IAMC Weekly News Roundup - February 6th, 2017 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 6th, 2017

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

50,000 Gujarat riot victims still displaced, lack housing rights, 20% women face triple talaq: Janvikas book (Jan 28, 2017, Counterview)

A new book released on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Janvikas, one of the premier civil rights organisations of India, has estimated that around 50,000 Gujarat 2002 riot-affected Muslims should be qualified to be considered internally-displaced persons (IDPs) – a term coined by the United Nations to identify those ravaged by violent social conflicts.

Giving a graphic picture of their living conditions and empowerment, especially among women, the book, titled “Creating Spaces: Nurturing Leadership” – which focuses, among other issues, on the impact of the 2002 communal carnage on Gujarat’s IDPs – believes, many of them live in an “extremely vulnerable” condition in several of the 86-odd colonies in seven districts.

The most pressing issue of these IDPs, insists the book, is housing ownership. The religious trusts which earlier gave lands for housing, are now reluctant to give them housing rights, the book regrets, adding, what is now being assured is residential rights and not ownership rights, which has brought them much current insecurity.…



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After 13 years in jail, SC acquits two accused (Feb 3, 2017, Times of India)

The Supreme Court on Thursday acquitted two persons and upheld conviction of two others in connection with the 2002 tiffin-bomb blast case, in which the state government had invoked the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota).

Habib Hawa and Hanif Pakitwala will walk out declared innocent, after spending 13 years in jail. The apex court also ended the imprisonment of two others – Anas Machiswala and Kalim Ahmed – and ordered their release by treating the 13 years they spent in jail as punishment already undergone. All four were convicted to life imprisonment by Gujarat high court, their advocate Khalid Shaikh said.

These four men were convicted in relation to five bombs planted in tiffin boxes aboard Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) buses on May 29, 2002. Three of the bombs went off, injuring 13 persons. The blasts were shown to be a reaction to the 2002 riots.…



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Sadiq Jamal Encounter: CBI court reserves order on discharge plea of accused cop (Feb 5, 2017, Indian Express)

A special CBI court on Saturday reserved its verdict on the discharge application moved by retired Deputy Superintendent of Police K M Vaghela, an accused in the Sadiq Jamal Mehtar encounter case. The court is likely to pronounce the order on February 28.

This is the first discharge application moved by an accused in this case. Vaghela has claimed that there is evidence against him in the case. He has also claimed that the CBI has not taken mandatory sanction from the state government under section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for prosecuting a government servant.

Vaghela is among the eight policemen, including DySP Tarun Barot, who were chargesheeted by the CBI in December 2012. All the accused are out on bail. The second chargesheet is being awaited as the investigation is not yet over.…



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Husband jailed for rioting, wife gets BJP ticket for UP election (Feb 3, 2017, Hindustan Times)

Suchi Chaudhury, the Bharatiya Janta Party’s candidate for Bijnor City, sat beside a giant stuffed teddy bear embroidered with the words “So Sweet”, and explained why she was contesting one of the tightest seats in Uttar Pradesh’s pivotal election.…

Chaudhury’s husband, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member Aishwarya “Mausam” Chaudhury, is one of 31 people currently in jail for allegedly inciting a communal riot between Jats and Muslims in the villages of Peda and Nayagaon in September 2016 in which three Muslims were shot dead and scores were injured. The violence was part of a string of similar clashes that have polarised the region’s Jats and Muslims into opposing camps.

Forty three percent of Bijnor’s population is Muslim, 20 percent is Dalit, the remaining are land-owning Jats and assorted general castes, making this seat a bellwether for the many forces that have made Uttar Pradesh’s election so hard to call.…



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BJP and RSS targeting SCAM – SCs and minorities: Sitaram Yechury (Feb 6, 2017, First Post)

Attacking the BJP-led central government, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Sunday alleged minorities and people belonging to the Scheduled Castes were being targeted by the Sangh Parivar outfits under the watch of the Narendra Modi government.

“Yesterday, the Prime Minister, speaking at a rally in Uttar Pradesh where elections are going on, said the BJP and RSS are in a big struggle against what he called the SCAM.” “…If the Prime Minister is saying that he is fighting the SCAM, the RSS and the BJP are fighting the SCAM – Scheduled Castes and Minorities – in our country,” he told a rally organised by the DYFI here as part of its national conference. Modi had on Saturday said the election in Uttar Pradesh was BJP’s fight against ‘scam’; ‘S’ for Samajwadi, ‘C’ for Cong, ‘A’ for Akhilesh, ‘M’ for Mayawati.

Referring to the incidents of attack against Dalits and minorities in the country after the Modi government assumed office, Yechury alleged that the BJP government was completely against the Dalits and minorities.…



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Congress seeks parliamentary probe into Ahamed’s death (Feb 6, 2017, The Hindu)

Led by their leader Rahul Gandhi, Congress MPs on Monday demanded a parliamentary probe into the death of IUML leader and Kerala MP E. Ahamed. The MPs demonstrated in the Parliament complex, accusing the Modi government of hushing up the veteran MP’s death in a hospital ahead of the annual Union Budget’s presentation on February 1.

Holding a placard that read “We are Ahamed Sahib,” Mr. Gandhi along with Congress colleagues staged the protest near the Mahatma Gandhi statue that faces Parliament. Former Union Minister and Indian Union Muslim League leader Ahamed was declared dead hours before Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the union budget in Parliament on February 1. The opposition has said that he died a day earlier, but the Modi government kept the news under wraps to ensure that the budget presentation was not disrupted.

“Ahamed was unnecessarily kept on life support when he had already expired. They wanted to hide this fact, they hushed up his death. That is why we are demanding a Parliamentary Committee to be formed to probe the matter,” Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge told the media.…



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Attack on top academic: Why Chhattisgarh govt isn’t acting against unruly mob, cops, ask Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy (Jan 30, 2017, Counterview)

A group of 35 well-known activists led by Narmada Bachao Andolan’s Medha Patkar and Magsaysay award winning right to information campaigner Aruna Roy have said that Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh’s assurance of safety following the recent attack on top academic Bela Bhatia has not followed with “any strong action”.

Singh “assurance” comes a day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s support to Bela Bhatia. Meeting her, Singh, who met her in in Jagdalpur, assured her of “all protection and the freedom to continue her work among the tribals”, adding, she could “continue to live at her present location”, and if feeling insecure, she could be “alternative accommodation in Bastar.”

Insisting that there has not been “any strong action on unruly mobs and abusive, law-breaking police officers” who were responsible for the mob attack on Bhatia’s house, situated in Parpa village near Jagdalpur in Bastar region, the statement says, failure to take firm action suggests there would be no let down in threats on activists who are fighting for tribals’ cause.…



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Maharashtra Textbook Shocker: ‘Ugliness’ Leads to Dowry (Feb 2, 2017, The Wire)

The sociology textbook prescribed by the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Education for class XII students lists ‘ugliness’ as a cause of dowry.

Reflecting a deeply regressive mindset, the textbooks claims, “If a girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes difficult for her to get married.” Following this line of argument, the section suggests that when “such girls” have to get married, the bridegroom’s family demands more dowry, and the girl’s parents “become helpless” and pay the demanded dowry.

The book, Sociology Standard XII, authored by six people and published by the state board, discusses dowry under the chapter ‘Major Social Problems in India’, which also includes sections of gender inequality, domestic violence and farmer suicides among other things.…



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Has BJP’s Hindutva campaign ‘using’ Shah Rukh Khan reached health ministry? (Feb 7, 2017, Dailyo.in)

While whipping up passion on communal lines, the BJP government not just seems to be turning a blind eye to a health campaign, but also playing a sly game of dividing Bollywood. According to a report in The Indian Express, the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) is awaiting approval from the health ministry for videos it shot in December with Shah Rukh Khan to promote awareness about eye ailments – “Eye Hear You” campaign.

Union health minister JP Nadda is reportedly unhappy that he had not been consulted at an earlier stage when it could have been shot with someone else. And this someone else is none other than Hrithik Roshan.… So, is it true that the Raees versus Kaabil frenzy was not merely a box-office battle but an attempted Hindu versus Muslim hysteria by the BJP? Because that kind of explains why BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya entered the pre-release campaign (of the two movies), and tweeted: “Jo Raees desh ka nahi, wo kisi kaam ka nahi. Aur ekj Kaabil deshbhakt ka saath, toh hum sabhi ko dena hi chahiye (The rich who don’t belong to the country are of no use. The able patriot is the one we should all support)”. …

Muslim actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan have been attacked as “anti-nationalist” in the past as well because of their religion. The BJP general secretary had asked his supporters to boycott Dangal because Aamir Khan had spoken about Kiran Rao’s fears of growing religious intolerance in India.…The party surely seems to be losing its vision, forget bad and worse governance.



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Pune techie murder: HC asks Maha to produce all evidence against Hindu Rashtra Sena leader (Feb 2, 2017, Hindustan Times)

The Bombay high court on Wednesday asked the state to place on record the charge sheet and all adverse evidence against the main accused in the murder of Pune techie Mohsin Shaikh.

The HC is hearing a plea filed by the accused, Hindu Rashtra Sena leader Dhananjay Desai, asking for the charges of murder and attempt to murder charges against him be dropped. The case generated much furore recently, when another bench of the high court granted bail to the other men accused in the case, saying they had been “provoked in the name of religion”.

IT professional Shaikh was attacked on June 2, 2014, by a mob in Pune’s Hadapsar during violence that erupted over a social media post. Around half-an-hour before the attack, Desai was allegedly addressing a meeting that instigated the audience to violence.…



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Opinions and Editorials

UP Elections 2017: BJP’s Divisive Agenda – By Ram Puniyani (Feb 7, 2017, The Citizen)

The forthcoming UP Assembly Elections (2017) are regarded as very crucial for all the political parties and more so for the future of secularism and democracy in the country. BJP’s rise on the national scene began at a higher pitch with the Ram Temple agitation and the consequent rise in communal violence. Since then it has been adding more divisive issues and with greater vehemence to reap electoral benefits.

Even before the elections in UP were declared many BJP leaders had been raising issues like Ram Temple, Love Jihad and exodus of Hindus from Kairana. In Gujarat, during the Gujarat carnage used the infamous ‘action-reaction’ theory and the statement that refugee camps have become ‘child production centers’ and so should be closed down. In due course to give a neutral cover to the underlying communal agenda the government then under Chief Minister Narendra Modi did shift to the ‘development agenda’, which was more of an eye wash.

Along with the media blitz and a clever publicity the state government tried to sell his image of ‘development man’ and took the policies to woo the Corporate World. But the slip always kept showing. Even during the creation of euphoria of ‘Acche Din’ during 2014 General elections, PM Modi raised the issue of Pink revolution (relating to beef) and Bangladeshi immigrants in the context of saving Rhinos in Assam. His associates did keep talking of issues related to Hindutva agenda like Ram Temple, Triple Talaq, Article 370 at the same time. The propaganda of development and communal message carried the day for BJP during 2014 elections as it managed to get simple majority on its own in Lok Sabha. Now Election Commission has censured BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj for his remarks where he blames Muslims for the rise in population.…



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Hype without Substance – Editorial (Feb 4, 2017, EPW)

The Union Budget for 2017–18, the fourth presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of the Narendra Modi government, … has been pitched as “pro-poor,” benefiting farmers, and one that would lead to a more “progressive” tax structure and a reduction in the generation of black money. However, the chances of the budget alleviating the plight of the disadvantaged, reducing inequality, creating jobs, bringing down the bad loans advanced by public sector banks, and significantly improving the working of social welfare programmes, seem rather remote.

A close look at the budget documents reveals that none of these claims may hold good, that the budget is more hype than substance and, importantly, appears to be trying hard to assuage the hurt and pain suffered by ordinary Indians, in particular the poor, on account of the massive disruption caused to the country’s economy by demonetisation.…

There is no explicit acknowledgement in the budget that the rate of growth of the economy is decelerating and that there is a case for expansionary fiscal policy. To sum up, despite the hype and the rhetoric surrounding the allegedly “pro-poor, anti-rich” stance of the budget, it comprises a set of proposals that underwhelm and is unlikely to reduce inequalities nor make a big difference to the lives of the country’s underprivileged.



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The show limps on – By Divya Trivedi (Feb 17, 2017, Frontline)

…Vibrant Gujarat, considered the biggest public relations exercise of all time, sadly, failed to live up to the hype. Local newspapers wrote about how farmers from nearby villages were brought to the event wearing suits to fill up the seats. Nobel laureates had to fend for their own seats, with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan walking out in frustration.

Reporters’ movements were controlled and they were not provided access to the events they wanted to attend. “This is Modi showing us our place in his grand scheme of things. As he and his cronies control most of our owners, he can seat or unseat us as he pleases,” said an exasperated reporter who was prevented from entering a tent serving tea while waiting for more than an hour for Modi’s arrival.

There was even an ATM inside the venue and several attendees flocked to it but got scared when it debited the money from their accounts without dispensing cash. “Waah re Modi’s digital India!” quipped a victim.…



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The BJP’s Social Media Armies Seek To Divide – By Derek O’Brien (Feb 5, 2017, NDTV)

…As it happens, the only party that has consistently attacked the government on economic issues is the Trinamool Congress. We have paid for it. Central agencies have targeted Bengal and arrested our party MPs on trumped-up charges, without sufficient evidence. The social media armies of the BJP have systematically threatened religious harmony and social peace in Bengal. I stressed this in the Rajya Sabha, explaining how “Digital India” was being turned into “Divisive India”.

The examples I gave should be scary and worrying for anybody in government. Out of nothing, a Twitter trend was created by manipulating timelines and using hashtags like ‘#BengalIsBurning’. A mischief-maker uses Photoshop to concoct an incident and his cohorts ensure it goes viral. They pretend it is an organised religious attack. Actually, it is a made-up case, a hoax.

Who is behind all this? What connection do some of the Twitter handles and social media accounts associated with such campaigns have with the ruling party in Delhi? Why is Bengal being singled out? Is it because Trinamool has taken such an adamant and principled stand against the BJP regime’s whimsical and irresponsible policies?



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Why Bombay HC granting bail to Hindu Rashtra Sena men in Mohsin Shaikh murder case is worrisome – By Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves (Feb 3, 2017, Dailyo.in)

Proceedings in Justice Mridula Bhatkar’s courtroom at Bombay High Court are conducted briskly, even brusquely. A speedy pace of case disposal leaves scant cause for complaint due to delay. However, one of the cases disposed in January 2017 has been the subject of much comment and criticism by the legal fraternity and other sections of civil society. A group of lawyers from Pune has even petitioned the Chief Justice of the court to take suo-moto cognisance and quash the order, which they feel gives sufficient ground for doubting the court’s religious impartiality.

The court had granted bail, an act normally worth commending in a country where courts often do not implement the principle of “bail not jail” laid down 40 years ago by the Supreme Court. It was not the fact of grant of bail but the reasoning given by the court that was at issue. The accused were three persons of the Hindu Rashtra Sena, charged with the murder of a Muslim engineer, Mohsin Shaikh. It was in the nature of a hate crime, with the religion of the deceased being the only reason for his killing. However Justice Bhatkar’s reasoning was that the religious motivation for the crime was a factor in favour of the accused, which entitled them to bail.…

Rather, there is a distinct possibility of other courts selectively advancing along the jurisprudential direction indicated by Bhatkar, to provide succour to those involved in similarly inspired hate and terror attacks. The devilish consequences for our society and polity can well be imagined.…



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The tyranny of populism – By Sashi Kumar (Feb 17, 2017, Frontline)

…Those of us nonplussed and upset by the public upsurge this Pongal season in Tamil Nadu in defiance of the May 2014 ruling by the Supreme Court, which effectively banned jallikkattu, and provided the state with a handle, which it eagerly seized, to undo the court order, can only seek solace in the hope that it is a long habit of not thinking the thing wrong that gave this cruel sport the false prestige or gravitas of tradition and fomented the widespread public resentment against its ban, and that with time its inhumane, cruel and lethal manifestation and consequences will speak to the Tamil collective conscience and change hearts.

That, though, would be an excruciatingly gradualist move towards a modern, rational and progressive social order, towards realising the scientific temper and humaneness enshrined in the Constitution. Excruciating, because many more bulls will be tortured and maimed and killed, and many more people will be injured and lose their lives before we consensually let go of this primitive practice.…

The way closure, at least for now, has been applied on the jallikkattu imbroglio may lead to different, perhaps undesirable, outcomes in similar situations where the judiciary, a section of the people and the government are involved in a three-way face-off.



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Book Review

Foot Soldier of the Constitution: A Memoir

Author: Teesta Setalvad
Reviewed by: Binu Mathew
Available at: Amazon-Kindle Direct Publishing. http://www.amazon.in/
Teesta Setalvad: Foot Soldier Of The Indian Constitution (Feb 7, 2017, Countercurrents)

…When Teesta Setalvad’s memoir “Foot Soldier of the Constitution” appeared I simply could not resist. Her indomitable spirit in spite all the wild allegations, smearing of reputation, false cases, public humiliation, personal attacks and trolling amazed me. I wanted to know what keeps her growing. Thankfully, this book has all the answers.

We all know Teesta Setalvad as the face of the Gujarat justice movement. In fact, she is the engine that powers this movement. Without her, could there have been fight for justice for the victims of Gujarat pogrom? Without Teesta and her team at “Citizens for justice and Peace” I sincerely doubt that there could have been so many convictions including that of a minister.

But Teesta’s work for justice and communal harmony doesn’t start in 2002. It started way back in 1984 communal violence in Bombay. She also was also at the forefront reporting and organising for peace and harmony in the post Babri-Masjid riots in Bombay during 1992-93. It was these experiences that shaped Teesta the “Foot Soldier of the Constitution”.…