IAMC Weekly News Roundup - January 13th, 2014 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 13th, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Rajasthan cops visit Jama Masjid for lessons in harmony (Jan 12, 2014, Times of India)

The Rajasthan Police Academy (RPA) has introduced a special course to familiarize officers with various religious with the help of visits to mosques and churches. At least 150 police officers till the rank of additional superintendents have visited Delhi’s Jama Masjid in the past few months to see how prayers are offered and how one behaves in a religious place as part of the course. The officers, mostly Hindus, were briefed about the prayers.

Senior officers feel the course would help cops act properly during minor communal tensions which often snowball into major clashes. RPA director B L Soni said officers were being called for special training sessions in rotation. “The objective is to teach them how to be sensitive when they face situations of communal tension. The first step towards this is to become closely familiar with various religions,” said Soni

Soni visited Bharatpur recently to study circumstances leading up to communal violence in Gopalgarh, which has prompted this special course. “Regular visits to religious places will help.” He said important religious leaders are being invited to brief police officers about various aspects related to their religions.


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2002 riots: Sreekumar writes to Modi, urges him to take ‘concrete measures’ (Jan 8, 2014, Indian Express)

Former Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar has appealed to Chief Minister Narendra Modi to initiate “concrete” measures to ensure delivery of justice and provide genuine relief and rehabilitation to victims of the 2002 communal riots in accordance with the “grief” expressed by him on the violence on his blog. Sreekumar wrote an open letter to Modi on Tuesday, asking him to immediately expedite the judicial procedures and rehabilitation of the riot victims. While emphasising on Modi’s “emotional reaction” to riots after eleven years, Sreekuamar pointed out 13 areas where the CM must look into immediately.

In his 13-page letter to Modi, Sreekumar stated that while Modi wrote on his blog that he had to single-handedly focus all the strength given to him by God on the task of peace, justice and rehabilitation and burying the pain he was personally wracked with, the ground reality was that much needed to be done to ensure peace, social cohesion, intrinsic rehabilitation and resettlement of riot victims. Sreekumar also demanded that the state government withdraws all cases filed against him and IPS officers Sanjiv Bhatt and Rahul Sharma, to prove that expression of grief by Modi regarding the riots is genuine.

Sreekumar wrote that the Gujarat HC had indicted the state government for its failure to protect Islamic monuments during the riots and directed it take steps for the reconstruction of the dargahs and shrines of Muslim saints and poets that were demolished in 2002. “…Please withdraw the petition challenging the High Court orders and start rebuilding of all Islamic monuments destroyed by the Sangh Parivar-led rioters,” Sreekumar wrote.

The retired officer also asked for the constitution of a Special Task Force to identify and properly rehabilitate the riot victims, who have been living in poor conditions in Ahmedabad in the absence of basic infrastructure. He also asked the CM to constitute a team of officers from police, law and home departments to probe into “lopsided implementation of the apex court order of 2004” for reinvestigation of 2,000 odd riot cases closed by Gujarat Police by not even issuing a statutory notice to the complainants.

Sreekumar wrote that Modi must initiate departmental action against DGP and senior officers in Home department, who deliberately did not act upon specific intelligence assessment reports by the State Intelligence Branch during the riot period. Sreekumar specifically demanded action against all officials, from the DGP to the Chief Secretary, who avoided maintenance of minutes of meetings convened by the DGP to the Chief Minister during the 2002 riots. The retired DGP further wrote that the CM should respond to his representation that he has also forwarded to Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal.



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‘FIR against Teesta, attempt to derail Jafri’s protest petition against Modi’ (Jan 7, 2014, Statesman)

Activist Teesta Setalvad has alleged that the complaint filed against her, for allegedly usurping Rs 1.51 crore collected for turning Gulbarg Society into a museum, is a part of sinister campaign to derail the Zakia Jafri protest petition against Narendra Modi and others. Yesterday, city crime branch had registered an FIR against Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, Zakia Jafri’s son Tanvir Jafri and two others for allegedly usurping Rs 1.51 crore for turning Gulbarg society into a museum.

Setalwad’s organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) wrote a letter to JCP crime branch of the city, Mr A K Sharma, alleging the FIR appears to be part of a sinister campaign being unleashed against them by some persons being manipulated by a former employee Rais Khan Pathan, who is using some residents of the society (not official members) and sections of the police and some persons claiming to be official members of the society. “(the complaint against us) is based on developments that have been in the public domain,” the letter said.

“We would like to state categorically that both Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Sabrang Trust officially received money for legitimate activities and following the legally required procedures,” it mentioned. “We, therefore, urge that the Crime Branch of the Gujarat Police to look at the complete background and nexus when it deals with the current set of false allegations,” CJP said.

“We would like to reiterate that our organisation(s) function lawfully and urge that this malafide complaint is not made a manipulative tool by the Crime Branch. Our trustees would gladly respond to any genuine investigations or inquiries,” the organisation said in a letter to Crime Branch. The complaint was filed eleven days after a metropolitan magistrate’s court rejected Zakia Jafri’s protest petition against Modi and 62 others.Rais Khan was a former employee of Setalwad’s CJP who had some problem with her on financial issues.

Jafri and Setalvad have said that they will approach higher court within a month against the order of magistrate’s court. “The funds, according to the residents, were collected between 2007 and 2012 by Setalvad from abroad under the promise that Gulbarg Society would be converted into a museum. However, the funds are lying as fixed deposits with Setalvad,” the official said.



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‘India will fight communal forces’ (Jan 10, 2014, Times of India)

The Peethadheeshwar of Sri Kalki Dham and national president of Bhartiya Sant Samiti, Acharya Pramod Krishnam on Thursday said the general elections is 2014 will be a battle between constructive and divisive forces.

The acharya lamented over the present scenario of corruption, nepotism and lack of common vision and hoped the mixed and composite culture of the country will give a befitting reply to communal forces.

The Peethadheeshwar was highly critical of Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of BJP. He said India is a nation of Gandhian thought and his killer Godse has no place in Indian Society. Instead of propagating positive thoughts, Modi uses a threatening language, he said.



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Modi, Shah can’t appoint Snoopgate judge, says PIL (Jan 10, 2014, Times of India)

In connection with the public interest litigation (PIL) seeking CBI probe in the Snoopgate scam and questioning legality of the inquiry commission, a new petition has been filed in Gujarat high court questioning the authority of state government to appoint Justice Sugnya Bhatt Commission.

Advocate Ratna Vora has filed this petition requesting the court to join her as a party in the proceeding on the PIL, which was filed last month by another advocate Girish Das. Advocate Vora’s application says that in this issue, chief minister Narendra Modi and then junior home minister Amit Shah are the accused persons and their roles are under the scanner.

She has questioned the authority of Gujarat government to select a judge to inquire, when the office-bearers are the accused. The petition states that an accusecannot chose judge, but this commission and its terms of reference show that the accused persons have chosen not only the judge, but also selected what charges should be leveled against them. The petition also mentions that the government has appointed a judge of its choice, and it gets reflected from how hurriedly the commission is working.

The next hearing is scheduled on January 16. The PIL has questioned the motive of the government by ordering inquiry in just one case of young women and for ignoring allegations that 93,000 phones were tapped. He has claimed that such inquiry commission is set up in the public interest and probe in 93,000 cases is definitely bigger than inquiring into surveillance over one person. A similar PIL was also filed in the Supreme Court by an NGO – Kutch Ladayak Manch.



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AAP office near Kejriwal home attacked, BJP blamed (Jan 8, 2014, Deccan Herald)

Hindu activists vandalized the AAP head office here Wednesday, protesting a statement on Kashmir by party leader Prashant Bhushan, who blamed the BJP and allied groups for the attack. Some 25 to 40 men waving flags and sticks barged into the Aam Aadmi Party office at Kaushambi, stoned and shattered glass windows, broke flower pots and abused AAP leaders, AAP leader Dilip Pandey told IANS. They ransacked furniture inside the office, which is located not far from the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Before fleeing after some 20 minutes, the attackers threatened to target AAP leaders. Pandey said they were from a group called Hindu Raksha Dal. A Hindu Rakshal Dal banner was found at the site.

Bhushan blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allied groups for the attacks. “The attack on our office and its supporters shows the tremendous frustration of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar over the rise of the AAP,” he told the media. “The so-called nationalist party, the BJP, and its assorted organisations have resorted to violence and unleashed their goons on AAP and its supporters. This shows the lumpenization of the BJP,” he added. The BJP sought to put the blame for the incident on Bhushan, a Supreme Court lawyer whose comments suggesting a referendum on army deployment in the Kashmir Valley sparked a furore. Kejriwal distanced himself and the AAP from the statement.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said in New Delhi: “We condemn the attack. No one has a right to take the law in their hands. But we must not forget the comments Bhushan made. We condemn that (too).” At least one AAP member, Suresh, 35, was injured in the aggression. The attackers also held a woman party worker, Varsha, but she was not hurt as party activists pulled her inside the office. There were some 45 people, including 10 women, at the site. This included people who had come to the party office to make representations to the Delhi government. “All our volunteers were asked to get inside during the attack,” Pandey said, adding the attackers raised slogans against a particular community.

AAP members did not retaliate, Pandey said. Asked if the arson was a reaction to Bhushan’s comments on army deployment in the Kashmir Valley, he said: “It may be possible.” The attackers, in their 20s and 30s, came in three or five cars, witnesses said. Superintendent of Police Muniraj said a police complaint had been registered and police officers had been assigned to arrest the culprits. Muniraj told IANS that the AAP office would now be given security.

Some witnesses had furnished the police the registration numbers of the cars in which the men reached the AAP office. “We are hopeful of arresting them,” Muniraj said. Bhushan said Wednesday he had clarified that his suggestion of a referendum vis-a-vis the army deployment in the Kashmir Valley in no way questioned Jammu and Kashmir’s merger with India. “Previously also the same people had attacked me in my (Supreme Court) chamber but unfortunately Delhi Police allowed them to go scot-free.”



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Punish Erring Cops for Rising Acquittals: SC (Jan 8, 2014, New Indian Express)

Expressing serious concern over the rising number of acquittals, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed all state governments to punish investigating officers in such cases, holding that every acquittal is a failure of the whole justice delivery system.

A Bench of Justice C K Prasad and Justice J S Khehar directed state governments to put in place within six months a mechanism for training police officers to ensure the accused is punished and innocent people aren’t framed.

“The system responsible for the administration of justice is responsible for having deprived them (the acquitted) of their lives equivalent to the period of their detention. It is not untrue that for all the wrong reasons innocent persons are subjected to suffer the ignominy of criminal prosecution and to suffer shame and humiliation.

“Just like it is the bounden duty of a court to serve the cause of justice to the victim, it is the duty of a court to ensure that an innocent person is not subjected to the rigours of criminal prosecution,” the Bench said. The court also asked the states to identify investigators responsible for each acquittal.



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Conditions in Muzaffarnagar to catch fire again! RSS distributing ‘provocative’ magazines (Jan 6, 2014, Daily Bhaskar)

The conditions in Muzaffarnagar are again worsening after four months of the communal riots that forced around 40,000 people to flee from their place. The anger of local residents against the police is augmenting and a new phase of Panchayats has commenced in the place. The Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh has come ahead to stand in the favour of the two young boys, who were killed and their deaths ignited the deadly riots four months back.

A magazine named as ‘Muzaffarnagar Danga’ (Muzaffarnagar riot) that consists of 24 pages is being distributed in the city. The magazine has claimed UP government of adopting the policy of adjustment to please the muslim community and not to lose their vote bank. It has been said in the magazine that the SP government is afraid of losing their vote bank following which the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced a compensation of Rs. five-five lakh to the muslim victims of riots.

Though the magazine doesn’t contain the name of any specific person but an address of Meerut has been mentioned in place of the publisher. The address is 105, Arya Nagar, Suraj Kund Road, Meerut, which is the unit office of RSS in Meerut.

An official of RSS Shiv Prakash admitted that the magazine is being published by the members of RSS of Meerut unit and claimed that the magazine is effort to make the real facts of Muzaffarnagar riot available to the public as the state government has presented fake facts. He added that if the biased attitude of state government can’t provoke the people residing in the place, then the magazine based on true figures will have no impact as well.

The riots in the Muzaffarnagar district killed at least 60 people and thousands of people both Hindus and Muslims were forced to escape the area to avoid any harm. It is believed that two Hindu boys, Sachin and Gaurav, killed a Muslim man and then these Hindu boys were also killed. The magazine being published by the RSS unit favours Sachin and Gaurav.



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Digvijaya compares RSS with Ravana (Jan 9, 2014, Times of India)

In comments that could stoke a fresh controversy, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has likened RSS to mythological demon king Ravanawhile slamming BJP and the Sangh over Wednesday’s attack on AAP office in Ghaziabad. “Strongly condemn attack on AAP office by BJP/Sangh activists. BJP as usual is disassociating itself. Part of their strategy.

“Sangh has more than 150 organisations and all have their roots in Sangh. One hand strikes and other hand applies Balm! Multi Faced Party! Doesn’t it remind us of the Ramayan Character who had 10 Faces and one Body ?,” Singh, a known detractor of RSS and BJP, has said in his tweets.

Singh’s remarks on Twitter last night came after activists of a fringe right-wing group attacked and vandalized the Aam Aadmi Party headquarters in Kaushambi, protesting against the controversial remarks of its senior leader Prashant Bhushan on the presence of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

Armed with sticks and bricks, about 40 activists of Hindu Raksha Dal had stormed the AAP office near the residence of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and broke the door panes and flower pots in its frontyard. The attack drew charges and counter-charges with Kejriwal claiming that it was meant to kill him and Bhushan.

Bhushan, a noted lawyer, who had stoked a controversy suggesting a referendum on the presence of security in the Kashmir valley, had claimed that BJP was “frustrated” with the mounting popularity of AAP and had incited one of its sister organisations in the attack. BJP hit back by saying that while it condemned the violence, Bhushan should also mind his tongue when speaking on sensitive issues like Jammu and Kashmir, which is an inalienable part of the country.



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Narendra Modi ‘looting’ Gujarat with help of corporates: NCP (Jan 9, 2014, DNA India)

Sharad Pawar-led NCP on Thursday launched a frontal attack on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and said the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was looting Gujarat with the help of some corporates.

“A public rally Modi addresses costs Rs 25 crore…. Had he not been the Chief Minister, this kind of expenditure would have been impossible,” NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said here.

To a question about MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s remark that Modi should have quit as Gujarat CM after being declared BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, Malik said, “Modi will never do that.”



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Jains in minority list: Govt says Muslim interest won’t be hurt (Jan 10, 2014, Indian Express)

The Minority Affairs Ministry’s move to include Jains in the Centre’s minorities list has raised concern that broadening the definition without an economic eligibility criterion or a model for better implementation may cause the Muslim community to lose out, a fear which the ministry said was unfounded. Abusaleh Sharriff, Member of the Sachar Committee that evaluated human development and economic indices of the Muslim community, says: “Our analysis show that in terms of employment opportunities and bank loans, benefits of minorities’ entitlements are cornered by more affluent minority communities like Sikhs and Parsis. Jains too are an affluent community and their inclusion may cause the divide to deepen, specially when it comes to the banking sector as they are predominantly a business community. Muslims will lose out.”

The problem, he says, is designing schemes for Muslims and targeting it for “minorities” as there is a notion that Muslim-specific schemes may go against secular credentials, with the result that the only schemes from which Muslims benefit are scholarship schemes. The ministry view is that minority status to one more community does not compromise interest of any existing groups on the list. The five religious minorities currently recognised by the Centre are Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Buddhists. Minority Affairs Minister K Rehman Khan said Sharriff’s claim of more affluent minorities cornering benefits was “unfounded”.

“Jains are a designated religious minority in 11 states and this is a long standing demand to include them in the National Commission of Minorities Act. That is all we are proposing to do. There are not just economic benefits at stake, there are other forms of protections that minorities are entitled to. There is no question of taking away from other communities because schemes are designed with the specific needs of a community in mind,” Khan says.

Justice Rajender Sachar says there is no doubt Jains constitute a religious minority. He says the problem of affluent communities cornering benefits, it is the result of poor implementation. NAC member Farah Naqvi says economic eligibility criteria should be a norm in all affirmative action.



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Opinions and Editorials

Modi’s Role in Gujarat Pogrom: Bound by the rules of the greater family – By CP Bhambhri (Jan 9, 2014, Hindustan Times)

Narendra Modi’s 1,000-word blog of December 27, just after the Ahmedabad judge dismissed a criminal case filed against him by Zakia Jafri, is just one in a series of attempts by him to hoodwink people by presenting the judgment as evidence that he, as chief minister of Gujarat, cannot be held guilty for the 2002 riots.

Modi, in his artificial, hyperbolic language, stated “yesterday’s judgment culminated a process of unprecedented scrutiny … Gujarat’s 12 years of trial by the fire have finally drawn to an end. I feel liberated and at peace”. This self-congratulatory action is premature because Jafri has many legal rights and options before her to take up the cause of the massacred residents.

A few things may be mentioned to substantiate the argument that neither Modi nor his government and associates of the Sangh parivar can be absolved of their omission and commission during and after the anti-Muslim riots of 2002. A bandh call was given by associates of the Sangh parivar on February 28 and the messages, rumours and misinformation were spread throughout Gujarat that Muslims (unsubstantiated) had burnt Hindu kar sevaks who were coming back in a train from Ayodhya. Should the Modi government have allowed this bandh, whose only purpose was to create anti-Muslim feelings? The answer is: he could not stop it because he himself has been an RSS pracharak.

The RSS is committed to the ideology that Hindus are ‘first-class’ citizens of India and Muslims and Christians are ‘second-class’ and minorities can live only if they accept that they are citizens of the Hindu Rashtra as defined by the RSS. Modi is an ideologue of the RSS and his role during the riots of 2002 or as the PM candidate for 2014 can be understood by situating him in the Hindu joint family.

In an interview on July 12, 2013, he stated: “I’m nationalist. I’m patriotic. I’m Hindu nationalist …” Similarly, LK Advani, who as home minister in the NDA government had protected Modi, stated on July 17



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The Neros Of Uttar Pradesh – By Deevakar Anand (Jan 18, 2014, Tehelka)

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav can certainly brave the chill of the January nights. On the night of 8 January, he was at the annual Saifai Mahotsav in his native district of Etawah, along with his son, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. The father-son duo looked absolutely comfortable enjoying the “Bollywood Night” as actors Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit, among others, shook their legs to various dance numbers.

Around the same time when the Bollywood performers were regaling the Yadavs, along with their select list of guests that included the who’s who of Uttar Pradesh politics and bureaucracy, about 400 km away at Malakpur village in Shamli district, Akbari, a 60-year-old widow, struggled to keep herself warm by burning dried sugarcane leaves in front of an 8×6 feet tarpaulin tent. Akbari, along with her two teenage sons, had run away from her home in Lank village on 8 September last year to escape the riots – India’s deadliest in a decade that left 59 dead and rendered over 50,000 homeless.

The tent that serves as her shelter is in one corner of a camp where there are more than 200 such tents – temporary shelters for families that were displaced from their homes during the communal riots that ravaged Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts. Like several other such camps that came up during the riots, the Malakpur camp too was set up hastily on an open field near the narrow road leading to the village.

An almost unbearable chill had begun to set in earlier in the evening. At quarter past seven, the road from Kairana, a municipal town in Shamli district, to Malakpur village was already shrouded in thick fog, with visibility less than 30-40 metres. As the mercury dipped to freezing levels, the tarpaulin tents ceased to provide any protection against the chill. As it is dangerous to light a fire inside the tent to bring in some warmth, Akbari and others in the camp had no option but to go out into the open, gather dry leaves to burn and sit huddled around the fire. …



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AAP: Modi’s nightmare – By Bharat Bhushan (Jan 10, 2014, Asian Age)

The single moment that lifted Prime Minister Manmohan’s Singh’s press conference out of the ordinary was his declaration that Narendra Modi would be a disastrous Prime Minister for India. The question is who is going to stop him? The only political entity on the horizon which can take Mr Modi head on is the Aam Aadmi Party. Unlike the Congress, AAP is not in defensive mode. It has the raw courage of a new contender and a pro-people image to counter Mr Modi and the BJP. Indeed, if Mr Modi is not already worried about AAP, he should be for several reasons.

The AAP has already broken the momentum of the Modi campaign. A few months ago, every small utterance by Mr Modi was reported by the media. His bravado was taken as proof of leadership. He seems to have been replaced in public mind-space by Arvind Kejriwal and AAP. Mr Modi is now invariably relegated to the inside pages while every initiative of AAP dominates the front page of national newspapers. Mr Modi’s pronouncements also seem to hold less interest for TV audiences than Mr Kejriwal’s, who is undoubtedly the flavour of the season and crucial to the ratings of television channels.

While Mr Modi’s focus is on election rallies, AAP and Mr Kejriwal, as the head of a new government, are seen to be focused on people-oriented activities – making water supply free, halving electricity rates, setting up night-shelters and, very importantly, shunning VIP-culture in their personal lives. If Mr Modi is indeed taking radical administrative decisions in Gujarat amidst his ambitious election campaign, it is not apparent to people in other parts of the country. Reports coming out of the state suggest that the chief minister has little time to focus on administration given his busy tour schedule.

What must be especially galling to Mr Modi is the loss of support from the youth of the country and the aspirational middle classes who were said to be united behind him till now. The AAP appears to be making deep inroads into this constituency. According to newspaper reports, an analysis of Twitter, blogs, discussion forums and Facebook shows that after the AAP victory in the Delhi state elections, Mr Modi’s social media mentions declined by 23 per cent while that of Mr Kejriwal’s rose by a staggering 120 per cent. …

Apart from straight wins, the constituencies where AAP could damage the BJP’s vote are those where the margins of victory have tended to be low. Unbelievably, Gujarat is one such state. In the last Assembly elections, the BJP’s total margin of victory in the state was less than three lakh votes while the total non-BJP vote exceeded the votes polled the BJP by more than 10 times that figure. If AAP shows the requisite gumption, Mr Modi’s march to Delhi could end in Gujarat itself. Of course the AAP will also damage the Congress in several constituencies. But while the Congress may be reconciled to sit in the Opposition in 2014, the rise of AAP could turn Mr Modi’s prime ministerial dreams into a nightmare.



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Containing the Maoist threat – Editorial (Jan 11, 2014, The Hindu)

When the state responds to political violence in an indiscriminately heavy-handed manner, members of extremist groups will only harden their positions and hesitate to join the democratic mainstream. Whether the surrender of Maoist leader G. Venkatakrishna Prasad alias Gudsa Usendi, and his wife Santhoshi Markom, marks the beginning of a welcome new trend or is just a one-off event depends a lot on the rehabilitation of the couple who have been active with the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the CPI-Maoist. Mr. Prasad, who was the spokesperson for the Maoists in Chhattisgarh, was wanted by the police for his direct involvement in major acts of violence, including the killing of Congress leaders in Bastar last year.

Whether it was ill-health or disgust with the politics of violence that prompted him to surrender before the police in Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Prasad is entitled to the rehabilitation scheme already in place for reformed Naxalites. Governments are wont to seek the media spotlight and a bit of political triumphalism is inevitable when Maoists surrender, given the deadly and inherently anti-social nature of their activities. It is important to ensure that the reformative approach to these former extremists succeeds in transforming their mindset. Some of the Maoists return to collaborating with the extremist group, and some others spend the rest of their life in penury. A few are even hunted down by their former colleagues for being police informers and betrayers of the movement. The safety of these persons who have chosen to step out of the shadow of extremist politics must be guaranteed by governments.

There are many Maoists who feel trapped in the movement and the cycle of attacks and reprisals, but who are unable to gather the courage to make the transition from the fringe to the mainstream. However, rehabilitation of lapsed militants can only be a small part of the larger strategy of containing extremist violence. The administrative response of deploying specially trained security personnel in the violence-affected areas should be accompanied by a developmental strategy to enhance livelihood opportunities in tribal and forest regions.

When rural wages remain low, the youth in India’s deprived interior areas can easily be lured into believing that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. If it is not to be an isolated instance, the surrender should not be projected as a vindication of harsh measures in the face of extremist threat but should prompt a reworking of the strategy of countering political violence, and the putting in place of a comprehensive, equitable development programme for India’s tribal areas.



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A scheme for scandal – By Lyla Bavadam (Jan 24, 2014, Frontline)

First, a little background to the scam-tainted 31-storey Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society building in Colaba, Mumbai. In the 1970s, the spot where the high-rise building has come up was coastal marsh and mangrove wetland with some parcel of land along its edges. A part of the strip of land between the mangrove forest and the road was occupied by a few washermen who would use the nearby military dhobi ghat (open-air laundry) and dry the washed clothes by spreading them out on the mangrove thickets. The only other human activity in the area happened deep inside the mangrove forest where a few local bootleggers prepared their brew. The whole area belonged to the military, as was apparent not just from the signboard but also from a rusty old barrier of colonial vintage that stood about 700 metres north from where the Adarsh building now stands.

Gradually, the mangrove forest was cut down and rubble from Mumbai’s nascent construction industry was dumped in the marshes to reclaim land. At the time, some land was handed over by the military to the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Corporation, or BEST. There are allegations of corruption in this regard but no case had been made out. BEST constructed a depot there. Over the years, land reclamation activity extended further into the sea and vast colonies of slums ruled by slumlords came up there.

In the early 1990s, there was talk of constructing a building on 6,490 square metres of land near the bus depot for retired armed forces officers. The proposal generated great enthusiasm among retired officers as the project was being planned in prime real estate in one of the nicest localities in the city. However, nothing seemed to materialise for a long time and the idea faded away until construction activity started on the site in the mid-2000s. The secrecy surrounding the Adarsh Housing Society started at this time.

No one seemed to know if the project that was coming up was new or the one planned earlier. Even those keen to own a flat there could not get information. The mystery remained even as the building emerged with 31 storeys. What started as a housing scheme for retired armed forces officers soon included serving personnel, and was later modified to benefit Kargil war heroes and their widows. While the developments were in the realm of speculation, the real intention, it appears, was for Ministers and bureaucrats to appropriate the flats and assign a few to senior armed forces officers.

In 2003, a press report exposed what was clearly a scam in the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society Ltd. A housing society meant for defence personnel included a motley group of Ministers and bureaucrats, senior army officers and a dubious “promoter” who was already under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for irregularities in another defence land deal. Not much notice was taken of the report at the time, but in 2010 it was resurrected by the media. By this time, the scheme was accepted as one meant for Kargil heroes (although when this change in the beneficiary of the scheme occurred is not known), and the uproar centred round the issue of flats being taken by defence personnel who had not participated in the Kargil war, top politicians, military officers and bureaucrats. Further, there were allegations of hasty construction clearances, of violation of the original development plan and security, and of sale of flats at artificially lowered prices. Flats that would have cost a minimum of Rs.4 crore each at the time were sold for an average price of Rs.70 lakh. …



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The Fast Road To Nimtala – By Dola Mitra (Jan 20, 2014, Outlook)

“It’s so frightening you want to flee the state,” says a schoolgirl from Kamduni, in the North 24 Parganas district, now infamous for the gangrape-murders of two young women. Her words should be haunting West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whose administration and police have handled cases of sexual assaults on women casually and callously – right from the Park Street gangrape case of 2012. Despite her image as a crusading woman, Mamata hasn’t come out shining either, obsessed as she was in imputing political motives to the sexual assaults and protests than in finding the culprits.

The terror of the North 24 Parganas district – now spreading among women across the state – stems from two cases. In June last year, a college student from Kamduni had been dragged off the street in broad daylight, gangraped and murdered. Her body was found dumped in a ditch. What seems to have shaken schoolgirls in the area more is the recent case from nearby Madhyamgram, in the same district – more horrifying perhaps, if gangrapes and murders could ever be thought of in degrees of brutality.

The ordeal of the second victim, the 16-year-old daughter of a taxi-driver, lasted around two months – from October 25 to December 31 – during which she was gangraped twice and at last died of burns in a Calcutta hospital. It’s a harrowing story, one that is only now evoking nationwide outrage, not only over the sexual violence, but also over the inability of the police and the state government to protect the victim and her family from their tormentors.

It was in October last year that a group of young lumpens abducted and gangraped the teenager. They left her half-unconscious in a field, where she was later found by her father. The very next day, as she was returning with her father after lodging a complaint at the police station, she was abducted again by the same men. Her helpless father could not prevent the abduction. The brutes gangraped her again and left her to die on a railway track. She survived. But the terrorised family left the village and took up residence in Dum Dum, near Calcutta airport. The case created but a few ripples in the media. There was hardly a flutter of protest from the political parties or civil society.

In December, the gang members allegedly reappeared in Calcutta and threatened the girl’s family with dire consequences if the case wasn’t withdrawn. What happened thereafter is not clear even now, but the girl was found with 60 per cent burns and, after eight days of treatment, died in hospital on December 31. In her dying declaration, she said she’d been set on fire.…



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