IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 31st, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- RSS member in NIA net for 2006 Malegaon blast
- Two ‘saffron terror’ hideouts identified in Indore; NIA in action
- Communal elements in the IB, Home Ministry and Police should be purged: Mushawarat
- One-third of Gujarat MLAs face criminal cases, including rape
- Ishrat encounter: HC pulls up CBI over probe
- Probe how ‘Chhota Pakistan’ was printed: Minorities Commission
- Decision on Telangana within a month: Shinde
- Let this death not go in vain: Indian Americans
- Cops don’t take sexual harassment seriously: All India Democratic Women’s Association
- 2 men get death penalty for 2007 murder of Dalit family
Opinions & Editorials
- Rape in the World’s Largest Democracy – Editorial
- Shocking! The police mind-set revealed while hitting girl-students at India Gate protests – By Amaresh Misra
- In Gujarat, searching for development with dignity – By Raheel Dhattiwala
- Investigating Acts of Terror: Adopting Unbiased Approach – By Ram Puniyani
- Twenty years of Babri Masjid demolition – By Asghar Ali Engineer
- Why there are so few senior Dalit bureaucrats – By Vinay Sitapati
Taking its investigation into the 2006 Malegaon blast forward, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday arrested an RSS member as one of the main planters of the bombs. The agency arrested Manohar Singh from Gurdakhedi village in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore district on Saturday. Sources said that Singh, an active member of the RSS, was one of the four men who planted bombs strapped on bicycles near Hamida mosque on the eve of Shab-e-barat on September 8, 2006. The explosion killed 37 people and injured over 100.
According to sources, the other people who accompanied Singh in planting the bombs have been identified as the Samjhauta Express blast accused Rajender Chaudhary, Ramji Kalsangra and Dhan Singh. While Kalsangra is still absconding, Dhan Singh and Chaudhary were arrested around two weeks ago. NIA has already obtained production warrant against Chaudhary for his involvement in the blast.
Sources said, another Samjhauta blast accused Lokesh Sharma, already in NIA custody, was also with the group, but he did not plant the bomb. His role was limited to plotting the entire conspiracy, conducting a reconnaissance before the blast to choose the right spot to place the bombs and then ferrying the planters to Malegaon in a van on the fateful day. All the accused had left Malegaon immediately after planting the bombs.
Sources said that it was while working for his organization that Singh came in contact with other accused. “Singh says he was perturbed at the way some Muslim money lenders were exploiting Hindus who could not pay off their debts. He says they misbehaved with the wives and daughters of these Hindus and he was incensed with this. It was to find a solution to this that he had met other people in the group who told him the problem was not local but national. They thoroughly indoctrinated him and motivated him to carry out terrorist acts against Muslims,” said an official privy to investigation details.
With the arrest, NIA has finally put the stamp of Hindu terror on the 2006 Malegaon blast, in which Maharashtra ATS had arrested and charge sheeted nine Muslim men, several of them alleged SIMI members. Following a public outcry over the arrests, the government had transferred the case to CBI, which almost toed the ATS line of investigation in its supplementary charge sheet. It was only in 2010 that CBI arrested Swami Aseemanand, who confessed to a Hindu right-wing role in several blasts including Ajmer Dargah, Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid and Malegaon in 2006. The case was then transferred to NIA.
- Saffron terror exposed? First arrest made in Malegaon blast case (Dec 30, 2012, Daily Bhaskar)
- Singh will lead us to other accused: NIA (Dec 31, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Key accused Manohar Singh admits involvement in 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts (Dec 30, 2012, India Today)
- Right-wing terror: NIA hunts for 2 major ‘links’ (Dec 29, 2012, Hindustan Times)
National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday identified two hideouts in Indore used by saffron terror suspects for hatching conspiracy between 2005 to 2007 for carrying out terror strikes on different places. Accused Rajendra Chaudhry and Dhan Singh during interrogation told NIA officers about the hideouts used by late Sunil Joshi and others for hatching bomb blast conspiracies. One of the flats is based in Manawta Nagar and the second is situated at Sarvasampanna Nagar. The NIA team, which reached Indore on Wednesday, first visited the M 448-Manawta Nagar house.
Dhan Singh and Rajendra Chaudhry, who accompanied the NIA team, told investigators that their associate Ramji Kalsangra, who resided in Bengali square, had helped them get the houses on rent through one his acquaintances. The house was used by Sunil Joshi and Sandip Dange with fake names while Kalsangra would frequently visit the house, they added. For the first time in 2005, the house in Sarvasampanna Nagar was taken on rent. It was situated at around 1km from Manawta Nagar house. The two houses were used for hatching conspiracy related to the blasts including one at Malegaon.
The accused told investigators that Sunil Joshi also used the houses for motivating core group members for avenging attacks on Hindu religious places. He would ensure that very few people visited these houses. The places were short-listed due to their geographic location which helped them in moving in and out of the city without passing through crowded areas of the city. Kalsangra, who resided nearby, arranged all the essentials. He also worked as messenger- cum- facilitator.
- Suspect tells all on right-wing attacks (Dec 27, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Depalpur: The operational hub of RSS-led ‘Hindutva-cum-saffron terror’ (Dec 26, 2012, Daily Bhaskar)
- Madhya Pradesh: Arrest of third Hindutva activist for terrorism (Dec 27, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Samjhauta accused also involved in Jammu blast: NIA (Dec 27, 2012, Deccan Herald)
Communal elements in the IB, Home Ministry and Police should be purged: Mushawarat (Dec 28, 2012, Twocircles.net)
The Central Working Committee (Majlis-e Amla) of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (AIMMM), the umbrella body of Indian Muslim organisations, met here today. Impact of false charges of terrorism on Muslim youth dominated the discussions. Mushawarat termed the war on terror as the “war on the Muslim community” which has led to the arrest of hundreds of youths who later get acquitted by courts.
“The wholesale acquittal of Muslim youths after spending long years in jails is a proof of this fake campaign masterminded by communal elements in the IB, Home Ministry and Police,” said Mushawarat in its statement, asking that they “should be purged if India is to remain a secular democracy.”
They also asked that officers who falsely implicate innocents should be financially penalized for their crimes. Mushawarat criticized the UAPA amendments that will open the law for “further misuse by the inept and communalised police and intelligence agencies.” …
- IB upset with NCTC ‘exclusivity’ (Dec 26, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- SC asks Pota court to complete Akshardham case within 6 months (Dec 24, 2012, Times of India)
- Recent arrests may help NIA crack blast cases (Dec 27, 2012, The Hindu)
- BJP MLA Jetha Bharwad arrested in case of firing during poll (Dec 28, 2012, Indian Express)
Some 57 Members of Legislative Assembly elected by Gujarat in the December polls face criminal charges, including that of rape and murder, while nearly three-fourth of them are crorepatis, up from 31 per cent in the 2007 elections, according to data analysed by the Gujarat Election Watch. The data shows that one-third of MLAs belonging to the Congress as well as the BJP have declared criminal cases.
The top three richest MLAs are from the Congress with Balvantsinh Rajput from Sidhpur constituency having assets worth Rs. 268 crore, followed by Rajguru Indranil from Rajkot East with Rs. 122 crore and Pethalji Chavda from Manavadar constituency with assets worth Rs. 82.90 crore. Of the 57 MLAs facing cases, charges have been framed against 35 MLAs for various crimes and 24 face serious offences. In 2007, 47 MLAs had criminal charges against them.
BJP MLA from Shehra constituency in Panchmahals district Jetha Bharwad, who had allegedly opened fire and injured four people at Tarsang village during polling on December 17 and was detained by the police, has a charge of kidnapping and inducing a woman to compel her for marriage, and two others of rape and extortion. Bharward, a former suspended police constable, faces a case of forgery. The MLA has not been convicted so far.
Janata Dal (United) strongman from tribal constituency of Jhagadia in South Gujarat’s Bharuch district Chhotu Vasava has 28 cases against him, including nine of dacoity, seven theft and three murder. Charges have been framed in 28 cases. BJP veteran from North Gujarat Shankar Chaudhary has three murder cases. He won from Vav constituency. A Modi confidant and former MoS (Home) Amit Shah faces two charges of kidnapping and wrongful confinement, two of murder, and one of kidnapping to murder, among others.
- Regional stalwarts from Bihar, AP skipped Narendra Modi’s swearing in ceremony (Dec 27, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Gujarat Assembly Elections 2012: Narendra Modi’s ‘spin’ and ‘plot’ games (Dec 19, 2012, Economic Times)
- Why Congress could not defeat Modi’s BJP? (Dec 29, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Activist Shabnam Hashmi quits govt panels (Dec 28, 2012, Hindustan Times)
The Gujarat high court on Friday took a strong view of the slow pace of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe in Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case of 2004. “After going through the status report submitted before us, prima facie it looks like nothing substantial has been done by the CBI,” division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari said. Court had asked the CBI to state what progress it had made in the investigation, assigned to it last December, when the CBI approached the court for a direction to the state government to extend the services of IPS officer Satish Verma for six more months.
The CBI submitted the status report on Thursday. The judges, clearly not impressed, said, “What has been shown in your report is only those steps which were already carried out by Special Investigation Team. There is no substantial progress in the investigation. “It’s been one year since this court has assigned the probe and still no substantial progress has been made. Don’t think that you can carry on the investigation in this manner because no time-frame has been given to you,” said Justice Patel. Terming the report as “unsatisfactory”, the bench asked the agency to file another report by January 10, giving a chronology of probe. “We need to know date-wise what has been done by you,” judges said.
The case relates to encounter of 19-year-old Mumbai-based girl Ishrat Jehan, Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh, Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana by Ahmedabad [ Images ] crime branch officers on June 15, 2004. The Gujarat police claimed that Ishrat and others were Laskar-e-Tayiba operatives, and had plans to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi. But the Special Investigation Team, set up by the HC, concluded that the encounter was fake. The court on Friday said that after it handed over the probe to the CBI from SIT, “the agency should have done it with all the seriousness. You are duty-bound to make sure that investigation gets completed in reasonable time”.
Meanwhile, advocate Vrinda Grover, who represents Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kausar, submitted an application seeking that the HC should monitor the probe. It would be heard on January 11, the next date of hearing. The judges also slammed the CBI for seeking further services of Verma, who was originally a part of SIT. “Is it that things can’t move if Verma is not there? The CBI cannot do anything on its own,” the bench asked. Gujarat Government Pleader Prakash Jani said that Verma should be sent back to the state service “so that his services can be utilised in a better way.” The judges said, “After the new report if court is not satisfied then it may not be possible to continue his (Verma’s) services (for CBI)”.
- CBI rapped for slow pace of probe in Ishrat Jahan case (Dec 29, 2012, DNA India)
- CBI submits progress report in HC (Dec 28, 2012, Times of India)
- Ishrat Jahan’s mom wants HC to monitor CBI probe (Dec 29, 2012, DNA India)
- Former cop surrenders in Sadiq Jamal fake encounter case (Dec 25, 2012, Times of India)
The State Minorities Commission has asked the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) to probe the “serious lapse” of terming the Santosh Bhuvan area of Nalla Sopara in Thane with the derogatory term ‘Chhota Pakistan’ on its bills. “This is a serious matter. Please inquire into it and inform the Commission about your findings,” State Minority Commission Chairman Munaf Hakim said in a letter to the MSEB chief. “Let us know at what level did the directive to term the area as ‘Chhota Pakistan’ emanated,” the letter said. Hakim’s letter came after the derogatory term, used to describe predominantly Muslim slums across the country, found its way into official documents.
In a shocking case of administrative apathy, residents of the Santosh Bhuvan area in Nalla Sopara have been receiving electricity bills that list their home addresses as ‘Chhota Pakistan’. The state-run Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDC) has been sending these bills to Santosh Bhuvan residents for at least last 14 months.
Officials of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board, the umbrella body, have said they were unaware of how the lapse occurred and that the error was only spotted during a drive to collect applications for Aadhar cards. Electricity bills as accepted as proof of residence for all official applications (phone connections, passports etc) and residents from Santosh Bhuvan had attached these with their Aadhar forms.
- A 400 year old Masjid and colony demolished in Delhi by Delhi Development Authority (Dec 30, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Minorities welfare loses steam in state (Dec 25, 2012, Times of India)
- Free Masonic Jewish temple in Lucknow is a waqf property: Shia (Dec 25, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Sikh rights group decries “silence” over 1984 victims (Dec 31, 2012, The Hindu)
The Centre appeared to be moving towards finalizing its stand on the Telangana statehood demand on Friday with home minister Sushilkumar Shinde saying that a decision will be announced within a month as political parties from Andhra Pradesh put the onus on the UPA government. However, Shinde’s announcement did not cut much ice with TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao, the political face of the movement, who called the meeting a “futile exercise” and announced a day-long bandh in Telangana region on Saturday.
Addressing a press conference after presiding over a meeting of political parties from the state, Shinde said he has heard “carefully” the opinions of all parties whose representatives wanted an early decision on the issue. “I have heard carefully from all the parties. I will brief the government on the outcome of the meeting and within one month we will come out with a result. Within one month, there will be a decision,” he said. “I appeal to the youth to remain peaceful. There will be a result. The government will take a decision. It is taking decision and it will be a good decision,” Shinde said.
At the meeting, majority of political parties asked the Congress and UPA Government to put an end to the “uncertainty” in Andhra Pradesh by coming out with an immediate decision on the issue. YSR Congress Party headed by Congress rebel YS Jaganmohan Reddy remained ambivalent and put the onus on the Centre to take a call on the statehood demand while accusing it of having taken “imprudent actions”. At the meeting, the TDP produced a letter from party chief N Chandrababu Naidu to Shinde which said his party has not withdrawn a communication sent to the then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee in 2008 on its stand supporting creation of Telangana.
Sources said two representatives of Congress gave conflicting opinions â€” one in favour of Telangana and the other opposing the creation of a separate state, while CPI, TRS and BJP gave their green signal for bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. CPM is opposed to creation of Telangana. In another indication that the decision would be out soon, Shinde said this was the last all-party meeting on the Telangana issue and that he was fully satisfied with its outcome.
CPI, TRS and BJP also prodded the Centre to come out with an announcement on bifurcation of the state soon. Rao said he was just “not satisfied” with the Centre’s announcement that a decision will be taken in a month’s time. “They have said this over a hundred times. They have not fulfilled their promises. They have cheated the people of Telangana again,” he told reporters after coming out of the meeting chaired by Shinde.
- Andhra Pradesh witnessed disturbances, pro-Telangana protests (Dec 29, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Andhra parties want early decision on Telangana (Dec 28, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Majlis-e-Itehadul-Muslimeen reiterates its stand of greater Telanagana (Dec 29, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Telugu Desam Party supports Telangana demand (Dec 28, 2012, Rediff)
Expressing shock and disbelief at the death of the 23-year old gang-rape victim, Indian Americans have termed her as a “true national hero”. “The victim girl was a brave and courageous girl who fought till the very last minute for her dignity and her life. She is a true hero and symbolises the best in Indian youth and women. The nation should mourn the passing of this brave daughter of India,” Satnam Singh Chahal president of North American Punjabi Association said.
He urged people back home to “resolve” that this death will not go in vain. “We should do everything possible to ensure that such an incident never happens again,” he stressed. Noting that the incident should serve as a wakeup call for the Indian government, in particular the law enforcement agencies, Vinay Singh, a budding entrepreneur from the Greater Washington Area said Indian Americans and people across the globe join Indians in mourning the loss of their beloved daughter. “Her sacrifice should not go in vain,” Singh said. Highly appreciative of the spontaneous peaceful protest by people, in particular the youths, across the country, Ritu Sharma from Chicago said the true homage to the victim would be to take steps to channelise the emotions and energies into a constructive course of action so that the incident is never repeated.
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) in a statement 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. The gang rape and brutalisation of a 23-year old woman in Delhi warrants the widespread outrage and protests it has sparked, it said.
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, IAMC said. “The bestial forms of rape and humiliation inflicted against women from the minorities during the sectarian pogroms in Gujarat, Punjab, Odisha and Assam, as well as the brutalisation of Dalit and adivasi women on a regular basis call for national soul-searching and introspection,” said Shaheen Khateeb, president of IAMC.
- UN concerned over gangrapes in India (Dec 31, 2012, Indian Express)
- Global rights bodies slam India for ‘weak’ rape laws (Jan 1, 2013, Times of India)
- Rapists should be stoned to death: Azam (Dec 27, 2012, Indian Express)
- Wear purdah, avoid rape: Adheenam (Dec 30, 2012, Deccan Chronicle)
Cops don’t take sexual harassment seriously: All India Democratic Women’s Association (Dec 30, 2012, Times of India)
The Dindoshi case on Friday, where the local police delayed the registration of a molestation case by two days, shows how difficult it is for women under attack to get justice. While the zonal deputy commissioner assured that he would look into the matter, activists and lawyers point out that cases of harassment are simply not taken seriously by the police as they do not consider it to be their primary duty. “When it comes to harassment on the streets such as stalking, passing obscene comments or making gestures, there is very little effort to send across a message to the offender that he could be punished. Usually, cops try to bring about some sort of reconciliation or let off the offender after a yelling.
As a result, complainants fear approaching the police as they do not know what kind of response they will get,” said Sonya Gill of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA). “There must be immediate response from authorities to any kind of harassment- that it’s not going to be tolerated and offenders will have to pay for it.” Gill added that cops take a moralistic approach when it comes to offences where people have been in relationships and then had a fallout. “The overall orientation is that the woman is to blame if she invites unwanted sexual attention or she should have been extra careful in cases where the offender was known.
The police usually don’t respond in cases where a woman has been raped or cheated by a partner. This entire gamut of orientation needs to change. The woman is anyway under social and family pressure when she approaches the police to complain. So, if she has shown the courage and will to fight, she needs all the sensitivity and responsiveness possible.” Former IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh said that in most cases of harassment, the police tend to lodge a non-cognizable offence, especially where no medical examination is required. “The other alternative the police opt for is to invoke the Bombay Police Act (section 110 for indecent behaviour) and release the offender after a fine,” Singh said.
The third alternative is to file cross complaints in a bid to settle the issue. In cases where the offender is a history-sheeter, the police may initiate chapter proceedings against him. What they should do is lodge a cognizable case,” Singh said. Starting next week, NGO Deshbhakti Andolan intends to put up helpdesks outside police stations, meet complainants and compile a list of cases that haven’t been registered or where action hasn’t been taken. The members will then meet additional police commissioners with this list.
- Cop arrested on charges of trying to rape girl (Jan 1, 2013, Business Standard)
- Rape and murder accused acquitted, thanks to cops (Jan 1, 2013, Times of India)
- India’s hall of shame: 25 rapes reported while nation protested against Delhi gangrape (Dec 31, 2012, IBN)
- Only one conviction out of 635 rape cases in Delhi this year, reveals home ministry data (Dec 30, 2012, Times of India)
Two young men have been sentenced to death by a special court here for the brutal murder of four members of a Dalit family, including two children, at a village in the district in 2007. Judge T S Nandhakumar of the Special Court, formed under the Protection of Civil Rights (SC/ST) Act, also sentenced Katturaja (32) and Vettum Perumal (33) to five terms of life imprisonment to be run consecutively. In his order yesterday, the Judge slapped a fine of Rs 2.5 lakh on each of them.
According to prosecution, Katturaja suspected that his 29-year old wife Subbulakshmi had an illicit affair with one Jayakumar, a caretaker of a farm house at Meenavankulam near Kalakaadu in the District. He informed his close relative Perumal about his suspicion. Both of them hatched a plot to murder Jayakumar. On April 19, 2007, the duo went to the farm house and hacked to death Jayakumar after a chase. Later, they hacked Jayakumar’s wife who tried to protect her husband.
Though Indhira (11) and Chitra (8), daughters of the couple, bolted themselves inside the house aghast at witnessing the murders, Katturaja and Perumal broke open the door and killed them also. The sensational quadruple murder sent shock waves in the area then. Police had arrested The special judge said the prosecution had proved the brutal murders, including that of young and innocent girl children and the innocent wife of Jayakumar.
- Dalit girl’s death at Chidambaram causes unrest (Dec 28, 2012, The Hindu)
- Himachal Congress silent over rogue MLA in new assembly (Dec 28, 2012, Times of India)
- Minor Dalit girl gang-raped in Bihar (Dec 28, 2012, The Hindu)
- Dalit girl sexually assaulted even as protests rage pan-India over Delhi gangrape (Dec 28, 2012, Indian Express)
Opinions and Editorials
The brutal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi this month has cast a cold light on how badly India treats its women. On Dec. 16, the 23-year-old physiotherapy student was viciously assaulted by a group of men while she was riding a bus with a male companion. The two had just seen a movie. Both she and the man were beaten with an iron rod and eventually stripped, robbed and dumped on the roadside. After three surgeries at an Indian hospital, the woman was flown to Singapore on Thursday for further treatment. She died early on Saturday after suffering what hospital officials said were “signs of severe organ failure.”
This reprehensible crime reflects an alarming trend in India, which basks in its success as a growing business and technological mecca but tolerates shocking abuse of women. Rape cases have increased at an alarming rate, roughly 25 percent in six years. New Delhi recorded 572 rapes in 2011; that total is up 17 percent this year. And those are just the reported cases. Many victims, shamed into silence and callously disregarded by a male-dominated power structure, never go to the authorities to seek justice. Women are routinely blamed for inciting the violence against them. On Wednesday, an 18-year-old girl from Punjab who had been gang-raped in an earlier incident killed herself after police and village elders pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.
India’s news media now regularly carry horrific accounts of gang rapes, and this has begun to focus national attention on the problem. But the rape of the 23-year-old woman seemed to take the outrage to a new level, prompting tens of thousands to protest in New Delhi and elsewhere across the country. Still, political leaders were slow to react. It was days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared on television to plead for calm and to promise to make India safer for women.
Since the attack, six suspects have been arrested and the government has announced the formation of two commissions, one to identify police “lapses” and another to recommend ways to speed up sexual assault trials. Reforms are needed in the law enforcement system to make convictions more possible and punishments more convincing. And Indian leaders like Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress Party, must speak out more forcefully about bringing rapists to justice.
More broadly, India must work on changing a culture in which women are routinely devalued. Many are betrothed against their will as child brides, and many suffer cruelly, including acid attacks and burning, at the hands of husbands and family members. India, a rising economic power and the world’s largest democracy, can never reach its full potential if half its population lives in fear of unspeakable violence.
- Rape As Weapon of Domination: The Clout of Caste And Class in India – By Ershad Abubacker (Dec 27, 2012, Countercurrents)
- Brutalised in a bus – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Dec 29, 2012, Frontline)
- We Are All Responsible, We Are All Guilty – By Akanksha Mehta (Dec 29, 2012, Countercurrents)
- Crime against women in Delhi: What next? – By B Raman (Dec 30, 2012, Rediff)
Shocking! The police mind-set revealed while hitting girl-students at India Gate protests – By Amaresh Misra (Dec 24, 2012, Times of India)
What happened on December 23, 2012 at the India Gate will remain forever etched in the minds of youngsters protesting against the gang-rape of a 23-year old medical girl student: four to five policemen surrounding and beating a girl to pulp. Police boots trampling an elderly woman; boys herded in a police van and beaten up mercilessly for two hours as the van moves (replicating in a macabre manner the way the medical student was raped by criminals in a moving bus). Also more than 50 lathi wielding policemen barging inside a media tent and breaking cameras; media men and women getting roughed up, police men groping/sexually assaulting four girls as they try fleeing the protest site (imagine-sexual assault by a state force on girls raising their voices against a vicious sexual assault which the same state force is investigating into in a sensitive manner!). Two police officers kicking a fallen boy already half-dead by police beatings; an elderly man with almost no eyesight being hit on the face (main andhaa hoon-the man kept screaming); 12 or 13-year old children stripped and beaten; two policemen dragging a boy by his neck for a long stretch as if he was an animal; boys being pushed against trees and then hit by iron rods by the Police; several boys receiving kicks on the groins by policemen wanting to injure sensitive parts because the boys were apparently “acting like impotents (napunsak) participating in a protest against rape” (perhaps the police logic was that the boys ought to be protesting in favour of rape); 15-20 police men surrounding two boys and raining lathis on their heads as they bleed profusely-the brutal saga of a brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators protesting against a brutal gang-rape in the heart of Delhi-the Indian capital-continued without interruption…
But the worst part is yet to arrive; caught on tape by this author are the images and voices of two girls coming out from the India Gate site near the Purana Quila entrance at around 6 pm: one girl is limping; on asking about what happened she says that not only did the Police beat up girl protestors-girls such as she were told that nangee ghoomti ho…rape to hoga hee tumhare saath or something to that effect: The accused who raped the 23 year old girl in a moving bus also held the same mentality as these policemen-so what is the difference? People who are supposed to protect you from rapists and criminals themselves suffer from severe biases that bring them closer to perpetrators than the victims.
Everywhere the story was the same-innocent faces all around; the overwhelming presence of girls; no one with an agenda; the odd Arvind Kejriwal supporter standing isolated, huddled, bemused, trying to make sense of what happened. Talking freely, girls say that they turned Baba Ramdev away-you are told that the some men from ‘ruling parties’ tried infiltrating to create violence but were chased away. The entire narrative about police cracking down on students because of some anti-police violence generated by lumpen elements starts breaking down; later at night, scenes of the heroic fight put up by the students against the police emerge… A flashback-of another time another place-Allahabad-Benaras-Lucknow-dance before your eyes-you hear TV channels bemoaning over December 23, 2012 violence and the fact that students hit back at the police as if they are watching a student protest for the first time. For us, who earned our spurs in pitched battles against the police in the 1980s and the 1990s, the 23rd December police vs. student Delhi/India Gate clash holds no mystery. …
The problem is that politicians in Delhi-of all parties-especially the young ones-understand none of this; the political trends that emerged in the 1990s-and then after the 2004 transfer of power-did not witness student movements as by then, Mandal and liberalization divided and diverted student energies to other directions. During the Mandal agitation, the Delhi Police just fired straight into the protestors; that is the main reason why the movement saw so much violence. But 23rd December 2012 was different-still used to charging straight against a crowd, the Delhi plice was totally out manoeuvred and outflanked by a core team of just 100-150 trained students belonging yes-to AISA active in JNU (where it holds the Students Union) and DU; these AISA militants guided a crowd of more than 5000 students at different intervals into a playing a day long, deadly, cat and mouse game with a clueless police! In a memorable scene captured by a TV news camera, you can see the Rapid Action Force (RAF) standing in a horizontal line with bend knees ready to charge-but students disperse, out flank the horizontal line of men in chitkabra blue, and attack them from behind! …
Scenes of students lobbying tear gas shells back at the Police in BHU, Allahabad and Lucknow and attacking senior police officials and magistrates with incredible bravery had almost vanished. 23rd December 2012 brought all that back. Student movement does not follow a straight line-it has its own, dialectical, ebb and flow. There will be days in this month only when agitation will be low pitched-then days with high volatility. Some sympathetic forces of the ruling and opposition parties will understand the processes afoot and the deep demands of change; most will probably face a genuine problem of comprehension; and some will try to divert attention or knowingly ignore the issues; others will fall prey to paternalism-the kya problem hai beta type pseudo sentiments-hated by students. But the Delhi Street has rid itself of the Kejriwal-Ramdev kind of pseudo-opposition baggage. Students have reclaimed their space. And they have retreated temporarily, with all their forces intact, to fight other battles for change and against dark forces of communalism, corruption and criminalization as 2014 inches closer. Mainstream politicians can ignore this trend only at their peril.…
- Police Professionalism And Crimes Against Women – By R.B Sreekumar (Dec 30, 2012, Countercurrents)
- Films sanctify pestering and stalking of women – By Swaminathan S A Aiyar (Dec 30, 2012, Economic Times)
- She Is Dead, But Can We Be Said To Live? – By Pubali Ray Chaudhuri (Dec 29, 2012, Countercurrents)
- Will her death herald new attitude? – By Anil Gupta (Dec 30, 2012, DNA India)
There is little doubt that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be back in power in Gujarat in the next fortnight. A vote in favour of the Congress, the only longstanding rival to the BJP in the State, would be no less than a tactical mistake. Despairingly or pragmatically, a certain section of Muslims continue to support the BJP even after their intuitive belief was proved right – that Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘sadbhavana’ felt too fantastic to be real. Indeed, of 182 BJP contestants fighting the elections, none is a Muslim. But for every Gujarati Muslim compelled by pragmatism, there are twice as many who would willingly make the tactical mistake of choosing a party that has little chance of gaining power than a nearly invincible BJP. Here are three reasons why:
Every day the media reports statistical figures either giving evidence of the BJP’s economic achievements in Gujarat transgressing class and religion or counterevidence suggesting a skew in this eulogised model of development. Either way, the story of the BJP’s success in the last 10 years in the State is crucially centred on economic development. How true this is is of little relevance. The point is that the development story is an insidious cover: the credibility that Mr. Modi has acquired among large sections of Gujarati Hindu voters over the years is for what his government oversaw in 2002 and later in extra-judicial killings of Muslims, not for engineering a spectacular model of economic development. “Modi had the audacity to take on the might of the aggressive Muslims and to preserve our ‘asmita’ (regional pride). He is a real lion!” This is something I hear from Gujarati Hindus quite often during research in Ahmedabad.
At the heart of ‘asmita’ is a discourse of nativism and mobilisation around a narrative that had long seen Gujaratis as victims of outside meddlers, write Nalin and Mona G. Mehta in their edited book,Gujarat Beyond Gandhi: Identity, Conflict and Society. Victimhood of the Gujarati Hindu formed the core of the nativism. Indeed, provision of State resources and economic development are not the real winning factors for the BJP. In avoiding Muslim representation in the elections, the party has clarified that it has no intention to veer from its ideological commitment to Gujarati ‘asmita’ and Hindu nationalism. Unlike a Congress that can be held by the scruff of its neck for swaying away from its secular ideology, the BJP cannot be held accountable for ‘sadbhavana’ promises broken.
This is the BJP’s favourite catchphrase after ‘development.’ Sure, in Gujarat’s most riot-prone city of Ahmedabad, communal violence and curfews were so recurrent during Congress governments that a year without a big or small riot would find a centre spot in our year-enders. But are these 10 years of peace under BJP rule as vibrant as its economy? Recently, Mr. Modi chose two important constituencies in Ahmedabad to make his electoral appeal to the voters: Vejalpur and Jamalpur-Khadia. As urban vocabulary goes in highly segregated Ahmedabad, both are ‘border’ constituencies. Unlike earlier, Mr. Modi was careful not to overdo the identity rhetoric. If in 2002 he used ‘Miyan’ Musharraf in the pejorative, 10 years later he is quick to clarify how his venerable reference to Ahmed ‘miyan’ Patel was misconstrued as a communal slur. Even as Hindus on one side cheered to every remark that their charismatic leader made, Muslims stayed silent. For many of them, Mr. Modi was giving across an untrustworthy signal. “I will not vote for him, though I fear that if I don’t there could be another riot,” my autorickshaw driver, a Muslim man from Jamalpur, said. In expressing his dilemma, the rickshaw driver simplified a vast scholarly literature on the subject of Hindu-Muslim relations in India: that electoral competition and violence are crucially linked. If there is peace in Gujarat today, it is primarily because violence is not required.
In addition, Ahmedabad is as polarised as it used to be and Muslims continue to be refused housing. A ‘Muslim property show’ held in Ahmedabad last month – the first of its kind in the country – was sad proof of Muslims reconciling to the fact that life in post-riot ghettos is a permanent reality. Where communal segregation is assumed to be normal, peacefulness cannot be normal. Anti-Muslim prejudice is rooted in most of urban Gujarat. It always was, even before 2002, when the Congress was in power. It is quite well known that asking a stranger her caste and religion in the first meeting is acceptable in Gujarat. ‘Tame keva? (literal: what are you?)’ rarely evokes embarrassment. In earlier times, if the recipient of this question was discovered to be a Muslim, the conversation would either reach an impasse or take on a more formal tone. Prejudice was profound but latent; a semblance of guilt in expressing anti-Muslim prejudice existed. The difference then and now is the expression of this prejudice. In these 10 years of peace the guilt has disappeared. Muslim hatred is completely acceptable today, for many continue their rant against Muslims even after they discover they are talking to one. Is the earlier hypocrisy preferred to the existing cockiness? Maybe so if one believes that legitimised prejudice is worse than calculated normality. As a Muslim myself, I am proud of being part of a thriving democracy. But a thriving democracy inevitably means chaos and the liberty to dissent. The fear of disrupting peace by showing dissent is as frightening as violence. Development is as much about human dignity as it is about gross domestic product.
- India’s New Right – By Radhika Syed (Dec 29, 2012, Frontline)
- Self-help is the only help – By JS Bandukwala (Dec 27, 2012, Indian Express)
- The Muslim vote – By Lyla Bavadam (Dec 29, 2012, Frontline)
Investigating Acts of Terror: Adopting Unbiased Approach – By Ram Puniyani (Dec 29, 2012, Countercurrents)
Hidden in the back pages of some major dailies, there was news that the third Samjhauta bomber was held in MP (16, Dec 2012). National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Rajender Choudhary, near Ujjain in MP. He has been named as one of the bombers in the supplementary charge sheet submitted by the agency. One recalls that in the blast in Samjhauta Express, way back in 2007, resulted in the death of 68 persons, including 43 Pakistanis. The investigation showed that there were four brief-case bomb planters, who allegedly acted on the instructions from RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra. Of these Sunil Joshi was later murdered. Many others’ from this camp, who are cooling their heels behind the bars in jails, are Swami Aseemanand and company. This series of blasts like Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Ajmer etc. were planned at times when religious conglomeration of Muslims at major festivals was there, so that the casualty is large.
The first striking point of this news is the under projection of the arrest. If we remember in earlier phase, when for the same incidents of blasts the innocent Muslim youth were arrested, there were banner headlines in all the news papers and anchors of TV channels were screaming to the highest pitch. In this projection the language press added all the necessary spices to highlight the religion of the arrested culprits. This was followed by the under reporting of the judgments, which found these Muslim youth innocent and then these youth were let off. Such news was again hidden in the back pages as small news items if at all. The pattern of media reporting showed a clear-cut bias in the nature of reporting. Unfortunately the media pundits have also ignored this major phenomenon of the pattern of reporting in case of communal violence and terrorist violence. In case of communal violence the large section of media accepted the version from police or dominant prevalent versions in an uncritical manner. In case of terrorist violence the media reported events with the underlying theme as if all terrorists are Muslims.
The attitude of police also was on these patterns in both communal and terrorist types of violence. In terrorist violence the arrest of Muslim youth was done with striking regularity, till the motorcycle of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an ex ABVP worker, was discovered by Hemant Karkare. Till that time the earlier chiefs of ATS in Maharashtra and other states where blasts took place, were playing it cool. In most these cases the involvement of those associated with RSS ideology was not given a serious thought. When in April 2006 the blast took place in Nanded in the house of RSS activist Rajkondavar. In front of the house there was a board of Bajrang Dal and the saffron flag was fluttering. There was enough evidence to take the investigation further, which might have led to arrest way back of those who are currently in jails. Since large section of police preferred to be guided by biases rather than professionalism, the investigation remained half way and the series of blasts kept taking place. To arrest the Hindus for acts of terror was an ‘unthinkable thought’ for most investigating officers. To highlight this in media was not might not have been thought appropriate by the media. The police and media, both, focused on the ‘thinkable thought’ and projected Muslims as the culprits. This thinkable thought was product of the US propaganda duly taken up by the National media. As per this ‘All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims’.
When Hemant Karkare decided to go ahead in a professional way, the path was not easy for him. He soon faced the political pressure from some sections. Bal Thackeray in his paper Saamna wrote, that we ‘spit on the face of Hemant Karkare, while Narendra Modi said that Hemant Karkare is Deshdrohi (Anti National). The death of Hemant Karkare was a big setback to the investigation of blast cases. But the path was paved for thinking on these lines which were unthinkable earlier. With confession of Swami Aseemanand in presence of a magistrate, which he later retracted, the evidence cam forth clearly on which Rajasthan ATS and now NIA and other police agencies may be working meticulously to bring out the truth of these blasts. While the arrest of Muslim youth was going on recklessly, some social activists tried, in vain, to draw the attention of the state and investigating agencies, about the arrest of innocents. That the real culprits are being overlooked was the underlying statement. These social activists were ignored till the people’s tribunal ‘Scapegoats and Holy Cows’ held in Hyderabad (August 2008) brought forward the truth for public and states’ attention to the tragic reality of blasts and the reality about the culprits who were getting away and the innocents were being arrested. Needless to say that due to such arrests, the social life and careers of those innocents who were arrested was ruined. Even now lot of questions persist; about Batla encounter and the alleged role of Azamgarh youth in the acts of terror. Some political leaders have been raising the issue but state so far has been very apathetic to the plight of Muslim youths and their families who have been implicated in this incident. Now some hope is being rekindled that these innocents may get justice as on one hand the professional attitude of NIA is nabbing the real culprits and hopefully will ensure that the guilty are punished by the court of law.
At the same time, though painfully late, the delegation led by Ram Vilas Paswan met the Prime Minister and submitted the memorandum on the issue. The Prime minister has promised that “The government will soon constitute a mechanism to stop arresting innocent youth, providing justice to them and their rehabilitation.” Dr. Singh also assured that he will talk to the Home Minister in this regard. One does not know how the state is planning to compensate the innocent youth, who have suffered immensely at the hands of the insensitive state machinery. Will Government gather courage to institute an inquiry into Batla encounter and bring forth the truth? One presumes after the Nanded blast (April 2006), which was an accident in which the Bajrang Dal activists making the bombs were killed, had the investigation been taken to its logical conclusion many a blasts might have been prevented and many an innocent lives saved. That’s a conjecture, which sounds to be a strong possibility in the hindsight. Will this be a lesson to our concerned authorities to learn from and a pointer to adopt a more professional attitude in future?
- A War on Manipur’s People – Editorial (Jan 5, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Passage Of Amendments To UAPA: Further Erosion Of Constitutional Rights – By Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (Dec 21, 2012, Countercurrents)
Demolition of Babri Masjid was preceded and followed by horrible communal violence. In which thousands of people were killed. In Mumbai alone more than 1000 people were killed and many more in riots that occurred in other places. The kar seva, It is important to note, was supposed to be absolutely peaceful that no less a person than Atal Bihar Vajpayee had publicly promised that kar seva in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 would be just recitation of bhajans (i.e. devotional songs) and so they be allowed. Kalyan Singh, the BJP Chief Minister of U.P also gave similar assurance. Mr.Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister then and he took Vajpayee’s promise seriously and allowed kar seva. But Kalyan Singh, Chief Minister of U.P allowed hundreds of thousands of BJP members and supporters to enter Ayodhya. No attempt was made by Kalyan Singh on one hand, and BJP leaders at the national level, on the other hand, to control the crowd. And when the Supreme Court held him guilty of not preventing crowds from entering Ayodhya and sentenced him to a day’s sentence, he said I am proud of going to jail for this cause. In fact the crowd and leaders like L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharti and several other senior leaders went to Ayodhya and made provocative speeches. In fact all of them had gone with all preparation to demolish the mosque. Such is the character of communal forces. They can tell lies to serve their so called cause and have absolutely no compunction in causing death and destruction. The Hindi media was whole-heartedly with the Sangh Parivar and was in favour of demolition and was referring to the mosque as ‘controversial dhancha’ (i.e. structure) and not as mosque. For all practical purposes it was a ‘temple’, not a mosque. In North India (not so much in South) sentiments in favour of demolition were running very high and when mosque was demolished there was great celebration. According to one secular activist from Kanpur, fireworks were displayed in many parts of U.P. as if it was Deepavali and according to noted journalist Mr. Praful Bidwai who happened to be in Lalbahadur Shashtri Academy, Mussoorie, the IAS, IPS, IRS trainees also celebrated the demolition with great enthusiasm.
In fact The Sangh Parivar polarized Hindus and Muslims as it happened at the time of partition and the Parivar, through its powerful propaganda machine had convinced the average Hindus that very existence of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was shame for India and symbol of their ‘slavery’ of Hindus to the Mughal rule. For Sangh Parivar demolition of mosque was necessary for its coming to power. No other Party in the world, as far as I know, ever made demolition of any historical structure as part of political agenda as BJP did. It is unfortunate that some Muslim leaders also made emotional speeches and aggravated the whole issue. More emotional statements they gave, more it strengthen Sangh Parivars’ hands. No serious attempts were made by these Muslim leaders to defuse the issue through constructive dialogue for which some moderate Hindus were ready. Only saner voice came from the left leaders and some secular noted historians from JNU like Prof. Romila Thapar, Professors Satish Chandra, Harbans Mulkhia, Bipin Chandra, Irfan Habib and others. They brought out a pamphlet in which the Sangh Parivar theory that there ever was Ram Mandir in place of Babri Masjid was effectively refuted through concrete historical evidence. One IAS officer Mr. Shersingh who had done his M.A. in history write a book to show Ayodhya never existed there and in those days when Ram was supposed to live there was dense jungle. He showed it existed where modern Afghanistan did. However, in that surcharged political atmosphere there was no one to listen to reason. Most Muslims doubted the integrity of Prime Minister Narsimha Rao who was thought to be inclined towards Sangh Parivar ideology. Even late Arjun Singh expressed his displeasure against Narsimha Rao for not instructing security forces to stop demolition of the mosque and was stationed 11 kms away from Ayodhya. If Rao wanted these forces who had made contingency plan to stop demolition could have done so. Their commander of these security forces himself told me at Mount Abu in CRPF Training Academy and explained with the help of maps in one of the workshops of CRPF after demolition of the mosque. He regretted that we waited for instructions from PMO but nothing was received until the demolition was complete. Some people close to the Prime Minister Rao maintained that Rao wanted mosque to be demolished so that most important propaganda issue of Sangh Parivar will vanish in thin air. Even if it were so it was at a great cost of innocent human lives. In those days India almost came very close to fascism.
Apart from this, what was most shameful was that not a single person was punished for such hooliganism and for demolition of an old and historical monument. When the democratic and secular forces put BJP to shame for its vandalism, Shri Advani tried to wash his hands off by saying it was ‘saddest day of his life’. In fact it was Advani who was the chief campaigner of building temple in Ayodhya and took out a Rath Yatra through the country which, according to the Times of India, turned into ‘blood yatra’ leaving trail of blood on its path in the form of communal riots. The Rao Government, appointed Liberahan Commission which took more than 16 years to submit its report and gave Rao, as expected, a clean chit. Such Commissions are appointed to put off any effective action and take years and tons of money to produce nothing concrete. In fact they are appointed to kill time and to let the real culprits off the hook. The CBI court also could not fix responsibility and Sarvashri L.K.Advani (who really provoked India wide emotions through his Rath yatra), M.M.Joshi and Katiyar, Kalyan Singh and others are roaming freely though there is lot of evidence available including eyewitnesses to prosecute them. The NDA led by BJP came to power in 1999 and CBI was under Mr. Advani’s charge as Home Minister and so how CBI dare take action against its own boss. After it was defeated in 2004 and UPA led by the Congress was elected there was some move initially as CBI moved Barelly Court but nothing concrete came out of it. I think there is some secret understanding between ruling parties not to breath down each other’s neck so that they can freely play their political games without any fear. In fact no democratic country would allow such hooliganism as in Ayodhya in 1992. In the first place no such thing would have happened if Rao Government had taken effective steps by stopping hate speeches being delivered by Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti, Katiyar and others.
And having demolished the mosque the culprit at least should have been punished to redeem our democratic values. What is equally regrettable was Allahabad High Court’s judgment in September 2010 which divided the land on which Babri Masjid stood rather than deciding the legal title of the land for which case was filed. Now the appeal has been pending in the Supreme Court. Let us hope the highest court of the land will do justice. The Supreme Court judgment should be accepted by all the parties in all sobriety. That is the only sane approach left now. It is also important to note that demolition of Babri Masjid proved to be a blessing in disguise, as it always happens, and Muslims realized they must concentrate on their real problems like education and economic development. Both the Sangh Parivar and their own leaders had entangled them into emotional problems detracting them from their real problems. This realization had done immense good and many educational institutions came into existence since then. However, unfortunately education is not an independent factor. It is dependent on economic factor. The poverty among Muslims is so overwhelming (according to Sachar Committee report Muslims have slipped below Dalits in matters of employment and economic development) and hence without addressing this problem of poverty it would be difficult to address the problem of higher education especially in these days of privatization and liberalization. Only Government intervention could help and that is not easy as political leadership among Muslims is not competent at all and non-Muslim secular political leadership is not keen at all. Well let us see how things develop.
- Identity politics fans a new fire in Assam – By Ratnadip Choudhury (Dec 22, 2012, Tehelka)
Here’s a fact you can’t tear up in Parliament. It provides the basis for the current constitutional amendment bill providing quotas in promotions for Dalits and tribals in government service. Despite six decades of entry-level quotas, there are few Dalit senior officers. By one count, of around 88 secretary-level posts in the Central government, not one is filled by a Dalit. Systemic discrimination, allege its proponents. Is that the only explanation for this “fact”? To begin with, who appoints officers to senior posts? In the last decade or so, it is well known that ministers, not senior bureaucrats judging their own, choose key bureaucrats. Central secretaries (after empanelment) are often chosen by the concerned minister. It seems schizophrenic for politicians to systematically discriminate against Dalits and tribal officers, yet overwhelmingly vote for a law to correct this. This “fact” is also a partial picture. As the submissions before the court argued, anecdotal evidence suggests Dalits are well represented in the state (as opposed to Central) bureaucracy. It is hard to read meaning into this without comprehensive data – something the courts asked for and the government refused to provide.
During the Constituent Assembly debates in the late 1940s, no one questioned the grievous historic injustice meted out to Dalits and tribals. An independent India agreed to inherit that sin. The logical solution was a strong state that protected these groups from discrimination, providing them quality schooling, health and opportunity. But the flailing Indian state was not capable of “delivering” real social justice so quickly. Reservations were a second-best solution. Since the state could not, in a generation, correct the inequities of the past, reservations would correct caste prejudice within the state, and create a Dalit middle class. These thousands of jobs and college seats were important; but they were (and are) no substitute for more essential social justice – providing succour to the millions of deprived Dalits and tribals outside of the state. It is catastrophic to admit now, 60 years later, that far from preventing discrimination against Dalits outside the narrow confines of the state, the Indian government has been unable to protect Dalit officers within the state. That is what the bill implies. Fortunately, this is not true. Since Independence, Dalits have been empowered within the state – through quotas and powerful political parties. Overwhelming political support for the constitutional amendment is proof of this. Yet, Dalits and tribals remain the poorest, most discriminated, least literate Indians outside of the state. This then, is the 21st century consequence of what B.R. Ambedkar alluded to half-a-century ago: “in politics, we will have equality, and in social and economic life we will have inequality”. What then explains why there are, in some cases, so few senior government officers who are Dalit?
Let me suggest one. In any organisation, those who are towards the top of an entrance exam are more likely to rise to the top, compared to the bottom half. Our cabinet secretaries and foreign secretaries have typically been those nearer the top of the UPSC examination when they first joined. Even those at the bottom of the general list in the UPSC struggle to make it as Central secretaries. This is a trend seen in entrance exams everywhere. Those towards the top of an engineering or medical college entrance test tend to leave college at the top of the pile. Why should government be any different? Since Dalits and tribals are at the bottom of the merit list (since most avail of quotas), they are likely to be under-represented in senior government service decades later. Add to this the problem that since age restrictions are relaxed for them, Dalits and tribals officers tend to enter service older, retiring before reaching senior posts. Is this fair? Of course not. But the real tragedy is not why there are so few Dalits and tribals in senior government posts. It is why, 60 years after Independence, so few of them make it to the top of the general list. The answer is blindingly clear. So little government money (and frankly, the energy of social justice advocates) is spent on improving public schools, colleges and scholarships – the surest way for historically marginalised groups to overcome the lack of social capital back home. This is only a hypothesis. But it offers a compelling counter to the claim, made without any systematic evidence, that the seeming absence of Dalits in top bureaucratic posts is, of itself, evidence of discrimination.
The bill does more than divert attention from social justice. It hurts the only force (apart from the market) with the ability to improve the condition of Dalits and tribals: the state. Bureaucracy 101, since first written by Max Weber, dictates that efficient organisations have to be hierarchical and internally meritocratic. This is intuitive: if your junior or peer becomes your boss solely on the basis of identity, how likely are you to perform? By making the state the site of social justice, instead of the vehicle for social justice, the interests of the marginalised are harmed most.
Are those few politicians opposing the bill mouthing these liberal and socially just arguments? Well, Exhibit A is the Shiv Sena, about the most illiberal party in Indian history. Exhibit B is the Samajwadi Party, whose member tore a copy of the bill in Parliament. Mulayam Singh Yadav, more than any other, grasps the bill’s cynical aim. The current amendment is in response to a court judgment invalidating a law passed by Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh. Her BSP owes its origins to Dalit government officers such as Kanshi Ram, who first organised within the bureaucracy, then floated a political party outside. Dalit bureaucrats are the feeder service into Dalit politics. For Mulayam, this Bill will empower his opponent in his home state – and for that reason alone, his Lohiaite backward caste party will tear a pro-reservation bill. When illiberal and cynical laws are opposed by illiberal and cynical people, democracy’s doom is not far.
- What it Means to be a Brahmin Dalit – By Anjali Rajoria (Dec 29, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Dalit priest driven to suicide – By S. Dorairaj (Dec 29, 2012, Frontline)
- The Politics of Selective Protest – By Goldy M. George (Dec 28, 2012, Countercurrents)
- FDI in retail may bring in growth, but will the Dalits benefit? – By Udit Raj (Dec 14, 2012, Tehelka)