IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 16th, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Gujarat CM, HM culpable in 2002 riots: Ex-DGP
- Amid bouts of amnesia, Zadaphia puts Modi in dock
- CBI grills Amit Shah for 8 hrs in Tulsi case
- Justice eludes victims falsely arrested in Mecca Masjid blast case
- Batla House encounter returns to haunt Congress
- Surya Namaskar part of agenda to saffronise educatn: Ajay
- Gadkari, Modi, and the BJP’s gymnastics on corruption
- Rushdie offended Muslims, cancel his visa, demands Deoband
- ‘Police tortured me, I couldn’t recognise myself’
- Dalit woman paraded naked in Chavan’s hometown
Opinions & Editorials
- ‘Why Is Narendra Modi Afraid Of Sanjiv Bhatt?’ – By Priyanka Borpujari
- BJP: Hypocrisy on Political Chessboard – By Ram Puniyani
- Farce of Lokpal – By A.G. Noorani
- Inaction as policy – By Bhaskar Ghose
- With Wing Clipped – By Smruti Koppikar
- Tracker controversy – By T.K. Rajalakshmi
Gujarat CM, HM culpable in 2002 riots: Ex-DGP (Jan 12, 2012, DNA India)
Former Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar today filed his ninth affidavit before the Nanavati Commission, in which he claimed that Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the then Minister of State for Home Gordhan Zadafia among others were culpable under IPC section 166 in relation with the 2002 riots. Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 166 is applicable for offence by public servant in disobeying law with intent to cause injury to any person.
In his affidavit, Sreekumar, who was ADGP (intelligence) in 2002 has further asked the Commission to take necessary action with regard to his new affidavit. “Manipulation of the criminal justice system as delineated in my reports to the government was intimated to the chief minister. Home department officials and DGP were also aware of this despicable ground situation. Still no remedial action suggested in my report dated April 24, 2002 was taken,” he claimed.
“The government did not question information in my reports and my supervisory officers also did not ask me to furnish any clarification or explanation on inputs in my reports. This had established that the government had accepted my intelligence assessment reports,” he added. “The above facts categorically establish that DGP, Home department officials, MOS home and chief minister were culpable for offence under section 166 IPC,” Sreekumar said.
- Modi gave oral order to release arrested Hindus, alleges Shreekumar (Jan 13, 2012, The Hindu)
- Prosecute Narendra Modi for ignoring key report: RB Sreekumar (Jan 13, 2012, DNA India)
- Contempt hearing against Modi deferred till Jan 17 (Jan 11, 2012, Indian Express)
- SIT asks Bhatt to produce original of crucial February 27, 2002 fax message (Jan 16, 2012, The Hindu)
Amid bouts of amnesia, Zadaphia puts Modi in dock (Jan 14, 2012, Indian Express)
Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the then law minister late Ashok Bhatt had taken the decision to send the bodies of victims of the 2002 Godhra train carnage to Ahmedabad, the then Minister of State (Home) Gordhan Zadaphia told the Justice Nanavati-Mehta Commission on Friday. While claiming loss of memory or ignorance on most other issues related to the subsequent riots, he belied the claim of the then BJP MLA and minister I K Jadeja that he was asked by Zadaphia to remain present at the DGP’s office on February 28, 2002. “Not at all,” he said, adding that he had not asked Jadeja to go anywhere on that day.
After recording his in-camera deposition, the Commission allowed different parties to cross-examine Zadaphia. He was questioned by advocate Mukul Sinha on behalf of Jan Sangharsh Manch and advocate Hiralal Gupta on behalf of Congress. The former minister said he had gone to Godhra on February 27, 2002 when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was attacked, killing 59 kar sevaks by a mob. He said Modi and Ashok Bhatt were also there and that they decided to send the bodies to Ahmedabad. Replying specifically to a question, he said the bodies’ identification was not done.
Apart from these, Zadaphia chose not to answer most questions posed to him while claiming loss of memory or ignorance on those questions. He did so on questions like whom did the police and intelligence bureau report on issues of internal security, if he received or dialed calls from/to VHP office in Ahmedabad or from some of the accused in the riots cases and the nature of conversations, if he was aware of the meetings held by the CM on February 27 & 28, when did VHP give the bandh call for February 28, if BJP had supported the call and if the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajapayee had visited Shah-e-Alam Relief Camp in Ahmedabad after the riots.
Zadaphia also denied to have received any letter from IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt on February 28 with reference to either Gulberg Society or Naroda massacres. He said he was not aware of the massacres when it actually happened. He expressed opinion that he does not think the riots broke out in Ahmedabad on February 28 because the bodies were brought to the city first and given to their relatives. Meanwhile, the Commission did not allow a question by Gupta who asked Zadaphia if the CM was responsible for all that happened at Godhra and the subsequent riots since he took all the decisions related to the same.
When Gupta said he was asking Zadaphia’s opinion on the same, Commission chairman Justice G T Nanavati said, “He (Zadaphia) has not been asked to give opinion. If he gives opinion then what is left for the Commission to find out?” Justice Nanavati also stated that he can cancel the permission to cross-examine Zadaphia because it is not to assist the Commission but for some other reason.
- ‘Modi could have decided to bring bodies back from Godhra’ (Jan 13, 2012, IBN)
- Gordhan Zadaphia’s testimony may lay ground to summon Narendra Modi (Jan 14, 2012, DNA India)
- State’s development claims draw flak (Jan 9, 2012, Ahmedabad Mirror)
- Narendra Modi parries NRI delegate’s question on minorities (Jan 9, 2012, DNA India)
CBI grills Amit Shah for 8 hrs in Tulsi case (Jan 11, 2012, DNA India)
The CBI team investigating the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case questioned former Gujarat minister of state for home Amit Shah for several hours on Tuesday. He was questioned by DySP in the CBI, Binay Kumar, at the agency’s office in Delhi.
“He was questioned for about eight hours in connection with the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter. If required, he will be called for questioning again. However, his arrest is unlikely at this point of time,'” said a senior CBI official on the condition of anonymity.
Prajapati, a close aide of the slain gangster, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and a witness to his killing in a fake encounter, was shot dead in another fake encounter near Chapri village of Banaskantha district in December 2006.
During the interrogation on Tuesday, the CBI confronted Shah with telephone records allegedly showing him in touch with the accused police officers during the encounter. The police officers he was allegedly in touch with include the then DIG, border range, DG Vanzara, who is currently in jail as an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.
- Amit Shah summoned for questioning in Tulsiram case (Jan 10, 2012, Times of India)
- Will Amit Shah be arrested in Prajapati case too? (Jan 10, 2012, DNA India)
- Freed shooter’s letter key to Haren murder (Jan 12, 2012, Times of India)
- Sohrabuddin case: Fake CBI officers assured help to accused (Jan 15, 2012, Indian Express)
Justice eludes victims falsely arrested in Mecca Masjid blast case (Jan 9, 2012, IBN)
They are the worst victims of physical and mental torture by police in the Mecca Masjid blast case. But like justice, compensation too seems to elude them till date. A few hours before Mohammed Raeesuddin was to receive a cheque of Rs 300,000 along with 15 others, his name was deleted from the list. Syed Imran Khan and his uncle Shoaib Jagirdar, who were among the first to be arrested on false charges for the May 18, 2007, blast, did not find a place in the list. There are others who were subjected to police harassment, but are yet to receive the compensation on the ground that there are some cases pending against them. Out of 84 suspects rounded up by police after the blast, the government identified 70 for compensation and paid them Rs 70 lakh. More than 15 of them were denied compensation in last minute changes to the list.
The victims say it is a deliberate attempt by police to deny them the compensation on the pretext of other false cases. Take the case of Mohammed Raeesuddin. He was picked up by police and tortured because he was a witness in another case in which the Gujarat police had shot dead a youth, Mujahid Saleem, in Hyderabad in 2004. “I am a witness in the case. He was my friend and I want the Gujarat police officers who killed him to be punished,” Raeesuddin told IANS. “They lifted me from the road. I was kept in a farmhouse for eight days where I was stripped, thrashed and given electric shocks. The police wanted me to withdraw as witness in the Mujahid case. They threatened to implicate me in the Mecca Masjid case if I did not withdraw,” recalls Raeesuddin, who was working in a jewellery shop when he was picked up by police and kept in illegal detention.
Raees feels more than compensation, a character certificate would help him in getting a job. “People don’t give me a job as they still view me with suspicion because of the stories cooked up by police,” he said. He complains that police harassment is still continuing. “The police come to my house or call us to police stations on dates like ‘Bonalu’, ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ and Dec 6. They do all the harassment in the name of maintaining peace and law and order in the city.” Syed Imran was an executive in a leading private bank and was about to join a multi-national bank when police picked him and his uncle, Shoaib, in connection with the Mecca Masjid blast case. They were accused of involvement in bringing RDX into the city. Though acquitted, Imran, who spent 18 months in jail, says it is not possible to again lead a normal life. He is now working in a small private firm.
The youngster and his uncle have not been paid the compensation as they are accused in a case of making an illegal passport. The case was booked a few months before they were arrested for the Mecca Masjid blast. “The police accused us of making illegal passports, but the fact is that not even an application for a passport was filed,” says Shoaib, a kerosene dealer in Jalna, Maharashtra. “I don’t want money. All I want from them is a character certificate so that I can continue with my job,” said Imran, a resident of Bowenpally in Secunderabad.
The son of a retired central government employee, Imran says he will never get a job in a multinational company. “I am still carrying the terrorist tag and facing social stigma. We were once behind bars. we have come out, but we feel that mentally we are still in jail,” he said. There are others who were booked in various cases during their detention in the blast case. “One of them was booked for using a mobile phone in the jail. Such cases are because the police implicated them in the Mecca Masjid case,” said Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator, Akbaruddin Owaisi, who wants the government to withdraw all cases against them and pay them the compensation.
- Mecca Masjid blast: Proven innocent yet jail stigma remains (Jan 10, 2012, India Today)
- Falsely tainted with Mecca Masjid blast, compensation eludes these victims (Jan 9, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Sense of injustice among Muslim community to have ramifications for politics in Azamgarh, Eastern UP (Jan 14, 2012, Economic Times)
- Detention can’t be substitute for regular trial or probe: SC (Jan 11, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Batla House encounter returns to haunt Congress (Jan 11, 2012, DNA India)
Rahul Gandhi, who has been calling upon the youth to participate in the country’s politics, had to face the ire of students and youngsters in Azamgarh on Wednesday. The youth were raising slogans against the Congress Party and demanding an inquiry into the Batla House encounter. They also burnt an effigy of the Congress leader, while Rahul had to virtually flee the site without taking out the proposed rally.
Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh has shocked many in the party by raising a finger at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram over the encounter. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the BJP also took the opportunity to trade guns Congress Party.
“The Batla House encounter was a fake encounter. I had demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter,” Digvijay Singh told the media in Azamgarh on Wednesday. “However, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister thought that it was a genuine encounter. That is why we did not persist our demand (for an inquiry),” he added, virtually putting Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram in the dock.
The Delhi Police had carried out an encounter in Delhi’s Batla House area on September 19, 2008 and shot dead two youngsters alleged to be terrorists. A Delhi Police inspector MK Sharma was also killed in the shootout. Both the boys belonged to Azamgarh. The Delhi Police later raided Sanjarpur in Azamgarh several times in search of other alleged terrorists. Digvijay Singh had visited Azamgarh soon afterwards to assuage the minorities’ feelings.
Earlier in the day on Wednesday, students of the famous Shibli College of Azamgarh burnt an effigy of Rahul Gandhi while chanting slogans “Batla House ki jaanch karao” (conduct an inquiry into the Batla House encounter). Rahul was supposed to address the students in the college premises followed by a rally. …
- Batla House shootout: Prime Minister didn’t want probe, says Digvijaya Singh (Jan 12, 2012, Economic Times)
- Batla encounter: Chidambaram dismisses Digvijay’s ‘fake’ claim (Jan 12, 2012, Indian Express)
- Despite PC’s remark, Digvijaya claims Batla House shootout ‘fake’ (Jan 12, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Akhilesh follows Rahul to Azamgarh, seeks Batla probe (Jan 15, 2012, Indian Express)
Surya Namaskar part of agenda to saffronise educatn: Ajay (Jan 11, 2012, Deccan Herald)
Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Ajay Singh, today strongly criticised BJP government in the state for organising a mass Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) exercise tomorrow, terming it a part of “saffron agenda”. “Instead of focusing on improving quality of education and educational infrastructure, the government is wasting resources on organising exercises like Surya Namaskar as a part of its saffron agenda,” Ajay said here.
Introduction of Bhagwad Gita in the curriculum was a similar, earlier attempt to saffronise the education, he said. The state government’s decision to organise mass Surya Namaskars tomorrow, wherein thousands of students are expected to take part, so as to set a world record, has not gone down well with the Muslim community in the state, leading to a ‘fatwa’ against it.
However, defending the decision, School Education Minister Archana Chitnis had said earlier that Surya Namaskar was a Yogic exercise aimed at improving the health, and tomorrow’s programme was not mandatory. “The Sun is neither saffron nor green,” she had added.
- Fatwa against ‘un-Islamic’ Surya Namaskar in MP (Jan 11, 2012, Indian Express)
- Debate over Surya Namaskar heats up (Jan 11, 2012, The Hindu)
- Clerics, Cong slam MP government’s ‘Surya Namaskar’ move (Jan 11, 2012, IBN)
- Pakistani flag hoisting was a Hindutva plot to foment strife, police say (Jan 11, 2012, The Hindu)
Gadkari, Modi, and the BJP’s gymnastics on corruption (Jan 9, 2012, Rediff)
By inducting Babu Singh Kushwaha, a main suspect along with Mayawati’s brother Anand Kumar in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s serious inquiry into loot of people’s money in the National Rural Health Mission, Bharatiya Janata Party President Nitin Gadkari has proved that his party’s support to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was political fraud. Kushwaha’s induction notwithstanding, it is also evident that Gadkari is focusing on 2013 when his term ends as BJP president – and he is ready to cross lines in pursuit of his future plans.
In his September 30, 2011 speech at the BJP’s national executive in New Delhi, Gadkari had told his party: ‘Like the UPA at the Centre, the Bahujan Samaj Party has established a thoroughly corrupt regime in Uttar Pradesh. This state provides us an example of how unchecked corruption damages the fundamentals of governance severely. The National Rural Health Mission illustrates as to how the Congress and the BSP are hand in glove. The UPA sends crores of funds, refuses to conduct any audit, thereby allowing daylight robbery of the public exchequer. In return, the BSP goes soft at the corrupt UPA in the Centre.”
“Uttar Pradesh is the symbol of coalition of the corrupt. Mayawati represents bad governance, corruption and destruction of democratic governance. The SP (Samajwadi Party), BSP and Congress are trying to fool the people. Whenever the UPA requires support at the Centre, the BSP and SP willingly offer it. When they offer support, the CBI says the cases against Mulayam (Singh Yadav) and Mayawati are not worth pursuing. We have to fight with all three,” he said. Now, the SP, the BSP and the Congress will be relieved – because the BJP cannot take a moral high ground on the issue of corruption anymore.
- IAC ‘100% RSS front’: Long-time aides tell Anna to correct course (Jan 9, 2012, Indian Express)
- Uttar Pradesh has the most criminal, richest MLAs (Jan 11, 2012, Rediff)
- Give black money details: CIC to Prez Secretariat (Jan 9, 2012, IBN)
- CBI look out for principal who gave fake degrees to Ramdev aide (Jan 13, 2012, Indian Express)
Rushdie offended Muslims, cancel his visa, demands Deoband (Jan 9, 2012, Rediff)
Opposing controversial author Salman Rushdie’s visit to India [ Images ], Islamic Seminary Darul Uloom Deoband on Monday said the government should cancel his visa as he had hurt religious sentiments of Muslims in the past. 65-year-old Rushdie, who had earned the wrath of Muslims worldwide due to his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, is set to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival this month end. “Indian government should cancel his visa as Rushdie had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past,” Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the vice chancellor of Darul uloom, said in a release.
The government should take into account the feelings of Muslims against Rushdie, he stressed. Rushdie’s novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, which was banned by India, had sparked outrage in the Muslim world, including a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on February 14, 1989.
The Indian-origin Rushdie had earlier visited the literary extravaganza in the pink city in 2007. On January 21, Rushdie along with authors Rita Kothari and Tarun Tejpal is slated to discuss the nuances of English with noted writer Ira Pande on the topic ‘Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The chutnification of English’.
- Rushdie’s Jaipur visit under cloud (Jan 10, 2012, Times of India)
- ‘Fatwa’ justifying protests against Rushdie visit (Jan 13, 2012, Indian Express)
- Govt unlikely to stop Salman Rushdie to travel to India (Jan 10, 2012, DNA India)
- Salman Rushdie: I don’t need visa to visit India (Jan 10, 2012, Economic Times)
‘Police tortured me, I couldn’t recognise myself’ (Jan 12, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Labelling himself as a “political prisoner”, Arun Ferreira said just because he believed in the Leftist ideology he was branded as a ‘naxal’ and put in prison. Speaking at a press conference at the Press Club on Wednesday, Ferreira said the state government had become intolerant and was out to curb any movement it did not approve of. “Be it the movement against the Jaitapur nuclear plant, the one against POSCO, or Anna Hazare’s movement, the government immediately says there are naxals or maoist involved,” he said.
Recalling his days in the Nagpur jail, Ferreira claimed that because of the torture he underwent in the police custody, he could not recognise his own photograph published in the newspapers, “Nowadays the police have perfected the techniques of torture to ensure that no marks are left behind,” he alleged. He added, “One can find a good place to sleep [in jail] if he has money or else he has to sleep near the toilet. The prison manuals are outdated. The rules of British days are still applicable, which means the jail authorities run the place the way they want to.”
Coming down on the police, Ferreira said he was not the first one to be re-arrested after being acquitted by courts. He termed the tactics of the police as their “modus operandi”. “Even the principal district judge at Gadchiroli has come down on these methods of the police,” he said, adding that his family and friends in Mumbai had managed to put pressure on the government and the police for his release.
Ferreira, along with naxal leader Arun Satya Reddy alias Murli, was arrested in 2007 for an alleged attempt to hold a secret meeting at Dikshabhoomi in Nagpur. Though released in September last year, he was re-arrested by the police on charge of involvement in the Jafargarh police-naxal encounter case in Gadchiroli.
- Police blame CRPF torture for Naxal death (Jan 16, 2012, Indian Express)
- Naxal-police ecnounter in Gadchiroli (Jan 11, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Dantewada MLA Escapes Naxal Attack (Jan 12, 2012, Asian Age)
- CBI gets 3-day custody of accused in Jagan assets case (Jan 13, 2012, Indian Express)
Dalit woman paraded naked in Chavan’s hometown (Jan 11, 2012, The Hindu)
A 42-year-old Dalit woman was beaten, stripped and paraded naked by five persons belonging to an upper caste at Mulgaon village in Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s hometown of Karad. The incident occurred on Monday afternoon. Five persons have been arrested so far.
An upper caste girl had eloped with the victim’s son over a month ago. Upset at this, the girl’s parents and relatives assaulted the woman publicly in the village in Karad taluka of Satara district, police said. The victim said the police refused to entertain her complaint when she approached them on Monday. “They told me that such incidents keep happening in our community, and that they cannot do anything about it,” she told a television news channel.
Narrating the incident, she said: “The women pushed me to the ground, took off my sari and started beating me up with chappals and a stick. They pulled my hair. This continued for almost two hours.” With the help of Dalit activists, she was admitted to a hospital at Karad on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday, five persons of the family which assaulted the Dalit woman, including the girl’s parents, were arrested. Patan Deputy Superintendent of Police F.M. Naikwadi told The Hindu that the accused were booked under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Speaking to reporters at Chandrapur, Home Minister R.R. Patil called for a strict investigation. “All the offenders will be brought to book.”
- Not many moved by the plight of Dalit woman in Maharashtra? (Jan 11, 2012, IBN)
- ‘Would they have tortured me the same way had I not been a Dalit?’ (Jan 14, 2012, The Hindu)
- Maharashtra orders probe into attack on Dalit woman (Jan 12, 2012, Yahoo)
- 55 held for beating up Dalit woman (Jan 12, 2012, Times of India)
Opinions and Editorials
‘Why Is Narendra Modi Afraid Of Sanjiv Bhatt?’ – By Priyanka Borpujari (Jan 6, 2012, Countercurrents)
[Sanjiv and Shweta Bhatt are caring hosts to their guests. … Shweta Bhatt narrates to me her feelings and thoughts about the Gujarat that was once safe, her brave husband, and the sea of humanity that keeps her family afloat in these rough times. On the other hand, the suspended IPS officer who is in no hurry to get back to his office, always has a fixed answer with a smile: “Life is good.” The answer and the smile: neither of them are false. Here are Shweta’s words, as she urges me to “tell the world the truth about Narendra Modi…”] … There is something special about the police uniform, or any other uniform for that manner. A man who wears even the driver’s uniform transforms his behaviour. The uniform commands some respect. Similarly, any police officer would stand up to greet the lady-wife, even if she is the wife of one’s junior officer. But none of that respect for the uniform or the senior officer or for the lady-wife was to be seen, when 35 policemen barged into our house, without any prior intimation or without any search warrant. We realised that this was dictated and threatened to them, on the lines of “Go and abuse your senior officer.”
Sanjiv would discuss everything with me, so I knew what needed to be spoken or asked at the right time. When he decided to speak aloud, we knew that there would be repercussions. But we never dreamt that the police force could stoop to such low levels. When they came to my house, they began to dig through every item. Few of them would apologise for what they were doing, stating that they were under compulsion to conduct such a behaviour. I said nothing to them, because I knew that this was Modi’s ways of harassing us, to break our morale. I never resisted what they were doing either. I told filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, “I thought it was only in Hindi films that cops barge into people’s homes and throw up clothes and everything around in their search operations. But we saw this happening with our own eyes, in our own home, by the same police force that Sanjiv loves.” I look down at the Force with disdain now. The IPS Officers’ Association was lying defunct for several years, but then I heard that they had a meeting after many years, when Sanjiv was arrested. Some of Sanjiv’s peers would call me up on my landline phone and ask me in whispers, “Can we do anything for you Shweta?” I would reply to them, “At least begin to talk a bit louder so that I can hear you clearly!” This is the level of fear among the officers. Only one who lives in Gujarat can correctly define the word ‘subversion’. Men from the IB (Intelligence Bureau) had begun to jot the phone numbers and car numbers of every visitor discreetly. I finally asked one of those constables to stop behaving like a thief in copying the car number plate. Now, they just thoroughly question the visitor.
We learnt that Special Public Prosecutor SV Raju was being paid Rs 1.5 crore to ‘manage’ the court proceedings, and on Fridays, he was being paid some more so that the remand would drag onto the next week. But it was heartening to see the media come to the courts daily, to watch the proceedings. When he was finally granted bail, everyone cheered aloud ‘Singham’! This sudden fame and hero worship has been overwhelming, yet assuring us about what Sanjiv had done. I am sure many more policemen would have much to talk about to, but not all have the courage to do so. They are bound by other restrictions. But then again, we have been fortunate to have found the support and strength from so many different directions. So far it has been believed that anyone who speaks against Modi is the enemy. But something changed this year. On Dusshera day, at several places across Gujarat, Modi was portrayed as the Raavan and Sanjiv was portrayed as Singham! The protection that the Home Ministry is offering us is so weak – just three men, and only one of them with a gun. We do fear for our lives. One of the constables comes with us wherever we go. But now Sanjiv has to travel to Jamnagar for his cases, or even Delhi. He is also being invited at various fora across the country, wanting him to speak to eager audiences. He cannot say refuse such invitations because now it is our time to stand with them. He is the hope for many people today. They stood by us in what was our dark hour when Sanjiv was arrested. But all this travel means he is being watched all the time. The phones are tapped; his official phone number has been cancelled. These are Modi’s ways of harassing anyone standing against him.
Sanjiv kept on insisting the SIT that he should be summoned to give his statements. But they ignored him because they knew that Modi’s secrets would be out. Why is Modi afraid of Sanjiv? Because Sanjiv has everything to say which Modi wants to hide. What Modi did in 2002 was nothing short of a systematic and well-funded killing of Gujarat, which was once a truly prosperous and harmonious state. We never had a communal flare-up before Modi reign. BJP has changed that picture of Gujarat. There are flyovers being made in Kanpur; there are flyovers being made in Allahabad; there are flyovers being made in Ahmedabad. So why are just flyovers being deemed as development? There is no development in Gujarat; on the contrary, we are moving backwards. Many have asked skeptically, why is Sanjiv speaking out now? Has he done it for Congress? My answer is this: there is something beyond politics, and that is one’s one soul and conscience. Sanjiv is doing what he is doing for himself, and in doing so, to prevent any such communal flare-up ever again. For all those 18 days when Sanjiv was in jail, my 75-year-old father, despite his ailing knees, would arrive here at 9 am each day, to be with me. People whom I had never known would just come home – they were people from different human rights groups, students from colleges, and others who had no group or organisation as their affiliation. I was buying up to 45 packets of milk everyday, for a constant supply of tea or nimboo paani to the visitors. That strength they offered was unbelievable. They knew that Sanjiv was doing the right thing. Many many many people stood with candles every evening when Sanjiv was in jail. They would come and say, “We are with you.” We were at the mall the other day, and at least 12 people walked to our table and said to Sanjiv, “You are a brave man. We are proud of what you have done. We are with you.” Saniv and I wonder what it is that they mean by “We are with you.” We wonder if the people uttering those words would also know what they mean by that sentence. But we are happy to hear those words and are assured to know that people can see between right and wrong.
- A ‘Normal’ Anomaly: Displacement due to Communal Violence in Gujarat – By Sanjeevini Badigar (Jan 21, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- When Narendra Modi fasts – By Leena Misra (Jan 11, 2012, Indian Express)
BJP: Hypocrisy on Political Chessboard – By Ram Puniyani (Jan 10, 2012, Northern Voices Online)
This year 2011 was very eventful as far as the political arena is concerned. This year also exposed the duel attitudes of BJP on most of the issues yet again. The various issues, Anna Hazare’s movement, Government trying to bring in FDI in retail, bill for rationalization of fuel price and the deletion of Ramanujam’s essay in the University text, showed its real colors. In many of the bills related to FDI etc., which were brought up for discussion in Parliament, BJP most of the times vehemently opposed what it had been so far championing. In case of Ramayana it did back up its associates, the progeny of RSS, to get this brilliant essay removed from the University text. The guiding compulsions in this case were not that the essay was not factual, but that many version of Ramayana as outlined in the essay go against BJP theory that Lord Ram was born precisely at the spot where Babri Masjid was located. With so many versions of Lord Ram story, how can one claim their own version is the correct one, and go on to demolish a masjid! How come a party which stood for the FDI when it was ruling as the head of NDA opposed it so blatantly now? Logically such policies should have gladdened the hearts of BJP as these are what it had been propounding when in power as head of NDA.
The shrewdest move on BJP’s part was to give the full hearted support to Anna Hazare movement on the streets but when in parliament it is took a cautious path. It is taking full advantage of Anna’s anti Congress stance while hiding its own corruption and underplaying its reservations to Anna’s bill. This hypocritical, forked tongue attitude of BJP is part of its character. As such BJP is supposed to work in the electoral arena on behalf of RSS. It has to come to power by all means, fair and foul, to pave the path for RSS agenda of Hindu nation. Its core agenda is totally opposed to the concept of Democratic norms prevalent in the country. Inherently BJP had been totally opposed to the state intervention in the economic matters, despite the fact that initially the public sector was the basic essentiality for India, as the private capital was not substantial in quantum at that time to lay the foundation of economic growth. BJP and its predecessor Bharatiya Jan Sangh had been sounding loud and clear, opposing states’ role in these matters most of the times. Now since UPA is also following many a policies which BJP wants to be implemented, the same BJP turns around and changes its stance. It does smack of a pure opportunism and it seems that what dictates its public stand most of the times are the electoral contingencies of the time.
If it supports Government on these issues it will sound to be toeing the government line and will lose the electoral advantage in the elections to come. Apart from the turnaround in the economic policies, its shrewd managers have taken a very ambivalent stand on Anna draft after a façade of totally upholding Anna movement, and his bill as the desirable one. As such BJP has a long tradition in these matters of opportunism. It exploded the bomb in 1998, and tilted the foreign policy grossly towards the US. But when in opposition it again turned around and took contrary positions. If we go back slightly we see the same ‘clever’ stance in the matters of Mandal commission implementation. It did not have the courage to speak against the Mandal commission, to which it was deeply opposed, as that would have alienated it from a large section of voters. So to skirt around the issue, it went in for Rath Yatra, bypassed the Mandal issue and tried to give confusing signals to the electorate. As a culmination of the Rath Yatra, Ramjanmbhoomi movement, it went on to undertake the criminal act of demolition of the Babri Masjid. It asserted that Babri Masjid is a blot on the Hindu India. Let’s note that while taking the oath of office it swears by Indian Constitution, secular India, while operating on political chess-board it keeps Hindu India as the reference point. This demolition brought it to the seat of power in the Centre. After grabbing the power, being in the government it did not build the temple for which it had demolished the masjid and had unleashed the violence.
For BJP coming to power is a mere path for giving more social, political cultural space to its associates, the children of RSS. The aim is to impose in Hindu nation, under the supervision of RSS. The dilemma of BJP is that it is a political party operating in the electoral arena, in the democratic space, but at the same time to work for abolition of democratic space when in power. So far, it could not come to power without the non-Hindutva allies, so it has used the opportunity of being in power to communalize the education and state apparatus, to give more opportunities for the RSS progeny (VHP, Bajrang Dal, ABVP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram to infiltrate into state apparatus. The duplicity of BJP has a deeper agenda. It is not just a party of right wing. It is a party of ‘religious right wing’. The right wing parties aim at the status quo in the society. The religious right wing parties not only aim to maintain status quo but go further to reverse the process of social change which has taken place due to the liberal space. The right wing parties may be principled, however wrong those principles be, while the religious right wing groups are totally bereft of any qualms about principles as they are out to use the democratic space for the bringing in of the fundamentalist regime over a period of time.
The attitude of BJP towards Anna movement is very interesting. BJP knows that Anna movement is the way to polarize the society along the lines of hierarchy of various hues. A particular section of society is more for this type of movement. While those looking for deeper changes in society, are not the target support groups of BJP. So its affiliates plunge fully to provide the driving force for Anna movement. Anna movement also acts as a recruitment center for the religious right wing, so BJP overtly supports it through and through. In parliament it sees that Anna movement is out to undermine the powers of parliament, so the cautious and guarded responses in parliament. Double standards are strewn all through in the practice of BJP on the electoral arena. This was well summed up its own leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he stated in Staten Island, US, that first he is the swayamsevak of RSS and than anything else. This is what explains BJPs duel attitude to the same issue at different times.
- The BJP’s own goal – Editorial (Jan 11, 2012, The Hindu)
- Hoisting an Old Trick – By Imran Khan (Jan 21, 2012, Tehelka)
- Of Laws, Cows And People’s Mutinies: Will The Beef Ban In BJP-Ruled States Fuel A New Mutiny? – By Cynthia Stephen (Jan 8, 2012, Countercurrents)
- ‘Sadananda Gowda is a rubber stamp chief minister’ – HD Kumaraswamy tells Kunal Majumder (Jan 21, 2012, Tehelka)
Farce of Lokpal – By A.G. Noorani (Jan 14, 2012, Frontline)
They use the snaffle and the bit all right / But where is the bloody horse? Where indeed is that bloody horse? As Roy Campbell rightly asked. The Indian political class and the bogus and rude elements who claim to represent India’s “civil society” have been debating for months the dimensions of the stable, the qualifications of the syces and regular supply of food, but they have not given the slightest of thought to the heart of the matter – the stable simply cannot hold any horse. For months on end we have heard arguments on the process for the appointment of the Lokpal, the ambit of its jurisdiction over public servants from the Prime Minister downwards, its control over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and so on. But what exactly is its main function? That is set out in an obscure definition in clause 2 (e) of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011, as passed by the Lok Sabha on December 27, 2011. There was no discord on this fateful provision. It reads thus: “Complain” means a compliant, made in such form as may be prescribed, alleging that a public servant has committed an offence punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.” But that Act itself prescribes a procedure for the investigation and punishment of offences under it. Where, then, is the need to set up a parallel machinery in respect of these very offences at enormous expense of public time and money, not to forget the bitter debate on this wasteful course when issues of great moment await debate and legislation. Chapter II of the Act of 1988 provides for the appointment of special judges to try the offences. The Bill of 2011 provides in Chapter IX for the establishment of special courts to hear cases under the Act of 1988 or the act to be passed.
The Lokpal will need the services of the police for investigating allegations. The Lokpal will have an inquiry wing (Chapter III) and a prosecution wing (Chapter IV). Remember that this pooh-bah of an institution will comprise a Chairman plus up to eight members. Clause 23 exposes the flaw: “23(1) No sanction or approval of any authority shall be required by the Lokpal for conducting a preliminary inquiry or an investigation on the direction of the Lokpal, under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, or Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment [DSPE] Act, 1946, or Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, as the case may be, for the purpose of making preliminary inquiry by the inquiry wing or any agency (including the Delhi Special Police Establishment) or investigation by any agency (including the Delhi Special Police Establishment) into any complaint against any public servant or for filing of any charge sheet or closure report on completion of investigation in respect thereof before the Special Court under this Act. 2) A Special Court may, notwithstanding anything contained in Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, or Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, on filing of a charge sheet in accordance with the provision of sub-section (7) of Section 20, take cognisance of offence committed by any public servant.” If the sanction provision under Section 197 of the CrPC and Section 19 of the 1988 Act can be rendered irrelevant in this case, why not discard them completely. It is a fundamental principle of English criminal law that except in special cases, any person can set in motion the machinery of criminal law. A.P Herbert did it to enforce liquor laws on the premises of Parliament. … Surely, if the sole purpose of the institution of the Lokpal is to ensure the integrity of police investigation and prosecution – both free from executive influence – the sensible course is, first to repeal the sanction provision (Section 197 of CrPC and Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act) and to repeal also Section 6A of the DSPE Act. The office of a Director of Prosecutions protected from political and police influence must be set up and the police force given the protection of the law for which it has been pining all these years. This is done easily by implementing the recommendations of the National Police Commission. …
True, corruption in India has reached monumental proportions, and effective measures should be devised to eradicate the vice. It is, however, equally a folly of monumental proportions to imagine that the sole purpose of the Lokpal is to probe cases of corruption. That indeed is very much its duty. But there is much else besides which ombudsmen are supposed to check. It is maladministration which results in harassment and injustice even if there is no corruption. Give it a thought. What kind of person will collect the evidence and marshal the facts to move the Lokpal? Not the villager, or the hapless clerk or the small businessmen, or the widow who does not receive the pension in time. In a poor country like ours these functions are as important as probes into corruption. They are studiously omitted in the Bill. This Bill is a disgraceful perversion of the “Interim Report of the Administrative Reforms Commission on Problems of Redress of Citizens Grievances”. Submitted to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by its chairman Morarji Desai on October 20, 1966, nearly half a century ago, it was signed by Harish Chandra Mathur, H.V. Kamath, V. Shankar and V.V. Chari. The report recommended a constitutional status for the Lokpal (para 37). Appended to it was a draft Bill. Clause 7 of the Bill empowered the Lokpal to investigate complaints of two distinct kinds: “Injustice in consequence of maladministration and (2) favouritism or accrual of personal benefit or gain to the Minister or to the Secretary.” It was also empowered to act suo motu in both these cases. As pointed out earlier by this writer (“History of deception”, Frontline, May 20, 2011), this format was followed in all the Lokpal Bills from 1968 to 1985 when it was restricted to corruption. That restriction was blindly followed in all subsequent Bills of V.P Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and now this Bill. One has only to mention the Law Minister who introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha on August 26, 1985, A.K. Sen, for people familiar with his record in public life to realise that he was up to no good. He was inherently incapable of anything but the cynical – whether on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Bill or the Muslim Women’s Bill, 1986. The Lokpal Bill was withdrawn on November 15, 1988; its vice proved contagious. Indira Gandhi’s Bills of 1968 and 1971 covered both “allegation” of corruption and “maladministration”, defined widely to include “action”, “procedure” or “practice” which is “unreasonable, unjust, offensive or improperly discriminatory”. These are the very kinds of behaviour that affect the poor hapless citizen. Bills from 1985 to 2011 omit them.
The BJP regime headed by Vajpayee moved two Lokpal Bills, 90 of 1998 and 73 of 2003. Arun Jaitley waxes eloquent in denunciation of the procedure for the appointment of the Lokpal in the Bill of 2011 (Clause 4). Its selection committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India and “one eminent jurist nominated by the President”. This, to his mind, stacks the cards in favour of the government (three-two); given the practices of the BJP in power, the jurist must necessarily be a stooge of the regime. Now consult the two BJP Bills on this point. The selection committee would consist of the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Home Minister, the leader of the House other than the one in which the Prime Minister is a member and the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament – a solid phalanx of five to two. Clause 4 of the 1998 Bill set up such a body; Clause 4 of the 2001 Bill replicated it. Meanwhile, the States have forged ahead. In 1962, the Government of Rajasthan took the lead and set up a committee under the chairmanship of H.C Mathur to suggest administrative reforms. Its report, presented in September 1963, recommended the establishment of the ombudsman. Rajasthan amended its law to make it more liberal as Justice S.P. Kotwal noted in his first report as Maharashtra’s Lokayukta (1973). His second annual report (1974) contains the poignant remark: “Our experience of the past two years has brought to light a large number of cases where extraordinary delays have taken place in the payment of pensions and retirement benefits and sometimes even arrears of pay in case of several government servants. The position is not improved when we notice that these delays invariably take place in the case of the very poorest class of employees in government service such as the peons and other Fourth class servants, and the schoolteacher in the mofussil, whose pay is notoriously low and whose economic condition borders upon starvation.”
Of what use to such people are the Bills of 2011, whether by the government or by the so-called Team Anna? One of its members is Santosh Hegde, who was Advocate-General of Karnataka when the Ramakrishna Hegde government got enacted the Karnataka Lokayukta Act 4 of 1985. Its definition clauses 2(2) and 2(10) are relevant. The Lokayukta was empowered to probe both cases (Section 7). … On retirement as judge of the Supreme Court, Santosh Hegde served as Lokayukta in Karnataka, one of the best ever, and later joined “Team Anna”. One must not ask whether he brought his State’s Act to its notice. Nor must one question the quality of the homework put in by that team or for that matter by Ministers of the government. Omission of maladministration is deliberate. Where was the much-vaunted, loudly professed concern for the poor? By the bogus team or by the Ministers? Is such a restrictive law to be recommended to the States? Folly has its own momentum. Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, film actors, sundry others rushed into the fray. Panicked, so did the Ministers. In this mad scramble to take the bull by the horns all that both sides accomplished was to grab the cow by its udder end.
- The Lokpal and the CBI – Editorial (Jan 21, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Lokpal tragedy – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Jan 14, 2012, Frontline)
- Repairing the Lokpal Bill – By Sriram Panchu (Jan 21, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- At a crossroads – By R.K. Raghavan (Jan 14, 2012, Frontline)
Inaction as policy – By Bhaskar Ghose (Jan 14, 2012, Frontline)
One had pleaded in an earlier article for the awareness, in the year to unfold, of the events of the last year so that we could steer clear of the perils in which we found ourselves in that span of sad time. Perhaps, it is fitting that we try to look ahead, now; not knowing the future, one can only peer at signs and discernible actions and words, and also look over our shoulders at what happened before. Right now we are a country that is clearly slowing down. According to recent reports, industrial growth is almost non-existent; it can be said to be an engine that is just about ticking over. There is little to be excited about as far as infrastructure growth is concerned; nuclear power stations are still entangled in protests, which seem suspiciously rehearsed, with village women speaking in angry terms of “Fukushima” and “fissile material”. Roads show no dramatic growth in terms of mileage, and their quality is reverting, inevitably, to the levels we are so used to – pot-holes appearing after a small shower, crazy, erratic levelling, which makes vehicles bounce and careen over seemingly even stretches, and lanes becoming narrower and narrower. There has been little additional capacity to our shipyards; officials will point enthusiastically to one completed berth in one port, which is nice, except that we need about a hundred more. Schools in villages do not, as they have not had for decades, teachers, and if they do, many of the teachers are barely literate and intelligent. All this is not because the government does not want to improve the infrastructure. It says it wants to and there is not any good reason for it not to be telling the truth. But the plain truth is that it is not happening. Young men and women are not getting enough employment and the heady years of burgeoning call centres seem to have faded away; in the realm of small individual enterprises, there is nothing that provides any secure employment, or returns to the entrepreneurs.
To make more money, many small entrepreneurs find it easy enough to turn out shoddy products, be they electric plugs, screwdrivers and other tools, joints and cables. The services they provide are equally shoddy; repair jobs are never durable and cannot be depended on. There is no pride in workmanship, in what is made or in the service given. This, on a macro level, pulls down the development possible in this area, adding to the slowing down of overall development. It is not as if the state is not aware of all this. It certainly is, having scores of committees of experts in the Planning Commission and in other bodies who have studied these trends and reported on them. But nothing seems to happen. Nothing happens because the prime mover, that is, the policymaking structure right at the top, is unable to function as it is caught up in the coils of coalition politics. Dishonesty and thievery at high levels in some coalition members, and irrational, mindless stubbornness on the other and the dishonesty of some prominent members of the main coalition partner have made it virtually impossible for the ruling UPA-II (United Progressive Alliance) to develop and execute a clear-cut policy with any degree of determination.
Surely, it is time for the political executive to take stock of where they are: what they have been able to achieve in the years they have been in office. Surely they, of all people, are not deceived by the glossy brochures they pay huge amounts to advertising agencies to bring out extolling the virtues that they claim to possess and all the goodies they claim to have given to the smiling farmer and shyly smiling women in the touched-up photographs. It is time to take stock; if social activist Anna Hazare did nothing else, he served as a catalyst for the widespread middle-class anger against the corruption every person has to contend with almost every day, and the arrival of overloaded trains from the rural hinterlands to the already overcrowded metropolitan cities speaks eloquently of the state of affairs in rural India. Has the state done anything really major to alter this, except for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme? One, just one, scheme in all these years? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and even Congress president Sonia Gandhi have spoken of the “compulsions” they face in running a coalition government. In place of “compulsions” read “compromise”. And then let them ask themselves just how long they intend to continue to compromise just to stay in power, when the initial, promising growth of the country has now faltered and has virtually failed. Hard facts need to be faced in these first few weeks of the new year; not just what has not been achieved but what will never be achieved given the composition of UPA-II.
Look at the situation that prevails in the country today, at the fact that food prices have fallen drastically, raising the hope that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will loosen, to some extent, its grip on money supply and reduce interest rates, which may, just may, trigger a renewal of industrial activity and that of the service sectors. Look at the relative incapacity of the government to be able to take any major decision with parties such as the Trinamool Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for company. Take a look at the strident, near hysterical opposition, chiefly the Bharatiya Janata Party, baying for the blood of the present government, slavering over the thought that it will form the next government. Take a good look, and then take a hard, dramatic decision that will be more than a wild gamble. Ask for mid-term elections. Perhaps the UPA will come back to power. Perhaps the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) may. One way or the other, the people of India will benefit and get a chance to install a government that may take them forward with a little more resolution and a clearer direction. In their interest, if for nothing else, such a decision needs to be considered. It may not be the best decision, but it may prove to be the most practical. Democracy is, as has been famously said, the worst form of government there is, but it is all we have in our endeavour to live as free men, with dignity, and try to ensure that our fellow men do the same.
- Farmers in a Quagmire: The Wages of Unconcern – By Dhanmanjiri Sathe (Jan 21, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
With Wing Clipped – By Smruti Koppikar (Jan 23, 2012, Outlook)
Arun Ferreira smiles easily. The four years and eight months of incarceration, as an alleged Naxalite/Maoist, sit lightly on the 40-year-old quintessential Bandra boy. Released on January 5 from Nagpur Central Jail – acquitted in 10 of the 11 cases and bailed in one – Ferreira is taking his time to readjust to his life with family and friends in Mumbai. He must build anew the relationship with his son, who was barely two-and-a-half years old when he was arrested on May 8, 2007. And everyday technology, like mobile phones, is no longer what he remembers it to be. “I tried texting and I was all thumbs,” he says. “There’s some adjustment to do there.” Ferreira’s wife Jennifer, a sociology lecturer, didn’t visit him in jail for months for fear of being arrested as a Maoist sympathiser too. Ferreira’s easy manner and smile belie his personal pain, and the weighty larger issue of political prisoners, individuals arrested and tortured for holding and propagating ideologies. Ferreira is a statistic in the long list of those taken into custody since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed Naxalism and Maoism the “gravest threat” to the country. But Ferreira’s is also the story of how law enforcement authorities make a mess of addressing the “threat”, if indeed it is one.
Ferreira was arrested in Nagpur in 2007 while he was on “social work”, along with alleged Naxal leader Arun Satya Reddy alias Murali, local leaders Dhanendra Bhurule and Naresh Bansod. Eight cases under Sections 10, 13, 18, 20 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and one under the Arms Act were lodged against him. The Maharashtra police, at that time, stated that Ferreira was the Maharashtra chief of communication and propaganda wing of the CPI (Maoist) and was in Nagpur to carry out a conspiracy along with his comrades. Ferreira, according to the police, operated under several aliases – Sanjay Chaudhary, Shukla among them. In December 2009, Ferreira was “re-arrested” on a fresh set of charges. By September 23, 2011, Ferreira was acquitted in these cases by a court in Chandrapur. He was, legally speaking, no longer an alleged or suspected Maoist. Four days later, his aged parents waited at the Nagpur Central Jail to welcome him as a free man, but Ferreira did not walk out. Inside the jail gate, he was accosted by burly men in plain clothes, a towel thrown over his face and he was whisked away in a van ostensibly by the Gadchiroli police. He was produced the next day in court with two new charges pressed against him, cases that he had not been made aware of all the four years he spent in prison. It was plain and simple abduction, says his lawyer Surendra Gadling even if the authorities called it a “re-arrest”.
That episode galvanised Ferreira’s friends into action; online and offline petitions garnered some 6,000-plus signatures, the condemnations came fast and furious from the prestigious St Xavier’s College, from where Ferreira had graduated in mathematics in 1990; the Bombay Catholic Sabha, the Catholic Secular Forum and so on. Congress MP Priya Dutt wrote to Maharashtra chief minister Prithiviraj Chavan. The three others, arrested along with Ferreira, had all been acquitted. “This is the modus operandi,” says Ferreira. “It begins with false cases and chargesheets, opposing bail without grounds, then abducting or re-arresting those who have been acquitted or given bail by the courts. The idea seems to be: you are a so-and-so and I will keep you behind bars somehow or the other.”
Citing his case, the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) filed a writ petition before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court for infringement of fundamental rights of liberty and freedom of movement, demanded a judicial inquiry into his abduction, a compensation of ’25 lakh and apology for harassing him by implicating him in false cases. “There has been a spate of such cases in Maharashtra in the last couple of years. It’s a larger issue of political prisoners,” says Justice (retd) Hosbet Suresh. “If I work for downtrodden children or hold a particular opinion, I can be arrested. This cannot go on. In a sense, we have many Binayak Sens.” In fact, rights activists have prepared a list of nearly 30 such abduction-rearrests by Gadchiroli police between July and December 2011. Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil declined to comment, but analysts have their knives out already. “If, as the state police said, he was ‘a prize catch’, how come he was acquitted? It means the police were not able to prove anything at all,” says a rights campaigner. Ferreira’s case shows, among other things, the high-handedness, followed by embarrassment, of the law enforcement agencies – initially desperate to show the arrests of those with uncomfortable or extreme ideologies but unable to make those charges stick.
- Why ‘force first’ will not work – Editorial (Dec 21, 2011, The Hindu)
- ‘My Arrest Wasn’t The Only One; It’s A Signal To Others’ – Arun Ferreira tells Outlook (Jan 23, 2012, Outlook)
Tracker controversy – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Jan 14, 2012, Frontline)
One of the least discussed issues in the context of the data thrown up by Census 2011 is the worrisome decline in the child sex ratio (CSR) and the not-too-perfect implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, or PCPNDT Act. There is reason to believe that the implementation of the Act – a good piece of legislation – has not been up to the mark and that the efforts to prevent sex determination tests have not been effective. The interest of the Union Ministry concerned is perceived at best as pedantic. There is also the concern that some people involved in the implementation of the Act continue to carry the baggage of ideas that run contrary to the spirit of the Act. The resistance from vested interests and from well-meaning sections to certain measures introduced by the government has rendered the basic provisions of the Act ineffective and deflected attention from the problem at hand. Consider this. On December 2, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha on the implementation of the Act, the replies of the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare were at best evasive. To a question on the number of meetings held by advisory committees set up in the States, the reply was that such meetings were continuous processes and that information was not maintained centrally. The last annual report prepared on the implementation of the Act was in 2006. Since then, barring the occasional question on the subject in Parliament, there is little happening in terms of seriously taking stock of the situation. New technological interventions introduced by governments, both at the Centre and in the States, have not inspired confidence among those concerned about the sharp decline in the CSR.
The number of convictions under the almost 16-year-old law has been negligible. Sting operations, too, have had negligible impact, says Varsha Deshpande, a lawyer in Maharashtra. She cited the example of Kolhapur, a district with one of the lowest CSRs in the State, and said the sex of the foetus was communicated in various novel ways, including cryptic phrases and the widely accepted greeting “Jai Mata Di”. For this reason, there is enough scepticism over the tracker, the latest technological fix being promoted by the Ministry, which has been introduced in some States. The tracker, or silent observer (SIOB), is a device attached to ultrasound machines through cables in order to capture video images of each sonography and store them in its hard disk. The idea behind the tracker, which is a product of a company that claims to be one of the leaders in mobile and e-governance, is that the images stored in a centralised server can be reviewed to track instances of foeticide. While sections within the government are convinced about the efficacy of the tracker, Dr Sabu George, who has been pushing relentlessly for the effective implementation of the Act, and Varsha Deshpande are sceptical of such efforts. “There are limitations to using technology to fight technology,” argues Sabu George, who fought hard to insert amendments to the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act to include pre-conception tests too. He says what is required is more reporting of Form F, the mandatory requirement under the PCPNDT Act. (It is a form for the maintenance of records in respect of pregnant women by genetic clinic/ultrasound clinic/imaging centres.) “It is not a crime to show the image but to communicate it is and that is still rampant. Trackers do not prevent the ultrasonologist or doctor from communicating the sex of the foetus,” said Sabu George.
In the 36 sting operations conducted in Maharashtra, he said, one revealing fact was that Form F had not been filled out by any of the institutions. Varsha Deshpande said doctors were happy with the trackers as no inspections were being conducted. She said there were more than 260 cases pending in courts and only four convictions so far. Of the 270 centres in Kohlapur, 230 had installed the device, she said. Twenty centres had refused to install it, but no action was taken against them, she added. “The image tracked is not enough evidence to tell the court that sex determination has been done. The law is wider and comprehensive; it should be implemented. For non-maintenance of records, the courts are known to impose only minor fines,” said Varsha Deshpande. The Kolhapur district administration made it mandatory for all pathologists using ultrasound machines to install the SIOB. The Maharashtra chapter of the Indian Radiological and Imaging Association (IRIA) went to court against this and argued that the device was useless and that it violated the privacy of the individual as third parties could view the images. The government argued that ever since the installation of the device was made mandatory the filling up of Form F had gone up. Two separate judgments, on the use of mobile ultrasound clinics and on the installation of the SIOB, have gone in favour of the government’s position. The IRIA’s petition in the Bombay High Court challenged a July 28, 2011, decision of the Medical Health Officer (the designated Appropriate Authority) restraining a genetic clinic from using a portable sonography machine. A Division Bench of Justices P.B. Majmudar and Mridula Bhatkar upheld on November 17 the decision of the Appropriate Authority.
It ruled: “In our view the direction issued by the Authority is in consonance with the provisions of the Act and only with a view to prevent possible misuse of such machine. It cannot be disputed that such a machine can be utilised for prenatal diagnosis even at the place where the machine is taken outside the clinic. It is required to be noted that ultrasonography is one of the prenatal diagnosis techniques as prescribed under the Act. As pointed out earlier, unfortunately there are cases where such techniques are being misused to detect sex of the foetus and termination of pregnancy of unwanted female child. In our view, even if there is only one case out of millions this court may not interfere with such a policy decision which in our view is the most scientific and in the interest of society. Considering the said aspect, it cannot be said that any fundamental right either under Article 14 or 19 is violated as the Petitioner-Association can carry out its activity within the Institute itself and at the recognised place. The restriction imposed by the concerned officer is the most reasonable and in public interest and does not violate the fundamental right of the petitioner in any manner. Ultimately the public interest at large is required to be taken into account and the decision taken by the concerned officer is in consonance with the provisions of the Act.” The order also referred to the Division Bench’s judgment on August 28, 2011, on a petition filed by the State chapter of the IRIA ( State chapter, Jalna vs Union of India and Ors) challenging a circular issued by the Collector and District Magistrate of Kolhapur on March 3, 2010, asking all radiologists and sonologists to install the SIOB in their ultrasound sonography machines. The Division Bench had upheld the circular and dismissed the petition. In the latest order, too, the court observed that the notice under challenge was consistent with the provisions and object of the Act and that the direction given by the officer concerned was in consonance with the provisions of the Act.
But radiologists believe that the measures are defective and do not address the problem in any seriousness. Tejinder Pal Singh, a consultant radiologist and ultrasonologist in Yamunanagar district of Haryana, believes that the tracker is effective mainly in telemedicine. “Junior medical professionals capture the images and send them to seniors for expert opinion and further guidance. Other uses include surveillance and supervision of the work of juniors so as to identify faults and rectify them,” he said. “The images can be misused to harass doctors and they also violate a patient’s privacy,” he added. Tejinder Pal Singh does not think the tracker is a solution for the skewed CSR. “A doctor will never use a machine with a tracker to do sex determination tests. It is like committing suicide,” he said. People like Sabu George and Varsha Deshpande believe that the tracking technology might not help the cause of the girl child in the long run. There was no evidence to show that the collection and interpretation of ultrasound images by the Appropriate Authorities had led to greater rates of conviction in foeticide cases. These are not the only issues. There is also a growing but worrisome belief that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MPT) Act is liberal and that the proliferation of across-the-counter abortion methods, including the availability of small and portable ultrasound machines, have put the girl child at risk. … Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Professor of Political Science in the University of Delhi and a member of the State Supervisory Board, feels that a lot of systemic correction was needed, including better monitoring, regular meetings, an efficient tracking of portable ultrasound machines, less emphasis on technological “fixes” and quicker disposal of cases by courts. …
- Bill on Sexual Harassment: Against Women’s Rights – By Geetha K K (Jan 21, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)