IAMC Weekly News Roundup - February 3rd, 2014 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 3rd, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Not possible to forget Modi’s role in 2002 riots: Congress (Feb 1, 2014, Times of India)

Congress said it cannot forget Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 riots as suggested by Union minister and NCP leader Praful Patel, saying truth and reconciliation was sorely missing in Gujarat for it to forgive and forget. Disagreeing with Patel, AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the entire country would have moved on had Modi genuinely apologized and felt contrition.

“Truth and reconciliation are ultimately matters where one must feel a genuine contrition, genuine apology. But you have seen the opposite. When this issue was raised last, Modi expressed contrition in terms of absolutely inapposite use of the word ‘puppy’ which added insult to injury in place of meaning contrition,” he said.

The Congress was referring to Modi’s interview in which he said he was bound to feel sad when Muslims were killed in the riots because one feels bad even when a “puppy” comes under the wheel of a car. The analogy, with crude language for the minority community, had revived charges of communalism against Modi.

The strong words against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate come after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in an interview that Modi government had abetted the Gujarat riots of 2002. He even made a distinction between the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and Gujarat carnage by saying the government had tried to stop the riots in Delhi while the government had abetted the carnage against Muslims in Gujarat.

Rahul’s comment triggered a controversy of reviving the Sikh riots which put Congress on the defensive but many in Congress believe that he came out against Modi that he has avoided till now. Singhvi appeared to be building on Rahul’s attack on Modi, leading to questions if Congress would finally target the Gujarat chief minister on the sensitive issue. NCP leader Patel had earlier said that courts had given a clean chit to Modi and it was time to move on.



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Sohrabuddin Case: SC Notice to Amit Shah and Other Accused (Feb 3, 2014, New Indian Express)

The Supreme Court today issued notices to Narendra Modi’s close aide Amit Shah and other accused in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case on the plea of CBI seeking transfer of certain documents from Gujarat to a Maharashtra court. “Issue notice to respondents returnable within four weeks,” a bench of justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur said.

Shah was arrested by CBI on July 25, 2010 in connection with the case and had spent over three months in Sabarmati Jail in Ahmedabad before being granted the bail. Besides Shah, suspended DIG D G Banjara, R K Pandiyan (both Gujarat cadre IPS officers) and Dinesh M N (Rajasthan cadre IPS officer) are main accused in the case. N K Ameen, then DSP with Gujarat police, is also an accused in the case. All of them, except Shah, are in jail.

The court’s notice came on an application by CBI which is seeking a direction to get certain documents related to the case. The apex court, on September 27, 2012, had ordered the transfer of the Sheikh encounter case to Maharashtra after the CBI alleged that witnesses were being intimidated and contended that trial cannot be held in a free and fair manner in Gujarat. Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi were allegedly abducted by Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) from Hyderabad and killed in a fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005.



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Saffron terror attacks: Swami Aseemanand implicates RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat (Feb 3, 2014, First Post)

All misfortune pales in the face of firm conviction. So it is that Swami Aseemanand – prime accused in the Samjhauta blast case – can contemplate his bleak future with equanimity. “Whatever happens to me, it’s a good thing for Hindus,” the “warm and open” Swamiji tells Caravan writer Leena Gita Reghunath, “Logon me Hindutva ka bhaav aayega” – it will stir Hindutva among the people.” Caravan magazine’s latest cover story, The Believer, is the product of two painstaking years of research and reporting, which included four startlingly candid interviews with Aseemanand himself. He lays out the minutiae of the plot, describing the planning in detail. And he names names.

We all know about his co-conspirators such as ABVP’s Pragya Singh Thakur and Sunil Joshi, the ex-RSS man. But in his latest confession, Aseemanand aims much higher: Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. After an RSS conclave in Surat, senior Sangh leaders including Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar, who is now on the organisation’s powerful seven-member national executive council, travelled to a temple in the Dangs, Gujarat, where Aseemanand was living-a two-hour drive. In a tent pitched by a river several kilometres away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi.

Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.” Aseemanand continued, “Then they told me, ‘Swamiji, if you do this we will be at ease with it. Nothing wrong will happen then. Criminalisation nahin hoga (It will not be criminalised). If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.'”

The naming of Bhagwat by a prime accused in a saffron terror case is incendiary and unprecedented – most alleged connections between the two men have been mostly of association, such as sharing the same stage, attending the same Hindutva celebration, etc. It is, therefore, puzzling why Caravan doesn’t play this “revelation” up either in its headline, or in the excerpt highlighting the story. The revelation instead lies buried amid a long and detailed description of Aseemanand’s (not very compelling) life. Until now, Indresh Kumar was the biggest RSS functionary to be directly implicated in various charge-sheets where he was accused of aiding and abetting the primary conspirators – much to RSS’s chagrin which, at the time, responded by launching an aggressive dharna claiming a Congress party conspiracy. Aseemanand’s decision to come out and name the RSS chief himself is certainly big news. Reghunath did ask Bhagwat’s office to respond to these allegations, and they asked her to email them, but never did respond to her queries.

She also reached out to Narendra Modi to confirm Aseemanand’s claim that that “Modi approached him at a senior RSS gathering in Ahmedabad, and told him, ‘I know what Keshubhai is doing to you. Swamiji there is no comparison to what you are doing. You are doing the real work. Now it has been decided that I will be the CM. Let me come and then I will do your work. Rest easy.'” Modi’s office did not respond, either. And why should they bother? For in the end, Aseemanand saying so doesn’t make it so. A man facing a possible death penalty is free to unburden his soul – but also to speak with little regard for fact. Without proof, these allegations amount to little more than one person’s version of a conversation in the distant past. That said, Aseemanand can still do great damage if he decides to repeat his allegations in a courtroom. With the trial in the Samjhauta case finally moving forward, he may yet give the RSS sarsanghchalak many sleepless nights.



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Andhra Christian leaders demand govt. to ban Hindu Vahini (Feb 1, 2014, India Tomorrow)

The Andhra Pradesh Federation Of Churches (APFC) has demanded the state government to ban Hindu Vahini, a fringe Hindu right wing group, for its alleged involvement in attacks on pastors and churches in the state. A high-level delegation of APFC met chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy here on 31 Jan and submitted a memorandum in this regard.

“As you are aware, Pastor Rev. Sanjeevulu of Vikarabad in Ranga Reddy district, who was brutally stabbed by four men on the night of January 10, 2014, succumbed to death in Yashoda Hospital in Hyderabad on Jan. 13, 2014. Two of the culprits belonging to the Hindu Vahini group were arrested by the police on Jan. 26, 2014 while others are still absconding,” reads the memorandum.

To consolidate their demand, the Christian body provided the CM with a list of attacks on Christian leaders for which several members of Hindu Vahini have been arrested. On Jan 20, 2014 Nalgonda police had arrested three activists of Hindu Vahini organisation for attacking Pastor Nama Moses and his wife in December 2013 at Narketpally.

In a similar incident, Chandur police arrested two persons for attacking Munugode Pastor Talla Christopher on the same day. In another incident, two persons were arrested by Kanagal police for attacking Ipparthi Church Pastor Gajjala Neeladri Pal. Some of those arrested revealed to the police the conspiracy and systematic plan of the Hindu Vahini for attacking and killing of the pastors all over the state.

“The same Hindu Vahini group had claimed to have killed four pastors in 2004-05 whose members were later arrested in these cases. Now that the general and state elections are around, this group has become active again. The visit of VHP leader Sri Praveen Thogadia to Hyderabad in the first week of January 2014 seemed to have emboldened them. The State of Andhra Pradesh records one of the highest numbers of atrocities on Christian preachers and members,” said Christian leaders and demand the CM to “ensure the ban of Hindu Vahini and other terrorist groups to guarantee the security of Christians and other Minorities so that they can exercise their fundamental rights of religious freedom without fear and obstruction.” …



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1984 riots: Court queries police on destruction of records (Feb 1, 2014, IBN)

Senior officers of Delhi Police were on Saturday directed by a city court, hearing a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, to place before it the statutory rules governing destruction of official records of the investigating agency. The court’s directions came while hearing an application seeking prosecution of four Delhi Police officers, including the then ACP, for destroying the records and files of Nangloi case in 1992.

The court was hearing the riot case which was registered in 1991 with regard to the killing of four persons. “I further direct the DCP (West)/ DCP (Legal) to place before this court the statutory rules governing destruction of official records of Delhi Police relating to Roznamcha A & B including PPP Vihar, road certificate, NCR books, filled inquests, untrace and cancelled files and all kinds of Kalandras.

“I am also informed that some office orders/standing orders are also being issued from time to time as to how the destruction of record is required to be conducted. I therefore direct that in case if there were any officer orders/ standing orders issued by the Police Department during the period 1991-1992 so governing the destruction of records, the same be also placed before this court on the next date,” Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau said and sent the copy of the order to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (West)/ DCP (Legal) for compliance.

The court listed the matter for February 7 for hearing arguments and disposing of a plea moved by Special Public Prosecutor BS Joon seeking prosecution of the then SHO Police Station Nangloi Inspector Rampal Singh, SI Dalel Singh, the then ACP Amarender Kumar Singh and the then SHO RS Dahiya.

He alleged in the plea that these four officials were responsible for destroying the relevant records relating to 1984 anti-Sikh riots of Nangloi Police Station which they did deliberately to save the accused in the present case despite lodging of the present FIR on August 28, 1991. In the riot case registered at Nangloi police station, accused Satpal Gupta, Dalel Singh, Ram Pal Singh and Karan Singh are facing trial while two others, Prem Chand and Ram Niwas died during the pendency of the case.



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Minorities Commission chief Habibullah says, UP policemen were seen instigating rioters (Feb 1, 2014, India TV)

National Commission for Minorities Chairman Wajahat Habibullah has said minority communities continue to face challenges, which were starkly highlighted during the recent riots in Muzaffarnagar. On his last working day before he retires on Sunday, Habibullah said, “Police suffer from certain prejudices.”

Some police personnel in Muzaffarnagar were seen instigating riots, he said. “Things have shown some improvement. But there are still many challenges.” The outbreak of Muzaffarnagar riots last year came as a dampener, Habibullah lamented, saying “so the situation has not got any better”.

However, Habibullah, lauded National Investigation Agency for “discreet” and better handling of terror cases against Muslims, which have resulted in many people, wrongly implicated by state agencies, being let off. “It has reinstated certain degree of confidence among them (Muslims) in the law enforcement agency,” he said.

He said there is a big yearning for acquiring modern education among Muslims but the community lack facilities. Sikhs, he said, faced problems, especially in Haryana, where many of the 1984 riot victims have not been able to reclaim their homes.

“They (Sikhs) have also been denied opening their educational institutions in the state. Haryana has responded to the NCM’s concerns and has set up a commission,” he said. “Sikhs are still treated in states other than Punjab as somebody who have come from somewhere else,” he said. He also cited the example of Gujarat where many Sikhs were evicted from where they had been staying since 1965.



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BJP MLA accused in 2011 Rudrapur riots declared absconder (Feb 2, 2014, IBN)

A BJP MLA, who has been on the run for the past three-and-half months after issuance of an arrest warrant in connection with communal riots in Rudrapur in 2011, was on Sunday declared an absconder, police said.

“Following recommendations of the CB-CID, Rudrapur MLA Rajkumar Thukral has been declared an absconder,” Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajiv Mohan said.

Police have also announced a reward of Rs 2,500 on information leading to the arrest of Thukral, he said. Riots erupted in Rudrapur in 2011 after torn pages of a holy book were found outside a place of worship in the town, killing four and injuring over 60 others.



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Protester at PM’s speech leaves govt embarrassed (Jan 30, 2014, Asian Age)

In an embarrassment for the government, a man jumped up from his seat and complained schemes for minorities weren’t implemented properly soon after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ended his speech at the National Waqf Development Corporation’s launch here Wednesday.

The man, identified as Faheem Baig, was part of the audience at Vigyan Bhavan. He was soon overpowered and bundled out of the hall, but had already registered a protest, asking why the PM was starting new schemes when the old ones weren’t properly implemented.

Faheem said he was a doctor and social activist living at northeast Delhi’s Jafrabad. He claimed he sent 150 letters to the PM seeking an appointment, but got no response.



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Badrinath chief priest Namboodiri arrested in Delhi on sexual molestation charge (Feb 4, 2014, India TV)

The chief priest (mukhya rawal) of the famous Badrinath shrine, Keshavan Namboodiri was arrested by Delhi’s Meharuli Police today on charge of trying to sexually molest a married woman in a hotel. The victim’s father owns a hotel in Badrinath, and the family knew Namboodiri, who had visited the family several times.

On Monday evening, the chief priest rang up the victim and requested her to come to the hotel to meet him. She refused initially, but later agreed. The victim told India TV: “He wanted me to come immediately. I told him he was in Delhi for three days, and I could come tomorrow, but he insisted I should come immediately.

“I became suspicious. I rang up my husband, and took our car and driver to meet the chief priest. I found the chief priest standing on the road outside the hotel. “As I was pregnant, he offered to hold my arm, for walking up the stairs, but I refused. Inside his room in that dingy hotel was a teenager, whom he asked to go out.

“There were cigarette stubs and smell of liquor inside the room. He closed the door, and I preferred to sit on a chair near the door. “He asked me to bring a glass of water. As I took the glass of water to him, he started molesting me. I screamed and rushed out of the room, and he followed me out of the room.



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Clashes kill 3 after bid to assault Dalit girl in UP (Jan 30, 2014, Indian Express)

Just five months after the Muzaffarnagar communal riots, three persons have been killed in caste violence in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. According to reports, clashes broke out on Tuesday after a group of youths belonging to the Thakur community tried to rape a Jatav (Dalit) minor girl here. While the girl managed to escape and her relatives beat up the youths, rumours that she was raped spread in the village. The Jatavs assembled in large numbers and clashed with the Thakurs.

Two Thakurs and one Jatav were killed while six were injured in the violence which lasted for over an hour. “We have arrested two members each from the two groups. Police and PAC personnel have been deployed in the village. A case under the SC/ ST Act and a case of eve-teasing have been registered,” said Lakshmi Singh, Bulandshahr SSP.

“The in-charge of the police outpost, Devendra Singh Chauhan, has been suspended for not acting on the complaints of Jatavs,” she said. “We have lodged several complaints with the police about the Thakurs’ violent behaviour but no action has been taken,” said a Jatav.



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Opinions and Editorials

A case of the pot calling the kettle black – By Prasenjit Bose (Feb 3, 2014, Hindustan Times)

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to bring home the ‘difference’ between the role of the governments of the day during the 1984 riots and the 2002 riots has, quite predictably, backfired. During the parliamentary debate over the Nanavati Commission’s report in August 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had apologised to the nation and stated: “What took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood and what is enshrined in our Constitution.” The report contained accusations made by several witnesses against Congress MPs Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and others. Even after 30 years, these leaders are yet to be prosecuted.

What had differentiated the Congress from the BJP, however, was the apology offered by Singh for the anti-Sikh riots in Parliament. Gandhi has peeled off even that tiny patch applied by Singh, exposing the Congress’ shady commitment to justice and communal harmony. The BJP’s complaints on this count, however, ring very hollow. Its role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 alongside the RSS and its affiliates was brought out by the Liberhan Commission, indicting its topmost leaders. The Gujarat violence of 2002 occurred when the BJP was in power both in the state and at the Centre.

The BJP’s involvement in the riots cannot be disputed after the conviction of its MLA Maya Kodnani in the Naroda Patiya massacre in August 2012. Kodnani, who was made a minister in the Modi Cabinet in 2007, is now serving a 28-year jail term. Yet, the BJP continues with its sickening hauteur vis-a-vis the Gujarat pogroms. The BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi’s criminal culpability in the Gujarat riot cases is yet to be established in the courts. But as the chief minister, how can he escape political and moral responsibility for the same? Even PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to twice remind him of following ‘rajdharma’ in the aftermath of the riots in 2002 and rule without differentiating between citizens on the basis of caste, creed and religion.

Large scale communal violence, which spans for days and results in mass murders, is inconceivable without organised communal mobilisation as well as the complicity of the state apparatus. This has been the case in 1984, in 1992 and in 2002. The Congress is culpable for the crimes of 1984 and the BJP is guilty of the crimes of 1992 and 2002. Even as the pots call the kettles black, justice has eluded the victims till date. The hypocritical blame game between the two national parties on 1984 and 2002 ends up justifying and legitimising communal violence. It is this legitimisation that causes its recurrence, as was witnessed in Muzaffarnagar in August-September 2013.

The protagonists of the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar were the RSS-BJP on the one hand and the Samajwadi Party government on the other. The VHP’s Ayodhya yatra in August 2013, following the lead of Amit Shah who raked up the Ram mandir issue, provided a perfect setting for communal polarisation. Innocent people were killed and raped at will and over 50,000 rendered homeless. The devious handling of the violence and its aftermath by the SP government has further widened communal faultlines. Ending this vicious cycle of communal violence is neither possible through cynical blame games nor through opportunistic choices of the ‘lesser evil’. It will need a decisive rejection of all those political forces which have resorted to or abetted such violence, not only the BJP but also the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.



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The Believer: Swami Aseemanand’s radical service to the Sangh – By Leena Gita Reghunath (Feb 1, 2014, Caravanmagazine)

Aseemanand continued, “Then they told me, ‘Swamiji, if you do this we will be at ease with it. Nothing wrong will happen then. Criminalisation nahin hoga (It will not be criminalised). If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.'”

Chargesheets filed by the investigative agencies allege that Kumar provided moral and material support to the conspirators, but they don’t implicate anyone as senior as Bhagwat. Although Kumar was interrogated once by the CBI, the case was later taken over by the NIA, which has not pursued the conspiracy past the level of Aseemanand and Pragya Singh. (Joshi, who was allegedly the connecting thread between several different parts of the conspiracy – including those who assembled and those who planted the bombs – was killed under mysterious circumstances in December 2007.)

Since allegations first emerged in late 2010 that Kumar had a role in the attacks, the RSS has closed ranks around him. Bhagwat, in an unprecedented act for an RSS sarsangh-chalak, participated in a dharna to protest the accusations against Kumar. The BJP has also defended him, and the BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi was his lawyer at the time he was named in the chargesheets. A lawyer for one of the accused told me that Kumar is “highly ambitious”, and “in waiting to be the sarsanghchalak”.

An officer at one of the investigating agencies, on the condition of anonymity, allowed me to inspect a secret report submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The report requested that the MHA send a show-cause notice to RSS authorities, asking why the organisation should not be banned in light of the evidence against them. The MHA has not yet acted on the recommendation.

The fear of being banned-as the organisation briefly was after the assassination of Gandhi, in 1948; during the Emergency, in 1975; and after the demolition of Babri Masjid, in 1992-looms over the RSS leadership. Whenever terrorist violence has been attributed to its members, the Sangh has taken a tack similar to the one they used with Nathuram Godse: there is no question of owning or disowning the perpetrators, the RSS says, because they have all previously left the Sangh, or were acting independently of the organisation, or alienated themselves from it by embracing violence. …



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RSS And Murder Of Mahatma Gandhi: What Do Contemporary Documents Tell? – By Shamsul Islam (Jan 30, 2014, Countercurrents)

After the murder of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, the RSS was banned on February 4, 1948. It was banned for anti-national activities and the government communiqué banning the RSS was self-explanatory: “In their resolution of February 2, 1948 the Government of India declared their determination to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this policy the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the RSS.” [Cited in Justice on Trial, RSS, Bangalore, 1962, p. 64.]

The communique went on to disclose that the ban on the RSS was imposed because, “undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military.” [Ibid, pp. 65-66.]

It is well-known that the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, had a soft-corner for the RSS and continues to be a favourite with the RSS. However even Sardar Patel found it difficult to defend the RSS in the aftermath of Gandhiji’s assassination. In a letter written to the head of the RSS, Golwalkar, dated 11 September 1948, Sardar Patel stated: “Organizing the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing…Apart from this, their opposition to the Congress, that too of such virulence, disregarding all considerations of personality, decency or decorum, created a kind of unrest among the people. All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organize for their protection.

“As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS…Since then, over six months have elapsed. We had hoped that after this lapse of time, with full and proper consideration the RSS persons would come to the right path. But from the reports that come to me, it is evident that attempts to put fresh life into their same old activities are afoot.” [Ibid, pp. 26-28.]

Hindu Mahasabha and RSS were jointly responsible for the murder of Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, this fact was further corroborated by Sardar Patel in a letter to a prominent leader of Hindu Mahasabha, Syama Prasad Mookerjee on July 18, 1948. Sardar wrote: “As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub- judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organizations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in the conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure.” [Letter 64 in Sardar Patel: Select Correspondence 1945-1950, Volume 2, Navjiwan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1977, pp. 276-277.]



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Combating hate crime – Editorial (Feb 3, 2014, The Hindu)

Prejudices against those who appear different run deep in Indian society. This unfortunate fact has once again come to the fore in the murder of Nido Tania, 19, a college student hailing from Arunachal Pradesh. He died of possible internal injuries after being thrashed by shopkeepers at a busy market in South Delhi. It is an obvious hate crime that owes its origin to deep-rooted prejudice against citizens from the country’s northeastern States. And four days earlier, according to a belated report, two Manipuri women had been taunted and beaten up by residents in another South Delhi locality. In both instances, residents, traders and passers-by did not intervene.

These incidents bring into sharp focus the fact that racist and discriminatory attitudes are rampant. In India’s public spaces, it does not take much to trigger indecorous comments and provocative taunts, and insinuations about the character and morality of the persons concerned: complexion, appearance or even the colour of one’s hair or style of clothing, is sufficient cause.

In the case of Nido Tania, son of an Arunachal Pradesh legislator, his dyed hair seems to have invited some gratuitous remarks, possibly a racist slur, from those present at a shop as he enquired about an address. The remarks provoked an angry reaction from the youth, who shattered the shop’s glass counter. He was beaten up and handed over to the police. The youth paid up Rs.10,000 to compensate for the damage caused to the shopkeeper, and apparently did not want further trouble; he declined to give a formal complaint. In circumstances that are not clear, he was taken back to the market, and left there without protection. He was thrashed again and died later at a friend’s place.

The police seem to have treated it as a minor altercation and failed to see the larger underlying issue: the potential for violence in a neighbourhood that is obviously hostile to strangers. Even though the Nido Tania case is now being investigated as one of murder, the tendency seems to be to delay action and deny that these are hate crimes. Some may advocate stringent laws to deal with hate crimes like this, but the solution lies not in the domain of law-making, but in the heart of society itself.

It is not enough if the country’s political and constitutional structure is pluralist. Its citizens must internalise the idea that we are a nation of diverse groups of people who need not necessarily resemble one another. Acknowledging the validity of the point made by students and migrants from the northeastern region – that discrimination against them must end in the rest of the country – will be a good start.



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India must win justice for victims of Muzaffarnagar riots – By Harsh Mander (Feb 2, 2014, Hindustan Times)

This is a winter of sorrow. A few hundred kilometres from the country’s Capital, children are dying in the cold, neglected and humiliated by an uncaring government, and in mortal fear of neighbours with whom they lived peacefully for generations. Several thousand hate refugees in Muzaffarnagar survive under makeshift tents without clean water, elementary sanitation, healthcare and schooling. They are victims of communal misinformation which hinges on a myth so implausible and fanciful that it would be funny if it was not so dangerous. …

On August 27, 2013, in Qawal village, a motorcycle accident between a Muslim boy Shahnawaz and a Jat boy Sachin led to a bloody street skirmish in which Sachin’s cousin Gaurav also joined in, at the end of which sadly all three young men lay dead. Communal organisations spread the falsehood that Shahnawaz was stalking Sachin’s sister, and Sachin and his cousin killed him in righteous ‘honour killing’. Sachin’s sister has gone on record that she did not even know Shahnawaz and was never stalked by him, but the media uncritically picked up and relayed the communally charged version. BJP MLA Sangeet Som uploaded a video of two brothers being lynched by a mob in Sialkot, Pakistan, and claimed that it was a Muzaffarnagar mob which brutally killed Sachin and Gaurav.

It took police 19 days to arrest Som, and he was released soon after, resurfacing triumphantly at a BJP rally where they were feted hours before Narendra Modi addressed the gathering. Instead of firmly punishing those who peddle falsehoods, hate and violence, the state government is still in denial, blaming and labelling the victims and forcefully shutting their camps although they have nowhere to go. A love jihad, which was never waged, and stalking and honour killing, which never transpired, are the reasons why hapless innocent people are forced to suffer a bitter winter of exile.

It worries me profoundly that those committed to a project of dividing the two communities for immediate electoral gains can accomplish this so easily, and on such absurd and impossible hate mythology, and that people are willing to believe these obvious falsehoods enough to attack their neighbours and permanently block their return to their homelands. Hate has vanquished for the present rationality, truth and fraternity. The people of India owe it to the people of Muzaffarnagar to wage and win a battle for justice and reconciliation.



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Reopen the Pathribal case – Editorial (Jan 27, 2014, The Hindu)

The Indian Army has not covered itself with glory by closing the cases against the officers involved in the infamous Pathribal fake encounter in Jammu and Kashmir in which five civilians were killed. Taking over the investigation of the case after an uproar over the 2000 incident, the Central Bureau of Investigation concluded that a Brigadier, a Lieutenant Colonel, two Majors, and a Subedar of 7 Rashtriya Rifles had staged the encounter, picking up civilians from the Anantnag area and killing them in cold blood. They lied to the police that the five were foreign militants who had carried out the massacre of Sikhs in Chattisinghpora a few days earlier. Backed by the Ministry of Defence and the Army top brass, the officers named contested the CBI charge sheet, making the argument that under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, prior sanction was required to prosecute them.

When the legal battle reached its portals, the Supreme Court upheld the officers’ case. It also directed the Army to either sanction the prosecution of the officers or court-martial them. The Army was offered the same options back in 2001, but chose to prolong the legal battle. This time, its back to the wall, it chose the latter option. The Army court has egregiously concluded that “the evidence recorded could not establish a prima facie case against any of the accused.” The finding flies in the face of the CBI investigation, but that was only to be expected. The last hope the families of the dead had that justice might be done, lies buried.

It was only in December 2013 that the Army was patting itself on the back for ordering the court martial of three officers involved in the Machchil fake encounter case, citing that as evidence of its willingness to improve its human rights record. But the Pathribal case, through all its legal twists and turns, ending in the exoneration of the accused officers, sends exactly the opposite message. It is a textbook illustration of why the AFSPA is flawed, and strengthens the case to do away with the provision that requires “previous sanction” from the Central government for prosecution, if not to repeal the law itself.

The Army’s whitewash job can only increase resentment against the military in Kashmir, and feed into the sense of alienation. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who understands this well, has rightly said Pathribal “can’t be closed or wished away”. The leader of the National Conference, already criticised as a Congress “stooge”, will have to face the political backlash from the exoneration. If the Centre is serious about winning hearts and minds in Kashmir, it should step in to undo the damage, and find a legal way to reopen the case and pave the way for a civilian trial.



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