IAMC Weekly News Roundup - December 24th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 24th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


Indian Americans call for stringent enforcement of anti-rape laws, justice for victims

Thursday December 25, 2012

Indian American Muslim Council (https://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, condemns all forms of attacks against the dignity of women and the growing culture of impunity among the perpetrators of sexual violence in India.

The gang rape and brutalization of a 23-year old woman in Delhi warrants the widespread outrage and protests it has sparked [1]. However, the overall trend of increasing brutality against women, especially against those belonging to the vulnerable sections of society, points to a much deeper malaise that belies our claim to being a modern progressive society, where all citizens are equal before the law.

According to data maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau, there is a staggering 792% increase in the incidents of rape in the last 40 years [2]. In 2011 alone there were 24,206 reported cases of rape [3], and most sociologists believe that the vast majority of rape incidents are actually not reported due to the stigma attached to rape in Indian society.

“The bestial forms of rape and humiliation inflicted against women from the minorities during the sectarian pogroms in Gujarat, Punjab, Orissa and Assam, as well as the brutalization of Dalit and Adivasi women on a regular basis call for national soul-searching and introspection,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC [4][5]. “The fact that Narendra Modi continues to win assembly elections despite the rape of over 800 women under his watch during the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, shows that our desensitization to crimes against women has reached an unacceptable level,” added Mr. Khateeb [6].

IAMC has called for an expansion to the scope of the Committee headed by Justice Verma, which was established in the wake of the Delhi rape case to explore possible amendments to anti-rape laws in order to secure timely justice for the victims. IAMC has called on the government to bring to justice not only the criminals that prey upon vulnerable women, but also the perpetrators of mass rape committed during sectarian and caste-based violence.

As millions of Indians are celebrating Christmas, let us come together and pledge that we hold sacred the honor and dignity of all women in our midst, regardless of their class, caste or religion.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.


1. Police crackdown amid outrage over gang rape

2. Rape rises fastest among major crimes

3. Low conviction rate spurring sexual assault cases in India: Legal experts

4. The Survivors Speak – How has the Gujarat massacre affected minority women

5. ‘Govt must wake up to crimes against Dalit women’

6. One-third of Gujarat MLAs face criminal cases, including rape

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Narendra Modi’s re-election a black mark for Gujarat: Martha C Nussbaum (Dec 24, 2012, Economic Times)

Martha C Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. She has written extensively about religious minorities and their predicament across the world. While her latest book, The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age, focuses on the treatment of religious minorities, especially Muslims, in the western world, she has written about the meticulous targeting of women in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Nussbaum, 65, who has collaborated with Amartya Sen in the 1980s and promoted the concept of ‘capability approach’ in welfare economics, says that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s third straight win in the assembly elections is a major negative for the state.

“I think that the victory of Modi, particularly after the recent court verdicts, is a huge black mark for Gujarat,” says the feminist-professor who shot to fame a few decades ago with her stellar work, The Fragility of Goodness. “Modi has long been denied a visa to enter the US because of his complicity in the 2002 pogrom, as ascertained by the US State Department. But now, the Naroda Patiya verdicts make official the fact that responsibility for heinous crimes goes very high up in his government,” she notes. She feels that by re-electing him, Gujarat has re-elected an outlaw and a person whose world reputation is synonymous with hatred for Muslims and fomenting violence against them.

“And, of course, a lot of the violence was directed at the bodies of Muslim woman,” says Nussbaum, who is currently working on a book on the role of emotions in politics. Her next project is on forgiveness and reconciliation. Nussbaum is of the view that Modi’s development achievements are quite questionable. “Economic growth is not the best measure of development, and when we factor in such matters as equal distribution of opportunity and achievements in health and education, his (Modi’s) record is very poor, as the comparative field studies of the Indian states by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen have shown,” she says, adding that “no woman, whether Hindu or Muslim, could plausibly think of him as working for the interests of women, who are all too often unable to enjoy the fruits of a region’s general prosperity”.

The professor, who had earlier taught at Harvard, Brown and Oxford universities, maintains that it is a great thing that the Naroda Patiya trials achieved the convictions of influential people in the Bajrang Dal and in Modi’s own administration. “It would have been better still had he faced personal charges, but the evidence was stronger about the role of subordinates, and prosecutors are well advised to try the strongest cases,” Nussbaum says, emphasising that nothing about his success gives a black mark to the Indian government, to the legal system or to the Constitution. “The black mark is only to Gujarat,” she says, referring to Modi’s re-election last Thursday as chief minister of Gujarat for the third straight time. She has no doubts whatsoever about Modi being an energetic and charismatic person. “He has a lot of money from rich Gujaratis abroad… he has also campaigned tirelessly on his alleged development achievements, weak though these are in reality,” explains Nussbaum, who had in her writings suggested that too much bias in favour of non-art subjects and rote learning could lead to religious intolerance. One of the examples she had given was Gujarat.

She also says she found it strange that the BJP may name Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. “The BJP is aware that Modi’s appeal to religious division does not play well outside of Gujarat, and the recent verdicts in the Naroda Patiya killings case attach huge discredit to his name,” says she. She is, however, glad that the threat of religious extremism in India has already diminished considerably “given the failure of that sort of politics to take hold outside of Gujarat”. Adds she, “The BJP is now moving toward a more eclectic politics, and though they are certainly capable of speaking out of both sides of their mouths, there is reason to think that, particularly in the light of the Naroda Patiya case verdicts, it will have to downplay sectarian animosity in any national campaign.” Therefore, Nussbaum expects that the central issues in the coming national elections in 2014 will be corruption , governance and the state of the economy. “As for women, it is not correct to see the BJP as especially antiwomen. They are quite supportive of Hindu women, within the restrictions imposed by their overall growth-oriented economic policy, and it is really their stance toward Muslims that is problematic.”



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Muslim poverty may bite Narendra Modi at NDC meet in Delhi (Dec 24, 2012, Indian Express)

The final version of the Twelfth Plan document has named Gujarat among four states with the maximum number of Muslims below poverty line, which could set the stage for another confrontation between Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre at next week’s National Development Council (NDC) meeting. At the 2007 NDC meeting to discuss the Eleventh Plan, Modi had openly hit out at the prime minister’s 15-point programme for minorities, demanding that it be dropped “in the interest of maintaining the social fabric of the nation”. He subsequently never implemented the Centre’s scholarship scheme for minorities.

Now the Twelfth Plan document, which will be the subject of discussion at the NDC coming Thursday, shows Gujarat in a poor light when it comes to lifting Muslims above BPL in both urban and rural areas. To address this, the Plan calls for direct targeting of minorities to be made a pre-condition for disbursal of funds — a concept Modi has vehemently opposed, terming targeting of population on lines of religion “anti-constitutional”. “According to the latest Planning Commission estimates, the poverty ratio for Muslims was 33.9 per cent in urban areas, especially on account of states such as Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal. In rural areas, the poverty ratio for Muslims was very high in states such as Assam, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat,” states the Plan document in its chapter on social Inclusion, which is part of the section on social sector.

Using the Tendulkar Committee’s methodology, the Planning Commission estimates that 42.4 per cent of the Muslims in urban Gujarat are poor, which is very high compared to the overall poverty ratio of 17.9 per cent in urban areas. In rural areas, the corresponding figure stands at 31.4 per cent, which is again more than the overall average of 26.4 per cent for rural poverty in the state. On urban poverty ratio among Muslims, Gujarat’s figures are the third worse after Bihar (56.5 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (49.5 per cent) while in rural areas, it’s fourth after Assam (53.6), Uttar Pradesh (44.4) and West Bengal (34.4). The overall BPL population ratio in the country, according to the Tendulkar report, is 29.8 per cent. Noting that a “perception of discrimination and alienation” is the most “important concern” for Muslims when compared to other minorities, the Plan document has stressed on its “direct targeting” approach.

“Revamp the design, expand the scope and strengthen implementation structures of key initiatives such that minority settlements and people are directly targeted; such direct targeting should be made a condition for approval of all block- and district-level plans,” the document stated. For Modi, the visit to Delhi to attend the NDC meet is also like the customary victory lap after a third straight win at the hustings. He has claimed that his opponents were spreading “lies about Gujarat” in the course of the election campaign and underlined that his win was proof enough.



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NIA arrests prime suspect Dhan Singh in 2007 Samjhauta Express blast case (Dec 17, 2012, India Today)

A team of National Investigation Agency(NIA) officials on Monday arrested Dhan Singh aka Swami, a prime suspect in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast case from Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district. “Ram Lakhan Maharaj aka Dhan Singh aka Swamiji was arrested from village Kanta that comes under Naya Gaon police station,” said a senior police officer.

Singh, known as Swamiji was arrested from Chitrakoot(in Satna district) along Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh border. Singh’s name appears in the NIA’s supplementary chargesheet submitted in Panchkula court in June last year in the Samjhauta blast case. The Panchkula court in Haryana is hearing the matter.

In the chargesheet, the NIA had mentioned name of Dhan Singh as a conspirator in the Samjhauta case who was on run from Deepalpur in Indore district after the arrest of Lokesh Sharma in May 2010. Singh’s arrest has come barely 48 hours after the arrest of Rajendra Chaudhary aka Dashrath. On December 15, NIA arrested Rajendra from Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain district in connection with Samjhauta and Mecca Masjid blast cases.

It is the fifth arrest in the case and fourth from Madhya Pradesh. Only Aseemanand was arrested from Gujarat. Besides Dhan Singh, those arrested include Kamal Chouhan, Assemanand, Lokesh Sharma and Rajendra Chaudhary. While two other conspirators- Ramji Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange are at large. The two absconders also belong to MP. The NIA has announced a cash reward of Rs.10 lakh on the two fugitives. G R Meena, IG, Rewa range, confirmed Dhan Singh’s arrest but refused to share further details.



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Madani cycle enters round two as accused turns ‘victim’ again (Dec 24, 2012, Indian Express)

For Abdul Nazer Madani, chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the cycle of terror charges, arrest and public sympathy has entered a second leg. Taken into custody in 1998 in connection with that year’s Coimbatore serial blasts, which were allegedly targeted at BJP leader L K Advani and which killed 58 people, Madani was acquitted in 2007. The acquittal created the image of a martyr who had lost nine years of his life in jail due to a false case. Madani went on to be arrested again in 2010, this time in connection with the 2008 serial blasts in Bangalore that left two dead and 20 injured. Over the next two years, he went slowly into oblivion. Now, after the Karnataka High Court rejected his plea for bail so that he could take better treatment in Kerala, demands for “Justice for Madani” are being heard once again, from Muslim organisations, from rights acivists and now from across political parties, apparently in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Madani himself, who once moved around with a battery of self-styled “black cats”, is today a far cry from his former self, the rabble-rouser before and after the Babri Masjid demolition. He has lost sight in one eye due to diabetic retinopathy, while his vision in the other is impaired, says his wife Sufiya. He had lost part of his right leg in a 1992 blast, allegedly triggered by RSS men; now he has lost all sensation in what remains of it. He is confined to a wheelchair and is afflicted with several chronic ailments. He was not battling such severe health problems the first time he captured the public imagination, particularly that of Muslims in Kerala, as the victim of a travesty of justice. Even before his image of a terror accused was transformed into one of a victim, he was much sought during those nine years in jail. For the assembly election of 2001, leaders of the Congress-led United Democratic Front had queued up in Coimbatore jail to get his party’s support. In 2006, after the Assembly passed a resolution seeking his release, Madani extended support to the CPM-led Left Democratic Front.

By the time he was acquitted in the Coimbatore blasts case, Madani was already a chastened leader. He reinvented himself in Kerala politics as a moderate trying to build a Dalit-minority bank. He was asserting that he had left his past behind when it caught up with him, with the emergence of alleged terror networks built by his one-time associates, including suspected LeT militant Tadiyantavide Nazir. In the probe into the recruitment of Kerala youths for terror in Kashmir, all names that have come up have been of people who once belonged to Madani’s PDP. They had allegedly regrouped while the leader was undergoing a makeover. During those years, too, Madani was much sought-after in Kerala politics despite the terror allegation. The CPM, desperately looking for a Muslim face against Congress ally IUML, found an unofficial partner in Madani in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Later, the CPM would realise that its interactions with Madani were among the factors that led to the Left rout in Kerala in those elections. On August 17, 2010, as he was being taken to Bangalore by the Karnataka police, an emotional Madani told the media, “The forces that tried to annihilate me and my movement for empowering minorities are behind framing the charges against me. I don’t expect that I will come back alive.”

Madani’s image had changed again, from one of a mainstream politician to a terror accused. As he went out of public focus, many of his senior colleagues too left the PDP. In the 2011 assembly election, leaders of no party felt the need to visit Bangalore jail and seek his support. Until now. With a year left for the next Lok Sabha elections, political parties see Madani once again as the victim of a human rights violation, an issue that will help strike the right chord with Muslims. Muslim organisations such as the Popular Front of India and the Jamaat-e-Islami have taken up the issue of alleged rights violations. Last year, intellectuals and human rights activists including Binayak Sen took up the denial of proper treatment for Madani. Several writers, film personalities and social activists joined the campaign, which has recently been taken over by mainstream political parties.

“With the Popular Front of India and the Jamaat-e-Islami playing up the Madani issue, mainstream political parties could not afford to remain mute,” says columnist O Abdulla. “Pressure from other Muslim organisation has forced Congress ally IUML to demand humane consideration for Madani.” The IUML, the PDP’s political rival, was the first to demand better healthcare for Madani. “There are hundreds of Muslims jailed in India as undertrials. Madani is a glaring example of the serious issue that the government should address,” says E T Muhammed Basheer, an IUML MP. Basheer says his party’s political rivalry with Madani remains, but added the kind of human rights violations he is facing cannot be tolerated. “We don’t look at Madani from a political viewpoint, but as an example of violation of human rights.” On the sudden surge of support around Madani, BJP state president V Muraleedharan says the Congress and the CPM have taken up the IUML agenda with political motive. “The BJP will oppose any move to meddle with the case pending in court,” he says.



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Sadiq Jamal encounter case: 5 Guj cops held by CBI (Dec 21, 2012, Business Standard)

CBI today arrested five Gujarat policemen in connection with the alleged fake encounter of Sadiq Jamal in 2003. The policemen, who were produced before a special CBI court, were immediately sent to judicial custody. The CBI today also filed the charge sheet against eight accused in the case, including Dy SP Tarun Barot, for the charges under sections 120b (criminal conspiracy), 114 (abetment), 345 (illegal confinement), 365 (abduction) and 302 (murder) of IPC.

The CBI had arrested Tarun Barot on September 25 in this case, who had been later sent to Sabarmati Central jail here. The CBI called DySP J G Parmar, Police Inspectors G H Gohil and R L Mavani, Head Constables Ajaypal Singh and Chatrashingh Chudasama at Gandhinagar for their interrogation and later arrested them. In the evening, when all of them were produced before the special CBI court, the agency did not seek their remand and instead submitted the charge sheet in the case.

This is the first charge sheet in the case, filed against five cops arrested today, besides Barot and yet-to-be arrested retired cops I A Saiyad and K M Waghela. Since Saiyad and Waghela had not been arrested yet, the CBI has requested the issuance of Non-Bailable Warrant(NBW) against these accused. Former scribe of a Mumbai-based tabloid Ketan Tirodkar was the first one to be arrested in the case and who is now out on bail, has not been named in the charge sheet. Tirodkar was granted bail on October 11 on the basis of CBI failed to file charge sheet against him within the stipulated timeframe.

Sadiq Jamal, a resident of Bhavnagar, was killed in an alleged fake encounter by Gujarat police in Ahmedabad on January 13, 2003. The genuineness of the encounter became an issue after Tirodkar filed an affidavit before a court in Mumbai that he was witness to Jamal’s hand-over to Gujarat police by the “encounter specialist” Daya Nayak of Mumbai police, a few days before the alleged encounter. In last June, the High Court had ordered a CBI probe following a petition by Sadiq’s brother Sabir Jamal.



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Babri masjid demolition case: Court issues warrant against SP MP, former Shiv Sena legislator (Dec 18, 2012, Times of India)

The special CBI court in Lucknow on Monday issued non-bailable warrant against Samajwadi Party MP from Qaiserganj Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and former Shiv Sena MLA Pawan Pandey, accused in the Babri masjid demolition case, for not being present during the trial.

Also, they weren’t represented by their lawyers. Special judge Shashi Mauli Tripathi directed the CBI to ensure compliance of the order by December 22. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was BJP MP from Gonda at the time of the Babri mosque demolition in 1992.

He was also a close aide of BJP leader LK Advani and VHP leader Ashok Singhal during the Ram temple movement. He is accused of having provoked karsewaks to demolish the Babri mosque. Pawan Pandey is a former Shiv Sena MLA from Akbarpur in Faizabad.



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Delhi gangrape: Two senior police officers suspended, rape trial to begin from Jan 3 (Dec 25, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The Delhi Police suspended two senior officers and issued show-cause notices to two others on Monday for alleged lapses in duty in relation to the brutal gang-rape of the 23-year-old physiotherapist. Sources also said Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar has told Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna that police investigations will be complete within seven days and chargesheet will be filed soon after.

Sources said the hearing by a fast-track court is likely to start from January 3 on a day-to-day basis. Yaadram, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), posted at the Police ControlRoom’s (PCR) southwest district unit, and MS Dabas, ACP Traffic (southern) range, were suspended for dereliction of duty. “For Dabas, the orders were issued as the bus on which the rape took place had tinted glasses and thick curtains and it was allowed to ply in his area of jurisdiction,” said an officer. “Yaadram was suspended for not acting promptly to the distress call of the couple found dumped near the Mahipalpur Flyover.”

Meanwhile, police also issued showcause notices to two deputy commissioners of police including Satbir Singh Katara, additional DCP (PCR) as well as Premnath, deputy commissioner of police traffic (southern range). Sources at the Tihar Jail, where three of the six are currently lodged, said they were spending their two-week judicial custody amidst tight security and were ‘visibly afraid’.



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Gangrape protests: Delhi Police books Ramdev, General VK Singh for rioting, damaging public property (Dec 24, 2012, IBN)

The Delhi Police on Monday filed four cases with regard to the violence during the protests over the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus in the national capital recently, on Monday. One of these cases was filed against former Army chief General VK Singh and yoga guru Ramdev.

Both Singh and Ramdev have been booked by the Delhi Police on charges of rioting and causing damage to public property. This came after Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde mentioned that certain “political elements” were behind Sunday’s violence at India Gate and its surrounding areas. “We have information that some political elements were behind the violence. We are enquiring into it,” he had said.

Protesters led by Ramdev and Singh had clashed with police at Jantar Mantar on Sunday afternoon when they were prevented from marching towards India Gate, the epicentre of protests against the gangrape. After a brief speech at Jantar Mantar, Ramdev along with Singh and others started marching towards India Gate but they were stopped by police.

As soon as Ramdev and Singh got down from the dais, police cordoned off the area and the protesters sat at the spot. However, they started marching towards India Gate and tried to break the barricades following which the police resorted to use of force. Two persons suffered injuries in the incident.



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Actress molestation row: Imphal on boil, DD cameraman dies in police firing (Dec 24, 2012, Indian Express)

Protests in Manipur against the assault on a Manipuri film actress took an ugly turn on Sunday when a Doordarshan cameraperson was killed in police firing in Imphal. Thirty-two-year-old Thangjam Buijamani, or Nanao as he was called by friends and colleagues, was covering the protest when he was shot in the chest during a protest demonstration in Thangmeiband in the heart of the state capital.

The last footage recorded by Buijamani was screened later at the city Press Club, where journalists had gathered to decide on a course of action on the firing. It showed a constable-level policeman aiming directly at Buijamani with his pistol when he fired the shot. A senior-level police official can be seen at the spot. Buijamani is survived by his wife and two children.

As journalists threatened a protest, Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh announced that all police personnel present at the spot have been suspended. Imphal has been seeing protests since last week after an armed cadre member of the NSCN (IM), Livingstone Anal, reportedly went on a rampage, molesting and assaulting the actress Momoko at a public event.

The largely Meitei (Hindu Manipuri) demonstrators have now started attacking vehicles headed to tribal districts, mostly carrying Christians. The United Naga Council in Manipur meanwhile has alleged that Nagas in Imphal are being targeted.



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Jains stage protest, seek minority status (Dec 19, 2012, The Hindu)

The Digambar Jain Samaj staged a protest here on Tuesday against Jains not being accorded the status of ‘religious minority’.

The protesters marched from Shantinath Bhavan on Mahaveer Galli to the tahsildar’s office, where they submitted a memorandum.

They alleged that grave injustice had been meted out to them. Although Jains were counted separately in the Census and the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to take a decision on the issue, no action had been taken yet on according minority status to Jains, they said. They urged the Union government to accord them the status considering it an independent religion.



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Opinions and Editorials

Time to be ashamed – Editorial (Dec 19, 2012, The Hindu)

Perhaps the real tragedy we must contemplate, as we consider the story of the young woman who now lies in a Delhi hospital bed battling for her life after being brutally beaten and gang-raped Sunday night, is this: in six months or less, she will have been forgotten. There will, by then, have been the next victim, and the one after – and absolutely nothing will have changed. Ever since Sunday’s savage crime, India’s political leadership has been loudly engaged in what it appears to believe is advocacy of women’s rights – in the main, dramatic but meaningless calls for summary trials, castration and mandatory death penalties.

The same leaders will, if past record proves a guide, do absolutely nothing to actually address the problem. For all the noise that each gang-rape has provoked, Parliament has made no worthwhile progress towards desperately-needed legal reforms. Even nuts-and-bolts measures, like enhanced funding for forensic investigations, upgrading training of police to deal with sexual crimes, and making expert post-trauma support available to victims, are conspicuous by their absence.

How does one account for the strange contrast between our outrage about rape – and our remarkable unwillingness, as a society, to actually do anything about it? For one, we are far more widely complicit in crimes against women than we care to acknowledge. The hideous gang-rape in Delhi is part of the continuum of violence millions of Indian women face every single day; a continuum that stretches from sexual harassment in public spaces and the workplace to physical abuse that plays itself out in the privacy of our homes far more often than on the street. Nor is it true, secondly, that Delhi is India’s “rape capital.” There are plenty of other places in India with a higher incidence of reported rape, in population adjusted terms – and Delhi’s record on convicting perpetrators is far higher than the national average. Third, this is not a problem of policing alone.

As Professor Ratna Kapur argues in an op-ed article in this newspaper today, there is something profoundly wrong in the values young men are taught in our society – values which bind the parental preference for a male child to the gang of feral youth who carried out Sunday’s outrage or the hundreds of thousands of husbands who were battering their wives that same night. Finally, India’s society rails against rape, in the main, not out of concern for victims but because of the despicable notion that a woman’s body is the repository of family honour. It is this honour our society seeks to protect, not individual women. It is time for us as a people to feel the searing shame our society has until now only imposed on its female victims.



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Why did it need an incident so unspeakably brutal to trigger our outrage? – By Shoma Chaudhury (Dec 20, 2012, Tehelka)

The surging outrage at the gangrape of a paramedic in New Delhi this week is welcome and cathartic. But it is also terrifying. There’s a fear that this too shall fade without correctives. But there is also a question we must all face: why did it need an incident so unspeakably brutal to trigger our outrage? What does that say about our collective threshold as a society? Why did hundreds of other stories of rape not suffice to prick our conscience? The harsh truth is, rape is not deviant in India: it is rampant. The attitude that enables it sits embedded in our brain. Rape is almost culturally sanctioned in India, made possible by crude, unthinking conversations in every strata of society. Conversations that look at crime against women through the prism of women’s responsibility: were they adequately dressed, were they accompanied by a male protector, were they of sterling ‘character’, were they cautious enough.

It’s not just the extreme savagery the young girl suffered that has jolted everyone therefore. Running beneath that is the affront that it could happen at 9.30 pm, while a decently dressed woman was with a male friend, in a well-lit tony south Delhi neighbourhood. This certainly accentuates the impunity that’s set in. But it also lays bare the maddening subtext that blunts our responses at other times. The assumption that rapes later at night, in places more secluded or less privileged, and of women who may be alone or sexily dressed is less worthy of outrage because they feed into two pet ideas India holds: that a woman asks for rape either through her foolishness or promiscuity. In some way or the other, she is fair game. There are other deep examinations this rape forces on us: what do we consider violence? Does it really need a woman to be tossed out naked on a road with her genitals and intestines ripped up for us to register violence? Why does gangrape horrify us more than mere rape? Why do rapes of Dalit or tribal or Northeastern women not shock the nation into saying “enough is enough”? We do not distinguish between bearable murders and unbearable murders; why does rape come graded in such debasing shade sheets?

Rape is already the most under-reported crime in India. But beneath that courses a whole other universe of violence that is not even acknowledged. It’s not just psychopathic men in a rogue white bus who can be rapists: it’s fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, friends. Almost one in every two women would have a story – perhaps told, perhaps untold – of being groped, molested or raped in the confines of their own homes. If they dare speak of it at all, they are told to bury and bear it. Take it as a part of life. To name an uncle who has been molesting a minor niece would be to shame the family. And marital rape – that stretches the very imagination. It’s a mark of our bestial ideas about women that even judges often suggest that rape survivors marry their rapists to avoid the hell of life as a single woman rejected by society. There are, therefore, three reckonings this horrific rape forces upon us now. How can India change its endemically diseased mindset about women? How can strong deterrences be built against rape? And how can contact with the police and justice process not be made to feel like a double rape?

Harsher, swifter punitive measures are definitely needed to puncture the idea of immunity that’s built up around rape. Fear of consequence is a powerful tool. But that can be only one aspect of the correctives. What is equally needed is a government-led gender sensitisation blitzkrieg at every level of Indian society: in schools; in anganwadis; in pop culture; in village shows; in the police, legal and judicial fraternity. Even ‘sensitisation’ is too patriarchal a word: what we need is a determined drive towards modernity. Indians have an inherent impatience for process. We prefer the drama of retributions: demands for lynching and capital punishments. Set aside for a moment the larger argument against death penalties, we forget to ask, who will take these cases to a point where judgments can even be handed out? Earlier this year, TEHELKA published a sting investigation on how senior cops in the National Capital Region think about rape. It made for bone-chilling insights. But there was absolutely no action from the establishment. The argument went that the cops’ attitudes were merely a reflection of the society they came from. Nothing should make us more fearful than that.



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India is NOT Modi and Modi is not India – By Neena Vyas (Dec 20, 2012, Rediff)

Narendra Modi has no doubt won handsomely in Gujarat for the third time. But has this victory paved the way for his entry into national politics, or more importantly, to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to project him as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election? No sooner had trends started emerging -indicating a win for the BJP in Gujarat – that posters appeared at the party’s office in Ahmedabad stating that Modi will be the chief minister in 2012 and the prime minister in 2014.

This reminds one of the 1999 Lok Sabha election when similar posters declared Abki baari Atal Bihari, agli baari behen hamari (this time it is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, next time it will be Sushma Swaraj, since behen was a clear reference to her). The net result was that this annoyed Vajpayee and senior BJP leader L K Advani had to intervene to ensure a Cabinet berth for Swaraj.

By pushing forward his ambition of becoming prime minister, Modi will only add to the struggle within his party. After all, senior BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are not going to sit with folded hands and watch Modi reduce them from ‘hero to zero’ status, as he has successfully done to all former Gujarat chief ministers from the BJP and every state party leader.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s normal instincts are against the personality cult and Modi’s style is, in every way, the direct opposite of that. The RSS leadership may also fear that if Modi were to somehow become prime minister, he would make the RSS itself irrelevant, as he has already done in Gujarat.…



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Did Gujarati Muslims vote for the BJP? – By Kashif-ul-Huda (Dec 21, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Question in everyone’s mind was not whether BJP will win in Gujarat election but what will be their victory margin? And also whether Muslims of Gujarat will vote for BJP? – Both these questions were very important for Narendra Modi to project himself at the national stage. In terms of seats it has been a downward slide for BJP. The saffron party won 127 seats in 2002 which got reduced to 117 in 2007 and 115 in 2012. Vote share for BJP also shows a slight decline in the last 10 years; from a close to half of all votes polled in 2002, BJP could manage to get 48% of all votes in 2012. So on the first question, Modi is stuck with a drop in both vote shares and number of seats.

Second question is not that easy to answer as there is no way to tell how one individual voted. There are some exit polls that also count voters’ religion but given how off the exit polls have been in predicting Gujarat election, it is best to ignore those numbers and look at actual votes polled and do some analysis based on available data. There are 34 Assembly seats in Gujarat where Muslims are at least 15% of the population. BJP won 21 of these seats, Congress won 12 and Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) managed to win one seat. If we look at percentage of seats won then it is BJP 62%, Cong 35%, and NCP 3%. Compare this to all the seats won at the state-level by parties at 63%, 34%, and 1% respectively, and you will see that BJP is at a slight loss here.

For a tighter analysis, if we just look at seats with Muslims share in population 20% or higher then we are left with just 15 seats. BJP still captures majority of these seats but Congress performance improves significantly. BJP won 9 seats (60% of 15 seats) while Congress with 6 seats improve their performance to 40% wins. In terms of number of votes also Congress does better in these 15 seats when compared to their state-level performance. Congress captures 41.4% of all votes polled here which is an improvement over all Gujarat vote share of 40%. BJP which received 48% of state votes reduces their share in these 15 seats to get 46%.

It is not lost on me that even here BJP is definitely getting more votes and seats than Congress but latter’s performance improvement in these seats is important to note. If take this analysis further and look at four seats that have more than 40% Muslims in the population then Congress is on an equal footing with BJP with both parties winning two seats each and even in vote share Congress with 44.3% is head to head with BJP’s 45%. That too when Jamalpur-Khadia, a Muslim majority seat saw a triangular contest with two Muslim candidates fighting it out and giving BJP an additional seat in the process.

Congress gave ticket to 7 Muslims while BJP had no Muslim as its candidate. If we look at seats where Congress Muslim candidates were contesting, we can see that except in Jamalpur-Khadia where Muslim votes got split between two Muslim candidates, Congress nominees manage to get more votes than Muslim share of the population there. Given the polarized communal situation in Gujarat it is difficult to imagine that Muslims of those areas overwhelmingly voted for BJP and other communities replaced those numbers by voting overwhelmingly for the Muslim Congress candidate. …



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Rethink the new UAPA – Editorial (Dec 20, 2012, The Hindu)

Thanks to robust resistance offered by members of the Upper House, Parliament has bought itself more time to debate the wisdom of adding more draconian provisions to the already twice-amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The government pushed through the latest set of amendments in the Lok Sabha overriding objections and demands for greater scrutiny of the Bill, especially in the light of India’s previous experience with anti-terrorism laws. From the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act through the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) to the various incarnates of UAPA, the lesson for us has been that such laws do not necessarily deter terror crimes but do lend themselves to gross misuse.

POTA was enacted in the aftermath of the December 2001 attack on Parliament despite shameful instances of human rights violations recorded during the pendency of TADA, which in fact led to its repeal. POTA’s definition of what constituted a ‘terrorist act’ was too broad, criminalising even political activism. The law permitted prolonged detentions without charge and reversed the presumption of innocence which is the bedrock of the criminal justice system. In line with the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme, which vowed to banish terror-specific laws, the Manmohan Singh government repealed POTA. But in an unexpected act of betrayal, it also reintroduced some of POTA’s stringent provisions in an altered version of UAPA, amending the law a second time in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

The government’s justification for the new amendments is that it is obliged to strengthen UAPA by its membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body responsible for setting global standards against money laundering and terror financing. However, some of the provisions of the intended law run counter to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The proposed amendment to Section 2 of UAPA criminalises the right to form associations by expanding the definition of person to include “an association of persons or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not”.

The Standing Committee examining the Bill had opposed this clause on the grounds that “it gives leverage to the investigating officer and could lead to harassment.” The Bill criminalises the raising of funds “from legitimate or illegitimate source” and unnecessarily replicates crimes already covered under the IPC such as the “production and distribution” of “high quality counterfeit currency.” As they debate and vote on the Bill on Thursday, Rajya Sabha MPs must ask themselves if UAPA-2012 is not POTA by another name.



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Why is Aparna Marandi in jail? – By Shazia Nigar (Dec 21, 2012, Tehelka)

On 8 December, Aparna Marandi, 28, and her four-year-old son Alok Chandra boarded a train at Ranchi’s Hatia Railway Station to go to Hyderabad, when plainclothes policemen arrested her. Ironically, Aparna was headed for Hyderabad to attend a meeting organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP). Aparna, working with Video Volunteers, an organisation that trains marginalised communities in journalistic skills, was arrested by the Jharkhand Police along with Baby Turi, 25, panchayat head of Jitpur in Dhanbad district, social activist Sushila Ekka, 38, from Hazaribag and 16-year-old Sushil. Charged with being Maoists, all were hauled to the Dumka Police Station. On the evening of 10 December, the police let Baby Turi, Ekka and Sushil go, but not before they signed a document stating that they were arrested on 9 December, a day later than the actual date of arrest. Aparna, however, is still languishing in the Dumka prison.

Why was Aparna arrested? Why was the date of arrest of the other three people changed? What made Aparna and her four-year-old child such a threat that the police had to come in plainclothes to arrest her? Many questions arise as to the real intent of the Jharkhand Police. The answer could perhaps be found in the four-year-long incarceration of Aparna’s husband, Jeetan Marandi. Jeetan is the State Convener of the CRPP, the same organisation whose meeting Aparana was going to attend before she was apprehended. Jeetan was arrested in 2009 for his alleged involvement in the infamous Chilkari massacre, when Maoists killed 20 people, including the son of former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi during a football match. Sentenced to death by the lower court in Jharkhand, he was later acquitted by the High Court in December 2011. Yet, thanks to the Jharkhand Crime Control Act (2002), a non-bailable provision used for preventive detention, Jeetan continues to languish in jail for the fourth straight year on various charges. Aparna had been working relentlessly to get her husband released.

Says Stalin K, Managing Trustee at Video Volunteers: “The reason for picking her (Aparna) up seems to be a way of breaking Jeetan to get a false confession out of him. It is embarrassing for the State if they have no charges to prove against him after he has spent four years in jail.” The lawyer from Dumka, who Stalin tried hiring for Aparna, refused to take up her case on the grounds that he will get into trouble. That, says Stalin, is the impact the State has. The police have detained Aparna in a case, where Maoists set fire to 8-10 vehicles of a crusher site of GVR Constructions on 27 November at Kathikund, Dumka. She has been charged under several sections, including section 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. However, a phone call gives the lie to the police theory that Aparna and her companions were arrested on 9 December. Minutes before the arrest, Baby Turi, one of the arrested, made a phone call to her husband, Damodar Turi. “She called me on 8 December, at around 4 pm, and told me that the ticket collector was not letting them board the train. After that, her phone was switched off,” recalls Damodar.

According to Baby Turi, the policemen posing as railway ticket examiners asked Aparna and her friends to get off the train with their luggage since they were travelling without reservation. They then led them out of the railway station, which is when Baby Turi got suspicious and called her husband. “They asked us to sign a document, saying we were going to meet Jeetan in jail,” recalls Baby. “We refused. Finally, they agreed to let us go if we signed on the paper that stated 9 December as the day of our arrest.” Moreover, the police violated all laid out procedures in the detention of Aparna and her friends. Director General of Police, Jharkhand, GS Rath refused to comment on the grounds that the matter was “subjudice” and concerns the Dumka Police, not him. “The conduct of the police is for the court to judge,” he says. SP Hemant Topna spoke along similar lines. “No one has formally complained about the irregularities in the arrest procedures,” he says. “If such a thing comes to my notice, we will investigate it.”



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