Scholarships, they said, need to be made universal rather than targeted and any district with 15% minority population should be eligible for funds.



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Anna Hazare has a political agenda: Digvijay (Dec 18, 2011, Central Chronicle)

Hitting out at anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare for having an alleged political agenda, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said his party was committed to enacting a strong and effective Lokpal. “Anna’s agenda is political. He can’t see corruption in Karnataka,” Singh told reporters here. He accused Team Anna members of indulging in corruption, even as Hazare sat on fasts over the issue.

“Anna ke team wale Anna ko bhuka rakhte hai aur khud maal khate hain (Anna’s team members keep Anna hungry, while themselves indulging in corruption),” he charged. The Congress leader felt only a Lokpal bill was not enough to fight corruption.

“In states where Lokayukta has been enacted, has corruption ended? Only Lokpal is not enough to fight corruption, what we require is a comprehensive strategy,” he said. On Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati’s demand of quota for Muslims, Singh said the UPA government has already decided to provide reservation to the community from the 27% OBC quota.



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Killings of Azad, Pandey were not fake encounters, CBI tells court (Dec 13, 2011, The Hindu)

The CBI on Monday told the Supreme Court that the killing of Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, spokesperson of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and journalist Hemchandra Pandey by the Andhra Pradesh police on the night of July 1, 2010 were not fake encounters as alleged in the petitions filed in the court. The CBI came out with the clarification in its interim status report filed before a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai.

Additional Solicitor-General Harin Raval said the CBI would complete the probe and file a final report by January. Accordingly, the Bench asked it to file the report on January 18, 2012 and directed that the matter be listed for further hearing on January 23. After going through the interim status report, Justice Alam told counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioners Swami Agnivesh and Pandey’s wife Bineeta Pandey, that “one of the conclusions in the report does not support the theory that the encounter is fake. Let us wait for the final report so that you get your chance to make the submissions.”

In April, the court ordered a CBI probe into the killings and asked the investigating agency to submit a report. According to the petitioners, the post-mortem reports and fact-finding carried out by the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations clearly indicated that it was not a genuine encounter and that Azad and Pandey were killed in blatant violation of their rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. They said Azad was carrying a letter from Swami Agnivesh for peace talks when he was taken into custody along with Pandey. The refusal to initiate an inquiry raised serious questions about the bona fides of the Home Ministry, the petitioners said.



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Opinions and Editorials

Tragic tales of few men hounded by terror charges – By Imran Khan (Dec 3, 2011, Tehelka)

Main aaj zad pe hoon, tum khush gumaan mat hona, Chiraagh sab ke bujhenge, hawa kisi ki nahi (Although today I am the target, don’t be overjoyed by it, every flame will die one day, this wind will not keep anyone alive.) For Iqbal Jakathi, the Urdu couplet invokes the betrayal and sense of injustice that has been boiling within him for the three years he spent in Belgaum’s high-security prison as undertrial. The 40-year old father of three was arrested in 2008 on charges of terror and sedition and for being a member of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) only to be acquitted by court on 8 November. The Judge, while delivering the order, said that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against Jakathi and 12 others who were being tried for terrorism and conspiring to detonate a bomb – all of them had been lodged in different jails in Karnataka for more than three years. The other accused might lack Jakathi’s poetic eloquence, but their tales are almost similar. The moderately educated young Muslim men from Belgaum, Bijapur and Raichur hail from lower middle-class background. Nineteen-year-old Nazir Patel, first-year BSc student and a university rank holder, was arrested first. A laptop seized from Patel was the link that led to Dr Munroz, who, according to the police, had given the hard disk, containing ‘incriminating material’, to the student. Anther hard disk was seized from Liyaquat Ali, a security analyst working in the UK, who had come to his home city Belgaum for vacation. Based on material found on the hard disk, the police arrested 15 people and charged them under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for sedition, terrorism, conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism and for inciting hatred between communities.

What was the incriminating material in the hard disks? Islamic literature; pictures of Godhra riots and Babri mosque demolition; attacks on Muslims in Kashmir and other parts of the world; speeches by BJP leader LK Advani, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Raids conducted at the houses of the alleged terrorist yielded other ‘incriminating material’ – battery cells, wires, glycerin and commercially purchasable nitric acid and a soldering gun – that the police contended were used to make a bomb by the alleged SIMI group. According to the charge-sheet, the accused caused enmity between Hindus and Muslims and “had the most barbaric scenes of the Godhra massacre, the demolition of Babri mosque, Bombay bomb blasts, etc”. Jakathi and his family’s ordeal started when the police raided his house in July 2008. Jakathi, who was employed with a private company in Saudi Arabia at that time, remembers how his frightened father called him up asking him if he was connected with terrorists. Jakathi got in touch with the Karnataka police and decided to fly down to clear himself of the charges. When he got down at the Bombay airport for his connecting flight, he was immediately arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad. Thrown into a dingy room at the airport, he was interrogated by a man in civil clothes who claimed to be with the Intelligence Bureau. Taken to a police station later, Jakathi says that he was subjected to the usual round of verbal abuse and threat of encounter killing.

“I thought they would never let me go… that they would kill me. They asked me about my ‘links’ to various terrorist groups and showed me several photographs of people they said I was working with. I had not seen those persons before,” he says. Finally, Jakathi was incarcerated in Belgaum jail for three year. But his family suffered more than him. While Jakathi’s job loss triggered severe financial strain for his parents and wife, the social ostracism that inevitably followed cut of all support from neighbours and even relatives. Already struggling to find money to keep up the legal fight to save Jakathi, his father, a retired school headmaster, lost the use of his legs to gangrene. The case of Imtiyaz Dallayat is stranger because he had a cordial relationship with the police. Dallayat, who owned a betel shop, was part of the local Muslim social welfare organisation and was often sought by the police to dispose of unclaimed dead bodies of Muslims. Therefore, when summoned by the police, Dallayat had no inkling of what was awaiting him. He was “detained in the police station illegally for several days, made to sign blank papers and slapped with charges of terrorism”. According to his family, the police arrested Dallayat after planting some material in his shop which they claimed was used by him to manufacture a bomb. When finally released, the world had changed for him. He still remains a “terrorist”.

“I should have spent the long time wasted in jail with my daughter. Now, she is three years old but refuses to come near me; she doesn’t recognise me” says Dallayat. When contacted, Raghavendra H Auradhkar, Home Secretary, Karnataka, who was the Police Commissioner of Belgaum during the investigations, told Tehelka, “I cannot comment on this issue as I haven’t seen the court order.” Advocate LM Patel was helpless when his son Nasir was arrested on 24 May, 2008. “Even though I am a lawyer, I could be of no use to my son,” he says expressing despair and anguish. “He [Nasir] had just finished his dawn prayers, when he was summoned to the police station and arrested. I didn’t apply for bail immediately because the police told me that he would be released soon. Three days later, charges were filed against him. If the police can do this to a lawyer’s son, what would they do to ordinary people?” he laments. Nasir may have been acquitted in the Belgaum case, but it could be a long time before his father sees him free. Nasir is currently imprisoned in Ahmedabad. After his arrest in Karnataka, the Gujarat police nabbed him for being allegedly involved in the Ahmedabad bomb blasts, which occurred on 2 July, 2008. Indeed, “the wind continues to blow” as aptly put by Jakathi.



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Picking up the Bill – By Chanakya (Dec 17, 2011, Hindustan Times)

Procrastination is the not-so-fine art of delaying things. Doing a rush job is the even less celebrated art of, well, rushing through things. While on paper these two methods of action seem disparate and opposite to each other, if you look closely, the pull-and-push mechanism of delay-and-hurry can form one strategic pattern: sit on something for a long time, and then when you’re being badgered from all sides for sitting too long, you can complain bitterly about being made to hurry and being forced to do a bad job. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the Lokpal Bill drama. As we approach the ‘final lap’ of a long distance run that has seen digressions, backtrackings, scurryings and slow-motion, it is evident that the government and its minders have been goaded on to table and pass the Lokpal Bill within the end of this winter session by Anna Hazare and his agit-prop artists and there’s no turning back now.

Last week, we saw politicians sit around a big table and thrash out points of difference in the Lokpal Bill. The Opposition, in particular, finally aired its views not inside TV studios but sitting across Congress and government faces. Coming to a consensus is no longer the tricky part. Frankly, it wasn’t the real issue all along. Parliamentarians, as a tribe, are still nervous about firming up an empowered lokpal. ‘Doing things in a rush’ was the last excuse from the government. This has been rejected by the opposition parties. Earlier, they had sulked, with reason, about not being consulted on the Bill. However, once they were brought into the picture – most visibly through the all-party parliamentary standing committee on the lokpal – strategists from the Opposition started insisting that Hazare’s deadline be kept. Why this sudden flowering of great intent, considering that till this last lap, the BJP and the Left were quiet on the issue of ‘We want the Lokpal now!’? Because things have boiled down to who takes the credit.

Till the recent stirrings in Parliament, the Lokpal Bill was being moulded and directed by ‘outsiders’. The Opposition’s latest enthusiasm over the Bill is less about re-establishing Parliament’s responsibility (read: authority) and more about reclaiming the role of the Opposition from the streets – especially at a time when the Anna’s campaign doesn’t seem to be running on a full tank any more. The only thing shorter than public memory is public enthusiasm. There are signs already that the wave of gleeful support that Hazare commanded in the earlier phases of his ‘movement’ has somewhat subsided. Perhaps swayed by his own wagging finger or baited by sound-bite-collecting journalists (and most likely both), Hazare himself has played a considerable role in this dip in public enthusiasm. But it’s more than just his dire pronouncements on drunkards, FDI in retail and crazies attacking ministers that have got people less gung-ho about rallying round the Anna totem pole. The sheer duration of the lokpal agitation has made many in the vocal middle-class tire. Very few will actually say, “Oh, now I’m bored by the issue”, but would rather couch it with utterances such as “I don’t like his strategy of launching a hunger strike on every issue”, or “Anna’s movement is more political in nature now. This will dilute the primary agenda.” But Anna may have just started boring his constituency.

Which is where the politicians – especially those in Opposition – see an opportunity to reclaim what is theirs: legitimacy as law-makers. It’s too late for them to argue a case against the lokpal (“a giant, overpowering, parallel burea-ucracy”). To be seen as a lokpal naysayer now will make them seem as being pro-corruption. The Opposition’s insistence on getting the Bill passed by the year-end is genuine. As a senior BJP politician told me, “Of course we don’t want any more delay. There isn’t any logic to the government wanting more time. This is a continuation of their confusion.” Ah, the luxury of opposing a delay while knowing that a delay will seriously endanger the government. Last week we saw non-UPA politicians share stage space with Hazare. Part of this exercise was to be seen as fellow participants in the lokpal demand; and part of it was to, paradoxically, undermine Anna’s essentially anti-politician campaign. (“If Anna wants to fight corruption why does he solicit support of politicians of the opposition party?” was one response from the ‘citizenry’.) On Team Anna’s part, this is a move away from its earlier ‘no politicians’ diktat and is a grudging acceptance that the campaign has already peaked and will be reined in by politicians. The UPA is fighting on two fronts: finger-wags and threats from the Anna gang and hollers and thumping fists from opposition parties. Which is why the UPA has switched from its old position of delaying things and now intends to bring in the Bill over the next few days so that the BJP – ready with its new ‘Chidambaram must quit!’ chant – doesn’t get too much credit for the Bill. In any case, ‘We got the people’s Lokpal through’ sounds so much more full of possibilities than ‘We were forced by the Opposition to push the Lokpal through’.



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System failure – By Bhaskar Ghose (Dec 17, 2011, Frontline)

As I write this Parliament has been adjourned for the ninth day without any work being transacted. As on previous days, a hullabaloo was started in each House as soon as the presiding officer declared it to be in session; those shouting at the top of their voices were seen smirking and grinning until the House was adjourned. Objective achieved, the members trooped out in good spirits. What issue was before the Houses when they were adjourned is irrelevant at the moment. It was, as a matter of fact, the decision by the Central government to introduce up to 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector, but it could have been any one of a number of other issues; Telangana and the rise in prices were the reasons Parliament was stalled earlier in the year. But, as I say, the reason is, for the purposes of this essay, immaterial. The fact is that Members of Parliament have once again shown that they can stop the Houses from functioning when they wish to, and there does not seem to be anything that can be done to prevent them from doing so. For all we know, Parliament will not be allowed to function for the rest of the winter session.

Is it just the cussedness or short-sighted tactics of the opposition or is it equally the fault of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA)? Or is it a failing that has its causes in something else: the very nature of the institution? One can be predictable and say that the reasons can be found in all three, but that would be to evade the primary cause. It is, simply, the nature of the institution. In the United Kingdom from where India got its institution of Parliament, it evolved over the years, through argument and debate, as a means of obtaining more and more powers from the Crown. Sometime in the late 18th and early 19th century, the sovereign’s first minister ceased to be that and became the “Prime” Minister, answerable more to the Commons and less to the House of Lords. This had to do with the gradual reaching out of members of the Commons to the people at large directly, relying less on brilliant oratory to get ideas across and more on their sense of what their constituents wanted. Of course, this took a good many years to develop and become anything like the system it now is, but the point is that the ability to get ideas, policies and reforms across began primarily within the Houses of Parliament and only later reflected what the MPs’ constituents wanted.

In India, ideas and policies were formed during the freedom struggle – a variety of ideas, including the need for education, economic reform and equality for all, were enunciated in public gatherings, all of which were a part, initially, of the all-encompassing freedom movement. But once freedom was achieved, the templates did not change, and thus Parliament soon became a focal point for vociferously demanding policies and action that had earlier been declared in mass meetings and rallies. The first years of Parliament were relatively peaceful for two reasons: one, great personalities like Jawaharlal Nehru were there to give it direction and character, and two, there was a general awe of the institution itself, with which not many were familiar. The bible was, in those early years, Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice. Both have disappeared today – the great leaders and May’s definitive book. Parliament increasingly seems to reflect Indian ethos and culture, and that does not include procedures and norms of behaviour that belong to another, foreign, culture and its traditions. Recently one saw, on television, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer make a statement that, in these surcharged times when Britain’s economy is in dire straits and the government has imposed severe cuts on public spending, could have meant bedlam in the House. There was some commotion in the opposition benches, but it was amazing to see how everything went quiet when the Speaker rose to his feet and said that this was an important statement and deserved to be heard without interruption. Thereafter, the murmurs from the opposition died away, except for an odd comment or two.

Cut from that to Parliament on the morning of December 2. The din was so great that nothing could be heard, not even the Speaker’s pleas to listen to her, and continued until she adjourned the House and left. A totally different scenario, yet both supposed to be parliamentary democracy in action. But is the Indian reaction unwarranted; is it a nail being driven into the coffin of parliamentary democracy? If anything, the repeated stalling of Parliament makes one thing clear, to me at least. What do we expect of Parliament at the best of times? That it function peaceably and pass laws. Laws drafted by the ruling party, which are not changed by even a comma despite eloquent speeches by members of the opposition and then passed. In other words, once a party or group of parties has a majority in the Houses, the country becomes nothing less than a dictatorship. The opposition is as much a figurehead as the President. But it is not that; the opposition represents millions of people who voted for its members, perhaps more than the number that voted for the ruling party or group, and a system that reduces the voices of its people’s representatives to nothing is not going to be accepted. This translates into behaviour that may make the ruling party think twice before bulldozing a law through both Houses. The fault is in the system.

For better or for worse, India has a system of parliamentary democracy that in effect means that the group in power becomes the virtual dictator of India, which is as it is over-governed, with every action by every industry or agricultural producer made subject to a mass of laws, clearances, licences and approvals. Manmohan Singh’s 1991 reforms, as Finance Minister, were dramatic, true, but a huge number of rules, regulations, procedural clearances and other controls remain. And that is why the ruling party or group becomes a dictator if it has a large enough number of MPs. This is what needs to be looked at carefully by all concerned, the ruling UPA and the opposition leadership. Faulty though it is, this parliamentary democracy – with its legislature, fractious though it may be; its executive, slow and inefficient though it is; and its judiciary, which has, except for a brief inglorious period, kept a watchful eye on what has been going on – has pulled the country through crisis after crisis and kept its integrity intact. The institution of Parliament needs to be studied to see how far it truly reflects the country’s diverse, multifaceted culture and polity. Rather than keep an imported institution and repeatedly prevent it from working, it would be better to have an alternative model that will allow dissent and effective decision-making.



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Heightened tensions – By R. Krishnakumar (Dec 17, 2011, Frontline)

Submerge the polemics, legal tangles and conflicting technical claims, and the participants in the inter-State dispute over the Mullaperiyar dam – one of the oldest and highest ‘solid masonry gravity dams’ in the world – will no longer be able to ignore the anxiety and panic that the 116-year-old structure has created among the people in Idukki, especially, and four other districts in Kerala. The spontaneous initial outpouring of the people was followed by unusual protests demanding the decommissioning of the dam in the wake of intense rain and repeated low-intensity tremors in Idukki district, at locations over 30 kilometres away from Mullaperiyar, on November 18 and 26. Following seasonal rains in the catchment areas of the dam, the reservoir was fast filling up when the first of the quakes occurred, and the spillway level of 136 feet (41.45 metres) was crossed within a few days. The dam filled to capacity and the series of “minor” earthquakes activated an unprecedented unity of purpose in Kerala. Ever since the detection of fresh leaks on the dam’s surface in 1979, people have demanded that the water level in the reservoir be lowered and a new dam be built.

The protests have taken the form of silent marches, hunger strikes, hartals and ‘human walls’ in the five districts through which the Periyar flows, and other State-wide campaigns, some involving violence. The State government, on its part, demanded immediate mediatory and legal remedies from the Centre and the Supreme Court. Mullaperiyar is the first in a series of hydroelectric and irrigation projects across Kerala’s longest river, the Periyar, which originates in the Western Ghats and drains into the Arabian Sea and the backwaters near Kochi. Tamil Nadu, across the Western Ghats, is the sole beneficiary of the British-built dam and it is against any further reduction in the water level in the reservoir. Instead, it wants the level to be raised to 142.40 ft (43.4 m), as an interim measure, and further to 152 ft (46.32 m), as per the recommendations of a committee of the Central Water Commission (CWC) that examined the dam nearly two decades ago and suggested several measures to strengthen it. By constructing the dam in the deep jungles of the Western Ghats, about 2,800 ft (853 m) above sea level, the British rulers of the then Madras Presidency had, from 1895, diverted the West-flowing Periyar river across the Ghats to the east, through a 5,704-feet (1,738.5 m) tunnel that opened into a tributary of the Vaigai river in the then Madurai district. This remarkable engineering feat achieved with the hard labour of mostly Indian workers today sustains irrigation and drinking water supply in five districts of southern Tamil Nadu. (The Periyar is also known as the Mullaperiyar, after a tributary, the Mullayar, joins it about 50 km from its origin in the Sivagiri Hill, east of Peerumedu.)

Though the dam is located in Kerala, it is controlled, managed and operated by Tamil Nadu, under a lease agreement of 1886 between the British and the erstwhile Travancore State, and validated subsequently by Kerala and Tamil Nadu in 1970. The original agreement gave the British the right over “all the waters” of the Mullaperiyar and its catchment for diversion to the British territory (now Tamil Nadu) for 999 years. The waters of a river with about 5,284 square kilometres (out of a total of 5,398 sq km) of its catchment area in Kerala, stored in a reservoir within Kerala territory, thus came to be used exclusively by the people of southern Tamil Nadu from 1895 onwards, when the diversion project was inaugurated. According to one estimate, over 70 lakh people in Tamil Nadu’s Theni, Dindigul, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts today depend on the waters of the Mullaperiyar reservoir (the scenic Thekkady lake) for the irrigation of about 2.5 lakh acres (1 acre = 0.4 hectare) and for drinking water needs. The (upper) Periyar has thus transformed a once-drought-prone region in the southern part of Tamil Nadu into breathtaking green valleys, vineyards and rich fields growing paddy, banana, coconut and a variety of vegetables and fruit. Since 1970, Tamil Nadu has been using the water to generate 140 megawatt (MW) of electricity as well. In 1979, Tamil Nadu was forced to reduce the water level in the reservoir after detection of leaks in the dam. However, its requirement of the Periyar waters for irrigation had only been increasing year after year. The total irrigated area in the Periyar-Vaigai basin has expanded substantially, leading to a quantum jump in the water required from the reservoir. Farmers’ groups in Tamil Nadu area have demanded that the Mullaperiyar water level be raised and “new channels” be opened from the Periyar system for irrigating new areas.

During most of the Periyar project’s early history, the section of Kerala falling on the downstream areas of the reservoir seemed to have remained generally a water-surplus region, with plenty of rain (and meagre population in the Ghat areas). But from the late 1970s, soon after Kerala constructed the Idukki hydroelectric project 50 km downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam and denudation and encroachment of the surrounding areas increased, the State too began to feel the pinch. But it could not use (particularly during summer) even a wee drop from the huge source of water within its own territory. For most part of the year, no water flowed from the Mullaperiyar reservoir to Kerala even as the population in the valleys between the Idukki and Mullaperiyar dams too began to increase. Almost all the water that reached the Idukki reservoir for most part of the year was only from the catchment areas downstream and from the Periyar’s tributaries. The detection of leaks in the Mullaperiyar dam in 1979 had led to concerns about the dam’s safety even though the reservoir level was brought down to 136 ft. Minor earthquakes were regularly reported in the region, and by the 1990s, Kerala government representatives, in private conversations, began expressing bitterness at the insensitivity of Tamil Nadu to the security concerns in Kerala. “Whether any State can rely permanently on the resources of another State” was a question that began to be raised, but at no time was there a demand that the Periyar waters be denied to Tamil Nadu. A senior adviser to the State government on Inter-State River Water Disputes put it succinctly to Frontline in October 1998, when the dispute had reached a new low: “The case of the Mullaperiyar dam is peculiar in that the beneficiary is comfortably situated elsewhere and the donor stands to face the peril if something happens. Some experts have said the dam is safe. But can any government afford to throw caution to the winds?”

Understandably, such arguments were brushed aside by Tamil Nadu as a ploy to deny it the full use of its legal entitlement of “all the waters” flowing “into, through, over or from” the Mullaperiyar dam and about 8,000 acres around it, as the Periyar Lease Deed of 1886 had ordained. On the other hand, in Kerala concerns about the safety of the dam were sounding increasingly genuine because of frequent reports about the condition of the aging dam and its increasing vulnerability in the context of earthquakes and changing weather patterns (see separate story). Until the question of the dam’s strength became an important issue, a significant facet of the dispute was the dramatically different approaches of the two States at the practical level. For the most part, in the first three decades after Independence, the people of Kerala were by and large aware of the Mullaperiyar reservoir (also known as the Thekkady lake) as a tourist spot and the dam as such, or its long history or its value as a key water source for the neighbouring State, evoked little interest. It was rarely that Mullaperiyar was discussed in Kerala, and successive governments, political leaders and officials who dealt with it did so in a “complacent”, “lethargic” and, according to later allegations, “insincere” fashion. In Tamil Nadu, the genuine needs of the farming communities and other beneficiaries of the Periyar project in the southern parts ensured that the State government and political leaders (a number of them representing regional interests) did their homework in all their discussions with Kerala about the agreement, the dam or quantum or use of the waters of the Periyar. … Mullaperiyar today is a vexatious legal and political tangle, but given the fear factor in Kerala over a real-world ‘Dam 999’, can any court, government or party take the huge risks involved in delaying the decommissioning of the old dam – unless they are so sure?



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What is Manipur’s future? – By Sumit Bhattacharya (Dec 13, 2011, Rediff)

In Manipur, it is difficult to go into the interiors if you don’t have someone local with you. You are told stories of what happened when a media team went into some remote villages in the hills. Someone had set it up – for the media team to visit – with one of the state’s nearly 40 militant groups. Somewhere along the line the communication did not reach. So, the driver of one of the media team’s cars spent two hours cleaning his car window – just to not attract attention to himself – while the reporters had guns pointed at their heads. The communication was being sorted out.

For someone not used to living with insurgency, Manipur is a different world. Everything you take for granted – like electricity, Internet, ATMs, cell network – needs a recheck. In Imphal, the capital city of Manipur, an average household gets six to seven hours of electricity – unless you have a ‘VIP’ connection. Corruption is rampant, all pervasive. It is supposed to be a dry state, but you can choose what you want to drink. There is something called a hawa bill, which means the government is billed for a project that does not exist in reality.

In February 2009, Dr Thingnam Kishan, a sub divisional officer, objected to National Rural Employment Guarantee Act development funds being looted by fudging population figures in Ukhrul district. He was hacked to death along with two of his staff. Even now, top government officers are scared that if you quote them by name, militants will kill them. A lot of central funds are also being poured into Manipur. On December 3, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Imphal that New Delhi is considering incorporating Rs 6,000 crore for the state in the 12th Five Year Plan.



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Shockingly, Soni Sori has been sexually tortured with stones. Who will answer for this? – By Tusha Mittal (Dec 24, 2011, Tehelka)

There is a battle that is described in court papers as Soni Sori vs the State of Chhattisgarh. Sori, 35, is a schoolteacher from Jabeli, accused of supporting the banned CPI(Maoist). She denies all the charges. In September, she was fired upon in the jungles of Chhattisgarh. Fearing for her life, she fled to New Delhi. On 7 October, she was arrested and sent back to Chhattisgarh. When she pleaded with a Delhi magistrate to keep her in the capital, he had said, “Not all police are bad.”

Those following Sori’s story understand why this is not her battle alone. Last month, hearing a PIL filed by Sori’s lawyers, which alleges she was tortured in police custody, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered a Kolkata hospital to conduct an independent medical exam. The report by NRS Medical College has confirmed the allegations. It describes two stones recovered from her vagina and one from her rectum. The stones were subsequently sent to the SC. Medical sources showed this correspondent images of the stones. Despite all assurances, the sources, fearing for their safety, didn’t allow TEHELKA to publish them.

Their fear is not unwarranted. This report is a key weapon in the battle. That is why several high-profile teams visited the hospital last month. Sources say that teams from the CBI, the West Bengal CID and the Chhattisgarh Police visited Dr SK Santra, superintendent of NRS Medical College, to request unofficial copies of the report. “The West Bengal CM wants to see the report,” a CID officer told Dr Santra. That is why this battle is not Sori’s alone; it is not being waged in Chhattisgarh alone. What happens here will get in the way of how history books can describe India’s war against its ‘gravest internal security threat’. What happens here will get in way, perhaps, of how India can describe itself. It is now the description of stones.

Sources told TEHELKA that the gynaecological exam of Sori reveals: “Two objects seen in the fornices, one blackish and one brownish, 2.5 x 1.5 x 1 cm.” The rectum exam found: “An irregular hard object, brownish in colour, was manually removed.” This matches the images TEHELKA has seen. Further, an MRI scan of her lower spine reveals “annular tears”, corroborating allegations that Sori was brutally beaten in custody. The medical report was submitted before the SC on 2 December. Subsequently, in a perplexing order, the SC allowed the Chhattisgarh government 45 days to respond – the next hearing is on 23 January – and sent Sori back into their custody. After pleas from her lawyer that she be shifted to a prison outside the state, the SC itself asked for her transfer from Bastar to Raipur Jail. There are fears about what might happen during that 385 km journey in police custody.

Asked to explain the stones, Dantewada SP Ankit Garg insisted the allegations are fabricated. “She was in our custody for only 48 hours from 8-10 October. It is a medical miracle if someone with stones inserted in her private parts can survive so long,” he told TEHELKA. In a letter sent to her family from jail, a copy of which is with TEHELKA, Sori specifically accused Garg. “He has taken my all. I have been tortured in ways I can’t describe here,” she wrote. “I pray to God that nothing happens to me until I have given my testimony to the SC.” At present, Sori is in judicial custody for attacking a Congress leader, bombing a tehsil office, and couriering funds to the Maoist party. TEHELKA earlier detailed how the cases are fabricated, and how Sori is an innocent tribal caught in the crossfire. (Refer to The Inconvenient Truth of Soni Sori, 15 October). “I don’t know how this struggle will end. Sometimes the condition of my body becomes quite serious,” Sori added, “but my struggle is not mine alone.”



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