IAMC Weekly News Roundup - December 30th, 2013 - IAMC
no-image IAMC

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 30th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


Lower court goes along with dirty SIT’s clean chit to Modi

Indian Americans renew commitment to secure justice for victims of Gujarat pogroms

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com), an advocacy organization dedicated to preserving India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has called into question a dubious verdict of the lower court in the Narendra Modi Gujarat pogroms case. A Magistrate’s court in Gujarat handed down the verdict in the case filed by Mrs. Zakia Jafri and Citizens for Justice and Peace earlier today. The court dismissed as inadequate the evidence available to charge-sheet Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on various criminal charges.

In a media advisory sent earlier this week, IAMC highlighted the chronology of how the Special Investigation Team was named by the then Amicus Curiae Harish Salve to comprise of officers with a record of conducting questionable investigations that were favorable to the Modi administration. Many of these officers belonged to the Gujarat cadre and as such reported to the Modi administration as subordinates.

Harish Salve was involved in brokering a multi-billion rupee deal with the Modi administration while he was naming the SIT members, an investigation later found out. Salve was subsequently replaced but the investigation was already compromised.

“The judgement by the lower court is not surprising given the fact that getting justice from any court in Gujarat is difficult under an administration that is itself the prime accused,” said Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. “Zakia Jafri’s resolve to take the case to a higher court must be applauded. Declarations of Modi being exonerated are a deliberate attempt to mislead the public about the case’s status,” added Mr. Khan.

Multiple SIT officers were either accused in the 2002 violence or were indicted in other criminal cases for compromising the investigations:

  1. Geeta Johri – A Gujarat cadre officer in the SIT, has been accused by the Supreme Court of India of sabotaging the investigation of the ‘fake encounter’ killing of Sohrabuddin. She destroyed key evidence that would have led to the conviction of Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah’s conviction.
  2. Ashish Bhatia – A Gujarat cadre officer who has been accused of inducting officers into SIT who were involved in the extra-judicial ‘fake encounter’ killing of Ishrat Jahan, an innocent teenage girl shot in cold blood by Gujarat police and later declared to be a dreaded terrorist out to kill Modi. He is alsoaccused of filing incomplete charge-sheets in the 2002 violence cases and pressuring the special public prosecutor in the Gulbarg case of tilt the prosecution against the eye-witnesses.
  3. YC Modi – member of SIT that led the controversial investigation in the murder of Minister Haren Pandya under the Modi administration. The family of Haren Pandya has disowned the investigation. The investigation has been criticized by Pandya’s family for scapegoating Muslim youth while ignoring the role of Chief Minister Modi in Pandya’s murder. Pandya had testified at the concerned citizen’s tribunal accusing CM Narendra Modi of urging his administration to “allow Hindus to vent their anger”.

“Given the corrupt pro-Modi team comprising the SIT, the lower court verdict vindicates the initial claim of the Petitioner Zakia Jafri that free and fair trial is not possible in the State of Gujarat” said Ahsan Khan. “The Supreme Court must take cognizance of this fact and move this case outside of the state of Gujarat” he added. Given the compromised nature of administration and judiciary, the Supreme Court has already moved several cases related to the 2002 Gujarat pogroms outside the state of Gujarat.

The petitioner has the option to appeal the judgment in a higher court in Gujarat or petition the Supreme Court to move the case outside of Gujarat.

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


Whose Amicus is Harish Salve?
Who is Geeta Johri?

Sitting on the truth: The several failures of the Special Investigation Team appointed to reinvestigate nine major cases of violence that occurred in Gujarat 2002

Indian American Muslim Council
phone/fax: (800) 839-7270
email: info@iamc.com
address: 6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295, Morton Grove, IL 60053

Forward email

[Back to Top]

Criminal Charges against Modi and 59 others (Dec 26, 2013, Twocircles.net)

…The Petitioner had originally appealed to the Supreme Court to move the case out of the state of Gujarat, given the control over the judicial process the accused Modi administration has in the state. Contrary to some prior judgments, the Supreme Court declined this request and in its stead constituted a Special Investigation Team to assist the court with the investigation. It should be noted that Special Investigation Teams are routinely constituted by the Supreme Court to assist lower courts in their investigations.

Unfortunately, the SIT members in the Zakia Jafri case were jointly named to the Supreme Court by the then Amicus Curie Harish Salve and the Gujarat Counsel while Salve was brokering a large business deal with the Modi Administration. The SIT as recommended by Salve itself comprised of several Gujarat cadre officers, who were subordinate to the accused Chief Minister Modi and his administration. Salve was subsequently replaced.

Several of the SIT officers were either accused in the 2002 violence or were indicted in other criminal cases for compromising the investigations: 1. Geeta Johri – A Gujarat cadre officer in the SIT, has been accused by the Supreme Court of India of sabotaging the investigation of the ‘fake encounter’ killing of Sohrabuddin. 2. Ashish Bhatia – A Gujarat cadre officer who has been accused of inducting officers into SIT who were involved in the extra-judicial ‘fake encounter’ killing of Ishrat Jahan, an innocent teenage girl shot in cold blood by Gujarat police and later declared to be a dreaded terrorist out to kill Modi. He is also accused of filing incomplete chargesheets in the 2002 violence cases and pressuring the special public prosecutor in the Gulberg case of tilt the prosecution against the eye-witnesses. 3. YC Modi – member of SIT that led the controversial investigation in the murder of Minister Haren Pandya under the Modi administration. The investigation was criticized for scapegoating Muslim youth while the family of Haren Pandya continue to accuses CM Narendra Modi of being the person who ordered the murder of Pandya. Pandya’s family maintains that he was killed because he testified at the concerned citizen’s tribunal accusing CM Narendra Modi of urging his administration to “Allow Hindus to vent their anger”.…

Narendra Modi faces Fifteen Serious Charges of: 1. Willfully Ignoring Messages from State Intelligence about the Violent Repercussions of the RSS-VHP called ‘Mahayajna’ before the tragic Godhra incident on 27.2.2002 and deliberately not initiating precautionary measures that are imperative under Standard Operational Procedure; messages from 7.2.2002 to 25.2.2002, including specific ones that stated that batches of 2,800 and 1,900 kar sevaks had left for Faizabad-Ayodhya and had been behaving provocatively and aggressively against minorities on the way. As cabinet minister for home and chief minister, he is directly responsible MOS Home Gordhan Zadaphiya is a constant Co-Conspirator. Co-accused, ACS Home Ashok Narayan has admitted these messages were received by the GOG Home department.

Evidence: Official Documents Including over one dozen messages of the State Intelligence Bureau to the political head of the home department, Narendra Modi, other senior bureaucrats named as co-conspirators in the Zakia Jafri Complaint including accused former Director General of Police, K Chakravarthi; Tehelka’s Operation Kalank that was authenticated by the CBI following an Order of the NHRC dated 5.3.2008 also contained direct evidence of collection of arms, ammunition including dynamite by several VHP and RSS men before 27.2.2002. All these messages are part of the SIT Investigation Papers at Annexure III, File XXXIV D-176. …



[Back to Top]

‘Shaken to the core’ but Modi does not offer apology (Dec 27, 2013, Times of India)

Narendra Modi on Friday spoke of “pain” and “anguish” over the 2002 Gujarat riots, but did not proffer any apology over the killings. In a 1000-word blog containing his most detailed comments on the riots, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate said that he felt “absolute emptiness” on witnessing such “inhumanity”. A day after a magistrate’s court upheld a clean chit given to him by a Supreme Court-appointed probe panel in the massacre of 68 people in Gulberg Housing Society here during the riots, Modi said he did not see the judgement as a personal victory or defeat. He began by stating that with the judiciary having spoken, “I felt it important to share my inner thoughts and feelings with the nation at large.”

Modi then referred to the devastating Gujarat earthquake of 2001 causing widespread loss of life and property before he moved on to the riots the following year. He stated wrongly that the riots had happened “within a mere five months” of the earthquake. The earthquake happened on January 26, 2001 and the riots took place in March 2002. After referring to the two tragic events, Modi said, “I was shaken to the core. ‘Grief, ‘sadness, ‘misery’, ‘pain’ ‘anguish’, ‘agony’— mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity.”

Modi said on the one side was the pain of the victims of the earthquake and on the other the pain of the victims of the riots. “In decisively confronting this great turmoil, I had to single-mindedly focus all the strength given to me by the almighty on the task of peace, justice and rehabilitation; burying the pain and agony I was personally wracked with,” he said in an apparent effort to reach out to the Muslims ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. “This is the first time I am sharing the harrowing ordeal I had gone through in those words at a personal level,” he said in the blog. …



[Back to Top]

Gujarat riots: Nanavati Commission gets 21 extension till June 30 to submit report (Dec 31, 2013, Indian Express)

Gujarat government on Tuesday, granted extension till June 30, 2014 to Nanavati-Mehta Commission extension to complete its report and submit report on Godhra riots. Constituted on March 6, 2002 to probe into the Godhra Train Carnage incident reported on February 27, 2002 and the subsequent communal riots in Gujarat, the Commission had sought ‘some more time’ to submit its report. This is the 21st extension the Commission has got from the state government to complete the probe and submit its report.

Secretary of the Commission, C G Patel said, “Today, we have received a communication through fax from the State Government whereby the Commission has been granted extension till June 30, 2014.” The Commission has already given its first report pertaining to the incident of burning the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express in which 59 Kar Sevaks were charred to death near Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002. The Commission had called the incident as a pre-planned conspiracy involving “some individuals”.

In its first report, the Commission also made it clear that “there was absolutely no evidence to show that either the Chief Minister and/or any other minister(s) in his Council of Ministers or Police Officers had played any role in the Godhra incident…” However, it also went on to give clean chit to the state government on what followed.

The Commission was appointed by the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government shortly after the riots in 2002. Initially, the Commission was consisting of Justices (Retired) G T Nanavati and K G Shah. However, following the death of Shah in March 2008, Justice (Retired) Akshay Mehta was appointed as the second member of the Commission.



[Back to Top]

Snoopgate went on even outside Gujarat: Website (Dec 25, 2013, Times of India)

In another twist to the raging controversy over Narendra Modi government’s illicit surveillance on a young woman, investigative website Gulail has claimed that it has a set of 39 new secret tapes which show that the pervasive snooping on the architect extended outside Gujarat. The new tapes also establish beyond doubt that the surveillance, which involved massive use of state machinery, was mounted not to protect Madhuri (not her real name) but to stalk her and pry into her private life. Just like in the first batch of tapes, here too, all the persons involved in this illegal operation – from G L Singhal to A K Sharma to Amit Shah — were passing on the information gathered to a superior authority who is repeatedly referred to as ‘saheb’, claimed Gulail, which also released the first set of tapes of purported conversations between Modi’s aide and former Gujarat home minister Shah and suspended police officer Singhal.

The tapes of the purported conversations between Shah and Singhal suggest that the former had used Gujarat police to tail the woman at the instance of ‘saheb’. Based on the tapes in its possession, Gulail claimed that the focus of the illegal snooping was to know about the woman’s love life. “The police secretly observed Madhuri’s meetings with a man she was about to marry, eavesdropped on her private conversations and then relayed the information back to saheb,” the website claimed. The website also contended that the fresh tapes refuted BJP’s claim that the surveillance was mounted by Modi at the behest of the woman’s father.

The timing of the release of the fresh set of tapes is significant. They have become public at a time when BJP has questioned Centre’s reported move to set up a judicial panel to probe the illegal snooping by saying that it would be an encroachment on the turf of the Gujarat government, all the more so because it has already set up a commission to look into the matter. The claim that the surveillance extended beyond Gujarat can give the locus Congress regime at the Centre may be looking for to order a judicial inquiry into the matter.

The purported tapes show that not just Madhuri, but her would-be husband, her friends, brother and parents were all kept under close watch through physical and telephonic surveillance, which went on for at least two months, if not more, the website said. It claimed that phones within and outside Guajrat were illegally intercepted. “There was correspondence between Modi’s government and B S Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka government over Madhuri’s cell numbers. Her Bangalore cell phones were also intercepted,” the site claimed.

The website claimed that the tapping of her phones were not done following due process. “On one occasion, the Karnataka government turned down the request citing non-compliance of the requirement of the Indian Telegraph Act,” it said. According to Gulail, the new set of tapes are conversations between Singhal, an IPS officer and one of the prime accused in the Ishrat Jahan encounter who has been on bail because the CBI, inexplicably, failed to file a charge-sheet against him in time, and A K Sharma, then IG of the state intelligence bureau. These tapes are besides the 267 secret recordings of Singhal that are with the CBI.



[Back to Top]

Law will take its own course in Ishrat Jahan encounter case: Rashid Alvi (Dec 24, 2013, Business Standard)

Congress leader Rashid Alvi on Tuesday said the law will take its own course in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case, and described the CBI as an independent agency which carries out its responsibilities with honesty. “The CBI is an independent agency and knows its work. It will definitely file chargesheet against the culprit but we should also wait for the court’s verdict. The law will take its own course,” said Alvi. When asked whether the rising popularity of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is having an impact on the CBI, Alvi said: “The political wind keeps on changing its course. They can be slow or sometimes be very swift. But it does not have an impact on the investigative agencies. They carry out their duties with integrity.”

“Well I would not say surprised because there have many instances where people, whom we don’t think can commit a crime, actually indulges in one. But I am sure the truth will come out in front of the people,” he added. Alvi was reacting to media reports of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) reportedly firming up its decision not to charge former Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah in connection with the Ishrat Jahan ‘fake’ encounter case. According to television channels, the CBI does have not sufficient proof to indict Shah, a key aide of Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Shah is currently the BJP’s general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh. The CBI had earlier filed a chargesheet on July 3 terming the encounter fake and saying it was a joint operation between Gujarat Police and Intelligence Bureau (IB).

In August, 2013, Gujarat Additional Director General of Police P P Pandey was arrested by the CBI in the case. Prior to that IPS officer GL Singhal and five other policemen were arrested. Singhal and others managed to get bail after the CBI failed to file a chargesheet in stipulated 90 days. The chargesheet filed by CBI in the Ishrat case mentioned that Singhal had submitted pen drives of recorded conversations with then minister of state for home Amit Shah and one about a meeting held in the office of state attorney general in which some ministers were present to allegedly derail encounter investigations. CBI had later questioned Shah, another former minister Praful Patel, present minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja and advocate general Kamal Trivedi regarding the recorded conversations submitted by Singhal, before they are to file second charge sheets in the case.

The Congress, however, said that there is a larger conspiracy involved in the encounter case, and insisted that this must be probed. Ishrat, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter allegedly with Gujarat Police on the city outskirts on June 15, 2004. Police had then claimed the four were terrorists on a mission to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. However, according to the CBI’s charge sheet filed in July, the encounter, a joint operation by Gujarat Police and Intelligence Bureau, was stage-managed. Seven Gujarat policemen, including Pandey, have been named as accused and charged with murder and criminal conspiracy, among others.



[Back to Top]

Communal tension in Chikmagalur (Dec 28, 2013, Deccan Herald)

Scores of people and security personnel were injured when the police resorted to caning to defuse a communal flare-up in the town on Saturday. Tempers ran high after members of a community found the carcass of an animal at the entrance of their place of worship in the morning. Soon, they gathered in large numbers and staged a protest. Some of them set tyres on fire on M G Road and called for a shutdown, saying their religious sentiments had been hurt.

A mob went around forcing the closure of shops on M G Road and I G Road. Enraged, another group of people launched a protest on the other end of M G Road. The situation turned tense and the district administration enforced prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, asking the protesters to disperse. However, the appeal went unheeded and the two groups came to blows.

The police resorted to caning to disperse the protesters on M G Road. Several citizens and policemen were injured in the melee. The town witnessed an undeclared bandh with schools and colleges, commercial establishments and cinemas pulling down their shutters. Additional police forces and platoons of the Rapid Action Force have been deployed on the main streets of the town. Security at places of worship has also been beefed up.

Prathap Reddy, Inspector General of Police (Western Range), Hassan Superintendent of Police Ravi Channannanavar and other senior police officers are camping at Chikmagalur. More police forces have been summoned from the neighbouring districts to maintain law and order. Deputy Commissioner B S Shekharappa said prohibitory orders would be in force till Sunday midnight.

Home Minister K J George said Section 144 had to be imposed. However, the situation is well under control, he added. The SPs of Hassan and Udupi were also rushed to Chikmagalur town to help the local police to monitor the situation, he added.



[Back to Top]

Is Mulayam Singh trying to play Hindutva card before 2014? (Dec 26, 2013, Times of India)

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s accusation that people staying in relief camps in Muzaffarnagar were not victims but enemy conspirators strikes at the heart of his minority politics but it is also in keeping with the comments he has been making lately that suggest his eagerness to tap into the Hindutva sentiment in a polarized atmosphere. The startling remark about riot-hit Muslims appears a brazen bid to appear on the Hindu side of the religious polarization triggered by the Muzaffarnagar conflagration. Given the anger among Muslims over SP-ruled Uttar Pradesh government’s failure to check riots that rendered 50,000 Muslims homeless, the SP seems reconciled to losses in the elections.

Calling the affected Muslims political pawns is part of a recent pattern with ‘Maulana Mulayam’ seeing positives among the “communalists”. Only months back, he surprised party workers by praising former saffron poster boy L K Advani as truthful and honest. He also told an SP rally last month that the Centre was planning to trap Narendra Modi, a comment seen as sympathizing with the “communalist” Gujarat leader. The Yadav chieftain has also urged partymen to learn from BJP about staying disciplined and away from goondaism.

That SP would pander to Hindus on communal grounds seems far-fetched since Muslims form the core of its vote base but it may be a desperate strategy since it is anyways under the threat of losing Muslims. But the comment about Muzaffarnagar could be a way of softening the anger of Hindus against SP’s “minority appeasement”. The larger idea would be to check the intrusion of Modi-led BJP into its rural OBC base that BJP is hoping to win over with the face of the Gujarat strongman, a politics that traces back to the times of Kalyan Singh who, being a backward, made a serious dent into the SP vote base.

If it is difficult for SP to make the ideological crossover overnight but the party may feel under pressure to try out new strategies, caught as it is between the anger of both Hindus and Muslims over riots. The situation in western UP has blown up on SP. Mulayam is seen to be a willing partner in letting the situation drift because religious polarization traditionally consolidates Muslims behind the muscular minority politics of SP. The failure of the administrative machinery to nip the visible problem in the bud is seen as part of that strategy.

Unfortunately for SP, the situation spiralled out of control and ended up making the minorities angry, with rivals BSP and Congress hoping to win them over while BJP looks to tap sections of Hindus. The pictures of Muzaffarnagar relief camps of shivering homeless and dying infants is carrying the message to other parts of the state, threatening Mulayam even further.



[Back to Top]

Still probing case against Pragya: NIA (Dec 28, 2013, Asian Age)

Reports appearing in a section of the media claiming that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is likely to drop charges of murder against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who is an accused in the RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi murder case, has been questioned by NIA insiders, who on Friday described the latest projection only as a “figment of imagination”.

According to NIA sources, investigations are still being conducted into the Sunil Joshi murder case. When contacted a state police spokesperson also feigned ignorance about any move by NIA to drop charges against Pragya Thakur. Pragya Thakur, who is also an accused in the Malegaon (2006), Samjhauta and Ajmer blasts (2007), was among five arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police in Mumbai in February 2011 and chargesheeted for her alleged role as the “main conspirator” involved in the murder of the RSS pracharak. Joshi was an accused in the Ajmer blast case and was gunned down at Dewas in December 2007.

Pragya’s alleged role in the Sunil Joshi murder case was exposed with the arrest of Ramchandra Khati, a BJP corporator representing ward 44 of Dewas. Her arrest came after a niece of Sunil Joshi had made the disclosure that Pragya had visited Joshi’s house and taken away a briefcase after the murder. Besides Pragya, Harshad Solanki and two of his accomplices Anand Raj Katariya of Indore and Vasudev Parmar, a resident of Dewas, were also arrested in this case.



[Back to Top]

Is Ram Mandir agenda not a violation of model code, petitioner asks ECI (Dec 26, 2013, Twocircles.net)

A complaint has been filed with Chief Election Commissioner of Election Commission of India to unregister and ban Bharatiya Janta Party for violation of election model code of conduct from past three consecutive national elections. Advocate Ghulam Rabbani in his complaint submitted to ECI through A.P Chief Electoral Officer stated that as per Section 1 Clause (1) & (3) of the Model Code Of Conduct “No party or candidate shall include in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic and there shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, Churches, Temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.”

He submitted that Bharatyia Janata Party has been repeatedly violating the above mention section of the Model Code of Conduct from past 15 years. In the year 1998 the BJP in its Election Manifesto has mentioned in Chapter-2: “The BJP is convinced that Hindutva has immense potentiality to re-energize this nation and strengthen and discipline it to undertake the arduous task of nation-building. This can and does trigger a higher level of patriotism that can transform the country to greater levels of efficiency and performance. It is with such integrative ideas in mind; the BJP joined the Ram Janmabhoomi movement for the construction of Shri Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. This greatest mass movement in post-Independence history reoriented the disoriented polity in India and strengthened the foundation of cultural nationalism.

The BJP is committed to facilitate the construction of a magnificent Shri Ram Mandir at Ram Janmasthan in Ayodhya where a makeshift temple already exists. Shri Ram lies at the core of Indian consciousness. The BJP will explore all consensual, legal and constitutional means to facilitate the construction of Shri Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.” And in the year 2004 the Bharatiya Janata Party in its Election Manifesto has mentioned VISION DOCUMENT – 2004, 14 point in highlights that “Commitment to construction of a magnificent Ram Mandir at Ayodhya; Amicable resolution of the issue through dialogue for starting a new chapter in Hindu-Muslim relations.”

And in the section “Our Basic Mission and Commitments” mentions: “Ram Mandir in Ayodhya: The BJP reaffirms its commitment to the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. As Maryada Purushottam, Ram is an inspiring cultural symbol of India. His birthplace in Ayodhya is also associated with the religious sentiments of crores of Hindus. The BJP remains committed to its stand that the judiciary’s verdict in this matter should be accepted by all. However, we believe that dialogue, and a negotiated settlement in an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill, are the best way of achieving this goal. The BJP appeals to the religious and social leaders of the Hindu and Muslim communities to speed up the process of dialogue and bring it to an amicable and early fruition. We hope that these efforts will succeed in heralding a new chapter of amity in Hindu-Muslim relations and fortify national integration.”

And in the year 2009 the Bharatiya Janata Party in its Election Manifesto has mentioned in section DEFENDING THE CIVILISATION point 1, “The BJP remains committed to the construction of a grand Ram Mandir at Ayodhya”. Adv. Rabbani claims that above mentioned item’s from BJP’s manifesto establishes that Party has been contesting last three elections by including the construction of grand Ram Mandir at Ayodhya as their main agenda which is clearly against the rules prescribed by ECI and violation of Model Code of Conduct for the guidance of Political Parties and candidates. Ram Mandir and Babari Masjid issue in the past has sparked several communal riots among communities. Petitioner expressed his surprise that this communal conflict propagation as an election agenda has not been noticed by the ECI.



[Back to Top]

Asaram’s wife, daughter admit to supplying girls (Dec 22, 2013, Deccan Herald)

The Surat Police on Sunday arrested self-styled godman Asaram Bapu’s wife Lakshmi and daughter Bharti who have reportedly conceded that they supplied girls to Asaram. However, the duo were released on bail. They admitted during interrogation the girls were sent to Asaram on the pretext of “Gurudiksha”. Police sources claimed that Asaram used to exploit girls sexually during the ritual and used to keep them in his ashram. It is also alleged that the girls were brutally beaten.

The sisters, who complained against Asaram and his son were also meted out with the same fate and threatened with dire consequences if they revealed the reality. “That’s the major reason both the sisters’ maintained silence for a period of ten years,” said a senior cop. Meanwhile, Asaram’s son Narain Sai and six others were granted remand by a Surat court up to December 27 for trying to bribe officials investigating sexual assault case against Sai and his father.

On December 19, Sai was remanded to judicial custody by the court for 14 days. But the police demanded remand to investigate into bribery bid of Rs 13 crore, which was foiled by the Surat cops. Sai, who was declared an absconder after the complaint by the two sisters, was nabbed on December 4 from Delhi-Haryana border and brought to Surat on a transfer warrant.



[Back to Top]

Opinions and Editorials

Painful Path to Justice: Travails of Zakia Jafri – By Ram Puniyani (Dec 30, 2013, Twocircles.net)

The metropolitan court on 26th December 2013 exonerated Narendra Modi and 59 others for their complicity in the Gujarat carnage. Fully accepting the report of SIT (Special Investigation Team) the court endorsed the view of Modi and Government about their role in the carnage. The Court rejected a petition seeking the prosecution of Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 communal riots case. There were varied reactions to this. Mrs Jafri broke down but vowed to continue her legal battle. She has alleged that Mr. Modi colluded with senior ministers, bureaucrats and the police to facilitate the communal violence that tore through the state. Narendra Modi stated that he felt relief for facing the trial by fire and also wrote a blog saying that he was shaken to the core by the violence, he felt ‘Grief’, ‘Sadness’, ‘Misery’, ‘Pain’, ‘Anguish’, ‘Agony’. Responding to the poor state of the justice delivery system in Gujarat social activist Mallika Sarabhai said today that it was “silly to have expected anything else but a clean chit” for Mr. Modi from a Gujarat court.” As per her everyone in Gujarat was “terrified of Modi’s vengeance”.

Just to recapitulate, the massive Gujarat violence which took the communal violence to harrowing depths, the open collusion of state and the perpetrators of violence stood nakedly for all to see. This was also the violence where the social activists took up the case of justice in a determined way leading to shifting of crucial cases outside of Gujarat as in the atmosphere of intimidation prevailing in Gujarat; the process of deliverance of justice is difficult. The SIT (Special Investigation Team) was formed under the Supervision of the Supreme Court, but those in the SIT could not rise up to the task of the objectivity in the process of interpretation of investigation. Interestingly as SIT gave ‘clean chit’ to Modi, the Amicus Curiae Raju Ramcnadran appointed by Supreme Court stated that there is enough evidence in the report to prosecute Modi under different clauses. Immediately after the judgment was out the BJP activists celebrated by bursting crackers and Modi tweeted, ‘Satyamev Jayate’, (Truth wins). Interestingly there seem to be different truths depending on which side of the divide you are. While ‘Modi’s truth’ seems to have won for the time being the truth of Zakia Jafri and thousands of victims of Gujarat is struggling to get justice.

The same events are seen in different light for different people. In the aftermath of the verdict the BJP spokesmen have been aggressively defending the verdict. The press release by Teesta Setalvad (Citizens for Justice and Peace), which is helping Zaki Jafri, gave a detailed account of the petition. This petition shows that the team of lawyers has done their job well. The petition points out the that state had deliberately ignored the signal which indicated the build up towards disaster. They produced concrete evidence, fax messages, telephone call records amongst others to show that state administration was in the know of the aggressive behavior of the returning Kar Sevaks who were giving provocative slogans. The rowdy nature of the Kar Sevaks was documented. The words and deeds of the Chief Minister, who now seems to be projecting as if it was a period of pain, is contrary to his actions during that time. That time he openly alleged the role of International terrorism, Pakistan’s ISI and local Muslims in the burning of the train. He created a provocative atmosphere by involving the VHP in the episode. …

Sting operations have also shown the role of communal forces and collusion of state machinery. Dr. Maya Kodnani, Modi’s cabinet colleague and Babu Bajrangi of VHP are currently serving life term for their crime. During the process of relief also, the state shirked from its responsibility by saying that the refugee camps are ‘children manufacturing centers’. The Godhra train burning was called an act of terrorism and the carnage was treated as mere violence. The violence victims are now living in abysmal conditions in the ghettoes like Juhapura. With the help of propaganda all these ‘truths’ of Gujarat are being pushed under the carpet. Any criticism of the state leadership and policy is being projected as the insult of the people of Gujarat. The majority community has been made to feel insecure through the propaganda unleashed by the communal forces.

Many other culprits got clean chit at lower courts but law did catch up with them in due course as in the case of Maya Kodnani. Same state saw the spate of fake encounters, the ones like that of Ishrat Jahan. Many top police officers of the state are behind the bars for their collusion with the divisive agenda, Vanjara and company. Sarabhai correctly depicts the picture of the justice in Gujarat. So it is a battle between two sets of truths, the truth of Modi on one side and that of Zakia Jafri on the other. Modi benefitted from the whole tragedy as at first, the tottering BJP hold became stronger in Gujarat. Then through a carefully orchestrated propaganda of development he came to position himself as the prime ministerial candidate of BJP. Zakia Jafri and the score of victims who lost their near and dear one’s, lost their home and hearth and have to live in the dark tunnels of the haunting memories of what happened to them during the violence. Yes truth of the one’s wronged; the one who are victims should prevail. This is the beginning of the battle for justice and the resolve of Mrs Jafri and the social activists supporting her is not just for her personal grief but also for the cause of justice all over the state. Surely one hopes ‘their’ truth will prevail in due course.



[Back to Top]

Snooping in Modi land – By A.G. Noorani (Jan 10, 2014, Frontline)

The two-member Commission of Inquiry on the snooping scandal, which Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appointed on November 26, is a fraud as well as a ruse. It is a fraud for two reasons. First, it studiously omits from its remit precisely the issues that have caused widespread concern and, next, because the very composition of the Commission betrays evil intent. Not least because one of the two members is a retired bureaucrat with an uninspiring past.

It is a ruse because its clear object is to prevent the Centre from appointing a Commission of Inquiry. The Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, empowers both the Central and State governments to set up commissions of inquiry on any of the matters within their respective legislative competence. However, a proviso to Section 3(1)(b) of the Act says, “Provided that where any such commission has been appointed to inquire into any matter by a State government, the Central government shall not appoint another commission to inquire into the same matter for so long as the commission appointed by the State government is functioning, unless the Central government is of opinion that the scope of inquiry should be extended to two or more States.”

For reasons more than one, the ruse will fail. The proviso itself explicitly empowers the Central government to supersede the State commission by one of its own if “the Central government is of opinion that the scope of the inquiry should be extended to two or more States”. In plain words, if the Government of India feels that the probe should be extended beyond Gujarat. On the facts, such an “opinion” would not only be reasonable but that course would be imperative in the interests of justice and to fulfil the object of setting up a commission of inquiry. There is another reason, besides. Modi’s commission has a remit so narrowly restricted as to invite disdain and, thus, permits the Centre to fill the gaping void by providing the desired remit, which, accordingly, would not be inquiring “into the same matter” – the one Modi ordained. And the snooping covered more States than one.

There is a precedent for it which received the endorsement of the Supreme Court. After the Emergency, the wily Devraj Urs hastily set up a commission of inquiry to pre-empt any move by the Janata Party government to bring him to book before a Central body. The Centre adopted an equally clever course and foiled Devraj Urs’ move. The Supreme Court upheld the appointment of the Centre’s commission of inquiry. More on this, later.

If a proper commission of inquiry is called for in this case, it is because in November the nation was rocked by disclosures of snooping by the Gujarat government and, worse, it was disgusted by the lies retailed in its defence by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) leaders in New Delhi. This is just one of the many skeletons that have tumbled out of the Modi cabinet. …



[Back to Top]

Wave that was not – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Jan 10, 2014, Frontline)

Despite the fact that voters’ considerations are different in Assembly and parliamentary elections, the recent elections to the Assemblies in five States were seen as a crucial test for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and his appeal among the electorate. The BJP and its growing social media campaign have projected Modi as the most important force that will determine voting preferences in the 2014 parliamentary election. The campaign has not only helped Modi and his rhetoric of development to gain great influence among the neo-middle class that has benefited from the opening up of private sector services in the past decade but has also pushed him to the centre of political debates before next year’s elections. As the BJP is attributing thumping victories in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and its comfortable win in Chhattisgarh to Modi’s appeal, the result in Delhi, which threw a hung Assembly, points to ambiguous trends. While it is clear that the Congress received a drubbing from the people of Delhi, the result shows that the BJP, too, is not comfortably placed in terms of it being seen as an alternative to the Congress.

The spectacular showing of the one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi emphasises that neither Modi nor his aggressive campaign helped the BJP significantly. Political observers say that the mandate in Delhi is, undoubtedly, a referendum against the top-heavy, communal, and autocratic brand of politics that Modi professes and practises. This can be understood from the fact that even an unprecedentedly high resentment against the ruling Congress was not enough for the strong cadre-driven BJP, the main opposition party for 15 years in Delhi, to muster a simple majority in the 70-member Assembly. The Congress’ three consecutive terms in Delhi and a wave of disenchantment against the Union government had given the BJP ideal political ground to emerge victorious. However, the result shows that the people of Delhi are willing to vote for a third party and have lost considerable faith in both the Congress and the BJP.

The State BJP fought the elections by projecting Modi as its biggest leader. None of the other big leaders of the BJP, including L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, figured prominently in its campaign. This it did by resorting to a three-pronged strategy. First, despite the fact that its State unit president Vijay Goel projected himself as would-be Chief Minister two months before the elections, the BJP chose Modi’s nominee Harsh Vardhan as its chief ministerial candidate. Instead of projecting Vardhan’s leadership capabilities, he was shown as Modi’s protégé who would adopt Modi’s style of governance in Delhi. The party clearly sacrificed Vardhan in the race to push Modi to the front.

Secondly, in an attempt to diffuse the feuds within the State unit, Modi’s image and personality cult loomed large in all the party’s talk and hoardings. On December 4, the day of election, newspapers carried a front page advertisement of the BJP featuring Modi prominently, with Vardhan pushed into a small corner of the page. Thirdly, party activists specifically invoked Modi’s name in all the constituencies of Delhi. From upper-class constituencies in south Delhi to the ones in rural and outer Delhi, party activists projected him as the symbol of change. It was clear that the BJP relied on the Modi cult in the campaign, in the belief that Modi has the biggest traction among urban voters. That is why Modi started his nationwide electoral campaign from the prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce of Delhi University. Delhi became the BJP’s testing ground and it put high energy into the electoral battle in the national capital.

The BJP’s miscalculation became clear when the AAP cut not just into the traditional votes of the Congress but also a major chunk of the BJP’s votes. … The crucial factor that points to Modi’s failure in winning over the masses in Delhi is that the BJP lost most of the constituencies where Modi himself had campaigned. He led massive rallies in six constituencies, of which it won only two. In Ambedkar Nagar, Ballimaran, Sultanpur Majra and Rohini, the BJP candidates lost, whereas in Vishwasnagar and Matiala, where the party’s candidates were stronger than those of other parties, the party won the election. This, despite the fact that five of these rallies were held in the last four days of the campaign. … Clearly, the people of Delhi lack complete trust in Modi, and the hung Assembly in Delhi demonstrates it. The “Modi effect”, after all, may not prove to be the Indravajra (weapon of the god Indra) that the BJP relies on now.



[Back to Top]

Transformational politics – Editorial (Dec 24, 2013, The Hindu)

The Aam Aadmi Party’s journey from mass movement to political office in just one year is without a parallel in Indian electoral history, reflecting as it does a popular yearning for change from the models of governance on offer today. A disenchanted electorate is clearly behind the resounding mandate to the Arvind Kejriwal-led party which made an ambitious leap from the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare. Yet, history has been made and the AAP is now poised to form a government in Delhi with Mr. Kejriwal as Chief Minister. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was ahead of the AAP by three seats, wisely decided not to form a government through horse-trading and the Congress did not have the numbers.

Given the high moral ground on which the AAP had placed the game of government formation, the BJP could not afford to be seen as any less righteous than the AAP. Yet, the AAP itself was caught in a quandary having declared in the electoral run-up that it would not seek or offer support to the Congress and the BJP. But going back to the voters for a fresh mandate was not an option because that would have been a betrayal of the faith the voters had reposed in the AAP – a first-time party that had come within a whisker of power because of the hope it offered for political renewal and transformation.

The situation actually offered Mr. Kejriwal the opportunity to put in practice a major manifesto promise: to get the people’s feedback on issues of importance. With the message from the Jan Sabhas a resounding ‘yes’ for government formation, the next step was for Mr. Kejriwal to offer to form a government with outside support from the Congress. The idea of a referendum itself was refreshing as a method of seeking the people’s endorsement of the way forward in this complex situation. It is also a vital instrument of verifying public opinion that is missing from today’s democratic political practice in India. Mainstream parties seem to be increasingly out of sync with the dramatic changes on the ground that indicates the soaring aspirations of new social groups. The AAP has correctly gauged the potential and power of this transformative energy and indeed, sees itself as giving political expression to it.

Mr. Kejriwal is admittedly hamstrung by having to take support from the Congress, which the AAP had denounced as irredeemably corrupt. However, even with this constraint, he can bring about substantive changes in governance, starting with putting an end to the much-detested VIP culture. While the first breakthrough is definitely the passing of the Lokpal law, there are still several promises that the AAP must keep. The real test of the AAP’s commitment to clean politics and transparent governance begins now.



[Back to Top]

A cruel abdication – Editorial (Dec 26, 2013, Indian Express)

After failing to keep the peace, the Samajwadi Party now denies Muzaffarnagar victims’ plight. There are no riot victims in Muzaffarnagar’s camps”, said Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Four months after the communal violence that devastated families in Muzaffarnagar, the state government has decided that enough is enough – not by helping the victims repair their lives, but by wishing them away.

After failing to avert or control the conflict, the state failed again, and again, to reassure fearful riot victims, who are still huddled in relief camps or with relatives and friends, unwilling to return home. It has been tardy and inefficient in providing compensation, medical facilities, sanitation or even warm clothing and blankets to those in the camps, and the victims have been left to the charity of religious organisations. Young children, including newborn babies, have died because of exposure to the cold, there have been reports of sexual violence.

The situation in these camps has been observed and recorded by the media, and by fact-finding teams, which clearly counter the administration’s justifications. But the SP government, instead of listening to, and attempting to address, the plight of the camps, first said that these stories were trumped up or exaggerated, and then, incredibly, suggested that the riot victims were part of a Congress-BJP conspiracy designed to show up the government. Now it has chosen to disband the camps and stop official assistance, to make the problem go away.

Yadav’s statement was prompted by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the districts, which he called “secular tourism”. But it is the SP’s instrumental invocation of minority welfare that stands exposed by the squalor and misery in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. For a man whose prime ministerial ambitions are transparent, Yadav and his party have been disastrous even at political messaging.

Their concern for Muslims was writ large in their manifesto, but their actions have stayed at the level of meaningless gesture. Just like it made a sloppy case for dropping terror cases against Muslims “in the interest of communal harmony”, without putting in the work to counter flaws in the investigation or even submitting affidavits to the courts, it has addressed the post-riot situation with striking insincerity. By denying the pain of thousands of riot-affected citizens, Yadav has only undermined his own claim of leadership.



[Back to Top]

Remove AFSPA to end fake encounters – Editorial (Dec 27, 2013, Economic Times)

News that the Indian army has ordered court martial proceedings against six soldiers, including a colonel and a major, in the Machhil (in Kupwara district of J&K) fake encounter case, 2010, could ordinarily be seen as a firm step against human rights abuses by men in uniform. Taking such action, particularly in areas like J&K and the northeast, can send a message to the people that such violations will not go unpunished.

But, unfortunately, the record of the armed forces on this count is abysmal. Often, allegations of abuses have been brushed off, or internal investigations, if ordered, have exonerated personnel of any wrongdoing. Now, it is imperative that there be some degree of transparency in the proceedings to enable that message of intolerance for such abuses to reach the people of the state. But it should be clear that laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), along with the massive militarisation in J&K, make such incidents possible.

When blanket impunity is granted to armed forces, along with incentives to kill militants, the inducement to kill innocents and pass them off as militants, as happened in this case, is present. It should be clear that all talk of normalcy and democracy will sound hollow as long as AFSPA exists. The call to repeal this black law has come from many quarters. It should go.

AFSPA also allows the armed forces immunity from normal judicial processes, and, instead, in a rare case such as this, use its own mechanisms. This does not help in the larger task in a state like J&K. Here, establishing the primacy of the political, judicial, democratic process – not of the military apparatus – is the key task. And, for any government, finding the political will to counter the army’s reluctance to repeal AFSPA would be a key step in that task.



[Back to Top]