IAMC Weekly News Roundup - December 23rd, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 23rd, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

1984 riots not comparable with post-Godhra violence: Amartya Sen (Dec 18, 2013, Indian Express)

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said the Gujarat riots of 2002 are not comparable with the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984, rejecting Infosys chief N R Narayanamurthy’s view that the post-Godhra violence should not stand in the way of Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister.

While describing as “absolute shame” the fact that those responsible for the 1984 riots had not been brought to judgement, he sought to differentiate between the 1984 riots and those that occurred in Gujarat under the watch of Chief Minister Modi.

Sen argued that Congress leaders, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi, who were fighting elections today, were not the people responsible for the anti-Sikh riots. No one had accused them of that, whereas Modi was the Chief Minister when the riots took place.

Moreover, he said that the anti-Sikh riots were not something that fitted into the Congress philosophy. “There is no philosophy of killing Sikhs in the Congress,” he told NDTV in an interview.

On the other hand, he said that treatment of Muslims in Gujarat raised the question as to whether they were treated as second class citizens. “That is a continuing problem,” he said, adding Narayanamurthy was a great friend of his but he did not agree with him on this issue. …



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Gujarat files delay condonation plea in Naroda Patiya case (Dec 19, 2013, Economic Times)

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team today filed a delay condonation application before the Gujarat High Court through the state government in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, after which the court issued notices to the accused. A division bench of Justice K S Jhaveri and Justice K J Thakkar issued notices to the 16 accused, including Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, and kept the matter for further hearing for January 20.

Bajrangi and 15 others, who are in jail, are to be served notices through the jailor, the court said. The SIT had sought enhancement of the sentences of 16 people, including Bajrangi, in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. The lower court had convicted former minister in the Narendra Modi government Maya Kodnani, Bajrangi and 15 others in August 2012. As many as 96 people, mostly belonging to the minority community, were killed in the Naroda-Patiya massacre during the post-Godhra riots of 2002.

The court has convicted 32 and acquitted 29 persons. Kodnani is currently out on a temporary bail of three months on medical grounds. Last month, the SIT had filed three appeals seeking that Bajrangi and five other convicts should undergo life sentence without being considered for remission (reduction in term).

In the other two appeals, the SIT has demanded 25-year and 30-year sentences without remission for the remaining convicts. The accused were given jail terms of 21 years by the trial court. The SIT has not asked for enhancement of Maya Kodnani’s sentence in its appeal.



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No evidence that Ishrat Jahan a LeT operative, CBI tells PMO (Dec 21, 2013, Economic Times)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that there is no evidence to say that Ishrat Jahan was a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative and dismissed as “farfetched” the allegation of senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley that the agency had deliberately targeted former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah with the ultimate aim of targeting BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. ET has reviewed a four-page document sent by CBI to the PMO containing a point-by-point rebuttal of the issues raised by Jaitley in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 27.

A top CBI official confirmed the contents, saying the letter was sent to the PMO for preparing a reply to Jaitley, who had alleged that the agency was biased in inquiries into the allegedly staged killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Tulsiram Prajapati and Ishrat Jahan. The official didn’t want to be named. Jaitley has confirmed receiving a reply from the PM. “It was a brief reply saying the said matters are under investigation. I stand by whatever I said in my letter to the PM,” Jaitley told ET. The revelations come ahead of the next general election and the alleged encounters may be turned into a poll issue by the Congress party as the political campaign pitch escalates over the next few months, especially after it suffered heavy defeats at the hands of the BJP in recent assembly contests.

Jaitley’s letter had said Jahan was an LeT operative citing the Jama’atud-Dawa (JuD), a front for the LeT terrorist group. The JuD had posted an official obituary on its website, and CBI was “being pressurized” to deny the existence of this, he said. “It is clarified that the report of Jama’at-ud-Dawa has no evidentiary value and admissibility as per Indian evidence Act and law,” the CBI said, giving a clean chit to Jahan. Jaitley also alleged that the “political establishment” in Delhi had collusively filed a plea before the Gujarat High Court in the name of the relatives of Jahan. “The petition was filed by mother of Ishrat, Shamima Kauser, for the ends of justice,” the CBI said.

The key rebuttal is to Jaitley’s allegation that CBI targeted Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case in order to get to Modi. The CBI counters this by saying that its case against Shah is based on strong evidence and “a large number” of testimonies. “Hence, the allegation that CBI had deliberately targeted Shah with ultimate desire of implicating Modi is farfetched and factually incorrect, more so, when the investigation by CBI was closely monitored by the apex court,” the document said. CBI has not charged Modi in any case. Jaitley had also questioned CBI’s move to file a chargesheet against Shah in the Prajapati case ahead of the six-month limit set by the SC, alleging that the agency timed it just before the Gujarat assembly polls of 2012 so as to arrest him again in this particular case. “The fact is that there was no bar for his (Shah’s) arrest and yet CBI filed a chargesheet without arresting Shah clearly disproves the allegation that CBI wanted to arrest Shah just before the election,” CBI has told the PMO.

The agency also defended its case against former Rajasthan Home Minister and BJP MP Gulab Chand Kataria in the Sheikh case. It countered Jaitley’s contention that Kataria was not even present in Udaipur at the time that the CBI says he held a meeting on Sheikh’s killing. “The plea regarding his absence at Udaipur is an afterthought to create an alibi. The CBI has marshalled sufficient evidence contrary to what has been alleged by him,” CBI said.



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NIA fails in arresting Hindus among its Most Wanted List (Dec 22, 2013, Twocircles.net)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was established in 2009 and subsequently it took over the investigations of blasts occurred in Malegaon 2008, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, Margaon in Goa and Samjhauta express blasts. Initially it got little success in arresting alleged right-wing terrorists who were behind these blasts. In 2010-2011, NIA had intensified its investigation and arrested some accused including Swami Aseemanand. With Aseemanand’s arrest NIA cracked Malegaon 2006 blast case. NIA claimed that right wing alleged terrorists were responsible for the Malegaon 2006 blast near a masjid that killed 37 people.

NIA has done a commendable job in the last 2 years by apprehending number of high profile so called alleged terrorists. The newly formed National Investigation Agency (NIA) has successfully spread its tentacles in all the states and also in the nearby Asian countries. It has arrested many alleged terrorists from Bihar, M.P., Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Even the gulf state has extended vital information to the NIA related to the alleged terrorists of Indian origin who are living in their country.

Saudi Arabia and Nepal have helped NIA in arresting and deporting alleged terrorist Zabiuddin Ansari@Abu Jindal, Fasih Mahmood, Abdul Karim @Tunda, Ahmed Siddibappa @Yasin Bhatkal, Akhtar @Haddi . These arrests have proved to be its biggest achievement. NIA has claimed that with these arrests they have averted major blasts which could have resulted into multiple deaths. Despite such success in arresting alleged terrorists from across the border neither NIA nor any other security or intelligence agency have since last 5 years got any clue about 8 right-wing terrorists that figure in its most-wanted list. …

These accused still appear on the wanted list of NIA since last 5 years or so. NIA and other agencies are clueless about their whereabouts. Are they hiding in Pakistan or Nepal? Why Intelligence agencies don’t get to them? If they are in India who is helping them to hide? Who is providing them money and other necessary help? If Delhi police can arrest influential and widely supported Narayan Sai then why these above mentioned wanted accused not be arrested and brought to justice. It seems either intelligence and security agencies are going slow on them or they are falling short in apprehending them.



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Forced to sign blank papers, suspected terrorist tells court (Dec 16, 2013, Business Standard)

Suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Abu Jundal Monday told a court here that he was forced to sign some documents and blank papers by National Investigation Agency (NIA) personnel and Maharashtra Police. Meanwhile, the NIA supplied a copy of the chargesheet filed against him to his counsel M.S. Khan. Jundal told District Judge I.S. Mehta that he was forced to sign some documents and blank papers by the investigating agencies, court sources said. The court has posted the matter for further hearing to Jan 18, 2014.

Presently lodged in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, Jundal spoke in court through video conferencing. In the chargesheet, NIA said that Jundal taught Hindi to the 10 operatives who were involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. It was alleged that Jundal joined LeT and went to Nepal to meet its commander Abdul Aziz for training in bomb making in November 2005.

During training at the LeT camp he came in touch with top LeT operatives including its chief Hafiz Saeed, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, the NIA added. In the chargesheet the NIA also said that Jundal was recruiting people to the banned outfit to carry out terror strikes in India.

Jundal was deported to India from Saudi Arabia in June 2012 for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to commit terror attacks within the country. NIA booked Jundal under various terror charges.



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Karnal communal violence: After Muzaffarnagar riots, fresh incidents reported in Kutel (Dec 18, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)

After Muzaffarnagar communal riots in Uttar Pradesh, communal violence erupted in Kutel village of Karnal district where a place of worship and three houses of members of a religious community were damaged while another house was torched. Members of the other community went on the rampage following the mysterious disappearance of a youth, whom they alleged had been murdered.

Hundeds of policemen have been deployed in the village to stop any untoward incident. According to the village Lambardar, his son on the night of December 13 received a phone call and did not return. The family members made searches, called up his friends but to no avail. The Lambardar’s family received information that the accused, who belongs to a minority community and stays near the Lambardar’s cattle yard, had gone out on his bike at the same time. Suspecting foul play, the Lambardar’s family registered a police complaint.

Later, the police booked the accused under Section 365 (kidnapping) of the IPC. During questioning, the accused admitted that he and his son had spotted the Lambardar’s son lurking near their house. They clubbed him to death, put his body in a sack and threw it into the Rawar augmentation canal, 5 km from the village, said Shashank Anand, Karnal SP, who is camping in Kutel village. The body has not been recovered so far. Divers from Kurukshetra and Karnal were called to fish it out.

The SP said that a case of murder under Section 302 of IPC would be registered after the body was found. Anand said that angry mob damaged the accused’s house as adequate security had been provided there. A case of rioting and damage to property has been registered against 30-35 persons.



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CBI files chargesheet against BJP MP in RTI activist murder case (Dec 21, 2013, IBN)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday filed a chargesheet against Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP) MP from Junagarh Dinu Solanki in the murder case of RTI activist Amit Jethwa. The BJP MP from Junagarh was earlier questioned by the CBI in connection with Jethwa’s murder case in July 2010 and was subsequently arrested in November. His nephew Shiva Solanki and five others were lodged in jail in the same case. Jethwa had been campaigning against illegal mining in the Gir reserve. His family had claimed that the MP had hatched the conspiracy to kill Jethwa.

CBI had registered a case on the directions of the Gujarat High Court which in its order had criticised the state police for their shoddy investigations in the murder. Jethwa was a Right to Information (RTI) and environment activist who had filed numerous RTI applications and a PIL against illegal mining in Gir forest region. He was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court on July 20, 2010.

The killing had sparked an uproar among RTI activists across the country who had raised concerns over the safety of such whistle blowers, prompting the father of the deceased to move the High Court demanding a CBI probe. In his plea before the High Court, Bhikabhai had alleged the state police had not properly probed the case and the state government was shielding the BJP MP.

Jethwa had filed several petitions in the Gujarat High Court, including a Public Interest Litigation in connection with illegal mining in Gir forests in Junagadh district which is a protected area and last home to Asiatic lions.



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Youth murdered, shrine damaged at Ayodhya (Dec 23, 2013, The Hindu)

A group of five-six motorbike-borne persons damaged the outer wall of an old shrine in Ayodhya on Friday night and murdered a 22-year-old student sleeping in a mosque, 500 metres away. While the cause is not clear, locals believe that these were part of an attempt to trigger communal tensions. The shrine, which houses a grave popularly believed to be that of Prophet Shis, is visited by both Hindus and Muslims. Sited just 2 km from the disputed site, it was attacked when the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992.

“Since then, it is the first time a religious place of the minority community has been attacked,” says Anil Singh, a Faizabad college professor. “They could have damaged the shrine and left, or murdered him first. But maybe, he saw them committing the act, so they killed him.” Government officials rushed to the spot and did repairs to the shrine. A police officer told The Hindu that there were indications that the crime was committed in such a way as to give it a communal colour. “The miscreants have made attempts to hide their motive,” he said. The police did not believe that the murder was due to a personal grudge.

Mahant Yugal Kishor Saran Shastri, head priest of the Saryu Kunj temple, also believes that the act was intended to stir communal trouble. “Why did they damage the shrine and then commit the murder 500 metres away?” The youth, Mohammed Danish, hailed from Bihar and was a undergraduate student of a college at Ayodhya. He lived on the premises of the Pir Paigambhar shrine at the Jinnati Mosque. The body was sent for post mortem.

The police have detained some persons for interrogation. The district administration has deployed security forces near the mosque and invoked Section 144 of the Cr.PC to prevent any unlawful assembly. Security has also been tightened at Faizabad, which witnessed communal clashes during the Durga Puja procession last year.



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Fighting corruption: Laws needed to give lokpal teeth (Dec 21, 2013, Times of India)

“This is not about one Bill; this is about the framework and we would like to deliver that framework to the country.” Rahul Gandhi said so, in a rare intervention in LS before the Lokpal Bill’s passage. It was an appeal to the 15th LS that, besides Lokpal, it should “consider and enact all six pending anti-corruption Bills before its term expires”.

He proposed that the winter session be extended “to complete our unfinished work in our fight against corruption”. Law minister Kapil Sibal made a similar request in RS, “Let’s try and work extra hours to bring these Bills to the House and to have them passed.” Though the House has been adjourned indefinitely, the proposal of reconvening it merits serious consideration, as demanded by Aruna Roy on behalf of civil society – more so because there is apparently a political consensus in favour of these legislations.

Since the term of the 15th LS has been marred by scams, there cannot be a more fitting way of signing off than carrying out this “unfinished work” to complement the Lokpal legislation. Consider the difference each of these Bills could make once passed. …



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5 policemen dismissed, held for ‘rape of minor’ (Dec 21, 2013, The Hindu)

Moving swiftly, the Chandigarh police on Friday dismissed from service all five policemen booked for raping a 17-year-old schoolgirl for more than a month. The incident sparked anger in the city and protests broke out at several places, continuing till evening. Throughout the day, protests took place in the Sector 17 plaza. In the evening, students of Panjab University took out a protest march on the campus demanding strict action against the accused.

While four policemen, Akshay, Sunil, Jagtar and Himmat Singh were arrested on Thursday after the girl’s family lodged a complaint, the fifth, Anil, was nabbed on Friday. All five have been remanded to police custody for three days.

The girl said in her complaint that she had come in contact with Akshay a few weeks ago, when her father got into a dispute with his neighbour and the police was called for help, Senior Superintendent of Police Sukhchain Singh Gill, told The Hindu. After that, Akshay and the other accused began stalking her in the PCR (police control room) van and made sexual advances. Akshay also hired a room and he, along with the others, forced her into it and raped her at gunpoint.

The matter came to light when the girl tried to commit suicide in a fit of depression since the constables had begun accosting her on her way to school and elsewhere. She was being constantly harassed and stalked. A cousin approached a city councillor and, with his help, summoned the courage to go to the police.

Initially, an FIR was registered against only one of the accused but after some BJP workers of the municipal corporation raised a hue and cry, the names of the others were included.



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Opinions and Editorials

Indians push to tame Hindu-Muslim rioting with new bill – By Rama Lakshmi (Dec 20, 2013, Washington Post)

Sabra Rashid fled her village three months ago, as Hindu mobs started attacking their Muslim neighbors. With nowhere to return after her home was looted and burned, she is living in a tent camp with thousands of other Muslims. One night this month, the youngest of her four children, 9-month-old Sufian, who had been shivering in the cold, suddenly went still. He was dead. “My heart cannot bear this anymore. It will explode,” said Rashid, 32, fighting back tears as she ran her fingers over the image of her son’s face on a cellphone – the only photograph of him her family still has. “As a mother, all I want is a safe home for my other children, to stay healthy, to stay alive. Is that too much to ask?”

Rashid was one of 50,000 people forced from their villages in and around the Muzaffarnagar district of northern Uttar Pradesh state during the September rioting. In its wake, there is new momentum to pass a long-discussed bill aimed at curbing religious and ethnic violence. Tensions between the majority Hindu population and the Muslim minority go back centuries. Half a million people died in rioting during the partition of India in 1947, when Pakistan was created as a Muslim homeland. Although religious violence has dropped dramatically since then, the number of incidents is ticking upward of late – from 668 last year to 725 in the first 10 months of this year, causing 143 deaths, official data show. And many Indians are concerned that divisions between religious groups could deepen with the national elections scheduled for next year, especially because the main opposition party is led by a controversial Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi.

“Each government has dealt with communal rioting in a completely arbitrary and prejudicial manner,” said Farah Naqvi, a member of the National Advisory Council, a government-appointed group of academics and activists, some of whom have worked on the bill. “Hundreds of thousands of people who have been permanently displaced by rioting are not even counted and recognized by the government. And those who incite riots from behind the scene are rarely brought to justice. It is unconscionable if the new, 21st-century India continues to look the other way.” The bill, yet to be introduced, would put in place policies to prevent and limit communal and ethnic rioting. It would establish fines and jail sentences for public officials and police officers for failure to control violence. It would also guarantee speedy investigations and trials in special courts, and it would set guidelines for reparation for victims.

The legislation has been in the works since riots in Gujarat state in 2002 left more than 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims. The measure could finally pass in the coming year, because it is being supported by the Congress-party-led governing coalition. The bill has been strongly criticized by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition party, which has called it a maneuver to garner the votes of religious minorities. In a recent letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Modi called the measure a “recipe for disaster,” saying it would lead to ordinary fights being labeled as communal violence. Modi is accused by human rights groups of not doing enough to stem the 2002 riots in Gujarat, his home state. The recent Hindu-Muslim rioting in Muzaffarnagar, the worst such violence in India in more than a decade, was sparked by an incident in which a Muslim youth was killed by two Hindus after he was alleged to have sexually harassed their female cousin. This set off a cycle of reprisal attacks across the district.…

After the riots, about 6,400 people were named in police complaints in connection with killings, rapes, looting, arson and inciting riots. But police have arrested only 200 people. “We have gone out to arrest the men at least 10 times, but the women came out armed with axes and sickles and blocked our entry into the villages. They pile bricks and stones on the dirt paths to stop our vehicles. They surround the villages with tractors,” said Kaushal Raj Sharma, the district magistrate in Muzaffarnagar. Activists say that after each riot in India, diverse neighborhoods have shrunk in population as residents have moved to areas where people of their own faith and ethnicity live. “That produces its own kind of polarized politics, something a developing country cannot afford,” said Naqvi, of the National Advisory Council. Although activists have high hopes for the proposed law, some Muslims said it may not change much on the ground. “We have enough laws in this country; what we need is people who have the will and the heart to implement the laws,” said Abdul Jabbar, a real estate agent who runs the camp in Loi.



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No Excuse for Callousness – Editorial (Dec 28, 2013, EPW)

More than 50 infants and children have reportedly died in the camps housing the thousands of displaced families affected by the riots in Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh (UP) on 7 September 2013. They died not because of any disease, but because they were hungry and there was nothing warm to protect them from the freezing-cold weather. As families continue to battle the cold with only a flimsy tarpaulin as cover and small fires that shed light but little heat, the situation in these camps is a scandal that ought to be a national concern. Not only is this an unconscionable violation of the rights of citizens of this country, it is the result of the complete callousness of the local authorities and the state government of UP. What is worse, despite reports by the media and civil society groups working in the area, the state government has chosen to pretend that there is no problem. Indeed, for weeks it denied the fact of these deaths and only now, after the Supreme Court’s order following a writ petition, has the UP government acknowledged that 11 children have died. Also, only at the Supreme Court’s prompting have medical facilities been extended to the camps where scores of women are pregnant and need urgent care. Whether anything will be done about the almost total lack of sanitation in the camps, something that has made life a living hell, especially for the women and children, still remains to be seen.

The UP government’s attitude towards the displaced families following the Muzaffarnagar riots, in which an estimated 60 people died, has been not just extremely callous but also unthinking. First, it issued a notification offering compensation only to Muslims affected by the riots. Predictably, this was challenged in court and the Supreme Court struck this down as being discriminatory. Thereafter, the notification had to be reframed and reissued. As if that was not enough, the government seems determined to push people out of the camps and back to their homes without understanding why people are hesitant. If things had been tolerable in the areas where these people lived before the riots, would they have preferred to live under leaky tents in freezing weather, watching their children literally freeze to death, rather than returning? Obviously the reason they hesitate is because their prospects on their return are, in their minds, worse than what they face in the camps. These are families that have to confront not just homes that have been burned down but will also have to live with the very people who attacked them in an atmosphere where the resentments that triggered the conflict are still alive. It is hardly surprising then that they do not want to return yet, something that the state government seems incapable of comprehending.

Above all, the shocking and unacceptable state of affairs in the Muzaffarnagar camps is a reminder of the absence of a comprehensive policy for relief and rehabilitation after such calamitous events. Similar situations have arisen in other states too. Immediately after a riot, the state government, the district authorities and the central government release resources to assist those affected. Camps are established. People are herded into ostensibly “safe” areas. And then, they are virtually forgotten. For the media, the story often ends once the embers of the conflict have died. For the administration, the camps are temporary shelters and it insists that people move out as soon as possible. Only when people refuse to move, or if the conditions in the camps deteriorate to the point where deaths are reported, does the administration wake up and take note. Even then, as is clear in this instance, there is little comprehension of why people are afraid to return, or to put in place policies that will help make their return possible. As a result, in many instances, the displaced get uprooted yet again because they are compelled to move to areas that they deem “safe”, usually enclaves where only people of their own communities live. For the administration, the problem is solved. For the affected people, the challenges of life are compounded.

Governments routinely treat those displaced by conflict of any sort as people whose loyalty they can buy through doles and compensation packages. Yet, the history of similar displacement should tell us that people never get over the trauma until there is justice, a sense of closure and security. When all these three factors are missing, the displaced are left with the kind of impossible choices the mothers in the camps in Muzaffarnagar face – how to share one sweater between three children, how to find a dry space at night when the tarpaulin leaks and the dew soaks everything, how to warm your children with fires without exposing them to injury, how to feed them when the essentials are not available – basically how to ensure that they survive these ostensibly “temporary” dislocations. No mother should have to make such choices. No decent government should put its people in such a situation. There is simply no excuse.



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The struggle for justice for Ishrat Jahan – By Abdul Rauf Lala (Dec 21, 2013, Twocircles.net)

As we came to know through the media that a Mumbra girl namely Ishrat Jahan has been gunned down in an encounter in Gujarat, we reached her home at Rasheed Compound which is at walking distance from my house in the city. There we saw the house comprising one bedroom along with a washroom and a tiny kitchen. There was a tiny wooden box which contains of their clothing. And the family had access to neither television/newspaper nor a telephone. On our request, her mother Shameema Bi provided us with details.

Ishrat’s father, Shameem Sheikh, died in 2002. He worked as a constructor. After the sad demise of Ishrat’s father, the whole responsibility came to her mother’s shoulder and she joined a medical company so as to feed her family of six. There her work was to stick tags/labels on the medicine wrappers. Her elder daughter, Ishrat, was a B. Sc. (2nd year) student and was helping her mother by teaching at a coaching centre as well as giving private tuitions at her home. In fact, Ishrat was the backbone of her family and it was she who was winning the bread for the family. Days ago, she was out for some business purpose only to meet her ill fate.

After listening to the complete story, we smelt a rat in the incident. And first of all, we demanded from the authority to return her body as we wanted to bury her in her hometown. Then a team comprising of myself, my friends Munna Sahil, Shakeb Khan, Asadullah Hanafi along with Ishrat’s mother headed towards Ahmedabad the very next day. When we reached Ahmedabad at 5 in morning, a reporter from Gujarat Samachar approached us soon and told us earnestly to raise the issue strongly, as he said that was a fabricated story and a fake encounter. He further added that many of them knew the truth but could not speak out for one reason or another.

Then our team reached the Gujarat Crime Police Head Station at Haweli. At the police station, we met Singhal and NK Amin. They conducted their investigation upon us in a very rough manner. They talked to us as if we were criminals and were detained in our way to carry out some big mission. We were not given even water to drink and meal to eat during the period and were not allowed to perform Juma Namaz that day. After 5-6 hours of traumatising enquiry, Vanzara came and then started his turn which lasted for three more hours. Our only demand that made them torment us was our claim to return the body of Ishrat. They left no stone unturned to persuade us to withdraw our demand of taking the body to the hometown. When we refused to lend an ear to their requests or rather orders they put a condition before us and said the body would be released provided we bury it in Ahmedabad. We again declined their order and after 9-10 hour long torture we were given access to the body.…

But we never even thought of giving up and I think when a person has complete trust in Allah and believes that the ultimate decision is of Allah’s, he should never give up. Today the case of Ishrat has become a national issue. This goes to suggest that if you start fighting for a good cause even though you have limited resources, it is the Almighty Allah who will help you. I request all the citizens in general and Muslims in particular to take all such cases seriously and go through legal proceedings instead of issuing emotional and political statements. There are many a non-Muslim activist who is fighting for human cause and ready to help on humanitarian ground. Take assistance from them and be constant while fighting for social causes. Leave behind the idea of giving up.



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The AAM Army – By Avalok Langer & Deevakar Anand (Dec 28, 2013, Tehelka)

They were the underdogs. The political idealists that everybody counted out. No one truly believed that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would be able to compete with two established political parties – the Congress and the BJP – in the DelhiAssembly election.

Before the triangular contest, theCongress remained smug; the BJP was confident of an outright win. Sample the statements that were made in prime-time debates: “They should have remained a pressure group, they would have been able to do more”; “Arvind Kejriwal is making a mistake taking on Shelia Dikshit, he can’t beat her”; “If they get even 10 seats, it will be a miracle!”

However, within a year of its formation, AAP has proven everyone wrong. Kejriwal obliterated former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit from the New Delhi constituency. Though the fledgling party did not win the Assembly polls, it managed to gain 28 (of the 70) seats by fighting on an anti-corruption plank. As the issue goes to press, Kejriwal & Co are asking the citizens of Delhi for their opinion on whether they should form the government.

AAP’s success has come as a breath of fresh air. The party has busted the myth that one needs money power to fight elections. Not only did they collect campaign funds from the people, they relied on volunteers who had left their jobs, homes and families. Many had travelled across continents to come and work for the brand-new party.

According to a report published by the Association for Democratic Reforms, 10 of the 28 AAP candidates who won in Delhi have declared personal assets ranging from Rs 20,800 to Rs 13 lakh – proof that you no longer need personal wealth to enter and triumph in Indian politics.



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A cure worse than the malady? – By R. K. Raghavan (Dec 21, 2013, The Hindu)

An empowered and high-profile ombudsman for India, a dream for long, is finally a reality. The millions of sceptics, including this writer, who believed that our lawmakers would never get down to vote for it have been proved wrong. This was an exercise that began 46 years ago. It took an eternity because of an obvious lack of political will and a fear of the unknown. Some of those who are powerful in our political firmament have a lot to hide. And they could not take a chance by creating what could perhaps prove to be a monster. Those who are now claiming credit for this heart-warming denouement of a heroic campaign are making a virtue out of necessity. The prospect of facing a knowledgeable and angry electorate in the next few months is what persuaded the two main political parties to sink their differences and ensure the smooth passage of the Lokpal Bill in both Houses of Parliament.

Here, one cannot but acknowledge the stellar role played by Anna Hazare in keeping up the pressure on the executive. You cannot fault him if he sounded unreasonable and stubborn at times. This was not a case of exhibiting ego, but one of conviction that a corruption-ridden nation needed an ombudsman with singular focus on restoring the credibility of a much-abused public service.

However, this is not the time to lose track of the realities and gloat. There is a need to educate the common man on what he can and cannot expect from this new experiment. The chairman and eight members of the essentially anti-graft body will be selected by a collegium comprising the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by the CJI, and an eminent jurist. It will have jurisdiction over all public servants under the Union government, including the Prime Minister. In the case of the Prime Minister, a probe can be initiated only with the approval of two-thirds of the Lokpal’s members. This stipulation is because of the apprehension of frivolous complaints being made mainly to unsettle a government in position.

While it will have its own investigative wing, which will conduct a preliminary inquiry into a complaint received by it, the Lokpal can entrust such an inquiry to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or to any other agency. Significantly, the Lokpal can initiate prosecution through its own team. Perhaps, the most welcome feature of the legislation is the empowerment of the Lokpal to provisionally attach any property suspected to have been acquired by an accused through illegal means. Such action will not have to wait until the prosecution successfully establishes the charge in a court of law. Strict exercise of this authority will certainly be lauded by the honest citizen, currently dismayed by the sight of corrupt public servants continuing to enjoy the fruits of their misdeeds even after being taken to task. …

I had long pleaded for a Lokpal which would look after personnel matters of the CBI (such as inductions and transfers) and a Department of Personnel which merely took care of budgetary allocations to the CBI. In my view, the CVC is a needless appendage – especially after the creation of the Lokpal – that only stifles the CBI without adding value to the quality of its investigations. On the whole, the Lokpal cannot be viewed as anything but a cosmetic imposition on a CBI that is craving for autonomy – without any great success. The commendable support to its cause by the Supreme Court is still in the realm of theory, with the Union government uninhibitedly rejecting all suggestions that the CBI be allowed to function unhampered by the executive. Against this backdrop, I am of the view that the Lokpal will have only a marginal impact on corruption in high places.



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Tribal ‘Annihilation’ and ‘Upsurge’ in Uttar Pradesh – By A K Verma (Dec 21, 2013, EPW)

Uttar Pradesh (UP) has long been treated as a non-tribal state where tribes did not merit consideration for inclusion in the scheduled tribes (STs) category created by the Constitution for according them affirmative action benefits and political representation through reservation. This paper challenges the conventional wisdom and points out that there is a substantial number of tribes in UP that merits recognitionas STs.

Census 2011 data indicated a growth rate of about 2,500% decadal (2001-11) in the ST population in UP (Verma 2013), whereas it was just 17% during 1971-81, 23% during 1981-91 and 26% during 1991-2001 (Table 1, p 53). The very magnitude of this decadal growth rate, as reported in the 2011 Census (Verma 2013) is indicative of major wrongs at various levels in the political and administrative systems in identifying the STs.

It also raises fundamental issues regarding the “annihilation” of tribal identity in UP and denial of justice and political representation to them in state and national legislatures. This paper argues that the annihilation of tribals in UP is contingent on a fundamental error made by the Constitution makers vis-à-vis the objective definition of parameters that should have been used to identify backward tribes and accord them ST status.

In addition, a plethora of factors ranging from historical, constitutional, legislative, and administrative also contributed to the chaos in identifying the STs in UP. Based on census records, this paper starts with the tribal population in UP in 1891 and by scaling population figures on a time-scale of 120 years works-out their present numbers. The projected tribal population in UP at present appears very big. That is also supported by the 2011 Census data on ST households for UP …



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