IAMC Weekly News Roundup - January 7th, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 7th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Forensic lab report shows links among ‘Hindu terror bombs’ (Jan 7, 2013, Indian Express)

The NIA has received a forensic report showing that bombs used in the blasts at Malegaon (2006, 2008), Ajmer Sharif (2007), Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad (2007), Modasa in Gujarat (2008) and on board the Samjhauta Express (2006) bear similarities with each other. The report from a Hyderabad lab, accessed by The Indian Express, points out several similarities in the six blasts – including the bomb and bomb container used, the bomb-making techniques, the electronic circuit, and the arming and trigger mechanisms.

This boosts the investigators’ case which had been hit by Swami Aseemanand retracting his statement that right-wing groups and RSS leader Indresh Kumar were instrumental in planning and executing the above attacks. In the 2010 statement, Aseemanand had also named Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange as “key planners”. The National Investigation Agency, which started investigations in 2011, has since then arrested five bombers. The one similarity in all the six cases was the main charge – RDX and TNT.

Talking of the Samjhauta, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts, the forensic report says, “identical keys in all three bombs were used to arm the explosive while LED, electronic circuit and power source used in all three cases were also similar to each other. The power sources in all three cases were found to be battery with screws on the case with red wires. A similar characteristic of power source was also noticed in the 2008 Modasa bomb”. While in the Samjhauta blast, a single-cylinder module was used, from the Mecca Masjid blast onwards, the groups apparently only used “double cylinder module”, later also seen in the Ajmer attack, as well as the blasts in Malegaon (2008) and Modasa. The report also talks of similarities in the signature of bombs used in the Samjhauta, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid attacks, including the wax used and obliterations.

As for the trigger mechanism, forensics found that an Orpat watch was used in the Samjhauta attack. As per an NSG report, an Orpat watch was also used in the 2006 Malegaon blasts. Mecca Masjid and Ajmer bombs were triggered using identical mobile phones of Nokia 6030 model. Detonators used in the 2008 Malegaon blast and the Modasa and Samjhauta attacks were also found to have several similarities. In all three cases, fragments of detonators had a manufacturer label, “IDL 21”. The bombs and containers in Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts had the most striking similarities. In the two cases, black iron boxes were used. A booster in the form of “tetryl” to give a charge to the detonators was used at Mecca Masjid and Ajmer.

The analysis also clearly indicates the differences between these bombs and the bombs used by the Indian Mujahideen (IM), which has been active since 2005. Unlike the Hindu terror groups, the IM first used C-shaped open wooden boxes that held the circuit, with holes on the side for wires to pass. The explosive was essentially tightly packed ammonium nitrate, held together by fuel oil or nitrogen gel, metal balls and nuts for splinters and had an alarm clock for a timer. The use of Prince or Samay watches was found in these IEDs. Such bombs went off in UP, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai.



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Hope for 9 accused in 2006 Malegaon blasts (Jan 7, 2013, Times of India)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is soon likely to seek dismissal of charges against the nine men arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in connection with the 2006 Malegaon serial blasts, an officer said. Handed the blast case in January 2011, the NIA has recently arrested four individuals-Dhan Singh, Lokesh Sharma, Manohar Singh and Rajendra Chaudhary-all alleged to be members of ultra-right-wing Hindu groups. According to sources in the agency, Chaudhary, Dhan Singh, Manohar Singh and one Ramji Kalsangra planted the four explosives in Malegaon on September 8, 2006, that killed 37 people and injured another 297.

The recent discoveries of the NIA deflate the earlier claims of the ATS. “There cannot be two sets of accused for one crime,” said an NIA officer. “We have arrested four persons and are now probing a larger conspiracy.” Another NIA officer hinted that the agency is preparing to ask court to dismiss the charges (under section 169 of CrPC) made by the ATS against nine people. In 2006, the ATS had arrested nine men of the minority community, claiming they were members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and had a hand in the Malegaon serial blasts. It filed a chargesheet in the case in 54 days, though it could take 180 days. According to it, SIMI members engineered and executed the bombings, with the help of a Pakistani national named Muzammil, to spark “communal riots” in the state.

As it happened, the Maharashtra government transferred the case to the CBI, but the central agency’s first supplementary chargesheet too made assertions similar to the state ATS’. In January 2011, when another CBI team began probing the blasts, it discovered the alleged involvement of radical Hindu nationalist groups. In April 2011, the Union home ministry eventually transferred the case to the NIA.

According to NIA sources, the decision to bomb Malegaon in 2006 was taken by senior functionaries in the group, including former RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi, Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange. Thereafter, Kalsangra and Sharma were tasked with executing the bombings. It was these two who arranged for Chaudhary, Dhan Singh and Manohar Singh.

The team first recced Malegaon to identify targets. On September 8, Sharma drove the team members to Malegaon, where Kalsangra gave them explosives and clothes to make them resemble religious Muslims. Kalsangra accompanied Dhan Singh, Manohar Singh and Chaudhary to place the bombs on bicycles and at other spots near Hamidia mosque at Bada Kabristan, where many people had gathered on the occasion of Shab-e-Baraat. Once the bombs were planted, Sharma drove the team back to Indore.



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Blow to Narendra Modi as SC upholds appointment of Gujarat’s Lokayukta (Jan 2, 2013, Times of India)

In a setback to the Gujarat government, the Supreme Court today upheld the appointment of Justice (retd) R A Mehta as state Lokayukta by governor Kamla Beniwal, saying it was done in consultation with the Chief Justice of the HC. A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and F M Ibrahim Kalifulla on Wednesday dismissed the Gujarat government’s plea that the appointment was illegal as it was done without consulting it. The bench said that the governor is bound to act under the advice of the council of ministers, but the appointment of Justice Mehta is right as it was done in consultation with the Chief Justice of the Gujarat HC.

The apex court said that Justice Mehta can go ahead with his work as Lokayukta. The governor had on August 25, 2011 appointed Justice Mehta to the post of Lokayukta, which had been lying vacant for the last eight years. The high court’s verdict had been delivered by Justice V M Sahai after a division bench gave a split judgement on the legitimacy of the governor’s action in Justice Mehta’s appointment as Lokayukta.

Justice Sahai, who decided the matter as a third judge, had also pulled up Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for creating a constitutional crisis and held that the governor had the discretionary power to make the appointment. He had said the “pranks” played by the chief minister on the Lokayukta issue “demonstrates deconstruction of our democracy.”

Challenging the high court’s order, the state government had contended that the personal discretion exercised by the governor in unilaterally issuing the warrant of appointment of Lokayukta was “unwarranted.”



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Seven Gujarat cops in CBI charge sheet of Sadik case (Jan 6, 2013, DNA India)

In a charge sheet, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has narrated that Sadik Jamal was confined in the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) office at Shahibaug for more than a week before he was killed in cold-blood in a staged encounter by DCB cops on the intervening night of January 12 and 13, 2003. CBI is investigating the case by an order of the Gujarat high court and last week it had filed its first chargesheet, which was handed over to the seven accused cops on Saturday.

The CBI recently arrested then police inspectors JG Parmar, IA Saiyad, Tarun Barot, GH Gohil and three other cops in connection with the case. The agency, however, has not shown any motive behind the killing of Sadik, a petty criminal who was working as house help with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s aide, Tariq Parveen, in Mumbai and Dubai before his assassination.

The CBI has said Sadik was in the custody of the crime investigation unit (CIU) at Andheri in Mumbai before trigger-happy cop and accused in this case, the then DCB police inspector Tarun Barot, along with other staff brought him to Gujarat from Mumbai on January 4, 2003. The CBI has mentioned that Sadik left his home after an altercation with his father over a criminal case registered against him. He met Parveen and started living with him as a house help. When Parveen shifted to Dubai, Sadik too went to Dubai to reside with Parveen. He, however, returned to Mumbai after a few months, in October, due to a fight with Parveen’s associates.

Meanwhile, the subsidiary intelligence bureau (SIB) generated a message that a Dawood aide had come from Dubai to kill right-wing leaders. On November 9, 2002, Jamal was arrested along with four other people in Bhavnagar by the local police in a gambling case. Parveen’s brother Zahid took him to the officers of the Mumbai SIT where he was apprehended by the CIU sleuths from Andheri on December 19, 2002. The CBI claimed that, the CIU and SIB had stage-managed the joint operation and officers of both the agencies started interrogating him at the CIU office. Zamir Kazi, an accused, saw Jamal in the office.

Meanwhile, Barot and his staff had gone to Mumbai in the official police vehicle driven by Jiluji Chavda. They got custody of Jamal from the CIU office on January 3, 2003. They came to Ahmedabad and lodged Jamal in the office of the DCB at Shahibaug. Jamal was then brought near Saibaba complex next to Galaxy cinema at Naroda and killed in a staged encounter by DCB sleuths. The CBI said the DCB had chosen this place as it was secluded area.



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Dy Tehsildar on Dhule riot duty finds son ‘shot dead by cops’ (Jan 8, 2013, Indian Express)

For 33 years, Deputy Tehsildar Abdul Halim Ansari worked for the state, never doubting that it was largely fair, just and honest towards all citizens. That perception changed on Sunday, after his 30-year-old son died before his eyes, allegedly gunned down by the orders of the same administration that he has served all his life. Ansari, 58, believes that the police shot his son in cold blood. He says not one colleague or senior official from the administration that he has been part of all his working life has visited him in his tragedy. He says that he will not return to work now; he cannot be part of a “biased” system any more.

On Sunday afternoon, as a quarrel between a Hindu street food vendor and two Muslim youths escalated into riots in communally sensitive Dhule town, 325 km north of Mumbai, Ansari received a call from work. “One of my colleagues was injured, and I took him to hospital. I was then asked to return to office to collect safety gear and head to Machchli Bazaar where violence had broken out,” Ansari said. “Suddenly, I received a call saying my son had been injured. I rushed to the hospital. He gestured to me to say he had been shot and asked for some water,” Ansari said. “He died in front of my eyes.”

Ansari’s son, Hafiz Asif Abdul Halim, was an Islamic scholar who had a small provision store outside his home. He had gone to Machchli Bazaar to buy the family’s weekly stock of vegetables. “The police shot him deliberately, he had done nothing,” Ansari said. “I am not going to return to work. I can’t work for a biased system.” The families of the three other men killed in Sunday’s firing echoed Ansari. “How can you explain a 17-year-old being shot twice in the back? How can the police shoot a kid who was trying his best to get away from them?” asked Arif Patel, the uncle of Rizwan Raees Patel, who studied in class 12.

Twenty-year-old electrician Imran Ali Qamruddin was supposed to get married this May. His brother Asif Ali said Imran had been complaining of pain in the right side of his body and had an appointment with a Mumbai doctor who was to put him through MRI and CT scans. “I know that everyone who losses a family member in such incidents says that their relative was not involved in the riots. But I sincerely tell you that Imran never involved himself in such activities,” Asif said.

Asim Shaikh, 24, was an egg vendor who was allegedly shot by police while on his weekly round of the market, delivering eggs to shops. “It is God’s will. Dhule suffered a lot during the riots of 2008 as well. I have faith in Allah and He will give us justice, but I pray that no father irrespective of religion should ever have to suffer the death of his young son,” Nasir Shaikh, Asim’s father, said.



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Officials urged to protect Wakf land (Dec 27, 2012, The Hindu)

Several Muslim leaders on Wednesday expressed concern over the failure of the District Wakf Board in protecting the land worth crores of rupees in the prime locality of Srikakulam. Zanana Masjid honorary president Mustak Mohammad alleged that the a few representatives of Wakf Board were helping a trader in grabbing the Wakf land near Town hall. According to him, the Wakf Board, which is supposed to protect the 1.26-acre land, issued a notice with several lapses thus helping the trader to take up construction activity in the Masjid land.

The trader, M.S. Murthy, argued that the land had been in the control of the family for the last seven decades. He has also shown the relevant documents and agreements signed with the Masjid leaders. Mr. Mustak Mohammad said that the either Masjid leaders or the trader had no right to enter an agreement. “The Collector and the District Revenue Officials should interfere immediately to protect the Wakf land.

The State Wakf Board should also order an inquiry into the scam in which several Muslim leaders were also involved,” Mr. Mohammad alleged. Meanwhile, the land row caused tension on the premises. Srikakulam Circle-Inspector M. Mahesh and police personnel visited the spot to avoid confrontation. The police officials tried to pacify the issue by asking all the Muslim leaders to settle the land issue amicably.



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Complaint against VHP chief for ‘communal’ remarks (Jan 2, 2013, Times of India)

Following closely on the heels of a complaint petition filed against MIM MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi in a local court against his alleged inflammatory speech in Nirmal, Adilabad district. A city advocate has approached the court on Monday with a petition against Parveen Togadia, VHP international president.

The petitioner pleaded before the Seventh Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Nampally to take cognizance of the communally inciting utterances of Togadia wherein he is reported to have said that if the Hindus were stopped from performing puja at Bhagyalakshmi temple abutting Charminar, Hyderabad would be turned into Ayodhya.

As the Hindus from all over the country gathered in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, they would descend on Hyderabad similarly, he is reported to have threatened in front of media persons.

Togadia was speaking to mediapersons at Charminar during his visit to the city on December 12. The complainant Ghulam Rabbani, an advocate, urged the court to direct the police to register a case against Togadia. The advocate claimed that he read the account of Togadia’s remarks in a section of the media. The court posted the matter to January 2.



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Delhi gangrape: MHA orders probe into friend’s charge against police (Jan 7, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The home ministry has ordered a probe into the allegation of the friend of the Delhi gangrape victim that police response to their distress call after the incident was slow.

A joint-secretary level officer of the ministry will investigate the veracity of the claim by the software engineer that even after reaching the spot in New Delhi on the night of December 16, the police were arguing over jurisdiction of the case and were hesistant to lift the 23-year-old girl, losing crucial time, a senior home ministry official said on Monday.

The probe will also look into the counter-claim by the Delhi Police and check the log books of the Police Control Room vans which came to the spot where the girl and her friend were dumped by the six men after the gangrape. The victim, a paramedical student, was brutally raped and assaulted in a moving bus and she died of her injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital.



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5 Noida cops suspended for not filing ‘rape’ FIR (Jan 7, 2013, Times of India)

Even as the Noida police await the supplementary medical report of the alleged rape victim whose murdered body was found in a partially clothed state in sector 63, a case of rape has been registered by the authorities. Acting on the FIR alleging rape, the Noida police arrested two of the accused while the third accused is absconding.

Five policemen were suspended after a public outcry against the cops who refused to lodge an FIR on Saturday when the body was found. Meanwhile, the deceased was cremated in Noida amid heavy police deployment. SSP Praveen Kumar said the three accused have been identified as Naresh Lodha, Kailash Yadav and Udaiveer Yadav. “Both the arrested were known to the deceased. Naresh worked in the same company while Kailash had an old enmity with her,” Kumar said.

“The two accused – Naresh and Kailash – had hatched the plan to kill her,” SSP Praveen Kumar said. “Naresh brought the girl to a spot where Kailash was already waiting. They smothered the victim to death, and after dumping the body, made off from the scene,” Kumar added. Kumar said that Naresh, who is from Bulandshahar, hadn’t told his colleagues that he was married. According to Noida police, the location of the third accused has been traced to a place near Garhmukteshwar. Five police teams have been dispatched to nab him.

Meanwhile, SSP Gautam Budh Nagar ordered the suspension of the five policemen, including a chowki in-charge who has been put in reserve duty, or as the police terms it, attached to line. The suspended constables have been identified as Ramesh, Avdhesh, Omkar, Shailender and Rajkumar while Model Town chowki in-charge R K Rathi has been attached to police lines. “Ramesh, Avdhesh and Omkar have been suspended for passing derogatory comments and not taking the call immediately to lodge an FIR and starting the investigation while Shailender and Rajkumar have been suspended for not patrolling the area where the crime was committed,” a senior official said.

Police claimed that the supplementary medical report – which will confirm if rape was committed – is still awaited. “On Sunday, the pathologist was on leave in Noida, hence we sent the viscera to Ghaziabad for further examination,” said the officer. But due to bureaucratic red-tape, the report got delayed as approvals were awaited from the departments concerned. Police are likely to get the report by Sunday night or on Monday, said sources.



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11 tribals raped in C’garh school, cover-up raises stink (Jan 7, 2013, Hindustan Times)

At least 11 minor tribal girls in a Chhattisgarh government ashram (residential school) were allegedly raped by a teacher and a watchman for months last year, but an official cover-up masked their crimes till a chance detection. The sexual exploitation of the girls aged between 8 and 13 at the school in Kanker district, about 170 km south of Raipur, came to light on Sunday when the victims confided in a government official on an inspection.

The police have arrested the accused, teacher Mannuram Goti and watchman Deenanath Nagesh. They were produced in court on Monday and remanded in judicial custody. “The girls first complained in August 2012 and the matter came up in the local village panchayat, but was hushed up because the watchman’s wife was a panch,” a police official privy to the investigation said. “The sarpanch, however, informed the block education officer about the allegations three months later after developing cold feet.”

What’s more, the victims had complained to their hostel superintendent, Babita Markam, who allegedly remained silent. State tribal welfare department commissioner MS Paraste said, “It is shocking these officials remained mum.” Earlier in the day, district collector Alarmelmangai D sacked Goti and Markam. The block education officer, SS Navargi, was suspended. A woman IPS officer, Nitu Kamal, from the state police headquarters has started investigations in the case and is likely to submit her report this week.



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Opinions and Editorials

Developmental Amnesia – By Abdul Khaliq (Jan 4, 2013, Tehelka)

He is an incorruptible leader with incredible energy and endurance; a man of steel who refuses to compromise on any issue; a visionary who has brought about all-round industrial development; a mesmeric orator who can arouse the emotions of the crowd and who works on the psychology that the masses prefer to submit to the strong rather than the weakling; a man of mystery steadfastly refusing to divulge anything of his personal life. For each success of the State, he modestly accepts all the credit. Sounds familiar? Before you jump to any hasty conclusion, let me clarify that the superhuman described above is none other than the doctored persona of Adolf Hitler, spun out by the Nazi propaganda machine. However, one cannot ignore the eerie resemblance with the carefully advertised image of the CEO of Gujarat. This sketch of Hitler was gleaned from the Nizkor Project website, dedicated to spreading awareness about the Holocaust and to combat Holocaust denial by hate groups. It is yet another testament to the resolve to never forget the Holocaust nightmare so that such an abomination does not recur.

The world has witnessed varying responses to mass murder and genocide. The Nurembergtrials investigated crimes of the military, political and economic leadership of Nazi Germany and delivered the most severe penalties against those responsible for genocide. In stark contrast, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was a restorative justice body that stressed on reconciliation and granted amnesty to many of the perpetrators of the horrors of Apartheid. However, the underlying philosophy for setting up these bodies was essentially the same – to acknowledge that what happened was horrendous and that such horrors should never be repeated. In the words of Desmond Tutu, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “We needed to look the beast in the eye, so that the past wouldn’t hold us hostage anymore.” But we in the country are working feverishly to forget the Gujarat holocaust of 2002 and ‘move on’, as though what happened then was a minor blip in our history. Through an astounding metamorphosis of thought, large sections of our society today genuflect before the leading figure who presided over the pogrom against an entire community. Writer and editor MJ Akbar recently lauded Modi’s decisive governance and incorruptibility. His adulation goes to the extent of giving Modi credit for the number of Muslim constables in Gujarat, although most of them were recruited before Modi came to power. He goes on to observe that Modi can aspire for prime ministership if he can convince Muslims that they will be safe under his watch. Even Syed Shahabuddin has extended the olive branch, albeit with a few caveats. The Modi cult grows apace and like the Emergency, his authoritarian style is seen as the panacea for the country’s ills. Clearly, in the present milieu, commerce has trumped justice. In the name of economic development and progress, we have decided to barter away the nation’s soul.

Apologists for the events of 2002 refer to what occurred inGujaratas a communal riot, thereby implying that both communities actively participated in the mayhem that followed the terrible Godhra train burning. But what happened in reality was a fascist massacre involving predators and victims. A Delhi-based columnist estimated, on the basis of FIRs and police surmise, that about 2 million people, or about 4 percent of the population ofGujarat, had participated in the ‘religious riots’. In a disturbing statement on record, Modi compared that nightmarish period to Gandhi’s Dandi March. Can thinking get more depraved than this? Now, instead of the possibility of people’s revulsion and resolution to stave off such evil, we witness the conductor of the pogrom not only entrenched as the arbiter of Gujarat’s destiny but a serious contender for the country’s top job. The dark underbelly of unpunished crimes, of distrust, of hate, still hangs like an ominous cloud overGujarat, but Modi’s spin doctors have deflected attention from the issues of justice through unremitting propaganda on development, Sadhbhawana yatras and counterfeit claims regarding peaceful coexistence and brotherhood. Disinformation, half-truths and doublespeak dominate the public space in Gujarat today.

The most mythical of all the claims regarding Modi is that he is a changed person today. His interview to Shahid Siddiqui shows him to be a misunderstood statesman with impeccable credentials carrying the good of the country in his heart. Shahabuddin has observed that Muslims see a change in his attitude. But this is nothing but a façade. It’s not a change of heart, but a change in tactics. Modi knows that the policy of polarisation of communities, which is so successful in Gujarat, will not work on the national stage; hence the Sadhbhawana yatras aimed at camouflaging his real persona – that of a ruthless, right-wing pracharak. Despite the posturing, glimpses of the hard-line Hindutva apostle occasionally peep through. Recently, he gratuitously referred to Ahmed Patel as “Ahmed miyan” with the mischievous intent of emphasising his opponent’s Muslim background, which helps consolidate the Hindu vote in a deeply polarised society. Had the Mahatma been alive today, he might have gently reminded Modi that fraternity and brotherhood, like non-violence “is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart and it must be an inseparable part of our being.”

Amidst all the bluster regarding development and effective governance, the social divide is deeper than ever. Gujaratcontinues to live in a chamber of horrors, unable to exorcise the ghosts of 2002. There is now no violence but the overpowering atmosphere of distrust and hate is there for all to see. More than ever before, the Muslim is viewed as ‘the other’. With housing apartheid blatantly practised, the Muslims are corralled together in ghettoes. As Romila Thapar perspicaciously noted, “Ghettoes are not only easy to control but easy to destroy”. Clarence Darrow, the humanist who fought relentlessly for the rights of the African-Americans, had observed that no matter what laws we pass, unless people are kind and decent and humane to one another, there can be no peaceful existence or liberty. In the ultimate analysis, “peace and freedom come from human beings rather than from laws and institutions.” Sadly,Gujarattoday has little of brotherhood or the ‘Indian spirit’. In this difficult period of universal deceit, we need to heed Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s dire warning: “When we neither punish nor reproach evil doers… we are ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”



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Rape In India : Legitimate Concerns And The Outrage Industry – By Karthik Ramanathan (Dec 30, 2012, Countercurrents)

The high degree of sex crimes in India does indeed raise concerns about safety particularly for women. The recent report of assaults against a woman and her male friend in South Delhi is another ghastly such event that requires attention, specifically due process, painstaking police and investigative work keeping in mind India’s constitutional principles that are also well established internationally.

While noting (as observed by many commentaries online and in print) the protests were only triggered because this event happened in an elite part of the National Capital, one observes that Manipuri and Kashmiri women who have faced abuse by security forces, or the plight of adivasi and dalit women, or cases of regular domestic abuse does not spark such universal outrage. This does not in any way minimize the crime that has been reported in South Delhi . The assailants should certainly be punished after a fair and just trial that establishes their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. One also can see the genuine concern in the eyes of protesters including many Indian women, each of whom would sure have their own stories of struggle against a sexist system to share. Nevertheless, a critical examination of the nature of the protests and consequent demands that have emerged can only ensure a positive and humane contribution to this debate.

If one were following the protests and the coverage in the media, there was legitimate condemnation of the crime against the woman, but no banner or report one could find taking a concerned view about all the affected people, which in this case is the woman and her male friend. It’s true that the woman has now lost her life after a battle of about two weeks. But her death cannot be the cause of this disparity as the protests far preceded the end of her life. This is quite a unique and baffling experience. In the US, where I live, there was recently a terrible crime too. Twenty young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School of Newtown, Connecticut state were murdered by a gunman along with six teachers, many reportedly trying to protect the children. Two more adults were wounded. A shocked America remembers the children and the adult victims as all of them were people who were victims of a terrible crime. When the Mumbai attacks happened, we did remember the people of India who were killed in the attack, but we for sure also remember and reported the stories of the foreign visitors who lost their lives.

But why do the protesters and the media coverage constantly give the impression that while demanding action on behalf of the rape victim, they seem to be forgetting that the woman’s boy friend was also severely injured almost to the point of fatality? Even as reports came in middle of December of the two injured individuals to be followed by protests, one could strain to find a banner that indicated that there were two humans injured, or a report that raised concerns about the condition and future of both the persons. As a man, I wonder if it’s just possible that society brutalizes men in ways that makes them forget their own humanity. Could that also be a factor that is contributing to many men forgetting love and embracing crime?

Of course, one is glad that there are exceptions. One of them is the opinion piece by Urvashi Butalia’s in The Hindu (Lets ask about how we contribute to rape, December 25, 2012) where she calls us to raise our voices for all women, but to also understand that this is part of a larger struggle for humanity and to not forget “that the young rape survivor in Delhi was accompanied by a friend who too was subjected to violence and nearly killed”. A very worthwhile suggestion that I’m sure even the now deceased woman would have appreciated. …



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Curious Ways of Indian Democracy from India Gate to the Slum Habitat – By Prachee Sinha (Jan 3, 2013, Countercurrents)

It has taken a horrific tragedy and a precious young life to stir the conscience of a nation. Or so one would like to believe! Reality may not still cater to our wishes. Our grand old civilization is also a culture of billion brutalities on its women and countless other victims. One can only hope that it changes for the better, even if a little, after what it has witnessed through the last fifteen days of the last year. Greater probability, however, is for such hopes to be belied yet again. It may take a lot more to lift the weight of an age-old way of life . After all, one would not have expected that rapes and molestations would be reported from across the country, and even from Delhi itself, right in the middle of anger, sorrow and protests that seemed to engulf the country. One would expect that the rapists and the criminals would lie low for a while till the situation returns to normal . Least of all wouldhave one expected that women would be harassed, and one or two would even be molested, during those very protests that were taking placeat the India Gate and Jantar Mantar.

The battered body of the nameless and faceless brave hearthas now been consigned to flames and returned to earth. From the little that we know about her ordeal in the bus, she fought the goons, without any fear that it could invite the brutalisation she was subjected to, when they first attacked her friend. She remained undefeated in her spirits even as her organs failed. Likes of the person, who reportedly expressed the opinion that she should have submitted to rape to be spared the brutalisation, shall never understand the meaning and the value of courage and dignity. As we move out of the period of mourning, as the protests subside, and as the seemingly outraged nation returns to business as usual, there is a lot to ponder and analyse. In a state of shock and grief in the immediate aftermath of the incident, I wrote an emotional piece on the social media casting an anguished and tearful glance from the vantage point of a young woman who commutes to work across Delhi spending two hours in public transport each way. When a friend of mine reacted by saying that we must get to the roots of structural violence permeating the urban habitat and see the role of capital in fomenting frustration and animosity that the underprivileged feel against the privileged and prosperous, I nearly pounced on him across the virtual space. To understand the root cause is not always a prerequisite for change, I wrote back to him. The need for change generates its own dynamics. Societies do not change easily, but they do change through such episodes, tragic as it might be that the girl is to be sacrificed for such incremental change. In the immediate aftermath of such an incident we should not demand a comprehensive treatment and a finely balanced approach. Let us not theorise in a manner that helps us forget and move on, I admonished him.

But, there is a time to mourn and protest, and there is a time to ponder and analyse. My friend was not as wrong as I made him out to be at the time. It is, perhaps, an integral part of thelong drawn out change process that the tragedy has generated a good deal of analysis and soul-searching. The government has been taken to task for its omissions and commissions; the nature of the state has been scrutinised for locating the source of insecurity women face day in and day out. More importantly, a culture and a society soaked with misogyny and patriarchy have been brought under the lens. Analysts and commentators have also wondered why certain cases of rape make headlines while others are lost in the small corners of inside pages. Why rapes and other forms of humiliation and oppression faced frequently by Dalit and tribal women do not stir the conscience of the nation. All such concerns are rooted in difficult issues of Indian society and polity and deserve serious attention. There are yet other issues which are difficult even to voice. Among other things, political correctness comes in the way. The main accused of this case, for example, is reportedly a resident of the Ravi Das slum cluster in south Delhi. I wonder how many from the sprawling Delhi slum habitat that shelters millions joined the protests at the India Gate. I also wonder if the vociferous demands for death penalty, mob lynching and worse by a large section of the protestors had subterranean linkages with the knowledge that the perpetrators of the crime belong to the slum habitat and came from the subaltern classes. While the awakening of the students and the educated youth has been rightly applauded, one has to ponder over the class dimension of the phenomenon and about the chasm that lies between India Gate and the slum habitat.

I am not suggesting that Delhi slums were devoid of the revulsion and sympathy witnessed elsewhere in the aftermath of this horrific incident. In fact I had numerous experiences that spoke otherwise. To take one, Metro stations around India Gate were closed down after the Saturday protests and I had to take an auto-rickshaw to reach there the Sunday after. The rickshaw driver who was a slum dweller and hailed from Bihar was refusing to take money once he came to know that I had come to join the protest. “You are doing a very good thing; I will not take money from you”. I had to really insist and express my appreciation for his concern before he yielded. But, there were indications that pointed in other directions too.

My parents happened to take a long bus ride the next day from Connaught Place to Rohini along the Route 990. Perched on the high front seats reserved for senior citizens they could afford a close observation of the bus driver who was in his thirties and appeared excessively angry and foul-mouthed. But the interesting part was his discriminating behaviour. While he did not stop the bus at many of the required stops where he saw students in suit and tie or regular middle class men and women, he stopped the bus between the stops to pick up passengers who appeared to belong to subaltern classes. He made sure that an elderly woman almost in rags got a seat, whereas he growled at every question asked by any educated looking person. It usually happens the other way round. The poor are at the receiving end of the bus drivers’ ire just as everywhere else. Most interestingly, he admonished a jeans clad young woman for talking over her cell phone while boarding the bus and mocked her by saying, “this bus is not going to the India Gate.” This last instance gave some indications of the source of his anger. … Politicization of a partially awakened citizenry is the need of hour. However, any politics of the genuinely emancipatory kind will have to find a way to deal with the multiple malignancies of the actually existing Indian democracy.



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Cash Transfers: Govt Dips Hands into People’s Pockets – Editorial (Jan 6, 2013, Peoples Democracy)

With much fanfare, the central government kicked off its pet project of Direct Benefits Transfer scheme on the new year’s day. The earlier announcement made by the finance minister from the office of the Congress party at Delhi came in the line of fire of the Election Commission as the announcement came during the Gujarat assembly elections. Also, smarting under charges that this announcement initially called the Direct Cash Transfer scheme under the slogan “Aap ka paisa, aap ke haath” was appearing as a bribe to the people, keeping the 2014 general elections in mind, the government seems to have changed the title of the scheme. Even this high profile launch has scaled down from the initial 43 selected districts to 20 and will cover only a select 26 central schemes like widow pensions, educational scholarships for SC/ST, OBC, minorities etc, etc. Food, fertilisers and kerosene are being kept out of the coverage for the moment. The scheme is slated to be extended to cover all governmental subsidies gradually.

While we shall discuss the inherent weaknesses and limitations and its inability to reach out to the needy later, it should be underlined that the legality of this scheme is yet to be procured through a law enacted by parliament. The legislation “The National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010,” whose objective is stated “to provide for the establishment of the National Identification Authority of India for the purpose of issuing identification numbers to individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals and manner of authentication of such individuals to facilitate access to benefits and services to such individuals to which they are entitled and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto” is pending before the parliament. This bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 3, 2010 and referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance for its examination. This Standing Committee presented its report to both the houses of parliament on December 13, 2011.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee concluded its examination by stating, “In view of the afore-mentioned concerns and apprehensions about the UID scheme, particularly considering the contradictions and ambiguities within the government on its implementation as well as implications, the committee categorically convey their unacceptability of the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 in its present form. The data already collected by the UIDAI may be transferred to the National Population Register (NPR), if the government so chooses. The committee would, thus, urge the government to reconsider and review the UID scheme as also the proposals contained in the bill in all its ramifications and bring forth a fresh legislation before parliament.”

The government has not so far given its opinion on the Standing Committee’s report and has not either abandoned this bill with the a to bringing about a fresh bill or has not come with an amended bill before the parliament. The current launch of the scheme is based on the clearance of the Ministry of Law and Justice for issuing Aadhaar numbers, pending passage of the bill by parliament on the ground that powers of the executive are co-extensive with the legislative power of the government and that the government is not debarred from exercising its executive power in areas which are not regulated by legislation. The Parliamentary Standing Committee completely disagrees with such an understanding and states, “The committee are constrained to point out that in the instant case, since the law making is underway with the bill being pending, any executive action is as unethical and violative of parliament’s prerogatives as promulgation of an ordinance while one of the houses of parliament being in session.”

Apart from this issue of legality, the inherent weaknesses of such a system in India have been widely discussed. The 4G Identity Solutions contracted by the UIDAI for supply of biometric devises notes that, “It is estimated that approximately five per cent of any population has unreadable fingerprints either due to scars or ageing or illegible prints.” Our experiences with the MGNREGA has already shown that the reliability and success rate of fingerprint recognition, particularly for those doing manual work, is very low. Secondly, the system is based on reliable computer connectivity nationwide. India has not yet arrived at this stage. In an August 2012 speech, even the RBI governor D Subbarao referred to the Aadhaar-based biometric authentication in online transactions and noted that “the robustness of this technology is as yet unproven.” …



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Endgame in Telangana – Editorial (Dec 29, 2012, The Hindu)

Statehood for Telangana is too contentious an issue to yield to random consensus-building exercises. Major political parties and large sections of the people of Andhra Pradesh are divided on geographic lines on the question of bifurcation of the State, and any solution would have to involve climbdowns and compromises. In the absence of any structured dialogue engaging the various stakeholders, all-party meetings called by the Centre have resulted only in the reiteration of known positions. After another all-party meeting on Friday, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde did not do much more than promise to take a decision on Telangana within a month. But importantly, he indicated that there would not be another all-party meeting on this issue.

The time for negotiations and consensus-building is over; the stage is set for a solution imposed from above. By now, the Centre must have realised that buying time will not work even as a short-term tactic. With patience wearing thin among pro-Telangana protesters, some forward movement would have to be made within the next month if the statehood agitation is not to escalate further. But given that the Centre’s decision-making on the Telangana issue is almost entirely based on the political calculations of the Congress, nothing more than an in-principle acceptance of the statehood demand is likely in the near future.

Left to itself, the Congress would like to let matters drift till 2014 when elections to both the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly are due. Sure, there is no solution that would please everyone, but that is no reason to delay a decision on an issue over which a large number of people in the Telangana region have been organising protests and agitations affecting normal life. The Congress knows that a decision to carve out a separate Telangana would alienate many people in Coastal Andhra and other parts of Andhra Pradesh, and also that any further delay would fuel anger among those in the thick of the statehood campaign.

The tactic of holding out hope for a separate State without actually conceding it cannot yield political dividends any longer. Of course, the Congress is not the only party indulging in doublespeak over the issue. While the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India have been unequivocally pro-Telangana, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen have been openly against the bifurcation, the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress have been ambiguous on this issue. Politics is all about taking a stand and parties would do well to realise it is impossible to be all things to all people.



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A missing link in the mining scam? – By G Vishnu (Dec 22, 2012, Tehelka)

On 26 November, a CBI court rejected the bail plea of mining baron and former Karnataka minister Gali Janardhan Reddy for the sixth time since his arrest in September last year. Besides activists and some bureaucrats who painstakingly documented the Bellary mining scam, several mining companies that had suffered under the ‘Reddy Republic’ too were overjoyed by the news. Among them was the Reddys’ biggest rival company in Bellary – Mineral Sales Private Limited (MSPL) of the Baldota Group – that had been awarded the ‘President’s National Safety Award (Mines)’ just four days earlier. As the Bellary clean-up begins, it is important to examine this other company that ran the largest mining operation in Bellary until 2008, and after the Reddys’ ignominious exit, is once again the largest mining group in the ravaged region. Indeed, the Baldotas seem to be the future of Bellary. While NA Baldota heads the Group, his sons Rahul Baldota and Shrenikkumar Baldota are the executive directors of MSPL, its flagship company. Rahul is known as a maverick who had resisted the Reddys’ rampage in Bellary. In October 2010, Forbes magazine called Rahul “the last man standing” in the battle for Bellary against the Reddy Brothers.

However, many state government officials credit the Baldotas with setting the precedent for the infamous ‘Bellary way of mining’ that the Reddys later honed to ‘perfection’. In 2008, the then Karnataka Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde had brought to light major violations and systematic corruption, including encroachment of forestland and underpayment of royalties to the government. Justice Hegde resigned from the Lokayukta’s post in June 2010 citing non-cooperation by the state government. In July 2011, another Lokayukta report detailed how miners, bureaucrats and ministers colluded to defraud the government of mining revenues, and uncovered the “zero risk system” – a protection-and- extortion racket allegedly run by the Reddys. The Rs 15,000 crore scam was not just about the government losing revenue, but also involved serious environmental damage. Every official TEHELKA spoke to agreed that no mining company in Bellary was completely clean – a fact that even Rahul Baldota concedes. Today, MSPL sits on a piece of controversial forestland that could earn the Baldotas Rs 20,000 crore in profits.

Set up in 1961 by a Marwari businessman from Mumbai, Abheraj H Baldota, today MSPL is one of India’s leading miners of iron ore. Besides iron ore, the Baldota Group has interests in shipping, steel, chemicals, wind energy, and diamond and gold mining. On their website, the Group claims to be “one of India’s leading exporters of high-grade processed iron ore to China”. “They were there much before the Reddys arrived, but nobody noticed their illegalities as they had ‘managed’ most of the politicians in Karnataka,” says a local anti-mining activist. This view is also shared by officials in the state’s department of mines and geology as well as the Lokayukta’s office. In fact, one official recalled that one of the survey stones of the Vyasanakere iron ore mine – MSPL’s largest and oldest area of operation – was bizarrely inside the Tungabhadra dam’s reservoir, and so the Lokayukta team had to wait for six months for the water to recede, to see the actual size of the mine. “We could see many violations like this, but frustratingly, there were no records,” the official says. Rahul Baldota shrugged off this allegation, saying the investigating officials did not get the technical issues right.

One of the biggest violations was noted in March 2010 by Karnataka’s Chief Conservator of Forests in a letter to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF): encroachment on 200 acres of reserve forestland in Kallahalli, bordering the Vyasanakere mine. But Rahul Baldota rubbished this allegation too, claiming that some public officials had gone on a witchhunt against the Baldota Group at the behest of Janardhan Reddy or because of “ego-issues”. In another case that throws light on the ‘Bellary way of mining’, MSPL is today fighting to retain one of its largest mines – Ramgad Minerals and Mining Ltd (RMML) – spread across 331 hectares of forestland. The story of this mine begins with Dalmia Cement – another conglomerate with varied interests – that has been mining in Bellary for decades. In 1953, Dalmia Cement had obtained a 30-year lease to mine iron ore in the area. The process of renewal of the lease in the 1980s violated the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (FCA). The state department of mines and geology and the department of commerce had facilitated the renewal without the prior approval of the Central government, which is mandatory as per the FCA rules.

Following the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Samata case, which prohibited mining on forestland until FCA clearance, Dalmia Cement stopped mining operations in 1997. Two years later, it surrendered the lease over 197 acres to the state government, and the rest of the mining area in 2001. Instead of notifying this area for grant of mining lease, as required under rule-59 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, the SM Krishna government transferred the lease to the Baldota Group, by an order dated 16 March 2002, in contravention of the FCA and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act. In effect, the Baldotas had been passed on a legally void mining lease. Though the lease itself was void, the MoEF granted “in-principle approval (stage- I)” for the diversion of 335.04 hectares of forestland to the Baldota Group on 13 September 2006, and a “final approval” on 9 September 2010, without obtaining the compliance report from the state’s forest department. Strangely, the BJP government in the state kept quiet on the matter until 2010, when it raised an objection over this improper approval. The then environment minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to the state government in March 2011 stating that one of the reasons for giving the approval was that RMMLwas being treated in a discriminatory manner by the state government. MSPL’s argument is that Dalmia Cement never actually completed the surrender process of the land under the mining lease, and this makes the transfer of the lease legitimate. Rahul Baldota told TEHELKA that MSPL strictly plays by the book and adheres to the law of the land. “We opposed the Reddys, though it could have been vastly profitable to go with them. Look at the work we do for the local communities and you will understand our style of functioning,” he says. This rhetoric notwithstanding, in October this year, the MoEF issued a showcause notice to MSPL asking it to explain why their lease should not be cancelled. This is what the mining companies in Bellary and the rest of India need to be told repeatedly. Obey the law or perish.



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