IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 20th, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Around empty Gulberg, Muslims, Hindus find a way to co-exist
- British Muslims in state to study communal harmony
- ’02 riots: Ex-judge puts Modi in dock
- HC notice to Modi govt over plea for relief by riots victims
- Saffron brigade halts Muslim realty deals in Gujarat
- Ishrat encounter: Old Crime Branch hand under CBI lens
- ‘4 men planted 4 bombs on Samjhauta Express’
- Killers of Hemant Karkare, were behind Shahid Azmi’s murder, claims London acadimician
- 2006 train blasts: Former DGP cross-examined
- A Shaheen Bagh foiled in Batla House; Six cops suspended
- Accusing cops of killing villager, Naxals call Palamau bandh
- Physically challenged girl raped by Mizoram police constable
Opinions & Editorials
- Defeat Pernicious Hindutva Terror Designs – Editorial
- Ten Long Years – By Smruti Koppikar
- Pure speculation on SIT closure report – By RB Sreekumar
- The NCTC Imbroglio – By Lt Gen Prakash C. Katoch (Retd)
- Dirty picture – Editorial
- At the crossroads of mediaphobia – By Amitabh Mukhopadhyay
Around empty Gulberg, Muslims, Hindus find a way to co-exist (Feb 16, 2012, Indian Express)
The name is embedded in collective memory as a symbol of the Gujarat riots and, to many, of the administrative complicity behind it. In Gulberg Society, the past is never far even as those looking at the future have learnt to make peace with it. The empty shells of its 29 bungalows and 10 apartments now serve as godowns for neighbouring Muslim bakers, who supply their wares to Hindu shopkeepers next door. The smell of these bakeries and shahi dawats once filled the society, a Muslim-dominated area that came up in 1965 in the predominantly Hindu Chamanpura. Targeted during the riots, they had all left. The owners of all eight bakeries are now back with their shops, though they stay 7km away in Muslim-dominated Rakhial.
Shamsul Haq Ansari’s Robin Bakery, adjoining Gulberg Society, was looted and torched. He suffered losses of lakhs and claims not to have received any compensation. He chose to return and rebuild from his savings, and said not only has his business taken off again but that he is doing better than before. Ansari’s customers are all Hindus, including local provision stores, as there is no Muslim habitation around. For him or other bakers in the area, that hasn’t been a problem so far. Mubarak Ansari, owner of Mubarak Bakery, said there was some tension immediately after the riots. “But with time, things have improved. My entire business depends on local Hindus and they support me wholeheartedly.”
However, none of them lives in the area. Haseemuddin, working with Ashiana Bakery, said the owners as well as the workers live in Rakhial – which has been the case since they migrated from Bijnore. He cited “cultural and social reasons” for this. As such, they did not lose any near ones during the Chamanpura riots. Those who did have chosen not to continue in Gulberg Society, except Kasam Mansuri, 62, who lost 12 members. After his sons relocated, Mansuri stayed back and makes a living selling mattresses outside the society. “This is my society, where will I go?” he said. Looking at the garbage dumped outside Gulberg Society, the Hindus, on the other hand, feel it is time to break free from the past, if only to bring Gujarat’s famed development to the area. Said Bhavanlal Jain, a moneylender whose customers are mostly Muslims: “The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has been neglecting the locality since they do not want legal complications of property, etc.” The Citizens for Justice and Peace has come up with the idea of turning the society into a “holocaust museum”. To people like Saed Khan, who moved to the Muslim-dominated Juhapura, that is better than selling the houses to strangers. “It would be like selling the graves of your beloved.”
While Mansuri gets angry at times that the survivors of Gulberg moved away and set up a new life, Khan said: “Gas cylinders were busted in homes; when these caught fire, they threw acid bulbs on people hiding. Women were pulled out and raped in public. No one wants to go back there.” The bakers are the only remnants of a life that was. The mosque that was destroyed now holds five prayers a day for them. On Fridays, it also draws a number of Muslims working in nearby areas. As days such as these become routine, Afroz Ansari, a salesman working with J-K Bakery, is hopeful. “The riots,” he said, “were an aberration.”
British Muslims in state to study communal harmony (Feb 14, 2012, Times of India)
The Islamophobia, which has gripped the western countries, stemmed from the lack of knowledge on Islam, observed a four-member delegation of prominent British Muslims, here on Monday. Interacting with the students of Farook College, Yusuf Ebrahim Akudi, a member of the delegation, which kick-started the five-day visit on Monday, said, “Islam was not able to reach out to the public to explain the faith.”
The team visited Kozhikode as part of their India tour to study the communal harmony existing between different communities in the state. Appreciating the harmony, the team said they would try to replicate the Kerala-model in the Britain once they reach there. In Kozhikode the team visited Farook College and University of Calicut on Monday. The delegation will meet key representatives from social, educational, and political fields in a bid to understand key concerns of Muslims in India and to give them a realistic picture of Islam in Britain.
It will enable ‘cross-fertilization of ideas’ between British and Indian Muslims and activists working on interfaith, integration and community issues, according to the delegation. In New Delhi the team will meet Muslim community leaders, workers and representatives of Darul Uloom, Deoband and interact with students and youth at an interactive session in the Jamia Millia Islamia.
“I am honoured to visit a country as dynamic as India. I am here to gain a more nuanced perspective of the lives and aspirations of Muslims in India. I hope that the visit will facilitate mutual understanding of Indo-British cultures and enable us to appreciate one another in a positive light,” said, Dr Abdul B Shaikh, a team member and lecturer in comparative religion.
’02 riots: Ex-judge puts Modi in dock (Feb 18, 2012, Indian Express)
In fresh problems for Narendra Modi, a member of peoples’ tribunal that visited Gujarat after the 2002 riots said former Home Minister Haren Pandya had told them that the Chief Minister allegedly directed the police to give Hindus a free hand to vent their anger during the riots. Justice H Suresh, a retired Bombay High Court judge, also alleged today that the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) appears to have ignored the statements recorded by it of him and another tribunal member Justice P B Sawant, a former Supreme Court judge.
Both the judges were members of the fact-finding team headed by veteran jurist and former Supreme Court judge Justice V R Krishna Iyer, which had gone to Gujarat in March-April 2002 after the Godhra riots. Suresh said the evidence of the tribunal given to SIT on alleged instructions given to police by Modi to teach Muslims a lesson hours after the Godhra train attack was based on what was told to them by Pandya on May 13, 2002. Pandya was murdered on March 26, 2003.
Suresh said the Tribunal had an audio recording of Pandya’s statement to it in which he said Modi had called a meeting on the night of February 27 hours after the Godhra train attack where he allegedly told the police to look the other way during the riots. “In that (the recording) he (Pandya) has stated that there was a meeting at Chief Minister’s place, where he directed the police what to do and what not to do. He told the police actually that they should give free hand to the Hindus, who would act in their own way,” Justice Suresh told a news channel.
He said Pandya’s statement was relevant and “cannot be ignored” in a court of law. “I was there, Justice Sawant was there and he (Pandya) said this in our presence,” the former judge said, adding “the SIT recorded out statements”. He also said that the tribunal had given the SIT the audio recording of Pandya.
- SIT ignored judges to save Modi? (Feb 16, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Gujarat top cops told People’s Tribunal about Modi’s go-soft instruction (Feb 15, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Conflicting SIT, amicus curiae reports raise questions: Cong (Feb 13, 2012, IBN)
- SIT courting controversy since inception in 2008 (Feb 17, 2012, Hindustan Times)
HC notice to Modi govt over plea for relief by riots victims (Feb 16, 2012, Indian Express)
The Gujarat High Court today issued a notice to the state government over a contempt of court petition moved against it by 56 people from Rakhial area of Ahmedabad, who claim to have suffered huge commercial losses during the 2002 riots. The petitioners approached the court after the state government allegedly did not take a decision on their claims for compensation in spite of an order by the high court in May last year.
A division bench comprising Justices Akil Kureshi and C L Soni issued a notice to the Narendra Modi government and posted the petition for further hearing on March 14. According to Utpala Bohra, the advocate for all the petitioners, their shops situated on the Rakhial road had been looted and destroyed by rioters. They had made applications to various authorities of the state government to get compensation but having got no response, they finally moved court.
A division bench of the high court held in May last year that the petitioners were liable to get relief. The court had also ordered the state government to expeditiously dispose of their claims. “Despite the order of the high court, the state government has not acted on the victims’ claims, following which the contempt petition was moved,” Bohra said.
- IRCG asks religious places authorities to approach district judge for compensation (Feb 15, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Gujarat riots: war of words marks fight over SIT report (Feb 14, 2012, DNA India)
- Guj riots: Give report to Zakia before Mar 15, court tells SIT (Feb 15, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Jafris’ Gulberg home to become a museum (Feb 15, 2012, DNA India)
Saffron brigade halts Muslim realty deals in Gujarat (Feb 16, 2012, Times of India)
Six months ago, a doctor was all set to make a killing by selling his posh bungalow ‘Chaitanya’ near Crescent Circle to a Muslim family. As soon as the news spread, a group representing the saffron brigade reached his house and tried persuading him to call off the deal. When the doctor did not agree, the group held a sit-in outside his house and started chanting Ram Dhun. The agitators refused to budge till he assured them that he would scrap the deal. Finally, the bungalow was sold to a Hindu.
Saffron brigade is using Ram dhuns and Ram Darbars to thwart all deals in town where Muslims are buying properties in Hindu-dominated areas. The brigade’s modus operandi is simple: on getting information about a Hindu planning to sell his property to a Muslim, they squat in front of his house and chant or conduct Ram Darbars. They don’t move from the place till the seller caves in. The group has managed to get 10 such property deals cancelled over the past six years.
A six-year-old group ‘Setubandh Mitra Mandal’ – consisting of VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS and Shiv Sena members – is wary of Muslims buying properties in Hindudominated areas. The group members said that earlier, Jogivad ni Tanki and Sandhiyavad were traditional Muslim ghettos but now the community is buying properties, both residential and commercial, in posh Hindu-dominated area like Shishu Vihar, Ghoga Circle, Crescent Circle, Vadva and Kalanala.
Bhavnagar was the only place in Saurashtra which saw communal riots in 2002. “Over the past five years, Hindus have started migrating from the localities where they have been living for generations after selling the property to Muslims,” said Kirit Mistry, a VHP leader. “We have written about it to the state government to demand the implementation of the Disturbed Areas Act in order to stop this activity.” However, Arif Kalva, a community leader, said, “Muslims in the city have progressed and become prosperous. They too aspire to live in areas where they can become part of mainstream society.”
- Split Godhra’s unity call: Ram-Rahim business models (Feb 17, 2012, Indian Express)
- Modi sadbhavana sops way beyond Gujarat’s annual plan (Feb 16, 2012, DNA India)
- In Godhra, a burnt train and a divided neighbourhood (Feb 13, 2012, Indian Express)
- Land of milk was home to one of worst massacres (Feb 14, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Ishrat encounter: Old Crime Branch hand under CBI lens (Feb 15, 2012, Indian Express)
In a new twist in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case, a constable who was recently shifted out of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch after serving there for over 20 years is now under the CBI scanner for allegedly having kept the Mumbai girl at his house in Gaekwad Haveli days before she was killed on June 15, 2004. CBI sources said summons are about to be issued to the senior police constable who was shunted out of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch after the central probe agency registered an FIR in the encounter case in December last year.
CBI sources said recent leads in the case indicated that the constable had rented out the first floor of his house to another policeman from the crime branch who is a suspect in the Ishrat encounter case. According to leads with the CBI, soon after Ishrat was brought to Ahmedabad, the police constable had assured encounter specialist D G Vanzara (the then DCP of Ahmedabad Crime Branch who is now in jail) that Ishrat would be kept at his house until they got a place to shelter her.
CBI sleuths believe the constable could be involved in the abduction of Ishrat and her friend Javed from Vasad in Anand district two days before their encounter on June 15, 2004. The constable in question was recently shifted to city police headquarters. He is said to be a trusted hand in the Crime Branch since the time it was led by Vanzara, N K Amin and Abhay Chudasama – all police officers accused in encounter cases.
- CBI seeks central IB inputs prior to Ishrat killing (Feb 18, 2012, Times of India)
- No bullets fired at cops in Ishrat encounter: CBI (Feb 16, 2012, Deccan Chronicle)
- Sohrab case given to Lakshminarayana (Feb 16, 2012, IBN)
- Justice Shah refuses to head Guj encounters probe (Feb 18, 2012, IBN)
‘4 men planted 4 bombs on Samjhauta Express’ (Feb 18, 2012, Indian Express)
Startling revelations by Kamal Chouhan are helping investigators understand how the Samjhauta Express bombs were brought to the capital, who all took it to the railway station and the sequence of events leading to the tragedy that killed 68 passengers, most of them Pak nationals. Tomorrow marks the fifth year since that attack. Chouhan, arrested last Sunday and produced in court earlier this week, has reportedly said that he has no “regrets” over the Samjhauta bombing. He is said to have told interrogators that there were four “planters” who came in two separate groups to Old Delhi Railway station with four suitcases, each one carrying a bomb. Chouhan has said that he was among 11 people who were given arms training at Bagli in early 2006 and also part of the “firing lessons” – organised by Sunil Joshi (now dead) – given to eight people in Faridabad in April 2006.
Chouhan has said that in the group that received the initial arms training, there were Joshi, Ramji (Ramachandra Kalsangra, who is on the run), Sandeep Dange (absconding) and Lokesh Sharma (in jail). Chouhan said that on February 15, 2007, three days before the bombing, he received a phone call from Sharma in Indore who told him that “the time for work has come”, and asked him to come to the Indore railway station to “accompany him on a journey”. Chouhan claims he didn’t ask for details but knew that “they were going to plant a bomb somewhere”. At the railway station, Chouhan told investigators, he met Lokesh who had two suitcases. “I pulled one and found it is heavier, heavier than a suitcase with clothes. He (Lokesh) had arranged the train reservation already. We had confirmed tickets,” he said. Investigators are not sure what names were used.
Chouhan and Lokesh boarded Intercity Express to Hazrat Nizamuddin. Chouhan said Lokesh used a chain to lock the suitcases. He said they avoided all talk of their “mission” because there were people around. Both reached Nizamuddin the next morning from where they went to the Old Delhi Railway Station where they checked into a dormitory. They kept the suitcases in the room and went for a stroll, had lunch near Red Fort and it was then that they discussed the bombing plan, Chouhan told investigators. That evening, Chouhan told investigators, they waited for Samjhauta Express to pull in. “Lokesh took the briefcase that he was carrying and boarded the train and left it there. He had asked me to wait. Then he came back and took the briefcase that I was carrying and went to another compartment,” Chouhan told investigators. “After this, we left the station immediately.”
On their way out, Chouhan reportedly said, they saw two of their associates on the platform. “They were at a little distance. I recognised them but we didn’t talk, they also had come with two bombs.” Investigators have already identified the other two planters, one of them is from Nashik. Their names aren’t being revealed. Interestingly, Lokesh Sharma, booked for his role in Samjhauta bombing in the chargesheet filed by NIA against Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Asimanand, Sunil Joshi, Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange on June 20, 2011, is already in jail. He is likely to be questioned again. After Chouhan’s revelations, investigators are once again examining CCTV camera footage from the Old Delhi railway station.
Regarding the source of the bombs, Chouhan has told investigators that these were given to Lokesh by Ramji. Four IEDs were planted in unreserved compartments of the Samjhauta Express, of which the IEDs in the 12th and 13th compartments exploded. The explosion was followed by fire in the compartments. One unexploded IED in a suitcase was recovered from the 15th compartment, which exploded in the process of being defused. One unexploded IED in a suitcase was recovered from the spot down the railway line (near the 15th compartment).
- Samjhauta bomber’s confession puts BJP, RSS on the defensive (Feb 15, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Samjhauta blast: Digvijay seeks close vigil on RSS (Feb 15, 2012, Indian Express)
- More arrests likely in terror cases, says Home Ministry (Feb 17, 2012, The Hindu)
- Govt takes on BJP: Home ministry puts saffron terror under lens (Feb 17, 2012, Times of India)
Killers of Hemant Karkare, were behind Shahid Azmi’s murder, claims London acadimician (Feb 14, 2012, Ttwocircles.net)
The first Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture, organized by friends, ‘comrades’ and students of late Shahid Azmi was held at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh on 11th Febrauary 2012. The chief guest of the lecture and main speaker was Advocate Mukul Sinha. About 100-150 people from across Mumbai attended the lecture. The lecture was chaired by Professor Jairus Banaji (SOAS, University of London). Prof. Banaji, in his introductory remarks, termed the killing of Advocate Azmi as a ‘political assassination’. He claimed that the same people who killed Hemant Karkare were also behind the murder of Azmi. He wondered why in major cases of political assassinations, the forensic evidence has never been preserved by the Indian state because it does not want forensic and legal outcomes. Banaji added that the state apparatus was a seamless web of intrigue and deception. The most staggering fact of Indian democracy is that any crime can be committed with no accountability. The Indian state is enmeshed with the political forces of the right.
On the other hand, the extreme right pursues the ‘strategy of tension’ resembling Italy of the 1970s. The terror networks of the right organized themselves during the NDA regime. Hemant Karkare had started dismantling this network when he was killed. During the investigations of Malegaon blast, Praveen Togadia’s name had cropped up but he disappeared later without a trace. Banaji concluded by stating that the crime branch remains the most criminal organization across the country. At the same time, building a resistance cannot be accomplished individually, but in solidarity and collectively. Indian democracy is turning fascist; a fascist society which works from within and is much more insidious than classical fascism. Mukul Sinha began his speech by pointing out how many suffer from the illusion that India is a secular country. But India has a peculiar kind of secularism. If Mukul himself were named Mushtaq, we could be having a memorial lecture in his memory. In recent times, two words have been presented to us by the West – “terrorism” and “secularism”. After the fall of Soviet Union, only forces that need to be contained are Islamic forces.
Sinha reminded the audience that even nationally, the birth of secularism was mediated by three competing ideologies. The Nehruvian idea fought with Gandhian and RSS views on secularism. But even within the Congress, there were soft-hindutva elements that were against strict separation of state and religion. In fact, secularism was slipped into the constitution only in 1976 during emergency. The Supreme Court judgments also reflect the ambivalent character of secular polity in India. The judgments traverse the spectrum of the idea of Indian secularism from “Sarva Dharma Sambhav” to “separation of church and the state”. In India, secularism does not mean godlessness, but god everywhere. If the judicial ideas remain confused on the meaning and relevance of “secularism” in India, how we can expect trial courts to be free of biases, he wondered.
There is another myth that secularism protects the minorities. Here leaving aside the question of economic and social justice, Sinha focused on two basic questions, affording equal protection of law to the minorities and the efficacy of the criminal justice system of delivering justice to the minorities. With the list of major communal riots where Muslims were the victims, Sinha pointed out that such a perception was misplaced. Beginning from Neli massacre, 1984 Sikh riots, 1989 Bhagalpur, 1993 Mumbai and Gujarat 2002, it has never happened once that the perpetrators were punished. Ironically, in few cases such as Bhagalpur riots, the only punished were Muslims. However, Muslims have kept their enormous faith on the idea of secularism. Arif Azmi (brother of Shahid Azmi) narrated how Shahid was fighting 110 POTA related cases and he had secured 14 acquittals too. He always used to receive calls asking him to refrain from such cases but he never budged. Shahid maintained that if justice had to delivered, it had to be delivered to all.
Maulana Gulzar Azmi narrated the eventual year of 2006 when young Muslims were framed in cases of Aurangabad (May), Mumbai (July) and Malegaon (September). MCOCA was invoked against the accused in most of these cases. Shahid was fighting all these cases simultaneously. When he asked Shahid why is he deeply bothered about such cases from across India? He replied, “I want peace in the country. I was jailed myself and I fear lest these accused go to jail and turn from innocent youth into real terrorists. And the peace of India is disturbed.” Shahid felt every such case as his own- he used to say, “they must be undergoing exactly what I went during my imprisonment and afterwards”. Banaji concluded the discussion by highlighting two major ideas of Sinha’s lecture. First, that the idea of secularism in India as balancing between different religions, which, in effect, becomes majoritarian rule. Second, the culture of political impunity where the legal and political system actively ensures that the criminals are not punished. He added that judicial compliance was a cornerstone of fascist politics in Germany for 10 years leading up to fascist rule. Indian fascism is more dangerous because it is deep rooted and molecular.
- Experts: Shehla was shot dead (Feb 9, 2012, Deccan Chronicle)
- MNREGA scam: 65-year-old RTI activist attacked in Rajasthan (Feb 9, 2012, IBN)
- Delhi High Court sets new norms for admission under RTE quota (Feb 1, 2012, The Hindu)
- NHRC to investigate ‘custody death’ (Feb 7, 2012, Times of India)
2006 train blasts: Former DGP cross-examined (Feb 16, 2012, Hindustan Times)
AN Roy, former director general of police (DGP), on Wednesday was cross-examined before the special designated MCOCA court in connection with the July 11, 2006, serial train blasts case, where 34 people died and 138 were injured.
Roy, who was the police commissioner at the time, had sanctioned for the accused to be charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA).
Special public prosecutor Raja Thakare examined Roy on the reasons behind invoking special acts in the case. The former DGP will continue his deposition on Friday.
- Mumbai terror attack was “premeditated”, SC told (Feb 16, 2012, The Hindu)
- War against terror can’t be won if states work independently: Centre (Feb 18, 2012, Times of India)
- Non-Congress Chief Ministers oppose NCTC (Feb 17, 2012, The Hindu)
- NCTC issue: Clamour for aborting P. Chidambaram’s anti-terror hub grows (Feb 18, 2012, Economic Times)
A Shaheen Bagh foiled in Batla House; Six cops suspended (Feb 17, 2012, Twocircles.net)
The residents of Jamia Nagar, a Muslim populated area in South-East Delhi, have been living under constant fear since the Batla House encounter of September 2008 because of several attempts at regular interval of investigative/police agencies to pick Muslim youths from the area. The latest occurred in the wee hours of Thursday but the bid was foiled by locals who woke up and gheraoed the team of Delhi police. The drama unfolded during the early morning hours of Thursday when policemen, most of them in plain clothes, tried to forcibly pick some residents of Batla House locality, alleging them to be “illegal Bangladeshi.” The local police alleged that they had no information about the “raid.” It was at about 1:30 am when occupants of a building in the area got a knock. The next thing was that Rustam Khan and 7 other residents were being forcibly taken by the cops.
Khan alleged that the police didn’t reveal why he along with his other neighbors were being taken so late at night. Besides Khan’s wife Rubeena, others who were being taken by the cops included other occupants of the same building where he stays. Two of the residents reportedly belong to West Bengal and the rest hail from Bihar. In no time, almost the entire nearby area woke up after the occupants of the building started screaming for help. When Khan’s neighbors came out they reportedly found that he along with his wife and several others were being pushed inside a vehicle. The angry and agitated crowd which had gathered at the spot confronted the raiding team and asked why Khan and others were being taken away so late at night. The situation was almost on the verge of getting out of control before the local Station House Officer was called up who came and allegedly fired two rounds to bring the situation under control.
It was only after the interference of the local police that the situation was brought under control and those detained by the Bangladeshi cell were let off after they submitted their relevant documents including their voter ID cards to prove that they are Indians. A complaint was registered in the Jamia Nagar police station against the six cops from the Bangladesh cell of Delhi Police. Taking the matter seriously the six cops have been placed under suspension by higher police authorities pending enquiry into the entire episode. Ajay Chaudhary, ACP (South East Delhi) said the “police team from the Bangladeshi cell must have got some information about illegal immigrants and that’s why they might be checking if illegal immigrants live there. However, they should have informed the local police. Six of these cops have been suspended.”
Akhlaque Ahmad of the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) told TwoCircles.net that the, “police are to protect citizens and inspire a sense of safety among them and not to create fear psychosis by doing raids illegally.” Asif Mohammad Khan, the local MLA told TCN that “we don’t have any illegal Bangladeshi living among us. If at all the police want to enquire and check about this, there is a legal way of doing that. Doing a raid after midnight without informing even the local police is in violation of the law.” “Had we been informed about the raid, we would have cooperated to make sure that no Bangladeshi stays in our area, but this pattern of action from the police which has only created fear among the residents, is completely unacceptable,” the MLA further added. The residents, community leaders and activists living in the area, which is also regarded as a Muslim “ghetto”, find these “pick-ups” “illegal” as most of them defy rule of law, violate human rights provisions and are done without taking into confidence both the community leaders and Jamia Nagar police.
Only a few days back the residents of Abul Fazl Enclave area in the same Jamia Nagar had foiled the alleged attempts by the Mumbai ATS to forcibly arrest Darbhanga native Taquee Ahmed. Even though the ATS said that its sleuths had gone to meet Taquee just to give him summon orders, the Delhi Police Special Cell considered ATS efforts to “summon” Taquee, illegal as Mumbai ATS had no jurisdiction over Delhi. These events also take a very sensational angle as it reminds the residents of the Batla House “encounter” of 19th September 2008 in which two boys of Azamgarh were killed. Hardly a month after the encounter, police had attempted to pick a youth from Shaheen Bagh area and vigilant people gathered and the cops had to flee. A team of Noida policemen in civil dress had entered the Shaheen Bagh area in the night of October 16, 2008 and tried to force a youth Aamir in their black Verna car carrying no registration number. As the youth began crying locals gathered. Seeing the car without number and the men in civil dress they doubted the purpose of the ‘abductors.’ They prevented the men, which the Delhi Police and Noida Police later confirmed were Noida policemen, from picking the youth. The Noida policemen had come to Shaheen Bagh area in Jamia Nagar without informing the local police. The higher authorities had taken the issue seriously; cops involved in the case were transferred as punishment.
- Eight policemen suspended pending inquiry (Feb 17, 2012, The Hindu)
- Branded terrorist, he lost his youth in jail (Feb 9, 2012, Times of India)
- 13/7 blasts: SC stays arrest of Taquee (Feb 14, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- SC seeks ATS response on blast suspect’s plea (Feb 15, 2012, Times of India)
Accusing cops of killing villager, Naxals call Palamau bandh (Feb 17, 2012, Indian Express)
A week after the body of Lucas Minz (35), a hearing and speech impaired person, was recovered from a forest, the Maoists have called for a bandh in Palamau on Friday claiming that he was killed by the security forces. CPI(Maoist) spokesperson Deen Bandhu issued a statement: “During their operation against us, they (security forces) shot him dead.” The police have sounded an alert fearing law and order problems.
Last month, the security forces had launched an operation against the Maoists inside forests falling under Palamau division’s Barwadih block in Latehar district, where Lucas lived with his two unmarried sisters, Mukut Mani and Irma, and three brothers, Amal, William and Pradhan. On January 31, Lucas went missing. His body was found in the forest on February 7. Five days later, his family alleged that Lucas was murdered. In his FIR filed on February 12, William alleged that Lucas was shot dead. “We noticed a bullet injury on his left eye,” William said. He did not name anyone in the FIR.
The police registered a case under Section 302 against unidentified persons. The district administration exhumed the body and set up a team of three doctors on Tuesday to conduct post-mortem. On Wednesday, the doctors decided to refer the case to the state government-run RIMS hospital, citing lack of equipment. On Wednesday, William said, “Since Lucas could not hear nor speak, they suspected him to be a Maoist and shot him dead.”
- How Maoists are disrupting lives in Bihar (Feb 15, 2012, Rediff)
- Alarm bells: Maoists ‘win’ 30 blocks in Orissa panchayat polls (Feb 16, 2012, Indian Express)
- Explosives stocked by Maoists seized in Odisha (Feb 7, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Drones set to assist cops in Naxal operations (Feb 6, 2012, Times of India)
Physically challenged girl raped by Mizoram police constable (Feb 13, 2012, Hindustan Times)
A police constable allegedly raped a physically challenged girl in Mizoram, said a report on Monday evening. The report said that K Lalrova, 42, a constable posted at Lunglei police station raped a physically challenged girl on the night of February 9 near Saikutihall in Lunglei, 235km south of Mizoram capital Aizawl.
The police did not disclose details of the victim. “The accused has been suspended and sent to Lunglei district jail,” said Lunglei superintendent of police Lallianmawia.
Records with the Mizoram police reveal that 639 cases of crime were registered from January 2008 to October 2011. Of these, 303 were rape cases.
- Police mocked me: Kolkata rape victim (Feb 16, 2012, IBN)
- Traffic cop gets two-year jail for molesting woman (Feb 9, 2012, Express India)
- Delhi: 3 girls kidnapped, 2 raped and one still untraced (Feb 11, 2012, Indian Express)
- 80-yr-old raped; redefine rape laws, says court (Jan 31, 2012, IBN)
Opinions and Editorials
Defeat Pernicious Hindutva Terror Designs – Editorial (Feb 19, 2012, Peoples Democracy)
Yet another link to the terror web cast by the RSS and its affiliates has been established with the arrest of one Kamal Chauhan by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for his alleged involvement in the terrorist bomb blast on the Samjhauta Express that claimed the life of 68 passengers of the Delhi-Lahore train around midnight of February 18, 2007. The arrest of this longstanding RSS activist from Madhya Pradesh is the second in this case. Earlier, in June 2010, one Lokesh Sharma, also from Madhya Pradesh, was arrested on charges of attending a meeting in which this terrorist attack was planned. Media reports suggest that investigative agencies are now framing fresh charges on his alleged participation in the actual bombing itself. Crucial leads indicating the involvement of RSS and its affiliates in the Samjhauta bombing came after investigations that established that these outfits were linked with the terrorist attacks at Malegaon (September 8, 2008), Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad (May 18, 2007) and at the Dargah in Ajmer Sharif (October 11, 2007). These have established the RSS links in creating this web of Hindutva terror.
The CPI(M) had, in fact, drawn the attention of the central government, much earlier, at a meeting of the National Integration Council on October 13, 2008. “Police investigations in the past few years have noted the involvement of Bajrang Dal or other RSS tentacles in various bomb blasts across the country – in 2003, in Parbani, Jalna and in Jalgaon district of Maharashtra; in 2005, in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh; in 2006, in Nanded; in January 2008, at the RSS office in Tenkasi, Tirunelveli; in August 2008, in Kanpur etc etc. Internal security of our country can be strengthened only when all such cases are also probed impartially and with the same degree of intensity”. Following this and the subsequent leads, the union home ministry’s report card for July 2010 announced that the NIA will probe the terrorist attacks on the Samjhauta Express. It is these investigations that have led to the current arrest. Investigations also revealed, according to media reports, that a core group of RSS leaders were involved in the manufacture of explosives and planned a series of Hindutva terrorist attacks that began in 2002. The disillusionment that set in amongst sections of the RSS following the then reigning Vajpayee led central government’s alleged dilution of the core Hindutva agenda (by putting on the back burner issues like temple construction in Ayodhya, to appease NDA allies for the government’s survival) and the apparent refusal to replicate nationwide the 2002 communal genocide in Gujarat are believed to be the reason for the rise of militant Hindutva terror.
Surely, the RSS, as is its wont, will once again proclaim that such terrorist acts may be the result of actions by a few ‘deviant elements’ but will insist that the organisation as a whole is not to be blamed. Such claims are nothing original. This is precisely what was said about Nathuram Godse following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Godse’s brother, however, is on record, in a media interview, to say that all brothers in the family were active members of the RSS. However, the history of the RSS and its methodology of functioning belies such theories of a differentiation between the ‘core’ and the ‘fringe’. The issue of imparting militant training to the Hindus and using violence as a political weapon by the RSS has a long history. It was Savarkar (who advanced the two nation theory – Islamic and Hindu – full two years before Jinnah did) who gave the slogan “Hinduise all politics and militarise Hindudom”. Inspired by this, Dr B S Moonje, mentor of RSS founder Dr Hegdewar, travelled to Italy to meet the fascist dictator, Mussolini. The meeting took place on March 19, 1931. His personal diary notes of March 20 reveal his fascination and admiration of the manner in which Italian fascism was training its youth (read storm-troopers) militarily. Upon return to India, Dr Moonje established the Central Hindu Military Education Society at Nasik in 1935, the precursor to the Bhonsala Military School (now charged with importing training to Hindutva terror) established in 1937. Golwalkar, in 1939, exults Hitler’s purging of the Jews under Nazi fascism and says that it is “a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by”. Subsequently, following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the RSS tentacles, VHP and Bajrang Dal, had publicly prided themselves at the training imparted to ‘kar sevaks’.
The RSS often questions the term ‘Hindu terrorism’ asking, “How can you club an entire community with the concept of terrorism?” Its former chief once went further to state, “Coining such terms is the conspiracy to defame the Sangh. It is a political conspiracy to defeat and defame Hindutva forces.” Very cleverly, the terms ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hindu’ are used synonymously. What we are speaking about is Hindutva terror, not Hindu terror. Clearly, no religious community, as a whole, can be held responsible for the terrorist activities of individuals embracing that religion. Same yardstick, however, should apply to other religions as well. However, not, according to the RSS. The RSS routinely adopts resolutions seeking to, “curb Islamic terrorism with an iron hand”. This is not merely an expression of double standards. It reflects the ideological roots of converting the modern secular democratic republic of India into the RSS version of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ based on rabid religious intolerance. In these columns, we continue to maintain that terrorism has no religion. It is simply anti-national and, hence, the country should display zero tolerance. Further, terrorism of all varieties only feed and strengthen each other, seeking to destroy the very unity and integrity of our country. To safeguard and strengthen modern India’s secular democratic foundations, it is imperative that such pernicious terroristic methods for realising this RSS political objective needs to be decisively defeated.
- Hindutva Lab 2.0 – By Rana Ayyub (Feb 25, 2012, Tehelka)
- Communal curriculum – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Feb 11, 2012, Frontline)
- Why BJP not finding buyers of communal products? – By Mumtaz Alam Falahi (Feb 15, 2012, TwoCircles.net)
- Sacred cow – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Feb 11, 2012, Frontline)
Ten Long Years – By Smruti Koppikar (Feb 16, 2012, Outlook)
The confusion that reigned for the first few hours, on and fuelled by news television, after the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate’s order Wednesday Feb 15 afternoon on Zakia Jafri’s petition, would have been hilarious if the matter was not so sombre. Every reporter had a differing piece of information to offer, some contradictory; likewise, the lawyers for each side offered different interpretations of the order – from Jafri will get the already-controversial report of the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) Report to Jafri will not be given a copy of the report. It’s not as complicated as it appears. Jafri and her co-petitioners – activists Teesta Setalvad and lawyer Mukul Sinha – had filed separate applications in Magistrate M.S. Bhatt’s court on February 9, a day after the SIT had submitted its report in a sealed envelope. There were two sets of applications: one seeking to obtain copies of the SIT report and the other objecting to the manner in which SIT had filed its report which the applicants argued was “not in compliance” with the SC’s September 2011 order.
On Feb 15 afternoon, the magistrate upheld the second set of applications in which Jafri and her co-petitioners had argued that the SIT had not complied with paragraph 9 of the SC order. The key part of this says SIT must “forward its final report, along with the entire material collected by it” which means all documents, case papers, annexures, recorded statements, investigation papers and the report filed by amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran – which together run into thousands of pages. This allows the magistrate – and at a later stage the petitioner and public – to read the findings in the report against the material/evidence they are based upon. The magistrate stated that once this is done, on or before March 15, the court will “act according to law”. Only when the report is submitted in full will the magistrate formally decide on Jafri’s application for a copy; Setalvad and Sinha are not entitled to get copies because they have no locus standi in the case, the magistrate stated. Jafri will have to wait for the SIT to comply and submit all the documents relevant to the Gulbarg Society massacre of February 28, 2002, where her husband and Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was killed with 57 others by a violent mob.
Significantly, this means the question is when, not if, Jafri will get a copy of the SIT report. And, the phrase “act according to law” strengthens her plea because, under section 173 (2) (ii) of the CrPC, Jafri should get a copy of the report. She is the original complainant in the case, right from the police station, in the lower courts, the Gujarat high court and later in the Supreme Court. Though the SIT submitted its report in a sealed envelope, information that immediately leaked out suggested that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had been given “a clean chit” as “no prosecutable evidence” had been found against him. Jafri’s original complaint stated that Modi and 61 others be charge-sheeted for the Gulbarg Society massacre, one of the many areas attacked by raging mobs in the wake of the fire in two Sabarmati Express coaches, at Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002, that killed 59 people including kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya.
The magistrate today received another application from the petitioners seeking that he declare the contents of the SIT report, on the grounds that no document from an investigating agency can be termed confidential. The order on this application has been posted for February 29. If the order is in their favour, Jafri and others will know that day or thereafter if the SIT has, indeed, given a closure report – as widely speculated after the leaked contents – or recommended filing a charge-sheet and if so against whom, or sought time for further investigation. Many in the legal community in Ahmedabad, not to mention sections of the BJP, are keen to amplify the strategic leak about the “clean chit” but has Modi really escaped being in the dock? In the Gulbarg Society massacre case, it will be prudent to wait for the magistrate to open the sealed envelope and make the report public. The focus on this case has eclipsed two other cases this month; Modi has been rapped twice in two weeks by the judiciary for the apathetic attitude shown by him and his government during and after the communal violence of 2002.
In a severe indictment of Modi, the Gujarat high court, last week, observed that the Gujarat government had failed during the 2002 violence and shown negligence in protecting citizens and religious structures. A petition filed in 2003 by Islamic Relief Committee seeking compensation for damaged religious structures had been opposed by the state, on the grounds that it had neither a policy nor an obligation to pay such compensation. The two-judge bench slammed this position; it said the state machinery had completely failed to anticipate communal disturbance and had subsequently floundered in containing the violence. “The state’s inaction resulted in the damage,” the bench observed, and ordered the government to “repair and rehabilitate” nearly 600 damaged places of worship, majority of them mosques and dargahs. In the second case, on Feb 15, even as the SIT report was fought over, the Gujarat high court served a contempt notice to Modi administration for not complying with its order of September 2011 to pay compensation to 56 petitioners whose shops in Rakhial area had been gutted in the 2002 violence. The Ahmedabad district collector has to file reply by March 14. As Gujarat – and the nation – marks ten years of the horrific violence in Godhra and later across the state, and Modi completes his carefully-calibrated Sadbhavna mission in a bid to erase the 2002 blot, he finds the courts closing in on him and his government.
- ‘Divisive consolidation’ – Teesta Setalvad with Anupama Katakam (Feb 11, 2012, Frontline)
- 2002 Gujarat riots continue to haunt Modi despite SIT’s clean chit – By Uday Mahurkar (Feb 16, 2012, India Today)
- A history of violence – By Nandini Oza (Feb 17, 2012, The Week)
Pure speculation on SIT closure report – By RB Sreekumar (Feb 15, 2012, DNA India)
Media reports on Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) Final Report u/s 173 CRPC on Zakia Jafri’s complaint/FIR against the Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 others generally confirm the exoneration of nearly all culprits for want of evidence. Indeed, it is flabbergasting and frustrating development for all those who value the Rule of Law, social cohesion and unity of our motherland. If the media version is true, the riot victim survivors and the officers who risked their career and marshalled evidence against perpetrators would be depressed.
A hypothetical exercise as to what could have been done by SIT for building an impenetrable defence for rioters will be rewarding. Any police officer with the motive of defending the riot accused will try to denigrate, marginalise and invalidate copious of evidence available on (1) scheming and consummation of anti-minority carnage, (2) subversion of the state administration to delay and deny justice to riot victims and (3) intimidation of witnesses to block the flow of evidence against the state government functionaries, narrated in Jafri’s FIR.
Witnesses, had, reportedly, tried to prove the conspiracy by the state government, by stressing on facts, i.e. (A) CM giving instructions in a late evening meeting of officers at Gandhinagar on February 27, 2002, to give a free play of Hindu revengefulness, in the context of killing 59 Hindus in Godhra train fire incident. SIT would find contradictions in the semantics of three versions about the CM’s instructions, in the depositions of the late Haren Pandya (to the Citizens Tribunal), RB Sreekumar and Sanjeev Bhatt (both before the judicial bodies). Moreover, Haren Pandya and Sreekumar were not present in the meeting also. Bhatt’s presence in the CM meeting is also questioned after refusal by his subordinate officer Pant to support Bhatt. (B) Secondly, allegations about bringing the bodies of Godhra train fire victims to Ahmedabad, VHP leaders accompanying the bodies and so on would not be deemed to be incriminating as these actions were taken on the request of the relatives of deceased persons by the CM.
(C) SIT would also be reluctant to draw any adverse inference on facts like, (1) the government not keeping minutes of meetings chaired by the CM and other senior officers, (2) positioning of ministers in DGP and CP, Ahmedabad officers on VHP sponsored bandh day on February 28, 2002, (3) transfer of officers who took effective actions against the rioters in the thick of riots, i.e. Rahul Sharma, Vivek Shrivastava, MD Antani and others, despite DGP’s objection, (4) rewarding those who collaborated in riots, (5) CM characterizing the riots as operation of the Newton’s Law, (6) failure of the government to take action on media making communally inciting reports and (7) non-implementation on regulations on riot control in Gujarat Police Manual, and other government documents, which facilitated riots. These are to be deemed as mere administrative omissions without any malicious motive.
The evidence supporting the charge of subversion of the administration are, (1) failure to take follow up action on reports from State Intelligence Branch (SIB) for countering the anti-Muslim bias of government officials, i.e. police and public prosecutors not performing duties properly and this resulting in damage to cases of riot victims.
- Some Basic Questions the SIT Needs to Answer – By Ashish Khetan (Feb 25, 2012, Tehelka)
- Sanjiv Bhatt is the witness of the ‘gory’ tale of Gujarat, not an accused! – By Sayema Sahar (Feb 15, 2012, Twocircles.net)
The NCTC Imbroglio – By Lt Gen Prakash C. Katoch (Retd) (Feb 17, 2012, Outlook)
A number of Chief Ministers and political parties have raised strong objections against the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) that was to come into effect on March 1, 2012 as reported by the media. The main fear of the these Chief Ministers, being vehemently aired on TV channels, is that the government will use the NCTC to target non-Congress states, the issue was not discussed with the opposition/states and that the establishment of the NCTC will be an infringements of the rights of the states. The first part of the objection by the concerned Chief Ministers is very genuine. Switch on any TV channel or pick up a newspaper today and you get the view that everything wrong is going on in non-Congress governed states while Ram Rajya prevails in the ones governed by Congress. The ruling polity obviously feels that the citizenry is totally naïve. What is more significant is to note is what M.K. Dhar, former Joint Director Intelligence Bureau wrote in his book Top Secret – India’s Intelligence Unveiled. He says that irrespective of which party is in power in India, the entire intelligence effort of the country is focused on how to do down the opposition. He also mentions that during the entire tenure of Zail Singh as the President, all the phones in his bedroom and office in Rashtrapati Bhavan were tapped. So, how does the country get over such a malaise?
The second part of objections relate to the NCTC not having been discussed with the opposition/states. Michael Krepon wrote an article titled “Prime Ministers and Army Chiefs” (an abridged version was also published in the Dawn of Pakistan) last month. In this article, he quoted what V.R. Raghavan wrote in the Nonproliferation Review wherein he says, “There has been a shift in Indian decision making from a collegial and consensus-based approach to decisions arrived at by a small group of individuals based in the Prime Minister’s Office”. This has been emerging as the pattern in most cases and not in the case of nuclear issues alone, the latest proof of PMO’s involvement being even in the case of denying justice to the General V.K. Singh in the deliberately created age row. Do we see a replay of the Emergency era – political arrogance et al? No denying the fact that the issue of the NCTC should have been discussed both with the opposition and the states especially when it has took 22 excruciating months to sanction its establishment.
The third objection that the NCTC will infringe on the rights of the states stems from the fact that despite facing decades of insurgency and terrorism, India has failed to look at how our Constitution should strengthen our hands in fighting this twin malaise. Take the example of the Maoist insurgency that since past five-six years is being described as the biggest internal threat by the Prime Minister. Yet, the response is left largely to the states aside from dishing out Central Armed Police Forces (CRPF) and intelligence related warnings. No centralized set up has come up to tackle this major security threat holistically. That is the reason that the proposal of the home minister to establish a ministry of internal security (akin to the US ministry of Homeland Security) was shot down. The moot question here is how long India will continue to cope with such issues, given that ‘Law and Order’ is a state subject? Though our founding fathers gave us a solid Constitution as a base, have we not undertaken hundreds of amendments? Why can we not de-link terrorist and insurgent acts from the states and bring them under the centre?
There is no doubt that this will require thorough discussion and consensus, which is unlikely unless the government in power can convince everyone that adequate measures have been instituted to ensure that the intelligence effort of the country is not utilized to target the opposition- a very difficult proposition in the current dispensation considering the reluctance displayed in bringing even the CBI under the Lokpal. The fact is that without such measures our response to terrorism and insurgencies will remain disjointed and our adversaries will continue to exploit this asymmetric battlefield being offered by us on a plate. There was considerable merit in the home minister’s original proposal that the entire counter-terrorism architecture including the proposed NCTC function under the home minister till the creation of a ministry of internal security was accepted and implemented. However, what eventually has been sanctioned implies that while Multi Agency Centre (MAC) hitherto run by the Intelligence Bureau is subsumed into NCTC but organizations like the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) will continue functioning independently albeit all intelligence agencies are to provide inputs to NCTC.
Notwithstanding this, the NCTC in the proposed shape too will take many months/years to attain optimum level of real-time use operationally. To start with, it must have data links and standardized protocols with and amongst all intelligence agencies for real time passage of information. More significantly, state counter terrorism centres (SCTCs) must be established, which will ensure regular flow of ground level intelligence upwards and collated and analyzed intelligence flowing down. SCTCs should be established in all states and not like UHQ (Unified HQ) in selected few as is the current practice, for the simple reason that the threat of terrorism is omni-present. Look at Mumbai today- periodically suffering from terrorism, it has hubs of the MARCOS (marine commandos of the Navy), NSG (National Security Guard) and Force One (Special Police unit created post 26/11 Mumbai terror attack) and yet no SCTC and no UHQ (Unified HQ) either. Same is the state in Delhi. The SCTCs should function under respective State UHQ and be linked with the NCTC through the NATGRID. The requirement to incorporate a Decision Support System (DSS) is also essential, enabling short, medium and long term assessments. The national focus must shift from ‘investigating’ to ‘preventing’ terrorism. Is India ready for all this? More importantly, do our politicians have it in them?
- Treaties & States – By A.G. Noorani (Jan 28, 2012, Frontline)
- NCTC, Not KGB – By B. Raman (Feb 18, 2012, Outlook)
Dirty picture – Editorial (Feb 9, 2012, The Hindu)
Legislative proceedings are usually far from stimulating and we have grown accustomed to MPs and MLAs stealing a surreptitious nap or even snoring defiantly to escape the tedium of debate. But the three Karnataka BJP ministers who were forced to resign Wednesday morning chose a most unusual way to escape what they regarded as an arid discussion on the drought situation in the State. Much to the embarrassment of themselves and their party, TV cameras caught them transfixed by, ahem, a film clip, on one of their cell phones. Laxman Savadi, who was Minister for Cooperation, may protest till he is blue in the face, but his explanation that he was watching a newsclip about a woman being gang-raped simply doesn’t wash.
The best that can be said in an age where our legislatures are sporadic witnesses to a range of boisterous activity – fisticuffs, abuse, screaming, overthrown furniture, ripped out microphones, torn papers and flung slippers – is that the trio were at least passing their time in quiet communion. Watching pornographic material in the House is a first in the history of Indian legislatures, but like almost everything else in the sleazy world of politics, somebody’s already been there, done that. Last April, an Indonesian MP belonging to an Islamic party that campaigns for anti-pornography legislation was forced to resign after being caught watching porn in parliament, presumably to acquaint himself better with the subject matter of what he was opposing.
On a serious note, there is an important message in this, one that exposes the unalloyed hypocrisy of those who adopt conservative and hardline postures on issues relating to sex and morality. It is in Karnataka that fundamentalists assaulted women in pubs, ran campaigns against Valentine’s Day, launched investigations into the so-called love jihads – all professedly to protect Hindu culture from immoral foreign influences. For a party that likes to think it is different, the porn incident is a severe embarrassment for the BJP. To have forced the three ministers to “voluntarily resign” is hardly going to check the damage caused to the party and State government, which is already under some fire for permitting a reportedly wild rave party in Udupi.
When privilege motions are moved against legislators and outsiders for lowering the dignity of the House, it would be really strange if no more action is taken against the erring MLAs. But rather than reacting to what they did with blustering moral outrage, the incident should be used as an opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the BJP and its aggressive fellow travellers in the Sangh Parivar, who, through their moral policing and self-styled vigilantism, regard themselves as the custodians of Indian morality.
- BJP’s ‘dirty picture’ – By Seema Mustafa (Feb 13, 2012, Free Press Journal)
At the crossroads of mediaphobia – By Amitabh Mukhopadhyay (Jan 30, 2012, The Hindu)
Recently, the Telecom Minister was attacked by a large number of netizens for his move to screen content on social networking sites. Some bloggers called this drive idiotic. The characterisation seemed harmless till a little reflection brought The Idiot of Dostoyevsky to mind, and I felt crediting a Minister with a trusting nature as in that story might be good for our social imagination but not grounded in any evidence.The shifting sands of his reasons for objecting to certain matter carried on social media are interesting. Apparently, he first found a page maligning Sonia Gandhi and told Facebook officials on September 5, 2011 this was unacceptable. He then wrote a letter and held meetings with Google and Facebook. In an interview on NDTV in November, he said he objected to pornographic images. Then there was a mention in newspapers that at a press conference on December 5 he was worried about things that hurt religious sentiments.
Some of us are often disturbed by the politicisation or corruption of individual personality by journalism. I remember as a ten-year-old boy, my father asked me to read The Statesman first thing in the morning to improve my English and my grandmother took me aside to advise that I start my day with thoughts about Ishwar instead of reading reports about rape and murder. Philosophers have commented that journalists make people doubly ridiculous – first by making them feel they must necessarily have an opinion on every matter and then by renting them their opinion as an object of necessity they can flaunt around. We may not agree with the first, but the second point, about the role of journalists as purveyors of public opinion is of great relevance in the present context because the internet enables the world to break through the filter of journalism and reach individuals directly. The internet has been described as the network of networks. Through social networking, it helps isolated individuals constitute themselves as a group or a ‘public’. By playing the role of intermediation, it has helped all trades and professions expand their working communities and given us a practical source of two-way communication with the capability for everyone to hear both sides of the story. It has had a great democratising impact the world over.
In the context of the scourge of ‘paid journalism’ as a means of state and corporate control of media, social networking sites are a countervailing force. Google’s Transparency Report says 70 per cent of what was objected to by government agencies in 2011 related to political criticism. Only an insignificant number of items, just eight out of 352, could be termed hate speech. The Minister is obviously worried about social networking sites because he cannot control them to his advantage. How is he to regain control? To gauge this, the sequence in his reactions to what he saw, or was caused to see, is important. He first encountered something denigrating Sonia Gandhi and colloquially cried “blasphemy”; next, he objected to extreme pornography and finally he referred to things hurtful to religious sentiments. He can well cry blasphemy even though India does not have a state religion, because blasphemy laws exist in several European countries and the U.N. too has some resolutions against defamation of religions.
Blasphemy was a canon law offence in the U.K. till the 17th century when it was made an offence against common law. When BBC staged “Jerry Springer – the Opera” in 2005 and thousands of Christians objected to scenes set in hell with Jesus and Satan, the High Court said the Theatres Act, 1968 of the U.K. prevented any prosecution for blasphemy in relation to public performances of plays. Besides, the Broadcasting Act, 1990 did not allow for any prosecution in relation to broadcasts. Blasphemy as an offence was abolished in the U.K. by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, 2008. However, the same Act introduced new offences described as ‘possession of extreme pornographic images’ (Sec. 63) and ‘publication of obscene article’ (Sec. 71). Hate crime could be tied to these to make a case for ‘reasonable’ restriction of freedom of speech and expression. Like people in the U.K. till 2008, we in India also happen to be very sensitive to anything irreverent about any religion. Despite this common perception of our national character, both while framing the Indian Constitution as well as when working it, Rajendra Prasad and B.R. Ambedkar staunchly defended the freedom of expression. After the famous Crossroads case, when Nehru tried to broaden the scope of restrictions to freedom of expression and framed the First Amendment, they succeeded in persuading him to allow the word ‘reasonable’ qualifying the word restriction in Article 19 (2) to remain unchanged. This was due to their understanding that the Constitution is the vehicle of a nation’s progress. The Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951, based on the First Amendment, was itself repealed in 1957.
More recently, in 2004, the Delhi High Court dismissed the complaints against M.F. Hussain of promoting enmity between different groups. Despite this, a case was registered in Mumbai in February 2006 against the painter for “hurting sentiments of people” by painting Hindu goddesses not as deities but visual stimuli, which forced him to live and die in exile, shaming all Indians. Even during the otherwise repressive British Raj, though Sarat Chandra’s novel Pather Dabi was banned, he walked around as a free man. The failures of government to provide equal protection of the law under Article 21 of the Constitution to Hussain the painter and, more recently, to Salman Rushdie the writer, are both reprehensible. Similar law-ways appear to have been deployed in the present case as well, with a private civil suit being filed by one Vinay Rai in a District Court of Rohini in Delhi which passed an ex-parte order asking 22 networking sites to remove certain content because they amount to “defamation and derogation against the sentiments of every community” and might “hurt religious sentiments”. The order did not spell out whether it is pornographic images/obscenity/hate speech that is being objected to or something blasphemous. Apparently, on another petition filed by the founder of a website FatwaOnline.org, a civil judge issued summons to Facebook and Google India, who sought relief from the Delhi High Court. …
- ‘Media Alone Won’t Ensure Critical Thought’ – Arjun Appadurai with Smruti Koppikar (Feb 27, 2012, Outlook)
- Corporatisation of the Media – By Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Subi Chaturvedi (Feb 18, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Writers must serve a social purpose – By Markaney Katju (Jan 28, 2012, The Hindu)