IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 13th, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- 2002 riots: High Court pulls up Modi govt for ‘inaction’
- SIT subverting riots probe to shield Modi; NGOs, Gandhians write to CJI seeking justice
- Gujarat govt, SIT destroyed evidence related to Godhra riots: Sanjiv Bhatt
- Ten years on, Babu Bajrangi loses his bravado
- Gujarat HC raps state govt in Ishrat Jahan case
- Amit Shah likely to be suspended as MLA
- Batla House still boiling in Azamgarh
- Former RSS activist held for Samjhauta bombing
- SHOCKING! K’tka minister caught watching porn!
- ‘Drunk’ constable molests minor from slum, suspended
Opinions & Editorials
- Modi rapped – Editorial
- What the Amicus really told the Supreme Court: Prosecute Modi! – By Ashish Khetan
- War by other means – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan
- Charged with terror, damned by aliases – By Vidya Subrahmaniam
- Lusted, and busted – Editorial
- Take It or Leave It: Hunger or NFSA? – By Sachin Kumar Jain
Indian American Muslims applaud Gujarat High Court’s decision against Modi’s Government
Saturday, February 11th, 2012
Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – https://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguard India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has expressed its pleasure at the recent Gujarat High Court’s ruling that criticized Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s inaction in stopping the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002, and its order for restoration of damaged Muslim religious places.
“It is very gratifying that the Gujarat High Court has reminded Mr. Modi, of the Government’s responsibility to protect all places of worship,” said Shaheen Khateeb, president, IAMC.
As part of its ruling, the High Court severely criticized the intelligence failures, and the Government’s inaction, that allowed the anarchy, and violence against the minority Muslim community to continue unabated for several days.
“We now hope that the honorable Court’s orders are implemented swiftly, and the approximately 600 damaged Muslim religious structures are rebuilt/ restored by the Government without any further delay,” said Khateeb.
Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.
For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.
2002 riots: High Court pulls up Modi govt for ‘inaction’
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2002 riots: High Court pulls up Modi govt for ‘inaction’ (Feb 9, 2012, Indian Express)
In by far the most stinging remarks against the Narendra Modi government in the 2002 communal riots, the Gujarat High Court today severely criticised its intelligence failure in anticipating the communal violence after the Godhra train burning incident, and “inaction” in preventing the “anarchy” that continued “unabated” for days. Hearing a plea on damage to religious structures during the violence, the court also held the state government reponsible for either compensating for the damage or reimbursing the cost of repairs.
Passing strictures against the state government, the court said: “Failure on the part of the police intelligence to gather such ‘general reaction’ (over the Godhra train burning) in time and to take appropriate timely action definitely comes within the expression ‘negligence of the State’ even if we for the sake of argument accept the defence of the State that the cause of riot was the ‘general reaction from the incident of Sabarmati Express’. Similarly, the fact that the riot continued for several days itself suggests lack of appropriate action or adequate action, if not inaction, on the part of the State.”
Given the “inadequate endeavour” on its part, “resulting in destruction of more than 500 places of religious worship belonging only to the one religious community”, the high court said, it was the duty of the government to restore the same, “irrespective of the religion”. A division bench of the high court comprising Acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala passed the order while acting on a PIL moved by the Islamic Relief Committee Gujarat. The state government may now have to compensate for damage sustained by nearly 600 places of worship, including the shrine of Urdu poet Wali Gujarati in Shahibaug area.
The Islamic Relief Committee mainly relied on reports of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which stated that it was the duty of the state government to protect places of worship. The NHRC had also recommended that Gujarat get these religious structures repaired expeditiously. The petitioner had also contended that the state government had already compensated for the damage caused to residential and business buildings in the riots. The Modi government had opposed the petition contending that the religious structures damaged during the riots didn’t fall under the “general reaction” to the Godhra train burning category, and that the state had no policy to provide compensation to such places for the damage sustained by them.
The court called this “preposterous”. “The above policy rather would give a wrong signal to citizens that for the protection of religious places… they should take up arms in their own hands… The above policy will also encourage religious bigots to destroy religious and other places of worship of the economically weaker sections… for the purpose of establishing their superiority,” the bench said. The court asked the authorities concerned to file a claim regarding the damaged structures before the respective district courts. The state government has been allowed to recover the compensated amount from those convicted for the damage to the structures. Hailing the HC judgment, Dr Shakeel Ahmed of the Islamic Relief Committee said that it had proved their faith in the judiciary. “The judgment has provided the state government a golden opportunity to initiate a reconciliation process and to heal the wounds (of 2002 riots).”
- Fix places of worship destroyed in 2002 riots, Guj HC to Modi (Feb 8, 2012, Express India)
- HC pulls up Modi govt for not tabling NHRC report (Feb 9, 2012, IBN)
- Modi has lost moral right to stay in office after HC verdict: Cong (Feb 9, 2012, Times of India)
- Modi is ‘con’, not a public servant: Cong (Feb 8, 2012, Indian Express)
SIT subverting riots probe to shield Modi; NGOs, Gandhians write to CJI seeking justice (Feb 6, 2012, Economic Times)
Civil society groups and veteran Gandhians in Gujarat have alleged the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team was “subverting” probe in the 2002 riot cases to shield Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others. In a letter to Chief Justice of India (CJI) S H Kapadia, they have questioned the integrity of the SIT, headed by former CBI Director R K Raghavan, in probing the riot cases in a just and unbiased manner.
“As citizens of Gujarat we write to you, concerned that a historic investigation under the supervision of the Supreme Court since 2008 is being subverted by vested interests inimical to the rule of law,” the letter claimed. “This could prove disastrous for lasting and sustainable justice that has to be the pre-requisite for peace and harmony (in the state).”
“We are concerned and puzzled at the silence of SIT over media reports on it filing closure report with regard to Zakia Jaffery’s complaint against Modi and 62 others,” veteran Gandhian Chunibhai Vaidya told mediapersons here after releasing the letter.
Others who have signed the letter include former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta, Father Cedric Prakash, of Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, former VC of Bhavnagar University Vidhyut Joshi, General Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Gautam Thaker, and Dwarikanath of Movement for Secular Democracy and others.
- Nandita Das draws parallels between Modi & Hitler (Feb 6, 2012, Times of India)
- Gujarat Congress asks SIT to prosecute Narendra Modi (Feb 7, 2012, IBN)
- Hashmi calls for Modi’s ‘political encounter’ (Feb 11, 2012, Times of India)
- ‘Modi’s decision to bring bodies back to A’bad from Godhra instigated riots’ (Feb 8, 2012, DNA India)
Gujarat govt, SIT destroyed evidence related to Godhra riots: Sanjiv Bhatt (Feb 11, 2012, Times of India)
Against the backdrop of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT reportedly giving a clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt today accused the state government and the probe agency of “destroying” records related to 2002 post-Godhra riots. In a letter written to the Nanavati Commission, Bhatt alleged the crucial records related to 2002 post-Godhra riots have been “destroyed” by Gujarat government and SIT.
“It is my genuine apprehension that relevant records have been deviously suppressed or destroyed by the government of Gujarat, as well as the SIT headed by R K Raghavan,” Bhatt wrote in his letter to Justice G T Nanavati and Justice Akshay Mehta Commission probing the 2002 riots here. “This has been done with the diabolical motive of shielding powerful persons from legal punishment by ensuring that crucial and relevant incriminating evidence is not brought before the courts of law,” he charged.
Bhatt’s allegations comes after the SIT, in its final report submitted to the magistrate court, has reportedly given a clean chit to Modi and others. “The delay on part of the Commission in requisitioning the relevant public records and documents has, inadvertently or otherwise, facilitated the destruction of incriminating evidence against the Gujarat chief minister or other Ministers in his council,” Bhatt alleged. Bhatt urged the Commission to ensure that relevant records are not destroyed by the “vested interests”.
“The honourable Commission is once again requested to ensure that relevant records are not destroyed by the vested interests in the administrative machinery of the state government whose own conduct is under inquiry,” he stated. Bhatt was posted as the deputy commissioner of intelligence with the state intelligence bureau (SIB) from 1999 to 2002. Bhatt, in an affidavit before the Supreme Court, had alleged Modi, during a meeting on February 27, 2002, instructed top police officials of the state to allow the Hindus to vent their anger after the Godhra train burning incident. He had deposed before the Commission in May last year.
- Gujarat riots: SIT should be held for contempt of court, say Teesta’s lawyer (Feb 13, 2012, DNA India)
- Fresh petitions filed in Zakia Jaffery case (Feb 9, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Now, Modhwadia shoots off letter to Raghavan (Feb 8, 2012, Indian Express)
- Panels agree on incident, disagree on inference (Feb 12, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Ten years on, Babu Bajrangi loses his bravado (Feb 7, 2012, Times of India)
Qutbuddin Ansari and Babu Bajrangi represent diametrically opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Qutbuddin is the face of riot victims and Bajrangi is accused in two of the worst massacres in the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Naroda Patia and Naroda Gam. As many as 106 people were killed on February 28 ten years ago. There is, however, one similarity – they both hate to be photographed.
When TOI recently approached him for an interview, he said, “I will not utter a single word. I am a harassed man and don’t want to be harassed any more.” But he was not always this camera-shy. He was known to be loud and make flamboyant statements until he was caught on camera in a sting operation, boasting about how he felt like a king after the bloodshed. He was jailed briefly after the riots, but was granted bail.
Later, he found another “mission” in life – “rescuing” Hindu girls who wanted to marry Muslim boys. Besides his routine business as a real estate broker, this mission of protecting “Hindu honour” bloomed with the police officials turning a blind eye towards his activities. It was the Supreme Court that finally int erve ned and slapped a show-cause notice on the state government over a complaint of harassment and abduction of women.
Meanwhile, the Bajrang Dal disowned him, and Bajrangi found a refuge in Shiv Sena for a short time in 2007. A year later, the apex court set up special investigation team (SIT) to probe the 2002 riots and Bajrangi disappeared from the spotlight. As hearings started in the Naroda Patia and Naroda Gam cases, Bajrangi limited his activities to acting as a mediator in business disputes. He preferred to remain in hibernation because, of all the people accused in the 2002 riots, SIT wanted only one man’s bail cancelled – his.
Bajrangi now has a tight schedule. After an hour of ‘shirshasan’ and prayers to Bajrang Bali, he prepares for court proceedings, where his day ends. This routine has lasted for more than two and a half years now.
- Never visited relief camp or riot-hit areas in 2002: Zadafia Ahmedabad (Feb 7, 2012, Indian Express)
- 5 children among 14 victims of Deepda Darwaja (Feb 12, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- It’s official: Aam Gujarati will pay for Modi’s Sadbhavana fasts (Feb 10, 2012, Indian Express)
- PC Pande was present at Gulberg: SIT report (Feb 11, 2012, DNA India)
Gujarat HC raps state govt in Ishrat Jahan case (Feb 11, 2012, DNA India)
For the second time in a week, the state government came under fire from the Gujarat high court for its tardy response – this time in connection with the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. A division bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari on Friday heavily criticised the Minister of State for Home Praful Patel for failing to carry out its order to transfer three police officers connected with the case. The court later let off the minister with a word of caution after he tendered an unconditional apology.
In April 2011 the court had issued a notice to the home department, after it failed to comply with its order passed two months prior to it, for transferring three police officers – GL Singhal, Tarun Barot and PP Pande – who are suspects in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case of 2004. Additional chief secretary, home, Balwant Singh had then filed an affidavit, seeking apology on behalf of the state government. Dissatisfied with Singh’s reply, the court had called for records of the file movement, pursuant to its orders for transferring three police officers. It was found that the file was lying with the MoS (Home) Praful Patel for nearly two months.
The court then sought an explanation from the minister, following which he filed a reply, stating that the delay in transferring the officers was because he was occupied with state assembly’s budget session. Coming down heavily on the minister, the court asked the Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, who appeared on behalf of the state government, if the entire administration stops functioning during the assembly session.
“It is unbelievable that the minister was not aware of the high court’s order… do the files not move during the assembly session?” the court asked. It further said that political agenda should not play a role in implementing the HC order. The court further observed that there was a contempt of court in the matter whether intentional or unintentional. “It is not that the state played role without partiality,” it further observed.
The delay in transfer of three officers had caused damage to the probe that was being carried out by the HC appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), the court said, adding that it had, in its judgement ordering CBI probe into the Ishrat fake encounter case, mentioned about attempts being made to derail the probe. The court later took a lenient view of the matter and let off the minister with a word of caution after it was assured that the latter would within two weeks provide an undertaking promising to comply with all the orders of the court.
- Ishrat: HC cautions minister for contempt (Feb 11, 2012, Indian Express)
- Two IPS officers under scanner (Feb 11, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- DIG’s quizzing in Sohrabuddin case riles AP IPS fraternity (Feb 11, 2012, Times of India)
- Kauser probe: CBI will send samples of soil to Germany (Feb 9, 2012, Indian Express)
Amit Shah likely to be suspended as MLA (Feb 8, 2012, Indian Express)
Former Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, a key accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case who has remained absent from the state Assembly for a long time, is likely to be suspended as MLA in the Budget session starting February 23. Shah represents the Sarkhej constituency in Ahmedabad district and has got over Rs 9 lakh as salary and perks as a legislator, though he has not attended a single House session since his arrest in July 2010, after which he had stepped down as minister.
When asked, Assembly secretary D M Patel said, “As per the constitutional provision under section 190 and the state Assembly rules, any MLA who does not attend Assembly proceedings for 60 consecutive days, he/she is automatically considered as suspended. Shah’s 60 days will end in the budget session. He has not attended the last six sessions.” Patel added that any member of the House can move a proposal in the upcoming session to permanently suspend the absent member.
“There is a committee of the Assembly for absentee MLAs (presently headed by BJP MLA Fathesinh Chauhan), which can also suggest suspension. However, finally the House would decide by voting whether to suspend a member.” The Supreme Court had, in October 2010, restrained Shah from entering the state after he was granted bail. Last month, the BJP leader filled an appeal in the SC to allow him to enter Gujarat. The CBI has opposed the appeal. Since July 2010, Shah has regularly been getting his salary and allowances as an MLA. “Shah still draws his salary and perks (Rs 48,890 per month),” said Patel
- Tulsiram was in jail during Haren murder (Jan 24, 2012, Times of India)
- Gujarat HC dismisses Pandya wife’s petition (Feb 6, 2012, Indian Express)
- CBI, state govt against HC hearing Haren Pandya case (Feb 6, 2012, Times of India)
- Sadiq Jamal killing: High Court grants CBI extension till June 30 (Feb 8, 2012, Indian Express)
Batla House still boiling in Azamgarh (Feb 10, 2012, Twocircles.net)
“Batla House encounter is a pain in my heart. It is in the heart of everybody here. It is not just in our mind,” says Abul Kalam, a retired lecturer sitting in the compound of his house in Beenapara village. People particularly Muslims in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh have not forgot the shootout that happened on 19th September 2008 in Batla House locality of Jamia Nagar in New Delhi. Two youths of Sanjarpur village, about five kms from Beenapara, were killed in the encounter. “It was not an encounter, it was a murder. Digvijay Singh of Congress still says it was fake. Six bullets in the upper part of head tell all. Were they shot from helicopter?,” asks Kalam adding that only a probe would satisfy us and it can help Congress improve its image on the issue.
“Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh could have ordered an enquiry. This was necessary to clean the image of their party. If the probe said it was fake, we would have accepted it and the issue had gone out of our mind,” says Kalam. Shakeel Ahmed, an elderly person again in Beenapara village says: “Batla House is still in the mind of people. People think it was a fake encounter, it must be enquired into. Post mortem report also says it is a fake encounter. Congress leader Digvijays says it’s fake but home minister says it was genuine.” Azamgarh is going to poll on Saturday (11th Feb.) in the 2nd Phase of UP Assembly polls. Whoever you talk about the issues, he will not miss Batla House. Dr Shamim Ahmed runs a clinic in Sanjarpur, the village of the two youths – Atif Ameen and Mohd Sajid – who were killed in the Batla House encounter. Dr. Ahmed says: “Batla is a factor in this election. People will keep it in mind when they will be casting vote.”
Masihuddin, a noted social activist in Sanjarpur, says the issue is heavy in the mind and people are against Mayawati besides Congress on this issue. As Congress is hardly seen in the election map in this region, the BSP will face the wrath. “Batla House is in the mind of people. They are angry against BSP supremo and chief minister Mayawati as she did not utter a word on the issue,” says Masihuddin and adds that SP could get an edge after making some promise the issue of victim youths of terror probes. “There is resentment against BSP while SP manifesto on terror issue has got attraction of Muslims,” he says.
Dr. Shahid Badr, a unani practitioner and former president of Students Islamic Movement of India, has similar views. He also sees Batla as a big issue and says Muslims are angry with everyone who has cheated them or done nothing on the issue. “Batla is a big issue. Muslims are angry with all who did not utter a word of sympathy or keep the promises they made on the issue. They are much angry against Congress which rejected their repeated appeal for an enquiry. Digvijay Singh of Congress says it was fake but home minister says it was genuine. They are angry against Mayawati also because she did not say a word on Batla issue,” says Dr. Badr. He also says that Samajwadi Party could get an edge on this issue particularly after promising to do for innocent youths languishing in jail in terror cases. Samajwadi Party has mentioned this in its manifesto.
Dr Jawed Akhtar, an eminent personality in the city says: “Batla House encounter is one of the major issues in this election. It will affect the result of election. We wanted political parties to declare their manifesto on this issue. No party is serious. I have personally met home minister and law minister but they did nothing. I asked home minister that enquires are done in many cases. There has been huge hue and cry over this issue, and there are substantial evidences showing the encounter was fake, then why aren’t you ordering probe, he had no clear answer. He also agrees that SP will have an edge over the issue particularly after mentioning terror victim issue in the manifesto and also because BSP chief Mayawati has not uttered a word on this issue.
- Khurshid says Sonia cried over Batla pics; red-faced Cong denies claim (Feb 11, 2012, Times of India)
- Khurshid faces Cong fire for Sonia remark (Feb 10, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Cong enacting drama on Batla House encounter: Mayawati (Feb 11, 2012, IBN)
- Where Batla House hurts, Cong looks to limit damage (Feb 10, 2012, Indian Express)
Former RSS activist held for Samjhauta bombing (Feb 13, 2012, The Hindu)
Less than a week short of the fifth anniversary of the firebombing of the Samjhauta Express, detectives of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) have held a Madhya Pradesh resident on suspicion of having participated in the terrorist cell which carried out the attack – the first breakthrough in over a year against a core group of fugitives who have been eluded arrest since 2008. Kamal Chauhan, NIA sources have told The Hindu, is believed to be one of the four men who planted incendiary devices on the Lahore-bound train on February 18, 2007, killing 68 people. “We believe Chauhan has critical information that could lead us to the rest of the plotters,” an NIA official said.
The Mhow-born Chauhan, a long-standing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist, is the second alleged perpetrator of the bombing to be held. Lokesh Sharma, an Indore-based Hindutva activist held in June 2010 for having participated in the meeting in which the terrorist attack was planned, will now face fresh charges of having participated in the bombing itself, the sources said. The bombs, the NIA now believes, were manufactured by fugitive Hindutva terrorist Sandeep Dange, an RSS leader who, investigators say, was the core figure in the planning of a series of Hindutva terrorist attacks that began in 2002. Ramchandra Kalsangra, another RSS activist from Madhya Pradesh who served as Dange’s alleged lieutenant, is also being sought by authorities in connection with the case.
Much of the details of the Samjhauta attack planning has come from Naba Kumar Sarkar, a leader of the Gujarat-based, RSS-affiliated Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. In December 2010, Sarkar confessed to a Delhi magistrate that he was present at a June, 2006 meeting in which the firebombing and a string of other terrorist attacks were planned against Muslims. The idea of firebombing the Samjhauta Express, he claimed, was conceived by Dange as part of a series of terrorist strikes, which included bombings in Malegaon, Hyderabad and the Ajmer Sharif shrine.
Later, Sarkar sought to withdraw his confessional statement, saying it had been made under threat to his life. A final legal determination on its status is yet to be made. Many members of the group, NIA investigators say, were long-serving RSS activists who became disillusioned with the Hindu right-wing’s refusal to replicate the 2002 communal killings in Gujarat nationwide. Harshad Solanki, who the NIA believes participated in the bombing of the Ajmer Sharif shrine in October, 2007, was given refuge by Dange when he fled Gujarat to avoid arrest after evidence surfaced of his role of in the 2002 massacre.
- Samjhauta case: Is NIA’s latest catch a big fish? (Feb 13, 2012, Rediff)
- Israeli couple suspected of being agents, to be deported (Feb 7, 2012, Times of India)
- 26/11: Prosecution files appeal for early hearing (Feb 7, 2012, IBN)
- National Counter Terrorism Centre to open in March (Feb 7, 2012, The Hindu)
SHOCKING! K’tka minister caught watching porn! (Feb 7, 2012, Rediff)
There was some more embarrassment for the government in Karnataka when a minister was caught watching a pornographic clip when proceedings were on in the legislative assembly in Bengaluru.
The television camera crews which were stationed in the legislative assembly caught cooperation minister Lakshman Savadi watching a clip on a mobile phone.
The minister was said to be watching the clip while the assembly was engaged in a heated debate regarding some miscreants hoisting the Pakistan flag in a village in northern Karnataka a few weeks back. The opposition has demanded that action be taken against the ministers for lowering the dignity of the House.
- Karnataka porn row: BJP MLAs barred from attending assembly, panel set up for inquiry (Feb 8, 2012, Times of India)
- Dirty picture: State erupts in protest (Feb 8, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Send porn scandal ministers to jail: Anna Hazare (Feb 8, 2012, Rediff)
- Post-BJP porn row, Nitish Kumar MLA Shyambahadur in bar girls wrangle (Feb 10, 2012, Indian Express)
‘Drunk’ constable molests minor from slum, suspended (Feb 12, 2012, Hindustan Times)
A 26-year-old Delhi Police constable, who was allegedly under the influence of alcohol, molested a minor girl at central Delhi’s Mandir Marg, while routinely patrolling his beat on Friday evening. Cops admitted that constable Vikas Tomar, who joined the police force in 2010, was booked for using force to restrain a 12-year-old slum dweller with the intent to outrage her modesty on the ridge road.
“A case of molestation has been registered and the accused has been placed under suspension,” said KC Dwivedi, additional CP (New Delhi). Sources said the incident occurred between 9 and 11pm on February 10, when the victim was walking back home. She lives in a slum cluster on the ridge road and helps her domestic help mother earn a living. “She was coming from a small market nearby when Tomar, who was alone and out on patrolling duty on foot, saw her and asked her to stop,” a senior police officer said.
The girl, a source claimed, complied and walked-over to Tomar, who was reeking of alcohol, and started asking her ‘irrelevant questions’ in a bid to ‘scare and restrain her longer than necessary’. “When she tried to walk away after answering his questions, Tomar grabbed her by the arm and molested her. He then walked away and went back to patrolling his beat as if nothing had happened, while the girl went crying to her parents,” the officer said. A case was formally registered and Tomar was placed under suspension on Saturday.
- Court sends cop, friend to jail in molestation case (Feb 8, 2012, Times of India)
- Kandhamal riots: SC to examine raped nun’s plea (Feb 10, 2012, IBN)
- Pipili gangrape: Odisha Women’s Commission slams doctors (Feb 3, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Five get 10 years’ jail term in sex scandal case (Feb 8, 2012, Indian Express)
Opinions and Editorials
Modi rapped – Editorial (Feb 10, 2012, Times of India)
It’s the harshest legal stricture against Narendra Modi so far. The Gujarat high court on Wednesday severely pulled up the chief minister for not only failing to anticipate the post-Godhra communal violence in 2002 – but also allowing “anarchy” to rule “unabated” for days in the state. Further, the court has also asked the Modi dispensation to restore the places of worship destroyed due to the government’s inadequacy and inaction during the riots. The Gujarat government may now have to repair the damage inflicted on nearly 600 sites of worship, including the shrine of the famous Urdu poet Wali Gujarati in Shahibaug area, in the course of the 2002 violence.
This clearly is a case of better late than never. Almost a decade since the riots, Modi has been admonished for acts of omission as the state’s chief administrator, in charge of ensuring law and order. The stricture is especially significant given that, though haunted by the riots, Modi, so far, hasn’t been indicted for direct complicity in the violence. In this context, the court has conveyed an important reminder: that a chief minister is duty-bound to protect the state’s citizens as well as its religious places.
Also, that any failure by the government and the law-enforcing machinery to fulfil their mandate is a serious offence in the eye of the law. The observation is especially significant when governments – across the spectrum but in recent times usually from the BJP – have often failed to take adequate measures to control communal violence. Equally importantly, the high court stricture offers a balm for the 2002 riot victims, still awaiting justice.
- A past that will not pass – Editorial (Feb 11, 2012, The Hindu)
- Interim relief – Editorial (Feb 11, 2012, Deccan Herald)
What the Amicus really told the Supreme Court: Prosecute Modi! – By Ashish Khetan (Feb 11, 2012, Tehelka)
In the past week the media has been reporting that the SIT has filed a closure report that gives a “clean chit” to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on the grounds that there is no prosecutable evidence against him. However, Tehelka has now scooped amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran’s explosive confidential report that had told the Supreme Court that Modi should be chargesheeted and prosecuted for serious criminal offences like promoting religious enmity, doing acts prejudicial to national integration and maintenance of harmony and deliberately and wantonly disobeying the law with intent to cause injury. Ramachandran recommended criminal prosecution against Modi under different cognizable and non-cognizable offences with some of them carrying a maximum imprisonment for three years. Importantly, Ramachandran, a senior Supreme Court lawyer who was appointed as Amicus Curiae by the three judge bench of the Supreme Court in November 2010, had made these recommendations based on the SIT’s own probe reports. It appears the only gap is in the conclusions that SIT Chairman RK Raghavan and the amicus curiae came to, based on what the SIT had found.
Raghavan had claimed in his concluding remarks that there was no “prosecutable evidence” to chargesheet Modi and direct him to stand trial. However, after carefully studying statements of witnesses and accused recorded by the SIT and other documentary evidence collected by the probe agency and also his own interactions with several key witnesses, Ramachandran came to a different conclusion and, in a hard-hitting report, told the Supreme Court and the SIT that Modi needed to be chargesheeted on several counts and to draw any other inference or legal action like dropping the charges altogether as proposed by the SIT was illogical and legally untenable. Ramachandran had placed his report before the court in May 2011 after over eight months of perusing several SIT reports which recommended that the case against Modi should be closed as there was no prosecutable evidence against him. Over the last week, media reports have been speculating about Ramachandran’s recommendation, with some publications going to the extent of claiming that Ramachandran and SIT Chairman RK Raghvan had completely concurred on all the conclusions drawn by the SIT and had together recommended the closure of the case against Modi.
Now that Tehelka has got first hand access of Ramachandran’s report, it finds far from dropping the case, the amicus curiae had, in fact, recommended criminal prosecution against the Gujarat Chief Minister for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots under sections 153A, 153B, 166 and 505 of Indian Penal Code. Conviction under these sections carry a jail term of between one and three years. Ramachandran’s recommendations if followed would have had an unprecedented impact on the Indian criminal justice system which often sees the powerful being let off either because of sloppy investigation or dilatory legal proceedings. The amicus’s report demolished the core argument put forth by the SIT for not pressing charges against Modi, which is lack of prosecutable evidence. He first defined the relevant sections applicable to Modi, laid down their legal scope and then cited several Supreme Court case laws before emphatically concluding that Modi should be sent to trial. Though there were also many points on which he concurred with SIT Chairman Raghavan the main point of concurrence was that, on the basis of material gathered by the SIT so far, there was not enough ground to charge Modi of conspiracy. However, he held that dropping all other criminal charges against Modi was legally untenable. His report demonstrates that the impediment in the course of justice for the riots of Gujarat 2002 is neither lack of evidence nor lack of law. If anything, the problem lies with a disturbingly selective application of law.
These are the sections under which Ramachandran recommended Modi should be chargesheeted and tried: Section 505 IPC lays down the punishment for making statements which promote enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes and prescribes punishment which may extend to imprisonment of three years. Section 166 IPC prescribes a maximum imprisonment of one year for those public servants who knowingly disobey any direction of law, as to the way in which he is to conduct himself s such public servant, intending to cause injury to any person. SIT itself has chronicled several instances where Modi’s conduct was divisive and prejudiced against the minorities and thus against his constitutional duty of protecting the life and property of every citizen of the state. SIT Chairman RK Raghavan had noted on page 13 of his report dated 13 May 2010 give to the SC that Modi’s statement “accusing some elements in Godhra and the neighbourhood as possessing a criminal tendency was sweeping and offensive coming as it did from a chief minister, that too at a critical time when Hindu-Muslim tempers were running high.
Section 153A IPC lays down maximum imprisonment of 3 years for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. The SIT report had stated on page 69 that, “In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Similarly, Section 153B lays down a maximum imprisonment of three years for making imputations or assertions prejudicial to national integration. He also underlined the fact that his conclusions were based on the material collected by the SIT and placed before him. Since he was merely an amicus he had no powers or authority to carry out any independent investigation into the charges against Modi and his officials. The maximum he could have done was to carefully study the material put together by SIT and draw just, reasonable and legally sound conclusions. The fact that a mere reasonable interpretation of the SIT’s own probe has thrown up evidence of Modi’s culpability shows that SIT’s repeated insistence of dropping the case against Modi is highly questionable and perhaps a matter of an investigation by itself. …
- From lab to field – By Anupama Katakam (Feb 11, 2012, Frontline)
War by other means – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Feb 11, 2012, Frontline)
The design of the array of political, social and religious outfits in the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-led Sangh Parivar is such that they can jointly and severally advance their collective ideological and organisational objectives using diverse tactics and stratagems. Multi-speak is an important component of the strategies employed by the Hindutva combine. At times these organisations adopt seemingly contradictory views on a variety of issues. Sometimes they even put their fundamentalist slogans on the back burner in the interest of political or organisational expediency. But, even while doing so, the Parivar affiliates take forward the various facets of the central ideological theme of Hindutva, particularly at the social and cultural levels. This aspect of the right wing has once again come to the fore through a number of initiatives taken by a clutch of Hindutva organisations, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political arm of the Sangh Parivar, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), its self-professed ideological sword arm. Central to this new focus on the social and cultural manoeuvres by the Hindutva combine is the passage of a number of amendments to strengthen the Madhya Pradesh Gauvansh Pratishedh Adhiniyam (Madhya Pradesh Bovine Prohibition Act, 2004). The amendments passed by the Shivraj Singh Chauhan-led BJP government have added a new dimension to the cow protection laws existing in many States. The amendments have clauses that make even the consumption of beef illegal. It also stipulates that a person found guilty of cow slaughter will be liable to face up to seven years of imprisonment instead of the earlier provision of three years.
This renewed aggressive pursuit of the long-standing Hindutva agenda of cow protection has assumed significance at various levels. The slogan has been a key component of the pan-Hindu identity politics that the proponents of Hindutva have sought to advance for over eight decades. Since its inception in 1925, the RSS has formed a widespread network of Gau Raksha Samitis (cow protection societies) that maintain gaushalas (cowsheds), particularly in north India. These societies have a history of instigating riots over the issue of cow protection. They had apparently played a divisive role even during the freedom struggle. At the political level, cow protection has been a key theme of the BJP since the 1950s when it went by the name of Jan Sangh. The slogans on this issue promoted a divisive agenda. One oft-repeated slogan of the cow protection societies is: “Cow is holy for Hindus, Muslims eat it to insult the Hindu faith.” The Chauhan government’s preparations for introducing the Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Vidheyak, 2010 (Prohibition of Slaughter of Cow Progeny (Amendment) Bill), were apparently triggered by a massive signature campaign undertaken by the VHP through its Vishwa Mangala Gou Grama Yatra, which travelled through different parts of the country in early 2010. It is also significant that the aggressive revival of the cow protection agenda comes at a time when the BJP has apparently put its core ideological agenda, consisting of the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370, and the imposition of a uniform civil code, on the back burner. The BJP has not launched any aggressive campaign on these three issues for more than half a decade, since the shock defeat it suffered in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Clearly, political expediency has dictated this withdrawal because many of the BJP’s allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), such as the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United), have expressed reservations about advancing these issues. This context has also led to some debate within the BJP, with sections arguing that the Hindutva element of the party needs to be diluted and replaced with a laissez faire, free market-oriented political thrust.
However, the Chauhan government’s move shows that while the BJP and its central leadership may not be as vocal as they used to be on the three proclaimed core ideological issues and may even discuss alternative ideas in pursuing right-wing politics, the party’s State units would continue to advance Hindutva causes, which have pronounced anti-minority dimensions, in manifold ways. It is not Madhya Pradesh alone that has traversed this path. All the States that have come under the political and organisational influence of the Sangh Parivar have shown this tendency in varying degrees. Before Chauhan’s cow protection initiative, Gujarat had come up with amendments to an Act that dealt with the prohibition of transfer of immovable property and stipulated provisions for the protection of tenants from eviction from premises in disturbed areas. The amendment gave the government the right to decide how the transaction of property in disturbed areas should take place. Given Gujarat’s track record of the past 10 years, as also the prevailing administrative climate in the State, this was obviously heavily loaded against the Muslim minority. The Chhattisgarh government’s anti-conversion Bill of 2006 had similar characteristics. A closer look at this phenomenon has revealed that the trend of promoting Hindutva-oriented legislative and administrative action as well as the discrimination of minorities is all the more pronounced in States where the BJP had been in power for relatively long periods. A look at the functioning of the BJP-ruled governments underscores the point that numerous aspects of governance, including the drafting of legislation, policy orientation, issuance of executive orders, maintenance of law and order and routine day-to-day administrative functioning, are exploited for this purpose (see separate stories). Almost all BJP-ruled States have, at some point or the other, witnessed attempts to promote the Hindutva world view through revision of textbooks. This is in tune with the view of the Sangh Parivar leadership that education is a crucial tool in promoting its visions about society and the world. In Madhya Pradesh, even the nomenclature of teachers has been revised as part of this exercise. The Chauhan government’s preferred title for teachers is rishi.
A variety of Sangh Parivar constituents such as the Bajrang Dal, the VHP and the Seva Bharati supplement this Hindutva thrust using methods ranging from social service to propaganda to threats to downright oppression. While the Seva Bharati and Ekal Vidyalayas have a record of sustained work in the realm of education and promotion of literacy, outfits such as the Bajrang Dal seek to dominate local communities by imposing Hindutva-oriented social mores and religious practices. The efforts in education and social sectors are facilitated in numerous ways by a number of Hindutva organisations, including those based abroad. Here too, there is a range of outfits that the Sangh Parivar can choose from at different times for different tasks. The VHP of America openly embraces Hindutva while organisations such as the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) are camouflaged under the constitutional format of a charity group. The IDRF has provided huge financial support (running into millions of dollars) to organisations in the education sector. The social impact of these manoeuvres is undoubtedly far-reaching. Reports from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP has been in power since 1998 and 2003 respectively, point to increasing ghettoisation of minority communities, particularly the Muslim community. These reports also underscore the systematic attempts to subvert the secular character of the education system (see separate story). The Independent People’s Tribunal on Communalism, which consisted of eminent citizens like the historian K.N. Panikkar, Justice S.N. Bhargava, the sociologist Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, and Planning Commission member Syeeda Hameed, studied issues relating to this in detail five years ago by getting depositions from people in 16 States, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. The tribunal pointed out methodical attempts to marginalise the minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians. Specifically, it also noted that there were attempts at systematic clearing or dispossession of lands belonging to members of minority communities. The subtle and not-so-subtle communalisation of the bureaucracy, especially lower-level officials, the police and the district administration, facilitated these discriminatory processes. The tribunal noted that “the criminal justice system in several States appears to be under the influence of Hindutva force and consequently there are instances of false cases being foisted against innocent Muslims”. Other trends pointed out by the tribunal included denial of education to members of minority communities as well as attempts at their social and economic boycott. The BJP-ruled States present any number of instances of the practice of the trends identified by the tribunal. The circular issued by the Chauhan government last year to all police stations directing them to collect information about Christians, including data on the number of priests, bishops, schools and institutions, is a case in point. The circular directed the police stations to find out what sort of political patronage the community received and what their economic sources were and to identify Christians with criminal antecedents.
While these initiatives of the BJP governments and the Sangh Parivar affiliates continue apace in diverse areas, the VHP has been quietly organising shudhi melas (conclaves of purification) with the objective of making people embrace Hinduism. One such mela was organised in December 2011 at Shajahanpur in Uttar Pradesh. According to VHP activists, 1,200 people embraced Hinduism at the mela.”Such melas were organised in Haryana and Jharkhand too last year,” an Uttar Pradesh-based VHP activist told Frontline. He said this initiative of the Sangh Parivar was a not-so-open challenge to the prosleytisation being carried out by Christian missionaries. Cumulatively, all these activities, from amending or drafting pieces of legislation to issuing administrative orders by BJP governments to the shudhi melas, signify that the Sangh Parivar is continuing on the Hindutva path using different means. At another level, the silence at the national level on the controversial core Hindutva issues combined with the pursuit of other aspects of the Hindutva agenda points to the political and organisational felicity of the Sangh Parivar. In fact, it has displayed this felicity repeatedly in the past four and a half decades. In the 1970s, before the imposition of the Emergency in 1975, it aligned with the Jayaprakash Narayan-led Total Revolution, suggesting that it would play second fiddle to the Socialist leader. Post-Emergency and following the defeat of the Congress in 1977, the RSS even took the “boldest” decision to merge the Jan Sangh with the Janata Party, which consisted of diverse groups ranging from the Socialist Party to the free market-oriented Swatantra Party. However, when the dual membership in the RSS became an issue in the Janata Party, it displayed the skill to reinvent itself as the BJP, with professed values of Gandhian socialism. By the mid-1980s, this adherence to Gandhian socialism was given up in favour of an aggressive Hindutva and the campaign for a Ram temple at the spot where the Babri Masjid stood in Ayodhya. The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 took the emotive content out of the Ayodhya campaign, and the Sangh Parivar once again nuanced the aggressive pursuit of Hindutva. At the peak of the Ayodhya movement in 1990-92, large sections of the Sangh Parivar had seen visions of the rise of a pan-Hindu political identity, but the demolition of the Babri Masjid alienated sizable segments of secular Hindu society, even those who had regard for some leaders in the BJP. …
- Working in real time – By Ajit Doval (Feb 12, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Saffron projects – By Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed (Feb 11, 2012, Frontline)
Charged with terror, damned by aliases – By Vidya Subrahmaniam (Feb 7, 2012, The Hindu)
Mohammad Aamir had just turned 18, when one February day in 1998, he was ambushed by a police van. A month later, he found himself thrown against the cold, forbidding walls of a prison cell in the capital’s Tihar jail. The charges were murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation. Aamir, released in January this year after 14 years, was named the main accused in 20 low-intensity bomb blasts executed over 10 months – between December 1996 and October 1997 – in Delhi, Rohtak, Sonepat and Ghaziabad. The blasts led to five deaths in all. Five explosions were on moving buses, 10 occurred in the month of October 1997, five of these during a single evening in places as wide apart as Sadar Bazar in Delhi and Ghaziabad, many miles away. The Ghaziabad blasts were reported from three different coaches of the Frontier Mail. Aamir and his co-accused Shakeel were charged with physically planting the bombs. Curiously, Shakeel, Aamir’s main prop, was discharged before the start of hearing in 10 of the cases. More curiously, in 2009, he was found hanging from the ceiling of his barrack in Dasna Jail. In a further twist, then Jail Superintendent V.K. Singh was charged with Shakeel’s murder.
Aamir’s is an extraordinary story. His counsel and well-known criminal lawyer N.D. Pancholi says he has not seen a case like this in his career of 35 years: “It is incredible that a young boy of 18 has been named the mastermind and executor in 20 bomb blast cases on the thinnest of evidence. The case reinforces the demand for urgent police reforms.” As the charges piled up, Aamir , who was always Aamir to family and friends, acquired a bewildering array of aliases, becoming known in police and court records as Accused no 1, Md. Aamir Khan@ Kamran @Imran@ AbuAkasa @ Arif @Umer. Over the following 14 years, the darkness and isolation of Aamir’s solitary high-security cell became his world even as the world outside changed unrecognisably: the capital grew flyovers and got shiny new malls and the metro. His father, in financial ruin and broken from failing to free his only son, died without Aamir knowing about it. His mother, struck down by a brain haemorrhage, lost her voice and became paralytic. When Aamir, now 32, finally walked free, he had been acquitted in 18 of the 20 terror cases – an astonishing acknowledgement of the lack of evidence against him. Indeed without a single witness in any of the cases connecting him to the blasts, the trial court – which acquitted him in 17 cases – came up with the same line on each judgment day: “there is absolutely no incriminating evidence against the accused.” The Delhi High Court which overturned one of the three cases that went into appeal said: “the prosecution has miserably failed to adduce any evidence to connect the accused appellant with the charges framed, much less prove them.”
The trend points strongly to acquittal in the two remaining cases. In any event, there is the tragic irony of Aamir having already served more than the maximum prison term of 10 years for offences made out in each case. The first thing he did upon being released was to look up at the night sky which he had last seen as a teenager. A month after his return, his story, broken by Mohammad Ali in twocircles.net, appeared in the Urdu press. And Aamir got his revenge: he dropped copies of the papers in the homes of relatives and friends who had imposed a social boycott on the family. For all his joy in the small things of life, including his reunion with a mother who, not being able to speak, expresses emotions through her eyes, Aamir cannot forget the nightmare of his past which began on February 20, 1998 with him being picked up and driven blindfolded to a distant getaway. A week of intense “questioning” followed by “confessions” and countless signed documents later, he was formally arrested and taken into police remand. The chargesheet filed in April 1998, said Aamir had been trained in Pakistan by the dreaded Abdul Karim ‘Tunda’ gang. Further that Aamir and co-accused Shakeel collaborated to make bombs out of a factory rented by Shakil in Pilakhua in Ghaziabad. These were the bombs used in every one of the 1996-1997 blasts. Aamir’s third-floor home, described in the chargesheet as a hideout frequented by Pakistani and Bangladeshi terrorists, is a tiny 10 ft by 4 ft room in a bustling, crowded neighbourhood in Azad Market in Old Delhi. The police story is that the hideout was visited on February 27, 1998, by two Bangladeshi terrorists. But instead of meeting Aamir there, they chose to wait six hours for him at a railway track off Sadar Bazar. The police party nabbed the two men and, through them, caught up with Aamir and Shakeel.
According to the seizure memo, a search of Aamir revealed a Webley & Scott revolver with several live cartridges, currency notes (in American dollars), five diaries containing details of explosive materials sourced from various suppliers, and a passport stamped with a single visa entry: to Pakistan. Shakeel carried a bag which had iron pieces, chemicals and other explosive materials. Other wonders emerged from Aamir’s briefcase: his ration card, birth certificate, school character certificate, school identity card besides fifth and seventh standard marksheets. In their “disclosure” statements, Aamir and Shakeel said that they led the police party to Shakeel’s bomb-making factory in Pilakhua, from where chemicals and explosives used in the blasts were recovered. The police produced no witness to the arrests. And the public witnesses allegedly present during the Pilakhua raid flatly refused to support the prosecution during the trial. Chandra Bhan, the prosecution’s star witness, on whose evidence the entire terror case rested, maintained through rigorous cross-questioning that he had never seen Aamir and he was taken to the Chanakyapuri Police Station and made to sign on blank papers. Out of hundreds of witnesses produced by the prosecution in all the cases, only four claimed to have ever seen Aamir and not one of them said he had planted the explosives.
Several questions arise: How could an 18-year-old plant bombs by himself – on moving buses and trains, many of the blasts occurring just minutes apart? On the evening of October 1, 1997, Aamir is alleged to have planted two bombs in adjoining areas in Sadar Bazar and then travelled to Ghaziabad to place bombs in three compartments of the Frontier Mail. Would a boy terrorist trained by ‘Tunda’ waste his time on low-intensity blasts? And for what earthly reason would he carry his fifth standard marksheet with him? Of course, it is equally valid to ask why Aamir was singled out by the police. His story, borne out by his single visa stamp, is that he wanted to visit his sister who is married into a family in Pakistan. When he went to the Pakistan High Commission for his visa, he was approached by two men from the Indian intelligence – a fact he claims he learnt later – who asked him to get some documents from Pakistan in return for a small money reward. Tempted, he agreed but only to renege on the deal. Aamir left for Pakistan on December 12, 1997 and returned on February 13, 1998. A fortnight later he was arrested. Interestingly, Aamir was charged with executing the bomb blasts subsequent to his training in Pakistan. The last of the bomb blasts was in October 1997 – two months before he went on his first and last trip to Pakistan. Aamir has his own questions: “Madamji,” he asks me, “if at 18, I became a dreaded mastermind with so many aliases, surely I would have been but a child when I started out?” And also, “I spent 14 years in jail for allegedly causing five deaths. What about the policemen who shot dead so many Muslims in cold blood in Hashimpura? What about Gujarat 2002?”
- Shahid Lives, Shahids’ Never Die – By Subhash Gatade (Feb 10, 2012, Countercurrents)
- Believe me, Muslims are not a herd – By Shahid Siddiqui (Feb 5, 2012, The Hindu)
Lusted, and busted – Editorial (Feb 8, 2012, Hindustan Times)
The word ‘lascivious’ is rather old-fashioned and quaint. What the word, throwing up the image of an active volcano in some over-worked brains, means is essentially ‘given to or expressing lust’. The word warmly sits in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as the Information Technology Act, both in the context of pornography. Section 292 of the IPC states that a “book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene, if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect…”
Chapter 11 of the Information Technology Act covers online pornography, stating that “whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious… shall be punished…” While watching pornography privately in India is not illegal, two ministers in the Karnataka government seem to have landed themselves in hot water after the nation played the voyeur by watching them watch a porn video clip inside the state assembly. What can be more thrilling than catching two grown men behave like hormonally overactive schoolboys?
Karnataka cooperation minister Lakshmana V Savadi, who prodded women and child development minister CC Patil to take the peek at the pornographic clip being played on his phone, chose a wrong venue. Mr Savadi is, for all purposes, as lascivious as most of us. But like the man caught having a smoke inside a hospital, his misdemeanour isn’t really about him watching (and sharing) an adult movie with a colleague, but the fact that he did this inside the pheromones-free assembly house while proceedings were on.
The Karnataka assembly had been discussing “indecency in public” related to a recent rave party in Mangalore. So, we are willing to believe that Mr Savadi was playing a clip for ‘research’ purposes. That the video clip showed women dancing and then participating in what Mr Savadi himself described as “rape” suggests that he could be beating himself up unnecessarily. What he and his colleague (and, in pixellated form, the rest of the country) were probably watching was a bukkake, about which Mr Savadi, or anyone else, can choose to learn more about in private without fear or shame – outside their workplace in their free time.
- BJP’s porngate – Editorial (Feb 9, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- The Eyes Have It, The Eyes Have It – By Sugata Srinivasaraju (Feb 20, 2012, Outlook)
- Dirty picture – Editorial (Feb 9, 2012, Indian Express)
- Why It Doesn’t Wash – By Saba Naqvi (Feb 20, 2012, Outlook)
Take It or Leave It: Hunger or NFSA? – By Sachin Kumar Jain (Feb 3, 2012, Countercurrents)
Amidst the cacophony around the Lokpal Bill, National Food Security Bill 2011 has been tabled in the Loksabha. Whatever the Government of India has fleshed in the National Food Security Bill is actually in pursuance with the constitutional obligations (section 47) and obligations under various international conventions. More than that, it has been done in the larger context of prevailing food and nutritional insecurity in one of the fastest growing economy of the world. Still it hashas not gone the whole hog to hit the problem per se. Rather, it is just a beginning to register the fact that hunger is a real cause of concern. The National Food Security Bill, in its present form, is not adequately endowed with a vision to address the very structural causes of Food and Nutritional Insecurity in India. Three basic issues are at hand: 1. The Bill dwells on targeting vis-à-vis universalisation; re-invoking the contentious BPL-APL battle-lines (‘Priority’ and ‘Non-priority’ households). The intended benefits will be given to the people based on these categories. It is a quite well-known fact that the successive Governments have failed in identifying the poor, and as a result, majority of our population continues to live with hunger in various forms. In such a grim scenario, the Government should be talking about Universalisation, which is an integral part of Fundamental Right to Life. 2. The Bill provides for a supply of 7 kg per month of subsidized food grains per person in the ‘priority’ households, whereas the monthly requirement of a person is 14 kg to fulfil the basic food requirement. 3. The proposed entitlements do not deal with the problem of nutritional insecurity. In India, people have suffered undernourishment majorly due to Protein and Fat deficiency. Hence to cope up with the problem, Government should have added pulses (to compensate for protein) and edible oil (to replenish fat), as the preamble of the Bill also mentions: “… the Supreme Court of India has recognized the right to food and nutrition as integral to the right to life …”
But the most important is to answer the questions being raised by the Anti-NFSA sections of the society as well as in the Government. Today, development is only understood in the narrow terrain of economic growth and Indian policy makers seem to be haplessly infatuated by GDP numbers and their growth thereby. But they have not stepped beyond their narrowly familiar paradigm and taken a genuine interest in the general improvement in living standards and enhancement of people’s well-being and freedom! How can Indian polity accept such a growth trend wherein 70 percent of the total GDP is directly under the control of 8% of India’s elite? Growth is important, because it helps create a conducive environment for the welfare & betterment of the people. We cannot, however, accept a growth trajectory that curtails the opportunities for common people, grabs common property & natural resources for short term gains. While the India’s economy has been growing at a pace of 6 to 9% in the last 12 years, under-nutrition among the children has gone down by a trifling 1% in the 9-year interim of 1998-99 to 2006. Should we accept a mere token 0.1% decline in childhood hunger per year? We also need to be honest in accepting the fact that under-fed can not contribute, even if provided with opportunities because of lack of capabilities. We will have to build an environment of empowerment with nutritional security, so that they become capable nutritionally. Otherwise how one can expect that hungry would go to the industries, set up with huge public resources and subsidies, and starts working as labour or engineer!
Growth story has a flip side as well. The present level of malnutrition results in 2 to 3% decline in the GDP. It causes delay in education, triggers learning disabilities; it affects the overall lifelong physical and cognitive development of children right from the conception stage. Every year, we lose 1.3 million children, who do not celebrate their fifth birthday and die due to under-nutrition, lack of care and unavailability / inaccessibility of basic health care. One of our neighbouring countries weighs up its development with a Happiness Index. Now as the developed world, who has enjoyed the highest level of capitalism, is being devastated by a debilitating economic crisis and as the citizens of many countries are protesting against the prevalent economic policies, India should also learn and have a re-think that whether the peoples’ well-being should be its priority, or just creating a tiny island of opulence for a handful of people. I just ask one question – Do we know that we contribute towards 40% of world’s maternal, neonatal, infant and child deaths? We have world’s half of the under-nourished kids? We have 54% women suffering from anaemia? Don’t we want to remove this blot from our face? I don’t think we would like to, should or can continue to do injustice with our people. We will have to end this national variety of colonialism, where the corporate world rules over our farmers and labourers, traders indulge in the business of education and health services, and keep people deprived of the very basic services in the name of Growth. Of course, faster growth generates resources but these resources must be used for the well-being of the people at large. This surplus should not be furthered for subsidising the corporate. The proposed bill again shows faith in targeting – so-called poor and non-poor (in the name of priority and general households); let us remind ourselves that we have been revoltingly unsuccessful in identifying poor and continue to implement our most crucial food-social entitlement programs based on exclusionary poverty line conspiracy; without any hesitation.
I take my argument further by citing the fact that over 1.6 million hectare land has been transferred for the real-estate and industrial development purposes, natural forest cover is rapidly declining, water resources are drying up and getting contaminated, agricultural production cost has gone up by 189 percent in the last 20 years, but our small and marginal farmers never found the policy interventions on their side in order to have any kind of structural protection against the marauders of the open market. Here, we are talking about a growth scenario, wherein India was in need to create employment opportunities for its 45 millions but it could provide employment to only 2.1 million people. All these shortfalls are the basic cause of hunger. Prof. Arjun Sengupta in his report on unorganised sector mentioned that 77% of the population survives by spending Rs. 20 a day; while on the other hand, NNMB figures show that 76.8% population do not receive prescribed norms of nutrition! We need STRONG POLITICAL COMMITMENT; otherwise ‘Growth in Hunger’ will be our leitmotif. In these two decades of our new economic policy (NEP), one thing has come out very clearly that 90% of the population could not get any benefit out of, or due to it. They somehow survive on the fringes of our political economy. Measures to end hunger should not be delayed any more by saying that we are facing market crash? Or we are in recession. We must know that, economy may also be collapsing of surmounting hunger wherein people are no more in a position to contribute in the stabilising internal economy.
Our country is being run by the economists, but they sound so useless and illiterate OR just trying to be illiterate! Have you heard ever any economist (from planning commission, PMO or RBI) has ever said publically that GoI is doling out almost Rs. 6.22 lakh crores as tax-revenue subsidy in the financial year 2011-12, which is registered as Taxes Foregone and it counts for 65% of Government’s total revenue. Last year this figure was Rs 5.36 lakh crores. A total of Rs 23 Lakh crores in 6 years has been stashed into the corporate world’s billionaire coffers. No one has asked why? In contrast, the agriculture subsidy has been converted into direct loans to farmers, petrol has been handed over to market, public expenditure on basic services like health, education and water are reducing. Who is toying with the India’s balance sheet? Why there is so much hue and cry on NFSA expenditure? Already we are spending Rs. 67,310 crores as food subsidy, and there will be only a tiny increase of another Rs. 30,000 crores, just a trifle 4% of the taxes which being usurped by the corporate-economists-government nexus. Simply feel the positive impact of this humane expenditure. It will preserve human values of India, it will feed those 77 crore humans sleeping hungry at present. Government of India will only be giving a subsidy of Rs. 1188 per person per year or Rs 3.25 a day. BUT we have ministers, economists, policy makers and consultants’, who just do not want the State to do so! Even our prime minister also is not very happy with the idea. Actually, this is an outcome of welfare politics, which has become very imperative in last one decade or so. we have been running Integrated Child Development Services and having a plan to spend Rs 80000 crores in next five years; Mid Day Meal scheme is already in place. We have a 17 crore population of children under-6, 45% of them are under-nourished but we barely spend Rs. 1.62 per child per day on their growth and nutrition. The matter of fact is that private food market will lose some profit due to this legislation and there will be a control over inflation; which is just not acceptable to the market. Just take the example of second and third quarter of 2011-12, while the growth rate came down to 6.8%, food inflation also declined from 16% to 1.7%. So, the indications are getting clearer. …
- Distress and death – By Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay (Feb 11, 2012, Frontline)
- Tea Labourers Dying Of Hunger In Assam – By Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (Feb 2, 2012, Countercurrents)
- Recipe for disaster – By Jayati Ghosh (Feb 11, 2012, Frontline)