IAMC Weekly News Roundup – July 29th, 2013
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- It’s State-sponsored conspiracy from day-1 but SIT ignored it, says Zakia
- 65 MPs write to Obama against a visa for Modi
- Modi’s Hindutva a double-edged sword, analysts warn
- Facebook page of ‘BJP Gujarat’ takes nasty, ‘bikini-clad’ dig at Amartya Sen
- RSS, IB are ‘biggest terror’ outfits: Ex-IG
- Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case: Did Amit Shah meet NK Amin?
- Counsel objects to ‘leak’ of IM chargesheet
- Batla encounter case raises more questions than it answers
- Policeman hits woman with gun in Budgam
- Telangana will be 29th state
Opinions & Editorials
- Hindu Nationalism versus Indian Nationalism – By Ram Puniyani
- The Noose Tightens Around Rajinder Kumar – By Rana Ayyub
- Indian Mujahideen and its dubious origin – By Faraz Ahmad
- Appeasing the majority? – By Tahir Mahmood
- A Toxic Lesson In Despair – By G Vishnu
- Judicial overreach? – By V. Venkatesan
It’s State-sponsored conspiracy from day-1 but SIT ignored it, says Zakia (Jul 26, 2013, The Hindu)
Zakia Jaffry, widow of the former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffry killed in the 2002 riots, has made a serious allegation that there was plenty of evidence to suggest there was a State-sponsored conspiracy to expand the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident across Gujarat, but a Special Investigation Team (SIT) tasked with looking at this completely ignored the facts before it. Ms. Jaffry’s counsel Mihir Desai on Thursday tore apart the SIT’s report that gave Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a clean chit in the 2002 riots and pointed out that there was a conspiracy from day one – February 27, 2002 – to spread the outrage over the Godhra incident across the length and breadth of Gujarat. He questioned, before a metropolitan court here, why the SIT appointed by the Supreme Court glossed over damning evidence.
Citing the SIT report, he stated when Mr. Modi was asked about the Gujarat bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on February 28, 2002, the day after the Godhra train attack, Mr. Modi replied he came to know about it at 9 p.m. When told that his own party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, had supported the bandh, Mr. Modi claimed that he came to know about it from the newspapers on February 28, 2002. “And the SIT believes this, without questioning further,” wondered Mr. Desai. The VHP had given the call for a Gujarat bandh on the day the Godhra train-burning occurred. The very same day, evidence suggests, a decision was taken at the highest level, in the presence of the Chief Minister, who had arrived in Godhra, to hand over the bodies of the dead to VHP general secretary Jaideep Patel and his assistant Hasmukh Patel. The bodies were brought to Ahmedabad in four trucks and one tempo van.
“The very decision to hand over the bodies of those killed in the Godhra train carnage to VHP office-bearers and then allowing them to parade them in Ahmedabad smacks of a conspiracy to spread violence across the State,” Mr. Desai argued. He condented that “all this cannot be treated as an administrative lapse, but is a deliberate action” to whip up communal passions across the State. Zakia’s counsel cited the statement by Jaideep Patel before the SIT that he brought out the bodies from the burning train and even took them to Ahmedabad. Officials of the Gujarat Government, including the then District Magistrate Jayanti Ravi, are on record that the VHP leader took the bodies out and to Ahmedabad. Mr. Desai wondered how private persons could be handed over charge of matters which were completely in the domain of the police and the government.
Mr. Desai pointed out that this proved that the VHP cadres had already been mobilised on Day One, including for removing and transporting the bodies from Godhra, while this should have been the job of the police and the administration. Citing evidence after evidence that the SIT already had to prove that the State Government “actually wanted” a post-Godhra backlash, he argued that the investigation agency deliberately ignored them like a “greenhorn school student.” During the arguments on Wednesday, he said that instead of functioning like a dispassionate investigating agency, the SIT had gone on to negate that the former MOS Revenue Haren Pandya and former DCP-Intelligence Sanjiv Bhatt were not present at the meeting that took place at Mr. Modi’s residence on the night of February 27, 2002, where the latter allegedly asked his officials to allow a Hindu backlash to the Godhra incident.
Mr. Desai argued that this meeting, called a law and order review meeting, went on for almost two hours but the SIT that gave a clean chit to Mr. Modi, instead of putting the “variegated evidence in its final report has shown its bias when all it has done is tried to state that inflammatory, criminal and unconstitutional words were not spoken by Narendra Modi who was also the chief minister that day.” He expressed surprise that various officials gave contradictory versions the presence of Mr. Bhatt at the controversial February 27, 2002 meeting, but pointed out that it proved that such a meeting did take place. Mr. Desai wondered why, after having established that this meet did take place, no officer from the Intelligence department was called here.
- ‘2002 Gujarat riots were a BJP, VHP conspiracy’ (Jul 26, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)
- Gulberg Society massacre: SIT ignored material proof to begin trial, says Zakia (Jul 26, 2013, Indian Express)
- SIT turned blind eye to damaging evidence: Zakia (Jul 29, 2013, The Hindu)
- Bhatt at Modi’s Meet: Jafri’s Lawyer Questions SIT Report (Jul 24, 2013, Outlook)
65 MPs write to Obama against a visa for Modi (Jul 24, 2013, Indian Express)
Even as BJP president Rajnath Singh is lobbying here with the US for a visa for Narendra Modi, 65 Indian MPs have written letters to President Barack Obama, urging the US administration to maintain its current policy of denying visa to him. “We wish to respectfully urge you to maintain the current policy of denying Mr Modi a visa to the United States,” the MPs belonging to 12 parties have said in identical letters to Obama. One letter was signed by 25 Rajya Sabha members and the other by 40 Lok Sabha members written on November 26 and December 5, 2102 respectively, and re-faxed to the White House on Sunday.
Copies of the letters were provided by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) as Rajnath Singh reached Washington to meet US lawmakers, think-tanks and US government officials during which he said he would urge the Americans to lift the ban on visa for Modi. Mohammed Adeeb, Independent MP from the Rajya Sabha who took the initiative for this campaign, said they sent these letters to Obama again because of the current campaign and initiative being taken by Rajnath Singh for getting a US visa for Modi. The letters were being made public only now, he added.
Singh told a press conference in New York on Sunday he would appeal to the US lawmakers to impress on the administration to remove the visa ban on Modi imposed after the 2002 post-Godhra riots. The denial came on grounds of human rights violations in Gujarat with Modi as chief minister. The signatories to the letters include Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M) and M P Achuthan of CPI, both Rajya Sabha members. When contacted, Yechury expressed surprise saying he had not signed any such letter. It appeared to be a cut-and-paste job, he said.
“I would be the last person to write to the US administration and to do something like this. We don’t want anyone to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. These are issues which will have to be settled in India politically,” Yechury said. Achuthan also denied writing such a letter. However, Adeeb insisted that Yechury and Achthan had signed the letter and was surprised why they were retracting now. “Given that legal cases against the culprits including many senior officials in Mr Modi’s administration are still pending in the court of law, any revoking of the ban at this juncture would be seen as a dismissal of the issues concerning Mr Modi’s role in the horrific massacres of 2002,” the letter to Obama said.
“It would legitimise Mr Modi’s human rights violations and seriously impact the nature of US-India relations by sending a message that the United States values economic interests over and above the universal values of human rights and justice,” said the letter. The signatories also include Sabir Ali and Ali Anwar Ansari (Janata Dal-U), Rasheed Masood (Congress), S Ahmed (Trinamool Congress), Asaduddin Owaisi (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), Thirumavalavan (Viduthalai Chiruttaigal Katchi), K P Ramalingam (DMK) and S S Rasmasubbu (Congress). The MPs alleged that Modi had not only “obstructed” the course of justice but also “failed” to provide rehabilitation to the survivors of whom 16,000 continue to live in refugee colonies lacking basic amenities.
- Modi visa row: ‘MPs under pressure to backtrack on letter to Obama’ (Jul 24, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- MPs’ letters to Obama on Narendra Modi visa ‘original and authentic’: Forensic report (Jul 28, 2013, Deccan Chronicle)
- Modi and translation problems dog BJP chief in America (Jul 24, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- An Anglophile’s letter to BJP chief Rajnath Singh (Jul 20, 2013, Governance Now)
Modi’s Hindutva a double-edged sword, analysts warn (Jul 26, 2013, Times of India)
Gujarat chief minister and BJP’s campaign committee chairperson Narendra Modi’s attempt to revive hardline Hindutva in UP for gains in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls is a double-edged sword, which may end up doing more harm than good to the party, a section of analysts have warned. It may also lead to violence with rival parties adding fuel to fire, which would be dangerous for the country. According to leaders, the BJP is offering a mix of development, casteism and Hindutva. The emphasis is more on Hindutva because it kept the party ‘alive’ in most adverse circumstances. In 2012 assembly elections, BJP won 47 seats in UP, of which 25 had Muslim population above 20%. Similarly, in 2009, BJP won 10 Lok Sabha seats, of which eight were Muslim dominated. Also, in 2012, Modi campaigned only in Ayodhya and talked about development but party lost the seat it held since 1991. “This shows that without Hindutva, BJP is nothing. Hence, Hindutva is to consolidate party’s core vote and other issues including anti-incumbency against the state and central governments will bring surplus,” they added.
For this, Sangh Parivar is moving in a planned manner to create a Hindutva wave – On June 9, Modi is elevated. On June 12, VHP announces statewide campaign in August for Ram temple. On June 18, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says in Meerut that Hindutva is the only solution for India. On June 28, a VHP leader arrested for Mathura blasts. On July 6, Modi’s right hand man Amit Shah visits Ayodhya, vows to build Ram temple. And, on July 16, RSS chief formally approves Ram temple as an election issue. Petitions are also being filed claiming the right of Hindus on ‘disputed places’ where mosques were constructed during medieval period. The Samajwadi Party rule and withdrawal of cases against terror accused are also helping Sangh Parivar to push its agenda. Role of both Hindu and Muslim harliners is under scanner for the riots. History shows that communal polarization often takes place in elections after violence.
The attempt is to create a situation similar to 90s when the BJP rose due to Ram Temple movement led by Lal Krisna Advani and charisma of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. However, after demolition of Babri mosque, the hardline appeal declined and caste factor has been dominating since then. However, hundreds died in communal violence across country in 90s. “Modi is projecting himself both as Atal (development) and Advani (hardline). He is wooing urban middle class and consolidating Sangh Parivar cadre disoriented after BJP led NDA government came to power by putting Hindutva issue at the back burner. But his action will create a strong reaction among the Muslims. Some lower Hindu castes also see RSS as an outfit dominated by upper castes and influential backward castes. In such a situation, Hindu votes will be divided and Muslim will vote en bloc to defeat the BJP,” said political analyst Deepak Mishra.
Observers also said that breaking caste with communal politics will be difficult for the BJP because the SP and the BSP will not give ground easily. BJP’s stand on quota in government jobs and promotions issue has been shaky. Further, BJP in UP has no strong state leader like Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh and Sushil Modi in Bihar. The infighting has made matter worse. A section of people also think that the Ram Temple issue will have little impact today as young voters (18-25 years), who are 40% of the electorate, were either not born or were below five years of age when Babri mosque was demolished in 1992. However, hate messages in social media show a different picture.
“Also, the Hidutava has no answers for the problems faced by villagers and poor, 80% of the population,” said political observer Gopal Krishna, describing BJP’s move as ‘Hindu appeasement’. He feared more violence in coming days because of dangerous politics played by all the parties including BJP, SP and Congress. “A lot will also depend on how opposition parties react. If opposition will take radical position like the one taken by BSP which demanded ban on RSS and VHP, it may end up playing in the hands of Modi. The Opposition will also avoid any situation which can lead to communal violence which can cause polarization,” summed up JP Shukla, an analyst. Besides losing friends and potential post poll allies, he said there is also a threat of ‘Hindutva’ overshadowing ‘development’ plank, which may boomerang.
- Narendra Modi not fit to be PM, has shifted focus from key issues:JD(U) (Jul 23, 2013, DNA India)
- Modi’s communal and encounter politics will not succeed in India: Dipankar Bhattacharya (Jul 22, 2013, Times of India)
- Rahul asks Guj leaders to build pressure on Modi govt (Jul 29, 2013, Rediff)
- Bar Narendra Modi from contesting polls: Samajwadi Party leader to EC (Jul 24, 2013, IBN)
Facebook page of ‘BJP Gujarat’ takes nasty, ‘bikini-clad’ dig at Amartya Sen (Jul 27, 2013, Indian Express)
A Facebook page by the name ‘BBP Gujarat’ went viral soon after it published the photo of a bikini-clad girl, purportedly shown as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s daughter Nandana, with another picture of the economist and his daughter and an abusive caption. The caption said, “Amartya Sen sahab, aap pehle apna ghar aur apni beti ko sambhal lijiye, vahi bahut hoga aapke liye…Desh aur Modi par nirnay lene ke liye Bharat ke nagrik bahut hain, hame kisi bhi videshi nagrikta prapt sathiyaye buddhe ki salah nahin chahiye. Beti toh sambhali nahin jaati, baat karte hain Modi ki… sharm karo (Mr Amartya Sen, first handle your daughter, that is enough for you… the people of India are enough to decide about the country and Modi. We do not want advice from any senile old man of foreign citizenship. Can’t even handle your own daughter and you talk about Modi… shame on you).”
This Facebook page, a namesake of the official Facebook page of the BJP, is described as that of “Modi supporters” and was created in March this year. So far, it has 5,420 likes and 4,880 talking about it. The cover photo is of the BJP’s conclave where Modi was elevated as the poll panel chief and the profile photo has a woman in a saree with the BJP’s sash around her neck.
The official BJP Facebook page (also called Bjp Gujarat) goes with a poster of “Ek Bharat, Shreshta Bharat” with the lotus as its profile picture. This page is liked by 29,856 people but has only 1,489 talking about it. State BJP’s samvad cell convenor Dr Parag Sheth said he was busy taking calls ever since this link went viral. “This is not the official BJP page,” he told The Indian Express, adding he had no idea who the woman on the profile of this Facebook page was.
- Sharad Yadav welcomes Amartya’s view on Modi (Jul 23, 2013, Rediff)
- Nitish Kumar lashes out at BJP over Mitra’s remark on Amartya Sen (Jul 26, 2013, IBN)
- Shinde endorses Amartya’s views, says he must be right (Jul 25, 2013, Rediff)
- BJP distances itself from Chandan Mitra’s remarks on Amartya Sen (Jul 25, 2013, IBN)
RSS, IB are ‘biggest terror’ outfits: Ex-IG (Jul 29, 2013, Asian Age)
Former inspector general of police S.M. Mushrif has made a sensational allegation against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) calling them the biggest terrorist organisations of the country, which in connivance with the local police, plotted the implication of innocent Muslim youth in the Malegaon bomb blast case. He was speaking at the inaugural function of the 26th state convention of the All India Backward (SC, ST, OBC) And Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) in Pune on Saturday.
“Until now, office bearers and activists of the RSS were found involved in around 17 bomb blast cases that occurred in several cities of the country. It is being revealed that they were involved in the Hyderabad bomb blast case also,” Mr Mushrif claimed. He went on to say that innocent Muslims were being framed by these organisations in collusion with the local police. The former IPS officer was in a major controversy pertaining to the death of former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
In his book Who Killed Karkare – The Real Face of Terrorism, Mr Mushrif had blamed some Right-wing groups of being the masterminds behind Karkare’s murder, alleging that keeping him alive would have invited more probes into the right-wing terror. In December 2010, the Bombay high court had also sought a reply from the state government on whether it had investigated the issues raised in Mr Mushrif’s book. The division bench of justice B.H. Marlapalle and justice U.D. Salvi had observed that the issues raised in the book were relevant and that Mr Mushrif “as a citizen has a right to air his views.”
Former Bihar MLA Radhakant Yadav and another Jyoti Bedekar in their petitions had alleged that ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s death was orchestrated by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) personnel and members of the “Right-wing terrorist outfit” Abhinav Bharat.
- RSS gives training in making bombs: Digvijay (Jul 25, 2013, Rediff)
- Meem Afzal dubs BJP as symbol of terrorism (Jul 23, 2013, DNA India)
- IB officer dictated Ishrat affidavit: CBI (Jul 27, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- IB officer Rajinder Kumar under CBI lens for another Gujarat encounter case (Jul 24, 2013, Times of India)
Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case: Did Amit Shah meet NK Amin? (Jul 30, 2013, DNA India)
Amit Shah, former minister of state for home, had allegedly met NK Amin, an accused police officer in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, before the latter’s arrest in that case. CBI sleuths, investigating the Ishrat fake encounter case, had accessed the CCTV footage of the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital after it stumbled upon the lead that the former minister and now BJP national general secretary had met the accused IPS officer.
The CBI, which had not mentioned anything about Shah in the charge sheet but pointed to his role through various statements with code names like kali dadhi, is trying to get the details of Shah’s alleged meeting with Amin before the latter was picked up by the CBI. Amin was arrested in the Ishrat fake encounter case by the agency on April 4, while the CBI suspects that the meeting between Shah and Amin might have taken place earlier. Amin remained at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital for quite some time following his arrest in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case before being arrested in the Ishrat case later.
CBI investigators, however, have seized the CCTV footage of the area of the Civil Hospital where Amin was admitted and scrutinising it to know whether Shah had actually met him. Incidentally, sources in the CBI said that at this stage, the agency does not have any evidence to prove any political connection. But, it had received many leads which could direct the investigation towards it.
Sources further stated that the CCTV footage of a few days before April 4 had been seized and scrutinised. Shah is a suspect in the Ishrat fake encounter case as he had been mentioned in the statement of accused police inspectors KM Vaghela and a few others. Amin is currently in judicial custody for his role in the murders of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh, Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana.
- Ishrat case: CBI to examine home ministry officials (Jul 30, 2013, Times of India)
- Ishrat case: PP Pandey reaches court in ambulance (Jul 29, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Gujarat HC not to monitor Ishrat encounter probe anymore (Jul 27, 2013, Times of India)
- Tulsiram Prajapati encounter: HC rejects top cop’s petition seeking release from jail (Jul 25, 2013, Indian Express)
Counsel objects to ‘leak’ of IM chargesheet (Jul 23, 2013, Indian Express)
The counsel for five suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) members, Mehmood Pracha, has objected to the NIA leaking the chargesheet even before the court taking note of it. The Congress and the BJP had engaged in a war of words over the NIA chargesheet that details the reasons behind the genesis of IM. The NIA filed the chargesheet on July 17.
“A premier investigating agency like the NIA has reiterated what other ATS like Mumbai police and Delhi police special cell have been claiming. There is no proof on existence of IM. They themselves have claimed that IM was banned by government in 2009 while according to chargesheet IM came into existence in 2003. What were government agencies doing for six years?” Pracha asked.
He said the story of NIA is false and fabricated. “There is no scientific investigation carried out. The agency leaked the chargesheet to media even before the court took cognisance,” he said. Meanwhile, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde refrained from making any statement on the chargesheet.
MoS (Home) R P N Singh feigned ignorance and said, “Shakeel Ahmed should answer for himself. I’m not aware what he said and I have not read his tweet,” Singh claimed. Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed stirred a storm when he tweeted, “Indian Mujahideen was formed after the Gujarat riots, says NIA in its charge sheet. Even now BJP and RSS will not desist from their communal politics.”
- Muslim leaders slam Shakeel Ahmed’s ‘irresponsible’ remark (Jul 23, 2013, Times of India)
- Was Indian Mujahideen formed to avenge Gujarat riots? (Jul 26, 2013, DNA India)
- Cong disowns link between Gujarat, IM (Jul 23, 2013, Indian Express)
- Digvijaya blames Advani’s Ayodhya Yatra for the rise of terrorism, communalism in India (Jul 23, 2013, India Today)
Batla encounter case raises more questions than it answers (Jul 24, 2013, Rediff)
A Delhi court on July 25 will pronounce its verdict in the Batla House encounter case which killed Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma. Suspected Indian Mujahideen operative Shahzad Ahmad has been charged with the murder of the policeman. If the court pronounces Ahmad guilty it would raise a question on the authenticity of the encounter, which many have called fake. While the Special Team of the Delhi police say the intention of the encounter was to nab a key group of the Indian Mujahideen, five years since the encounter the police are yet to nab those operatives.
A Delhi police officer said that two key operatives, apart from 10 others who managed to get away, were Dr Shahnawaz and Mohammad Sajid. This according to the National Investigation Agency has led to the regrouping of the Indian Mujahideen. Dr Shahnawaz and Mohammad Sajid first moved to Uttar Pradesh where they are alleged to have held a meeting with alleged founder leader of the Indian Mujahideen Yasin Bhatkal. According to investigators, their resolve was much higher following the Batla House incident.
From UP they moved to Nepal and then Pakistan. They stayed in Sharjah briefly and then moved back to India according to investigators. Back in India they trained with Bhatkal to make bombs and also stage operations. Be it the blasts in Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore or Delhi, their names have cropped up regularly. It is quite certain that they are part of a core team that manages the IM. There were ten others who managed to get away from the Batla House locality on the day of the encounter. Indian agencies suspect that these ten too are part of the IM. The Delhi police appear to be on a weak footing in this case. There are many questions that the court has asked them for but the answers have not been satisfactory. An intelligence input is not sufficient to stand in the court of law.
During the encounter, the police managed to kill Atif Ameen, the alleged mastermind, and another accomplice, Mohammad Sajid (Chota). They also arrested Mohammad Saif, Zeeshan Ahmed, Saqib Nisar, Mohammad Shakeel and Zia-ur-Rehman after the encounter. But despite these arrests and killings, why has only Shehzad been named in the charge sheet? The Delhi police also do not have convincing answers to the lack of information provided to the local police before the encounter. Even though the Delhi police say that Mohan Chand Sharma had informed the Jamia Nagar police, the argument has been countered and no evidence to this effect has been produced. The other question that has been raised is, why was the case registered five hours after the incident? The local police station is barely a kilometer away from the spot. The Delhi police say formalities into the deaths of militants in the encounter and the loss of an inspector led to the delay.
The post mortem report in the case suggests that Mohammad Sajid and Atif Ameen were hit by a blunt object before they were killed. This has been a point of contention as the police had claimed that these youth had used guns. Further the report also states that there were 21 injuries, all of ante mortem nature on Ameen. The court also questioned the Delhi police on the death of Inspector MC Sharma. According to his post mortem report, he had died due to hemorrhagic shock. There was also an ante mortem wound. July 25 would be a big day for both the police and the families. The residents of the area where the encounter took place say police patrols continues till date and each one is viewed as a suspect. The police counter this by saying that the area had become very sensitive and there is an absolute need for 24/7 monitoring.
- Civil rights groups dismayed and disappointed at Batla House judgement (Jul 25, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Batla House encounter fake, insist Muslim organisations (Jul 25, 2013, Rediff)
- Students protest against Batla verdict (Jul 29, 2013, Asian Age)
- Timeline of 2008 Batla House shootout case (Jul 25, 2013, Yahoo)
Policeman hits woman with gun in Budgam (Jul 24, 2013, The Hindu)
A 55-year-old woman was critically injured when a policeman hit her head with the butt of his gun at Dadina village, as the three-day-long sectarian strife in Budgam district spilled over to a larger area, causing further violence.
“There was a clash between the people of Dadin and Babagh, some 500 metres away. Rather than going to that spot, the policemen jumped out of their vehicles and began shouting, abusing and firing tear gas shells at us. We thought they were coming to our rescue. Suddenly, they struck us. A tall policeman hit Fatima’s head with the butt of his gun and she fell. They roughed up the others and tore off our clothes. All hell broke loose,” a cousin of Fatima told The Hindu.
Fatima was admitted to Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura, with critical injuries in her head. About a dozen men and women of Dadina and other villages were treated at the District Hospital of Budgam. Doctors attending to Fatima at SKIMS described her condition as “very very critical.” “Chances of her recovery are very bleak”, Dr. Ishtiaq, in-charge of ICCU at SKIMS told The Hindu.
Police allegedly barged into houses, smashed windows and doors, including religious places at Dadina, Dandoosa, Pymus and Garend Kalan. After rumours of a woman’s death, houses were set on fire at Sahipora village. Official sources confirmed that 10 houses and two places of worship were destroyed in the fire.
Superintendent of Budgam Mohammad Irshad described the situation as “serious” and said a curfew was being imposed in areas where there were allegations of atrocities by police personnel. More paramilitary personnel were being sought, he said.
- Palghar FB case: Why no case against cops, asks HC (Jul 24, 2013, Times of India)
- Kasaragod: Muslim League opposes CBI report (Jul 29, 2013, The Hindu)
- Dharavi custodial death: Brother demands CBI probe (Jul 24, 2013, Indian Express)
- Coimbatore: Minority organisation seeks action against errant policemen (Jul 30, 2013, The Hindu)
Telangana will be 29th state (Jul 30, 2013, Deccan Herald)
Telangana will be the 29th state of India comprising 10 districts with plenty of water and some other natural resources in a backward region lacking development that was at the heart of the separate state demand. As and when the state is formed, the jewel in the crown will always be the city of Hyderabad, which may for some time, at least 10 years to start with, be the joint capital for the rest of Andhra. With a population of over 3.5 crore, the new state comprising mostly the areas of the princel Nizam state will have 17 Lok Sabha seats and 119 Assembly seats.
When it joins the Indian Union, people of the region would hope that the new identity would help them overcome the challenges of poverty and backwardness which were at the roots of the separate state movement. The demand for a separate identity for Telangana is virtually as old as the state of Andhra Pradesh, which came into existence in November 1956 through the States Reorganisation Act. The Andhra Pradesh government website says: “Telangana agitation was started by the people of the region when they felt that Andhra leaders had flouted the Gentlemen’s Agreement which facilitated the formation of Andhra Pradesh.
“In the beginning, the movement demanded the implementation of the safeguards agreed upon earlier, but later it wanted the separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.” That the seat of government in Hyderabad has persistently ignored the needs of Telangana at the expense of the other regions of the state has been a constant grouse of the advocates of separate statehood. The new Telangana state would comprise the 10 districts of Hyderabad, Medak, Adilabad, Khammam, Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Rangareddy and Warangal.
Now, according to the Backward Regions Grant Fund 2009–10, 13 districts in Andhra Pradesh have been identied as being backward, of which nine are in Telangana. Classified as a semi-arid region with a predominantly hot and dry climate, Telangana is not amongst the most fertile regions of the country. But it does have its share of natural resources and notably contains 20 per cent of the country’s coal deposits. Among other natural resources are mica and bauxite along with some limestone reserves.
But given the lack of development, Telangana has served as a fertile ground for the Maoist insurgency to take root. A clutch of leaders of the Naxalite movement hail from the region. Slain Maoist Kishanji, who was No.3 in the rebels’ hierarchy, hailed from Karimnagar district. As proponents of a separate Telangana claim, the carving out of a new state would give a fresh impetus for the people of the region to aspire for growth and development. Especially with the inclusion of Hyderabad, Telangana would find itself in control of one of the primary centres of India’s tech story. …
- Telangana cleared, now deal with Gorkhaland and Bodoland (Jul 30, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Three day bandh begins in Darjeeling (Jul 29, 2013, Indian Express)
- A swift decision on Telangana may threaten regional players’ identity (Jul 29, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- United Andhra supporters build up protests against division (Jul 29, 2013, Deccan Herald)
Opinions and Editorials
Hindu Nationalism versus Indian Nationalism – By Ram Puniyani (Jul 24, 2013, Countercurrents)
The debate around Hindu Nationalism and Indian Nationalism is not a new one. During colonial period, when the rising freedom movement was articulating the concept and values of Indian nationalism, the section of Hindus, keeping aloof from freedom movement asserted the concept of Hindu Nationalism. The debate has resurfaced again due to the one who is trying to project himself as the Prime-Ministerial candidate of BJP-NDA, Narendra Modi. In an interview recently (July 2013) said very ‘simply’ that he was born a Hindu, he is a nationalist, so he is a Hindu Nationalist! His Party President Rajnath Singh also buttressed the point and took it further to say that Muslims are Muslim nationalists, Christians are Christian Nationalists. So one has a variety of nationalisms to choose from!
Modi’s putting 2+2 together and claiming to be a Nationalist and a Hindu and so a Hindu nationalist is like putting the wool in others eyes. Hindu nationalism is a politics and a category with a specific meaning and agenda. This is the part of the ideology and practice of Modi’s parent organizations, BJP-RSS. During colonial period the rising classes of industrialists, businessmen, workers and educated classes came together and formed different organizations, Madras Mahajan Sabha, Pune Sarvajanik Sabha, Bombay Association etc.. These organizations felt for the need for an over arching political organization so went in to form Indian National Congress in 1885. The declining sections of society, Muslim and Hindu landlords and kings also decided to came together to oppose the all inclusive politics of Congress, which in due course became the major vehicle of the values of freedom movement. These declining sections were feeling threatened due to the social changes. To hide their social decline they projected as if their religion is in danger. They also did not like the standing up to the colonial masters by Congress, which had started putting forward the demands for different rising social groups and thereby for India. Congress saw this country as ‘India is a Nation in the making’.
As per declining sections of landlords and kings; standing up to, not bowing in front of the ruler is against the teachings of ‘our’ religion so what is needed according to them is to promote the loyalty to the British. They, Hindu and Muslim feudal elements, came together and formed United India Patriotic Association in 1888. The lead was taken by Nawab of Dhaka and Raja of Kashi. Later due to British machinations the Muslim elite from this association separated and formed Muslim league in 1906, while in parallel to this the Hindu elite first formed Punjab Hindu Sabha in 1909 and then Hindu Mahasabha in 1915. These communal formations argued for Muslim Nationalism and Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalists also developed the political ideology of Hindutva, articulated particularly by Savarkar in 1923 in his book ‘Hindutva or Who is a Hindu?’ This was an enviable situation for British as such groups would weaken the rising national movement. On one side they quietly supported the Muslim League and parallel to this they handled Hindu Mahasabha with velvet gloves.
Taking a cue from the ideology of Hindutva, RSS came up in 1925, with the path of Hindu Nationalism and goal of Hindu Nation. The values of rising classes embodied in the persona of Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar, Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and many others mainly revolved around Indian Nationalism, built around the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The ideology of Muslim League selectively drew from some Muslim traditions to assert the caste and gender hierarchy of feudal society. While Hindu Mahasabha and RSS had tomes like Manusmriti to talk about similar graded hierarchies of caste and gender. Muslim and Hindu communalists were not part of freedom movement as freedom movement was all inclusive and aimed at secular democratic values. Muslim and Hindu communalists drew from glories of respective Kings of the past and kept aloof from anti British struggle, some exceptions are always there to show the evidence of their participation in the freedom struggle.
Gandhi’s attempt to draw the masses in to anti British struggle was the major point due to which the Constitutionalists like Jinnah; traditionalists of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha further drifted away and consolidated themselves after 1920s. The trajectory of Hindu Nationalism from the decade of 1920 becomes very clear, to be on the side of British to oppose the Muslim Nationalists. Same applies to Muslim League, as it regarded Congress as a Hindu party. The Freedom of the country and tragic partition led to Muslim Leaguers going to Pakistan while leaving sufficient backlog to sustain Muslim communalism here. Hindu Nationalists in the form of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS gradually started asserting themselves, beginning with murder of Mahatma Gandhi, who surely was amongst the best of the Hindus of that century and probably of many a centuries put together. Hindu Nationalists formed first Jan Sangh and later present BJP. The major issue taken up by these nationalists was opposition to cooperative farming, public sector and undertook a program called ‘Indianization of Muslims’.…
- ‘I Haven’t Manufactured Those Signatures’ – Mohammed Adeeb tells Outlook (Aug 5, 2013, Outlook)
- The Hindu Right And English Language Imperialism – By Vidyadhar Date (Jul 24, 2013, Countercurrents)
- Narendra Modi’s recent remarks may sound the death knell for BJP – By Ashish Sharma (Jul 18, 2013, Economic Times)
- Modi’s perception-performance gap – By Smita Gupta (Jul 24, 2013, The Hindu)
The Noose Tightens Around Rajinder Kumar – By Rana Ayyub (Aug 3, 2013, Tehelka)
Over the past month, TEHELKA’s explosive scoops on the Ishrat Jahan encounter have triggered a nationwide debate on the role of intelligence agencies. For the first time in history, Rajinder Kumar, a joint director in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), was questioned by the CBI for his role in killing Ishrat and the men she was with, in a false encounter while they were in police custody, after framing them in a seemingly concocted terror conspiracy. Now, fresh trouble is brewing for the IB in another damning case: the Sadiq Jamal encounter. This is a story that was first brought into the public domain by TEHELKA in late 2011 (Dead Man Talking by Rana Ayyub, 3 December 2011) and, in many ways, it is an even starker example of the IB, Gujarat Police and Kumar’s cynical game-playing with terror cases. Apart from what it had published earlier, TEHELKA has now scooped new and even more incriminating evidence in this case.
But first, a little of the back-story: Sadiq was a Class IX dropout who used to work odd jobs at his father’s garage at Bhavnagar in Gujarat and play cricket in the backyard. In 1997, he apparently got into an altercation with a neighbourhood youth and was hauled up by the police. Chided by his family, he ran away to Mumbai where he stayed in the bylanes of Mohammed Ali Road, a Muslim ghetto, home not just to traders, businessmen and hoteliers but also crooks and gangsters from the underworld. Here, Sadiq apparently came in contact with men who promised to land him a job in Dubai. He took the offer. As it turned out, the teenager found himself deposited as a domestic help at the residence of Tariq Parveen, a relative of Chhota Shakeel, and a key lieutenant of the Dawood Ibrahim gang. At some point, unhappy with his employers for not paying him his money, Sadiq made his way back to Bhavnagar, where he got involved in a gambling racket and was picked up by the police.
If Sadiq’s story had ended there, he would have just been one more of innumerable anonymous boys who fall off the map into the grey zone of petty crimes. But on 24 November 2002 – 10 days after Sadiq had already been produced in a Bhavnagar court in the gambling case – an intelligence input was sent by IB (Central Intelligence) Joint Director Rajinder Kumar to Gujarat Police DGP K Chakravarty. This input – copies of which are with TEHELKA – said, “According to reliable information from a channel, one Sadiq Jamal, a Dubai-based person, was recently contacted by Salim Chiplun, a Pakistan-based gangster and a close associate of Anees Ibrahim and has reportedly been briefed about the task of targeting three important targets from the list of ISI and LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba). The targets are Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and VHP leader Pravin Togadia. Sadiq has reportedly landed in Mumbai and it is learnt that he has vowed to finish off the first available target during the ensuing Assembly election. He has been reportedly on the move between Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bhavnagar and Delhi. He is a native of Gujarat and closely associated with the Dawood gang. He is 22, unmarried and a heavy drinker. He is awaiting the delivery of weapons and money through hawala. He also holds a fraudulent Indian passport.”
This input triggers many questions. If the IB had suspected Sadiq as a potential terrorist because of his stint in Tariq Parveen’s house, it would have been understandable. But as Sadiq had already been arrested by the Bhavnagar police for gambling, surely they knew about his antecedents and whereabouts? At which point had he metamorphosed into the dreaded terror operative Kumar’s input made him out to be? How could he be “on the move between Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bhavnagar and Delhi” and be “awaiting delivery of weapons and money through hawala” while he was under the Gujarat Police’s watch? Five days after this input, however, Kumar sent another intelligence input to the Gujarat Police. On 29 November 2002, in a message marked “secret” (a copy of which is with TEHELKA), Kumar wrote to Gujarat DGP Chakravarty, with copies marked to ADG (Intelligence) J Mahapatra and the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, Ahmedabad.
The message said, “Sadique@Ayyub Islam on Nov 29 till 1700 hours will be available at 1.Ajju bhaiyya: maternal uncle of Sadiq. STD booth, behind bus stand; 2. Garage of Rafique bhai: near Navrangpura, Kurtanmal Gate; 3. Telephone No. 02782516308 (Information also technically shared with SP, Bhavnagar, Gehlot).” A month and a half later, on 13 January 2003, Sadiq was shot dead. But, as the CBI has told the Gujarat High Court, this was not a genuine encounter. Earlier this month, TEHELKA published three damaging statements from other police and IB officers that expose Kumar’s dark role in these encounters. These statements have been made before a magistrate under clause 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code and are admissible in court. They categorically state that Sadiq had been cleared of all suspicion of being a terrorist. We have now scooped two more intelligence inputs that prove almost incontrovertibly that Kumar and his cohorts deliberately concocted a story to make Sadiq look like a terrorist when he knew he was merely a petty criminal. … For Rajinder Kumar, who is already feeling the heat in the Ishrat case, the new evidence in the Sadiq case could well prove to be the final nail in the coffin.
- ‘IB-CBI tussle will hurt us badly’ – By Sandeep Joshi (Jul 17, 2013, The Hindu)
- The Rocky Road To Justice In Ishrat Jahan Case – By Rana Ayyub (Jul 20, 2013, Tehelka)
Indian Mujahideen and its dubious origin – By Faraz Ahmad (Jul 23, 2013, Twocircles.net)
The Congress party may have its reasons to repudiate Shakeel Ahmad’s remarks that Indian Mujahideen (IM) is an outcome of the February 2002 Gujarat riots. If you ask me, I would say I am not sure whether there really exists an organization known as Indian Mujhaideen because of two important reasons, one because our intelligence agencies are quite capable of creating fictitious organizations for legitimizing their nefarious activities. They have done this during the Punjab militancy as an excuse to liquidate thousands of innocent young Sikh boys and even girls, particularly from rural Punjab. This same regimen was repeated in the Kashmir valley to suppress a democratic voice against mismanagement of Kashmir affairs since Independence. So when the flavour of the day is Pakistan-sponsored Muslim terrorism, a name like Indian Mujahideen sounds very tantalizing.
For all the claims, the probing and prosecuting agencies have not come out with one individual who has a proven association with this so-called nationwide organization supposedly working at the behest of Lashkar e Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Taliban and you name who, so how do we know IM really exists or is merely the figment of imagination of the IB/Saffron brigade happily lapped up by an already biased media? But let us just glean through the official explanation. Wikipedia says, “Investigators believe that Indian Mujahideen is one of many groups composed of lower-tier SIMI members. According to the Indian Intelligence Bureau, SIMI took new titles because the top leadership of SIMI have been detained and would be available for interrogation. The change in name is believed to signal a change in tactics as SIMI affiliated militants attempt to garner more support from India’s Muslim community rather than be seen as a group consisting of foreigners. Two days after the 13 May 2008 Jaipur bombings, the extremist group sent an e-mail to Indian media in which they claimed responsibility for the attacks and said they would “demolish the faiths (all religions apart from Islam) of the infidels of India”. The biggest and boldest attack to date by the group was the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts, where it gained national notoriety with a casualty count towards 50.”
Now who banned SIMI and when was it banned and on what grounds? First came the terror attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, which is a grey area because of the apprehension of the whole exercise sponsored by the then NDA-led government and specifically the Union Home ministry under the then Home Minister LK Advani. Soon thereafter Narendra Modi led Gujarat government patronized the pogrom of Muslims ostensibly to avenge the burning down of kar sevaks in coach number S-6, in the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002, just two months after the Parliament attack. Those who don’t suffer from a memory loss remember the whole charged atmosphere created by Advani-Modi and Jaitley combine against the Muslim youth in preparation of bringing in POTA and to justify POTA SIMI was banned just a little before POTA was conceived. While announcing the ban Advani held a press conference in North Block and distributed to the media some SIMI posters in Urdu, none of which carried any seditious material. All these were expressions of anger and frustration over the Gujarat pogrom and the inability of anyone to counter Modi. So what is wrong in saying that IM is an outcome of Gujarat pogrom? When did IM come into prominence and how? The official version says, “Two days after the 13 May 2008 Jaipur bombings, IM sent an e-mail to the Indian media in which they claimed responsibility for the attacks and said they would “demolish the faiths of the infidels of India”. The biggest and boldest attack to date by the group was the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts, where it gained national notoriety when 56 people were killed in those serial blasts.” This is the official version.
- Batla House Judgement: A Travesty Of Justice – By Syed Ali Mujtaba (Jul 26, 2013, Countercurrents)
- The Terror. The Threat. The Twist – By Rana Ayyub (Jul 30, 2013, Tehelka)
- The Batla case and our trust deficit – Editorial (Jul 27, 2013, Economic Times)
Appeasing the majority? – By Tahir Mahmood (Jul 18, 2013, Times of India)
Pitched political battles are being waged between the votaries of secularism (the Congress) and those who complain about minority appeasement (the BJP). But neither of them discuss a third possibility: Indian-style secularism actually appeases the majority, at the expense of the country’s two largest minorities â€” Muslims and Christians. It’s worth pointing out, in that regard, the religious provisions in the Constitution as well as the lopsided interpretation of secularism since the very beginning of the constitutional era.
At the time of its adoption, the Constitution neither declared any state religion nor proclaimed India a secular state. By pronouncing ‘equality before law and equal protection of laws’ as fundamental rights, it mandated the state not to discriminate between the two ‘on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them’ in respect of public places and employment or appointment under the state.
This was considered enough to make the country ‘secular’ without a formal declaration to that effect. The principle of undeclared secularism was, however, countered by several community-specific provisions either initially incorporated into the Constitution or inserted by some early amendments to it. In the years to come, the state applied, and the courts interpreted, some general constitutional provisions in ways that benefited particular religious communities.
Twenty-six years after its promulgation, the Preamble to the Constitution was amended to include the word ‘secular’, but all the religion-based provisions survived and remain in force to this day. The custodians of state authority have also continued to apply, and the courts of justice interpret, the general constitutional provisions the same way as before. Successive governments and the judiciary have consistently believed that these special constitutional provisions, administrative measures and judicial decisions detract nothing from the secularity of the state.
Among the religious provisions in the original version of the Constitution, in the chapter on Directive Principles of State Policy, was Article 48 that mandated the state to protect by law the cow and its progeny. Interpreting the laws, the Supreme Court made it clear that the mandate was based on Hindu beliefs. In a later case, the court even said that secularity of the state would not be ‘relevant’ for deciding whether an administrative action mitigating the rigidity of any such law on religious grounds was permissible. …
- Crime, caste and judicial restraint – By Markandey Katju (Jul 17, 2013, The Hindu)
- WHAT ABOUT 1984? – Pogroms and political virtue – By Mukul Kesavan (Jul 26, 2013, The Telegraph)
A Toxic Lesson In Despair – By G Vishnu (Aug 3, 2013, Tehelka)
The village looks as if the grim reaper paid a surprise visit. One can still hear the faint cries of wailing mothers. It has been five days since the mid-day meal contaminated with a deadly insecticide served at the Gandaman lower primary school killed 23 children on 16 July. Twenty-seven more are battling for their lives at a Patna hospital. Almost all of them are aged below 10. With a population of 3,000 people, Gandaman is located in Saran district of Bihar. The government school in question was nothing but a 30×20 ft hall, which was run by headmistress Meena Kumari and another teacher. On that fateful day, close to 80 students were present in the school.
Just before serving lunch, the 40-year-old cook, Manju Devi, alerted the headmistress about the suspicious quality of the oil that was being used. Kumari reportedly persisted that Devi serve the same food to the children. Several parents allege that Kumari had “forced” the children to eat the meal, despite the soya bean curry being foul-smelling and black in colour. Within five minutes of having consumed the food, the children complained of stomach ache and went into a fit of uncontrollable vomiting. Forensic experts later said that the soya bean curry had traces of phosphorus found in pesticides. Still, the damage could have been contained. But, the manner in which the local administration and doctors dealt with the situation led to so many casualties.
To begin with, the villagers were unable to comprehend what had happened to their kids. They tried everything from administering lemon juice to water, hoping that the vomiting would stop. When none of this worked, they decided to take the kids to the nearest hospital at Masrakh town 13 km away. Doctors at the Masrakh government hospital were clueless about handling the symptoms. To make matters worse, as Rameshwar Mahto and two other parents allege, one Dr Ansari told the families he could not treat the children as he was observing roza (Ramzan fasting). Even the private hospital at Masrakh was of no help. The initial diagnoses by the doctors at both the hospitals were quite off the mark. By the time the parents made it to hospitals in Masrakh, three children had already succumbed.
As the doctors at Masrakh pleaded helplessness, the families took their kids to a government hospital in Chhapra, 55 km away. By then, three hours had passed. At Chhapra, 16 children died in their parents’ arms. Doctors at Chhapra too failed to understand the nature of the toxicity. They also found it difficult to handle the large number of patients. The parents then embarked on a three-hour-long journey to Patna. Four kids died on the way. At the Patna Medical College and Hospital, doctors finally got the diagnosis right and Atropine — an agent that helps the body cope with phosphorus poisoning — was administered to the children.
Whereas Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has hinted that the poisoning could be a conspiracy, Education Secretary Amarjeet Sinha calls it a case of gross criminal negligence, where four key instructions were flouted by Kumari. “From what we found, the headmistress broke four rules that day,” says Sinha. “First, insecticide was mixed with oil. Second, she did not listen to the cook. Third, she did not listen to the children. Fourth and most importantly, she did not taste the food herself. Since March 2012, there are clear directions that the school principals have to taste the food before they serve it. But she did not do so. Whether there was a conspiracy is for the Special Investigation Team to find out.” …
- Mid-Day Meal for the Poor, Privatised Education for the Non-Poor – By Manisha Garg and Kalyan Sankar Mandal (Jul 27, 2013, Economic& Political Weekly)
- The Mid-Day Meal Tragedy Has Not Just Snuffed Out Life But Also Hope – By Shoma Chaudhury (Jul 25, 2013, Tehelka)
Judicial overreach? – By V. Venkatesan (Aug 9, 2013, Frontline)
Indian democracy has a number of aberrations. Some of these have been accepted for so long as intrinsic to its vibrant functioning that none considered them in a pejorative sense—until a few public interest litigants felt that they had the historic responsibility to challenge the legitimacy of these in the higher judiciary. In July, they were successful in seeking a limited restraint on four of them. In the first case, S. Subramaniam Balaji vs Government of Tamil Nadu and others, decided on July 5 by the Chief Justice of India-designate Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gagoi, the appellant, Subramaniam Balaji, had challenged the distribution of free gifts (freebies) by political parties on the eve of elections. The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had dismissed Balaji’s writ petition in which he had argued that the free distribution of colour television sets by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in Tamil Nadu after the 2006 Assembly elections, to honour the party’s pre-election promise to the electorate, was a waste of public money.
Balaji had also challenged the legitimacy of the promises made by both the ruling and opposition parties in Tamil Nadu on the eve of the 2011 Assembly elections. After the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was elected to power, its government, under Jayalalithaa, started distributing various freebies to keep the promises made in its election manifesto. Balaji thus sought the intervention of the court to declare the State government’s free distribution of grinders, mixies, electric fans, laptop computers, four-gram gold thalis, solar-powered green houses and 20 kilograms of rice to all ration card holders, including those above the poverty line, and cattle and sheep as ultra vires of the provisions of the Constitution of India and Section 123(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which punishes bribery by candidates or their agents. The Supreme Court rejected the contention that the promises made by a political party are violative of Section 123(1) of the RPA. Section 123 and other relevant provisions, it held, contemplate corrupt practice by an individual candidate or his agent. Moreover, such corrupt practice is directly linked to his own election irrespective of the question whether his party forms a government or not. The provisions of the RPA place no fetter on the power of political parties to make promises in the election manifesto, the court held.
Secondly, the court held that the concept of state largesse is essentially linked to the Directive Principles of State Policy. Whether the state should frame a scheme, which directly gives benefits to improve the living standards or indirectly does so by increasing the means of livelihood, is for the state to decide and the role of the court is very limited in this regard, it observed. It held that judicial interference was permissible when the action of the government was unconstitutional and not when such action was not wise or when the extent of expenditure was not for the good of the state. The court, however, agreed with the appellant that distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly influenced all people. “Freebies shake the root of free and fair elections to a large degree,” it said.
The Election Commission (E.C.), in its submissions to the court in this case, also felt that the promise of such freebies at government cost disturbed the level playing field and vitiated the electoral process. It expressed willingness to implement any directions of the court in this regard. Considering that there was no enactment that directly governed the contents of the election manifesto, the court directed the E.C. to frame guidelines for the same in consultation with all the recognised political parties. The court also suggested the enactment of a separate law for governing political parties. The E.C. then called a meeting of all political parties to implement the court’s direction suitably in the Model Code of Conduct for candidates and political parties.
As the code comes into effect only from the date of announcement of elections by the Commission, the court suggested that the E.C. make an exception to this norm, as political parties issued their manifestos prior to the announcement of the election schedule. In the second case, Lily Thomas vs Union of India (filed by Lok Prahari, a non-governmental organisation), decided on July 10, a Bench comprising Justices A.K. Patnaik and Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya held Section 8(4) of RPA ultra vires of the Constitution. Section 8 of the RPA has a threefold categorisation of offences that could lead to the disqualification of elected representatives. Under the first category, covered by Sub-clause (1) of Section 8, a large number of offences are listed, conviction for any one of which entails disqualification. These include rape, insulting the national flag, certain offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), the Protection of Civil Rights Act, the Prevention of Corruption Act, and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, and certain offences relating to places of religious worship, maintenance of communal harmony, and commission of sati. …
- Decriminalising Politics – Editorial (Aug 3, 2013, Economic& Political Weekly)
- ‘The judgment will create awareness’ – Lily Thomas with Sagnik Dutta (Aug 9, 2013, Frontline)
- Of politicians and some verdicts – By N. Gopalaswami (Jul 24, 2013, The Hindu)