IAMC Weekly News Roundup - July 23rd, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – July 23rd, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Gujarat riots: Zakia Jafri’s lawyers resume inspection of SIT report giving clean chit to Modi (Jul 21, 2012, Times of India)

Zakia Jafri’s lawyers have resumed inspection of the original final report submitted in the court by the Supreme Court-mandated special investigation team (SIT) in connection with her complaint against chief minister Narendra Modi and 62 others implicating them in the 2002 riots.

Widow of the slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, Zakia claimed before a magisterial court that there were certain vital documents the SIT did not supply to her with its closure report giving clean chief to Modi. During lengthy arguments over allegations that SIT suppressed material, it was proposed to inspect the original copy of the 22,000-page report. The inspection began last month, but could not be proceeded with because social activist Teesta Setalvad requested to have access to the original documents.

The SIT vehemently opposed Setalvad’s request and the court too held that the power of attorney given to her by Zakia does not entitle her to represent her in this process, particularly when Zakia has been represented by her lawyer. To keep Setalvad away from documents, the SIT insisted that in absence of Zakia, only those lawyers who are empowered by her could inspect the report. The SIT also put a condition that the lawyer must be holding the licence to practice.



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Narendra Modi a decayed fruit, should be thrown out: Keshubhai (Jul 19, 2012, Indian Express)

Sharpening his attack on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, dissident BJP leader Keshubhai Patel today compared him with thick skinned animal rhinoceros for being “insensitive” towards people’s problems and a “decayed fruit” that should be thrown out. Insensitivity has become a hallmark of the present government. Modi is like a “rhinoceros” and “decayed fruit” that should be thrown out, he said said addressing a public meet organised here as a part of “Parivartan Sammelan”.

“This government is doing injustice to people. Women and children are not safe and the State government was not concerned because it is insensitive towards people’s problems,” the former chief minister alleged. The meet was also attended by other dissident leaders like Gordhan Zadaphia, Kanshiram Rana and Suresh Mehta. The dissidents are organising public meetings as part of their campaign against the Modi government and push for a change in the state in the upcoming Assembly elections.

“Children have gone missing and when their parents want to meet the chief minister, they are arrested and treated like terrorists. The quantity of mid-day meal given to children in government schools has been reduced to 150 grams from 225 grams, and this reflects insensitivity on part of the government,” said Patel, lashing out at his successor. This government had done nothing in the last ten years on development front. It has only misguided people and made false claims about Gujarat’s growth, said the BJP leader.

Patel advised his arch political rival to “reform” his character. “He is going to Japan soon. He wanted to go to America but could not get a visa. America will invite him only if he reforms his character.” The relocation of Tata’s Nano car project to Sanand from Singur in West Bengal has not resulted in jobs for the locals despite huge investment made by the company, he said.



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Swiss bank link to Sohrab encounter? (Jul 19, 2012, Times of India)

Have some top cops and politicians accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case hidden their ill-gotten wealth in Swiss bank accounts? This is what the Mumbai unit of Central Burerau of Investigations (CBI), which is looking into the case of a fake CBI officer, is trying to probe further after getting some preliminary evidence centred around the visit of Swiss bank officials to Ahmedabad in 2008.

In 2010, some members of the CBI team were found to be allegedly connected to an imposter who, posing as a CBI officer, used to extort money from cops and politicians accused in the case. The central agency arrested two persons in the fake-CBI extortion case. These conmen – Ashwini Kumar Sharma and Rajesh Ranjan both residents of Mumbai – duped over 200 persons across the country in the last three years, said a source in CBI, Mumbai.

When the CBI was tracking one of accused in this case, Hemraj Vaghela, who used to act as a middleman between the Sohrabuddin accused and the fake CBI officers, CBI officials stumbled across the Swiss link. Vaghela, an Ahmedabad-based stockbroker and realtor, went missing when the scam was busted. CBI sealed Vaghela’s office in Navrangpura, Ahmedabad.

CBI officers have learnt that some senior officials of a leading Swiss bank had visited Ahmedabad in 2008. Among the prospective clients the Swiss bankers met are four accused in the Sohrabuddin case. “The same accused bribed the two fake CBI officers through Vaghela hoping that the charges against them will be dropped,” said a CBI official.

“The bank deposits might not be directly linked to pay-offs in the Sohrabuddin case, but the account numbers and the money stored in them could prove to be crucial evidence in the fake encounter which was part of an extortion racket,” a CBI official said.



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CBI arrests Yoga guru Ramdev’s aide Balkrishna (Jul 20, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Yoga guru Ramdev’s aide Balkrishna was on Friday arrested by the CBI after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him by a special court in Dehra Dun in an alleged fake documents case. Ramdev is scheduled to start an agitation against corruption and blackmoney issue from August 9 at Ram Lila ground in the national capital.

CBI sources said Balkrishna was arrested by the agency after the special court in Dehra Dun issued a non-bailable warrant against him in connection with the case. On July 10, the agency had filed a case against Balkrishna in a case relating to alleged submission of alleged fake and forged documents to obtain an Indian passport.

The agency as alleged that Balkrishna along with the then Principal of Sanskrit Mahavidayala, Khurja in Uttar Pradesh had conspired to issue the former fake educational certificates which he used to obtain passport. The agency has booked the duo under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery, and imposed additional charge for the alleged violation of the Passport Act against Balkrishna.

“It was alleged in the complaint that the accused had wrongfully obtained an Indian passport. Enquiry established that the accused in connivance with some unknown persons has furnished false information and forged documents to the Passport office at Bareilly (UP) for getting an Indian passport issued,” the CBI spokesperson had said.

The CBI had registered a case of cheating and criminal conspiracy against Balkrishna on July 23 last year for allegedly procuring fake degree and violating Section 12 of Indian Passport Act by furnishing fake documents to get an Indian passport.



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Rajasthan riots: CBI questions BJP MLA (Jul 23, 2012, IBN)

The CBI on Monday started recording the statement of BJP MLA from Rajasthan Anita Singh in connection with the Gopalgarh violence where 10 Meo Muslims were killed in September in 2011. Sources said Singh, assembly member from Nagar, Bharatpur, who arrived at the CBI headquarters in New Delhi on Monday morning was questioned by the officials in connection with the riots between Meo Muslims and Gurjars which took place on September 14, 2011 in Gopalgarh, agency sources said.

The agency may also record the statement of Congress MLA Zahida Khan in connection with the case, they said. The members of Meo and the Gurjar communities clashed over the ownership of a village land in Gopalgarh, Bharatpur on September 14, 2011. Following the CBI charge sheet filed in March, the special CBI court in Jaipur directed it to also probe the role of influential people in the region including the MLAs.

The court directed the CBI to investigate the alleged role of MLAs Zahida Khan (from Kama) and Anita Singh (from Nagar, Bharatpur), along with two other leaders of a particular community and submit a report after the counsel for both the communities pointed fingers at them during arguments.

It was alleged that key witnesses had made statements attributing specific role to these legislators, but the CBI had not carried out investigation against them. Taking note of the statements made by accused, the special court directed the CBI to investigate role of the two MLAs and the two other persons.



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Retd major says SpiceJet staff insulted him for being Muslim, airline denies charge (Jul 19, 2012, Times of India)

A former major-rank officer has alleged that he was discriminated against and harassed by the staff of SpiceJet because of his being a Muslim, a charge denied by the airline which said a “religious colour” was being given to the incident. Major Mohammad Ali Shah, who served in Indian Army as a Short Service Commissioned officer, has complained to the National Minority Commission (NCM), which is probing the matter.

“I was singled out on account of my religion and subjected to humiliation at the hands of the employees of SpiceJet including being insulted and manhandled,” Ali told PTI. In his complaint to the National Minority Commission (NCM) chief Wajahat Habibullah, he has given a detailed account of the incident stating that his mails to the managing director of SpiceJet Kalanidhi Maran were also not replied.

Shah was booked on a Guwahati-bound SpiceJet flight on June 28. “After boarding the flight I was asked by an official to identify my baggage, which is not a normal procedure. When I came out of the flight I found my baggage completely ransacked,” he said. Son of Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU) Vice Chancellor Lt General Z U Shah and nephew of film star Naseeruddin Shah, Ali claimed that he was also asked by the airline to submit a letter saying that he was not allowed to board the plane because of his own misconduct.

Replying to Ali’s legal notice, SpiceJet accused him of being “unruly and non-cooperative” and taking “illegal” video footage of the tarmac area when he was asked to identify his baggage. The airline also said, “Mr Shah, who claims himself to be an ex-army officer, is now seeking to give a religious colour to the incident in order to justify his illegal actions.” Stating that Ali has travelled with SpiceJet on numerous occasions, the reply added, “At no point of time was Mr Shah threatened, manhandled or humiliated by our staff.”

Habibullah said, “We have asked for a report from SpiceJet on the complaint of former Major Mohammad Ali Shah that he was victimized for being a Muslim by SpiceJet officials during his New Delhi-Guwahati flight last month.” Observing that the issue is distressing and disappointing, minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid said, “I hope that it had not happened. I hope it is a misunderstanding and I certainly hope that this will not lead to any further aggravation of attitudes, perception and of relationship between people.”



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Mosque site cordoned off amid protest from locals (Jul 22, 2012, Times of India)

Amid heavy police presence and protests by locals, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation cordoned off Subhash Park grounds, the purported site of the 17th century Akbarabadi Masjid, on Saturday. No one was allowed inside to offer prayers, but the site could not be handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as ordered by the Delhi high court. “Those who came from ASI were there only to collect samples of the so-called Mughal-era ruins found during digging by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation,” said municipal commissioner P K Gupta, who visited the site around 3pm. ASI officials said they were waiting for the culture ministry’s permission to take over the land. “We will abide by the HC’s order. We will take over the site to verify the claims being made by locals that it contains remains of the Akbarabadi Masjid that was razed by the British a century ago,” said an ASI official.

The cordoning triggered heavy stone-pelting and protests, with locals demanding that they be allowed to offer prayers at the site, as they did on Friday. Despite police personnel ringing the site, hundreds of protesters blocked the road and threw stones at passing buses. At least two low-floor DTC buses were damaged and an 18-year-old passenger had to be taken to hospital with head injuries. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation cordoned off Subhash Park grounds, the purported site of the Akbarabadi Masjid, on Saturday.

Police had been deployed in the area since 7am when corporation staff began cordoning off the area. Additional companies of CRPF and the Rapid Action Force were also called in. Despite the bandobast, protesters clashed with the police twice, around 11am and 2pm, as fresh batches of people kept pouring in. Police, however, maintained that there was no violence and crowds were dispersed as soon as they turned restive. “We are being extremely careful in handling this matter as it is sensitive. We are going to follow the high court’s directive and ensure that law and order is maintained in the area and there is no infiltration at the site,” said a police officer.

MLA Shoaib Iqbal, who has been leading the demand for reconstruction of the mosque at the site, alleged that the authorities took away religious books and other material lying at the site. “The high court had ordered to maintain status quo. But the police and other civic body officials forcibly took away some of our religious books kept inside which was uncalled for. We have filed a case in the high court on this matter which will be heard on Monday,” he said. The North Corporation denied the allegations. “We have prepared an inventory list of all the items – cement bags, construction tools and bricks – at the site to ensure no damage or any sort of alteration is made,” said a senior official. He said that, along with police, corporation employees would also be present at the site.

Traffic on Netaji Subhash Chandra Marg, the road in front of Red Fort which serves as an important link between Old Delhi and the rest of the city, remained paralysed for the second consecutive day on Saturday as hundreds of protesters laid siege to the area demanding permission to pray at the purported site of the 17th century Akbarabadi Masjid. There were few instances of stone pelting on DTC buses despite heavy police presence. “It was a horrifying sight. Hundreds of people had surrounded the bus we were travelling in even as police tried to clear the way,” said Nimisha Sheokand, who was going to North campus, Delhi University. Those who had to catch a train were caught in the melee. “I left from my home an hour in advance to catch the train. But with this traffic jam, it looks difficult that I will be able to reach on time,” said Ramesh Kumar. Maximum chaos was witnessed in the afternoon when the local schools closed for the day. Children could be seen jostling past the protesters to reach home. Many parents, who had come to receive their children, said they could not find any rickshaw or auto and had to walk to Dilli Gate from Subhash Park.



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Woman ‘gang-raped’ in UP police station (Jul 23, 2012, Hindustan Times)

A woman was allegedly gang-raped within the premises of a police station in Khadda area in Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, police said on Monday.

The woman was taken to the police station on July 17 by a man Vijay Verma of her village Gainahi promising her help in getting a job but she was forcibly given liquor and a number of policemen allegedly raped her in a room, the woman said in her complaint on Sunday.

“On the complaint of the woman, an FIR has been registered against Verma and sub-inspector Virendra Kumar. The woman will be sent for medical examination today,” circle officer Vinod Kumar said.



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Guwahati case: RTI activist says police slowing probe (Jul 19, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The Assam Police are going slow on the Guwahati molestation case investigation, said RTI activist Akhil Gogoi on Wednesday, fuelling the political conspiracy theory of chief minister Tarun Gogoi. Akhil Gogoi said senior police officers could be under pressure to slow down probe.

“I had asked the DGP why they were taking so long to bring molestation kingpin Amarjyoti Kalita to book. He told me the police needed to proceed slowly since it was a high-profile issue,” the RTI activist said.

“Any case requires thorough investigation. Arrests cannot be made only on basis of CDs (with) origin unverified,” DGP Jayanta Narayan Choudhury told HT. On Tuesday, the chief minister had said the case could be a “conspiracy” against him.

Atanu Bhuyan, who quit as editor-in-chief of NewsLive TV on Tuesday, was meanwhile, removed from the channel’s board of directors. He was also quizzed by the police after two women, one of them a journalist, lodged a complaint alleging he sent them threat messages.



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Dalit woman who was beaten up, paraded naked dies (Jul 17, 2012, Indian Express)

A Dalit woman, who was paraded naked and beaten up in her village in Jagatsinghpur district, died on Monday at a government hospital. “She died of septicaemia and acute renal failure,” said Dr Bhubanananda Maharana, superintendent of SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack.

Last month, the woman from Mangrajpur village in Jagatsinghpur district was beaten up by several Dalit men of her village and paraded naked before her husband. She was beaten with iron rods and disrobed after she protested against the accused defecating at the field near her house.

She suffered serious head injuries following which she was first admitted to Kujang community health centre, then SCB Medical College and Hospital, and again admitted to a private nursing home in Cuttack after the SCB doctors failed to treat her.

The police have arrested four persons in connection with the case. They are Gangadhar Mallick, Netrananda Mallick,Chabi Mallick and Pabitra Mallick. Her husband Satyananda Mallick has lodged a petition with the Orissa Human Rights Commission.



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Opinions and Editorials

‘96% Muslim prisoners do not have terror or criminal connections – By Mamta Sen (Jul 17, 2012, Sunday Guardian)

Mumbai has the highest number of Muslims prisoners (55.1%) in Maharashtra, followed by Pune and Aurangabad (9.1% each), says a study assigned to Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) by the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission. Titled “Socio Economic Profile and Rehabilitation Needs of Muslim Community in Prisons in Maharashtra”, the study was conducted by Professor Vijay Raghavan and Professor Roshni Nair of the Criminology and Justice Department of TISS. Around 339 Muslim prisoners (both male and female) across 15 prisons in Maharashtra were interviewed for the year-long research, which has thrown up alarming statistics on the condition of Muslim prisoners and the state of their legal representation.

The 141-page report highlights that in spite of chargesheets filed against 47.4% of the undertrial prisoners, only 3.8% have reached the judgement stage. Of the 70% undertrial Muslim prisoners, 64.5% are male and 5.2% are female. The report says that Byculla jail in Mumbai has the highest number of female prisoners from Bangladesh. The report also brings to light the poor treatment received by women prisoners compared to their male counterparts and calls for immediate measures to stop this. The majority of Muslim prisoners are aged between 18-30 years and account for 65.5% of the total Muslim population in prisons across Maharashtra. Around 58.2% of them are educated up to the primary level, while the remaining 31.4% are illiterate.

The study says that 96% of Muslims detained in jails do not appear to have any connections with criminal gangs or terrorist groups; 25% of them did not have any lawyers representing them. It says that corruption in the legal system and a biased police force are the key reasons why Muslim prisoners languish in prisons across Maharashtra. It further says that while 44% of those arrested were allowed to meet their families immediately, 38% were not allowed to do so, a clear violation of D.K. Basu guidelines. The study adds that over 61% of prisoners did not have any contacts with NGOs and 23% were not even aware of their existence. The study also says that even though over 50% of the convicted prisoners completing their term of imprisonment in 2013, the Maharashtra State Minority Commission does not have any rehabilitation plans in place for them.

Professor Vijay Raghavan says that the research was a herculean task as they experienced several delays in acquiring permission to interview the prisoners. He says that many prisoners said that they had been falsely implicated in cases where they were either witness to a certain crime or complained against the police. “There have been cases when family members too ended up getting arrested and tortured by the police if someone from the family has committed a crime and is absconding to evade arrest, mainly due to the bias against their community,” he says, adding that 42% of prisoners on short-term sentences are Muslims and that Acts like TADA, MCOCA and Official Secrets Act are slapped on them without any evidence.

Among the undertrials interviewed, charge sheets have been filed in only 47.4% cases and only 3.8% cases have reached the judgement stage. “Majority of these incidents, however are related to conflicts in family relationships, disputes over money or property matters, love affairs, conflicts arising out of peer relations, feelings of revenge,” Raghavan says. He adds that all 15 case-studies of men and women prisoners presented in the report show some examples of police atrocities.



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Lt. Col Purohit: Acts of Terror And Finding Escape Route – By Ram Puniyani (Jul 22, 2012, Countercurrents)

In the wake of the various acts of terror and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s motor cycle being traced, it became clear that the investigating agencies are acting on the wrong thesis that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’. A Pandora’s box opened and the link of ex-ABVP activist, Pragya Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, retired Major Upadhayay, Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Swami Aseemanand came to surface, Role of two organizations inspired by the ideology of ‘Hindu nation’, Abhinav Bharat and Santana Sanstha also came to light. The investigations led by Hemant Karkare, by the Rajasthan ATS and National Investigation Agency (NIA) made it clear that there is a deeper nexus of elements like Purohit &Co., those who have been part of terror groups or have been supporting them in various ways. The confessions of Swami Aseemanand, named many more activists belonging to RSS combine, who are currently cooling their heels in jails and are facing investigations for acts of terror. Lt. Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit came to be identified as one of the major player in the whole episode. He is the core person of extremist Hindutva group Abhinav Bharat. He was arrested on 5th November 2008 by Maharashtra ATS for his role in Malegaon blast.

It was the investigation of Malegaon blast, particularly under the leadership of Hemant Karkare, which unearthed the whole terror network, which later on came to be termed as Saffron terror by P.Chidmabaram, the Union Home minister. For Purohit and other army officers, the army instituted a court of inquiry. During the inquiry what Col Purohit said is very revealing. Purohit claimed that he was part of the network as an infiltrator and was keeping his superiors in the loop, keeping them informed. He claims that he infiltrated the terror network to keep a tab on the same. But his statement leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The major question is if he was doing all this for army, why did army hand him over to Anti Terrorism Squad? The whole investigation seems to be mired in mystery and lots of facts need a further probe. Tehelka had also published investigative reports naming several ex-military men from the Bhosala Military School and their involvement in the Malegaon and other blasts, which was later confirmed by the ATS. The involvement of other army officers needs to be brought to surface as the whole matter seems to be much serious than just a case of few officers keeping a tab of these terrorist groups.

The blasts taking place in front of mosques and similar places where Muslims congregate for prayers, at the time when they are leaving the congregation was a clear indication of involvement of ‘other’ groups than the usual suspects, in which many a Muslim youth had been arrested and later released due to lack of any evidence whatsoever. In the light of many a military officers role in these acts, it did not therefore, come as a surprise that Mohan Bhagwat, RSS Chief used the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Bhosala Military school (BMS) say that “military schools run under the aegis of Hindutva institutions are the need of the hour,”. Looking at the key role played by Bhosala Military School, which is run by a group of people whose sympathies with the RSS is no secret, one fails to understand why the chief bosses of the school were not investigated for their role in the acts of terror? Very few people even know that BMS is one of those rare schools who impart training on service pattern to the students along with regular courses which is aimed at encouraging and preparing them for entry into National Defense Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) etc and other defense services.

Bhosala Military School has a long history. It was set up by Dr. B.S. Munje, the mentor of RSS Sarsanghclak, Dr. K.B. Hedgewar. Dr. Munje was inspired by Benito Mussolini’s fascist methods and believed that one who controls army rules the country. His statue in the Nagpur, where RSS was founded, has this phrase written on the plaque. With this perspective in mind this school was set up to act as a feeder for Indian army. The school was set up with the assistance of British and it supplied officers to the British army. Its training is meant to supply officers for Indian army. Now it emerges from different confessions and statements that the groups involved in terror had deeper connection with this school. What ideology it teaches and what it aims is very clear from some of the statements of the accused. The phenomenon of Hindutva terror allegedly revolves around the likes of Lt. Col Purohit and Swami Aseemanand of RSS to name the two central characters. After Swami Aseemanand’s confession the total picture and their agenda becomes clear. Aseemanand had said that ‘bomb is the answer to bomb’. He also wanted to pave the way for the goal of Hindu nation through such terror outfits and their goal was larger than just a blast here and a blast there, they aimed at Hindu nation. Purohit in his statements during interrogation has said that their effort was to fight the Indian Constitution for (Hindu) Nation, “We will fight the Constitution to fight for our nation.”

The RSS propaganda that Hindu religion is in danger and it needs to be defended was also stated by Purohit. He also says “many things are wrong in the country and need to be rectified. Hindu religion is in danger. It is our duty to defend Hinduism.” And finally “We have to establish this country in accordance with the Vedic procedures; we want the Sanatan Dharma, the Vedic Dharma.” The Purohit affair is getting murkier and murkier. The agenda of Hindu nation, the role of Bhosala military school and other army officers in the whole chain of command cannot be accepted at the face value. It needs a deeper probe and investigation of the whole terror network and the role of army officers, as it is clear that Col Purohit’s statement that he was keeping other army officers in the loop for an operation which was not the part of the army intelligence work, is a matter of worry. The role played by Bhosla Military School also needs to be probed. The ideology which such people are harboring to fight Indian Constitution to build Hindu nation is a clear danger to our Constitution, the democratic values and the plural character of the country. How does one save the values of India’s Constitution, the values of India’s freedom movement?



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BJP’s RSS-triggered crisis – By K Subrahmanya (Jul 15, 2012, Deccan Herald)

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarsanghchalak Mohan Rao Bhagwat and his predecessor K S Sudarshan will find this too bitter a pill to swallow: the 12 years the two “guided” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) affairs since the year 2000, they have systematically destroyed its leadership. The pathetic state of the party’s leadership today is a direct offshoot of their overreach. Their overzealous remote controlling has spread chaos at the top. Worst still, their attempts at micromanaging have spread lawlessness in the BJP at all levels. Today, as the latest round of bitter infighting in the Karnataka BJP unit shows, no state unit of the party really respects or fears the party central leadership. There are only too many leaders at 11, Ashoka Road BJP headquaters in the national capital. But there is neither a leadership nor a leader whose authority is respected and feared by the party rank and file. How did this happen in a party that was once used to the strong leadership in A B Vajpayee and L K Advani? Avid BJP watchers would bear witness to a time when a Narendra Modi, as one of the party’s spokespersons, would weigh his words carefully for fear of inadvertently exceeding his brief from Advani, a B S Yeddyurappa would wait for hours to get Advani’s go-ahead on any issue concerning BJP affairs in Karnataka, a Vasundhara Raje would do everything to be on the right side of the Vajpayee-Advani duo. The veterans were father figures. Nothing would move in the party against their wishes. It worked well for the BJP.

If Vajpayee was respected, Advani was feared. Between them, they built the BJP from a two-member party in the Lok Sabha to being the country’s ruling party in less than 15 years. As the party sensed power in the early 1990s, its once-monolithic and ideologically driven approach was loosened to accommodate leaders from outside the Hindutva ideological fold to give it the winning edge. It did create contradictions in the party. Yet, the Vajpayee-Advani duo managed the contradictions to eventually wrest power at the Centre in 1998. The RSS duo of Sudarshan-Bhagwat, powerful even when Rajju Bhaiyya was the Sarsanghchalak, found it hard to accept this subtle shift from the Hindutva-centric politics to a power-centric politics of the party. But Rajju Bhaiyya shared a mutually respectful equation with Vajpayee and Advani as the three of them were contemporaries in their early RSS days. This perhaps restrained the RSS duo for the time being. The trouble for the BJP began once Sudarshan took charge of the RSS in the year 2000 with Bhagwat as his second-in-command. Much of what happened may not yet be public knowledge, but media reports suggest that the duo had encouraged a Vajpayee-Advani rift in the party and the party-led NDA government for more influence and better control. There wasn’t much to doubt about the RSS hand in several critical media reports about Vajpayee’s National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra. So too was Advani’s elevation as the Deputy Prime Minister. It was the beginning of a new phase of aggressive RSS remote controlling and micromanagement of BJP affairs. Yet, as the 2004 parliamentary elections approached, the RSS duo encountered resistance from Vajpayee and Advani. The two BJP leaders, who were both more accommodative of each other and realistic about the need to take BJP’s NDA allies along rather than alienate them, ignored pressures from the RSS on ideological issues.

If the Vajpayee-Advani combination came in the way of its scheme for the BJP, the Sudarshan-Bhagwat duo didn’t waste much time to dismantle this obstacle. The opportunity came soon after the BJP-led NDA’s severe drubbing in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections that was unexpected as well. The two RSS leaders publicly attributed the defeat to negative ideological tendencies in the party and then went on to openly announce that the time had come for the two BJP leaders to retire. “Vajpayee should go and let new faces emerge. He should stay as a senior adviser only,” stated Sudarshan in an interview early in 2005. He went on to include Advani in his retirement list: “Both should go and let new leadership emerge.” By that time, however, the BJP was already beginning to feel the absence of Vajpayee’s active presence as he had retreated from active involvement due to his failing health. There were no such health issues for Advani, who was fit, agile as he shouldered the responsibilities of heading the party and the party’s parliamentary wing. But this certainly was not to the liking of the RSS bosses. Within months they found a contentious remark by Advani about Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah to hit him hard – a blow from which the BJP patriarch could never recover. Taking cue from the RSS leaders, one BJP leader after another questioned Advani’s leadership.

A mauled Advani was forced to quit as the party president. With the dramatic collapse of his authority also began a phase of lawlessness in the party. Until then whoever other than Vajpayee and Advani held the post of BJP president, had enormous advantage of the full force of the two leaders behind them to exercise the authority as party chief – be it Bangaru Laxman, Venkaiah Naidu or Jana Krishnamurthy. But not so this time when Rajnath Singh took over from Advani. With Advani not around to fear, and his seniors like Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley not too comfortable, Rajnath Singh could only depend on the two RSS bosses for authority. The RSS bosses could do very little to prop up Rajnath Singh as an effective leader. As a result lawlessness spread to states – in Rajasthan Raje became to act like a satrap, Modi tightened his hold over Gujarat, in Maharashtra the party fissures came out in the open, a situation made worse by experienced tactician and senior leader Pramod Mahajan’s tragic death, the party’s decline got hastened in Rajnath Singh’s home state of Uttar Pradesh, and in Karnataka, the party’s gateway to the South, its first government was already becoming an embarrassment. The RSS did make a forced concession when by default it agreed to project a vulnerable Advani as the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections – an election for which the party was neither prepared nor had any chance of putting up a credible performance. By this time the RSS baton also changed hands – from Sudarshan to Bhagwat, who was not even born when the likes of Vajpayee and Advani had already put in some years in the RSS.

What happened thereafter is nothing but a farce. Instead of taking responsibility for the inevitable Lok Sabha election defeat, Bhagwat convinced himself that the RSS should micromanage a faction-ridden, leaderless BJP. In a televised interview, Bhagwat called BJP leaders to end “infighting and disarray,” with a warning that “or else” the RSS would intervene. Who created the leadership void that intensified infighting and a state of disarray in the party? Bhagwat wouldn’t introspect on the question. Within the BJP, four names were being discussed as possible successor to Rajnath Singh – Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Narenda Modi and Arun Jaitley. One of them would have certainly emerged as an acceptable successor to Vajpayee and Advani. An internal democratic process in this regard would certainly have involved Advani in a big role. A leader so emerging would have established his/her credibility from day one. But as it turned out, the top BJP rung had no say in deciding the leadership succession. Under Bhagwat, the RSS foisted a rank outsider as the party president in the form of Nitin Gadkari. There was no stopping chaos at the top and its rapid spread at all levels down below, as Gadkari remained ineffective and helpless, unable to win wide acceptance and trust of the rank and file. “No one can stand on top because he is put there,” it is often said. But Gadkari stands there and Bhagwat recently even forced top leaders of the party to amend the BJP constitution to give this Nagpur leader a second term in office, as though to perpetuate the leadership crisis in the BJP.



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Guwahati Molestation: ‘What Has Happened to Our Society?’ – By Diksha Sahni and Preetika Rana (Jul 13, 2012, Wall Street Journal)

A shocking video of a young girl being molested on a busy street in the northeastern Indian state of Assam has put the spotlight once again on the vulnerability of Indian women and alleged inaction by police. The video, which has now gone viral on the Internet, was shot by a local Assamese television news channel Monday when the girl was molested and thrashed by a gang of around 20 men on a Guwahati street, even as onlookers failed to intervene. The reporters, filming the video, appear to have attempted to stop the mob but were outnumbered by the gang, who continued to harass her.

It was only after the video was uploaded on YouTube by the reporters earlier this week, that the incident caught the attention of the police, who made their first arrest 48 hours after the incident. Speaking to reporters, Jayanta Narayan Chowdhury, a senior official at the Assam police said: “Thanks to the prompt media coverage we have got the video clip of the brawl and have identified 12 of them. We will take strong action against the guilty.” But so far, the police action doesn’t seem to be gathering much steam. Just three men have been arrested even though the police say they have identified a dozen.

Television reports showed that banners have now sprung up in the city with faces of the alleged molesters in the hope of spurring the police to greater action. The case also led many news channels Friday and prompted outrage on social media sites such as Twitter. Milind Deora, a senior politician with India’s ruling-Congress party, condemned the incident as “inexcusable” and “disgusting” on Twitter, adding, “Local police should leave no stone unturned in nabbing them.” “This is not about one ‪Guwahati, one Bengaluru, one Park Street…this is about collective shame. And the will for us together to set it right,” tweeted Derek O’ Brien, spokesman of the ruling Trinamool Congress party in neighbor state of West Bengal.

Meanwhile, the Congress party’s Renuka Chowdhury and former head of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, has said that the incident can’t only be seen as the lack of police action, but also a reflection of the civil society. “It’s ridiculous for us citizens to sit back and say there have to be police who have to look after this. What has happened to our society?” she said in an interview on NDTV. “There is a social fracture that is happening. There seems to be an acceptance for this kind of behavior…. They will almost swagger as if there is something heroic that they have done,” she added.

Neera Barooah, chair of the Assam State Commission for Women, told reporters: “The Commission had taken suo motu cognizance of the incident and demands a life imprisonment for those involved.” According to reports, the number of molestation cases in Assam doubled in 2010 from 2007. Yet, said Mr. Chowdhury of the Assam Police: “This incident does not prove that there are predators lurking in the city.”



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Laxmipeta: Deadly Combination of Caste and Political Power – By Bojja Tharakam (Jul 14, 2012, Economic &Political Weekly)

Take any place, be it Belchi, Pipra, Deoli-Sadhupur, Kilavenmani, Villupuram, Kanchikacherla, Karamchedu, Chundur, Laxmanpur-Bathe, Bathani-tola, Jajjhar, Khairlanji, Kambalahalli, any name. The story is the same. Dalits are massacred, their huts razed and set ablaze, the women raped, children cut to pieces. Names and numbers can change. The pattern and the power structure remains the same. Laxmipeta, a tiny remote village of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh (AP) joined these ranks of massacre of helpless and hapless Dalits who were demanding either self-respect or land. Laxmipeta has now become an adjective or an adverb, no more the mere name of a village. It is a resettled village of the oustees of an irrigation project – “Madduvalasa Project”. The entire original village of Laxmipeta got submerged in the project and was relocated to its present place. There are two major communities in the village. One is the “Kapu”. Though listed as a backward class, they are a politically and economically dominating caste in the north coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh. The other main community in Laxmipeta is “Mala”, a scheduled caste who have been landless agricultural labourers. The Kapus of Laxmipeta owned land and houses, and hence got full compensation for their property. In addition, they got government jobs. The Malas did not own any land, hence got no compensation. They owned only small huts or houses and received a token amount towards compensation for their houses. Not even a single job was given to them.

Since the Laxmipeta is a resettled village and house-sites were provided by the government, the two communities constructed their houses adjacent to each other. They were compelled to stay side-by-side, with only a small road dividing their houses, in spite of the prevalence of the practice of untouchability. After the completion of the irrigation project, about 250 acres of land acquired by the government remained surplus. It was of no use to the project. Since there was no chance of its submergence even with full tank capacity of the reservoir, the villagers of Laxmipeta started cultivating this land, which, prior to acquisition, belonged to them. Legally it was no longer their land. The Kapus started cultivating about 190 out of the 250 acres. The Dalits joined them and started cultivating the remaining 60 acres. These 60 acres were left by the Kapus because that land was not owned by them earlier. Out of the 60 acres, 40 acres belonged to cultivators from Devakavada village and the owners, after receiving compensation, settled far away. The remaining 20 acres belonged to Kapus of Laxmipeta, but these owners too, after receiving compensation, left the village and settled elsewhere. The 60 acres were thus left fallow, without any erstwhile claimants. The government did not object to the cultivation of this left over land. The Kapus also did not, initially, have any objection to Dalits cultivating this land along with them. The last three years have seen a change in the political scenario of Srikakulam district. The already powerful community of the Kapus found their political power further strengthened in the region of the north coastal districts as the president of the state Congress, Botsa Satyanarayana, belongs to their caste. He is also a minister in the state cabinet. Further, it is rumoured that he controls, through benami accounts, a large number of liquor shops in the north coastal belt. Laxmipeta village falls in Rajam constituency of the Legislative Assembly, which is reserved for scheduled castes. The member of the Legislative Assembly from Rajam Konduru Murali, is also made a minister in the state cabinet. He however has been an obliging partner to the dominant communities of the district and would not dare go against their wishes. The inability of the SC representative to stand his political ground is an addition in the armour of the dominant communities. The Kapus have found further support in the rise of Chiranjeevi, actor turned politician, who was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha. Even the president of the Mandal Praja Parishad belongs to the Kapu caste. Ironically, the lowest rung of state-administrative power – village sarpanch – was occupied by a scheduled caste woman, thanks to reservation. Of course she could not wield any real power, not even being allowed to sit in the chair of the sarpanch during the entire period of her term. That is the difference between the two “political powers”.

A similar example, though with no fatal consequences, is from Amalapuram, in the coastal district of East Godavari where four statues of B R Ambedkar were desecrated in one night. The suspicion was on a person who belongs to this same caste, the Kapu, and even here, the MLA is a scheduled caste and member of the cabinet. However, just like in Laxmipeta, he could not but defend the alleged culprits since otherwise he would have incurred the wrath of the Kapu community. When there is a clash of interests, ministers representing reserved constituencies are unable to stand up against the dominant community. Fearing loss of political power, they remain silent. Given this larger context where the Kapu dominant caste was finding its political power strengthened day by day, in Laxmipeta, the Kapu landowners started threatening the Dalits to leave the 60 acres of land that they had been cultivating. The Dalits refused. They pointed out that the land does not belong to the Kapus of the village. Further, the Dalits were also paying lease amount to the erstwhile owners of the land, even though they were not obliged to since this land had been acquired and now belongs to the government. The Kapus, having found that oral pressure did not work, started attacking them, in the beginning at a smaller level. In an attack by Kapus, three women including the sarpanch, received grievous injuries and one of them succumbed to her injuries, but there was no police case despite complaints by the Dalits. On the other hand, the Dalits were implicated under section 107 of the criminal procedure code for breach of peace. This further emboldened the perpetrators.

The local police inspector belongs to a scheduled caste while the additional superintendent of police is from a scheduled tribe community. But both failed to protectto the Dalits. The cabinet minister who represents Rajam constituency also failed to render any help to the Dalits in getting the land assigned to them. On the other hand, he dissuaded them from cultivating the land against the wishes of the Kapu landowners. The president of the mandal praja parishad, though his term was over, continued to wield political power and warned the Dalits, when approached, to leave the land. He warned them that otherwise they would have to face grave consequences. The non-interference of the local minister, the public support of another local political leader and finally the reassuring political protection the state Congress chief encouraged the dominant community to to take matters in their own hands. Sensing the danger, the Daltis of Laxmipeta approached the police for help and a police picket was posted in the village. A conspiracy appears to have been hatched, with the former president of Mandal praja parishad, to attack the Dalits, and terrorise them in a manner where they would dare not cultivate the land. Since June had arrived and the monsoons were advancing, the Kapus decided not to allow the Dalits to start agricultural operations on the land this season. Probably, as per the design and conspiracy, the police picket was removed on the pretext that forces are needed for bye-elections. There was only one bye-election to in the entire district and there was no dearth of police personnel. The lifting of the picket clearly seems to be a ploy.

A day prior to the attack the Dalits observed some movement in the Kapu locality in the village. On the 12th June morning, sensing danger, the husband of the former sarpanch, informed the police inspector and requested for immediate help. The police station is hardly three to four kilometres from the village. The expected police help did not come. Perhaps, this was also deliberate. Soon, a violent group of Kapus, armed with spears, axes, sticks and bombs swooped on the Dalit habitation, hurling bombs. Shocked by the sudden sound, the Dalits came out and the assailants attacked them. The mob entered the houses from both sides and attacked. Most people were either taking breakfast or attending to their daily chores. Women were not spared either. People who were trying to escape were also not spared. The attackers swung their weapons and inflicted multiple injuries on legs, hands, heads. They speared eyes and aimed at breaking limbs – the only “property” of the Dalits. When women pleaded with folded hands, their hands were broken. A woman was trying to give water to her dying son had her hands broken. Doors were smashed, household articles broken. This mayhem went on for a few hours. In the process four people died there itself and a fifth succumbed to injuries after five days. About 50 people have received injuries, of whom about 20 have been grievously hurt and may not be in a position to do manual work even after they are treated. For Dalit agricultural labourers, who survive on their toil, this may be worse than death. Almost each Dalit family has one or more person injured. Out of the five dead, three belong to one family. Under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the district magistrate and the superintendent of police should immediately visit any place where scheduled castes or tribes have been attacked, assess the damage, render immediate help and relief, and send a report to the government. None of the two main district functionaries visited Laxmipeta. Under the Act, it is also the duty of the district magistrate to identify the atrocity prone area and take all necessary precautions to avert any attack on the SCs and STs. He should also identify the possible attackers and if necessary extern them from the district. Nothing of this happened. For the last two years attacks on Dalits have been a regular feature and were increasing in impunity. Despite the death of one person who had been beaten earlier, no action had been taken. Such is the nature of the political domination of the Kapu community in the area. … After the carnage, the Dalits and other democratic forces started agitating for justice to the victims. The Dalits further demand that a special court should be established in Laxmipeta village itself. The law provides for this. The Dalits should get justice at the same place where their blood was sprinkled and should get the land for which they have lost lives. That is the proper way to render real justice to the victims.



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The unwanted girl – By Anupama Katakam (Jul 14, 2012, Frontline)

In early June, Vijaymala Patekar, a mother of four girls, haemorrhaged to death at a hospital in Parli, Beed district, Maharashtra. She was reportedly in her second trimester of pregnancy. Her family had allegedly forced her to abort the foetus when they learnt it was a girl child. Sudam Munde, the doctor who performed the procedure, fled Parli but was arrested later. He reportedly confessed to the police that he along with his doctor-wife Saraswati Munde had conducted hundreds of sex-selective abortions in the past few years. He also said that women from neighbouring districts, too, approached his clinic for the purpose, and the demand had enabled him to set up a huge practice. Investigations revealed that the doctor had crores of rupees in bank accounts. Vijaymala Patekar’s death has exposed tragic facts and explosive data. It categorically points to the fact that Maharashtra, a seemingly progressive State, has one of the worst child sex ratios in the country. The State has been perpetuating a terrible crime by ignoring it, say activists who have been working for decades for the “Save the Girl Child” movement. Vijaymala Patekar’s case, reports of girl babies being abandoned regularly, and the 2011 Census data on the declining child sex ratio clearly show that female foeticide exists in a demonic form and is increasing across the State.

There was a spate of cases of abandoned infant girls and aborted female foetuses in different parts of Mumbai in June alone. A three-day-old girl was found by municipal cleaners in a garbage bin on a highway near Mankhurd, while a two-month-old girl was found abandoned outside Dadar railway station in the city. The body of a one-day-old girl was found dumped near a nullah (stream) in Rabodi, Thane. This is not unusual. A few months ago, a group of boys playing football in a playground in south Mumbai accidently unearthed the body of a newborn girl buried there. Another infant girl was found near a rubbish bin, half-eaten by rats, but alive. An orphanage in suburban Mumbai, which practises cradle adoption, says it receives three or four girl babies every month. “It is a poor reflection on our society,” says Usha Salve, a social activist who works in one of Mumbai’s slums. In early July, in Solapur, the police arrested another doctor couple, who were on the run, for conducting sex-selective abortions. Drs Ajit and Priyadarsini Upase had been absconding ever since the police discovered one of their hospital staff burying a female foetus at a burial ground in the town. Two of their staff, who were arrested, told the police that the doctor couple had done several sex-selective abortions.

Frontline spoke to women from all strata of society as well as activists, lawyers, doctors and administrators in the State to find out whether saving the girl child was no longer a priority. The quest revealed that many people – both rich and poor – viewed girls as financial and emotional burdens. The police and the local administration say they have graver issues to worry about than abandoned babies. Activists and lawyers say lax laws and the lack of a powerful monitoring system allow sex selection to thrive. Of course, it is also difficult to change the preference of many Indians for a male child. According to Census 2011, there is a shocking decline in the child sex ratio in Maharashtra. For every 1,000 boys in the State, there are only 883 girls. This is a lot worse than in 2001, when the figure was 913 girls per 1,000 boys. However, this phenomenon is not exclusive to Maharashtra. The latest Census results show an alarming decline in the number of girls born in India. While in 2001 the national ratio was 976 girls for every 1,000 boys, it dropped to 914 in 2011. The ratio is calculated as the number of girls per 1,000 boys in the 0-6 age group. As per global trends, the normal child sex ratio should be above 950. “There are so many reasons for the discrimination against the girl child. The foremost, though, is the deep-rooted gender bias in this country,” says A.L. Sharada, director of Population First, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working on women’s issues. “We need to do something as a nation to make people want a daughter. She must not be seen as a burden or an emotional drain.”

According to Sharada, one of the primary reasons for the decline is the drop in fertility rate. Moreover, people want smaller families, mainly for economic reasons. And if they have to have just one child, they want it to be a son. Another problem that needs to be addressed on a war footing is the aggressive marketing, with little monitoring, of ultrasound machines. Although NGOs have been working extensively on this, the lack of sincerity or proactive steps by governments in combating the issue has unfortunately allowed foeticide to flourish. Maharashtra was the first State in India to enact a law to protect the female foetus – the Maharashtra Regulation of Use of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1987, which paved the way for the enactment of the Prevention of Misuse of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PNDT) in 1994 and the amended Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act in 2002. Additionally, NGOs and women’s rights activists in the State have been relentlessly campaigning to save the girl child. It was also the first State to introduce 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies. So why do people of this State not want girls? The answer is the same across the country. There is a strong preference for a son if the parents want only one child – to uphold the family lineage, to support parents in their old age, to inherit the family business, and to light the funeral pyre so that the parents attain salvation. Girl children are seen as nothing but burdens, with dowry being the biggest problem.

What has made sex-selective abortions easier is the proliferation and affordability of ultrasound machines. There is no diligent monitoring of how these machines are used, and doctors who perform the abortions are not penalised, says Sharada. “People in Maharashtra’s sugar belt are the biggest culprits. Their deep pockets and political influence help perpetuate this crime,” she says. Beed district has the lowest sex ratio in the State (802 as per Census 2011), but that does not necessarily mean that rural regions alone are to be blamed. For instance, Mumbai, a rich district with higher literacy levels, has 874 girls per 1,000, while in 2001 the ratio was 922 per 1,000 (see chart). “Being rich or poor has nothing to do with sex-selective abortions; it happens across socio-economic strata. What is bad though in this State is that the districts that did not show a decline in 2001 have shown a downward trend in the recent Census figures. For instance, the largely tribal districts of Gadchiroli and Chandrapur are also seeing a sharp decline in sex ratios,” says Sharada (see map and chart). As per Census 2011, 32 of the 35 districts in Maharashtra recorded a sharp drop in the child sex ratio. In fact, the number of districts with a ratio lower than 900 – nine in 2001 – more than doubled in 2011. Foeticide, which was restricted to urban pockets and western Maharashtra, has now spread to most parts of the State. …



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