IAMC Weekly News Roundup - June 11th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 11th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


Fasih Mehmood’s disappearance is a challenge to civil society says Indian American Muslim Group

Wednesday June 06, 2012

Indian American Muslim Council (https://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has noted with grave concern the case of Fasih Mehmood who was apprehended in Saudi Arabia on May 13, 2012 by Indian and Saudi agencies for alleged terror links, but remains unaccounted for since then.

Regardless of whether Fasih Mehmood is presently in India or Saudi Arabia, the fact that he was seized by Saudi police in the presence of Indian sleuths makes it imperative that the Home Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs provide details of Fasih’s whereabouts, and explain why he could not be accounted for, over 3 weeks after his arrest.

Saudi officials have been quoted in the media as stating that Fasih was arrested on May 13 and deported the same day, following a request by Ministry of External Affairs in India. However, Home Minister P. Chidambaram has denied that Fasih Mehmood is in the custody of Indian authorities. On June 3, India sought Fasih’s deportation from Saudi Arabia accusing him of involvement in the Chinnaswamy Stadium and Jama Masjid blasts in April and September 2010 respectively.

Fasih Mehmood is the fourteenth youngster from Darbhanga district in Bihar to be detained on alleged charges of terrorism. Although detained on May 13, Fasih has not been produced in any court of law yet. His case points to a new level of impunity with which citizens’ rights are trampled upon even in foreign countries. It also underscores the need for the government to implement arresting protocols.

“Fasih Mehmood’s illegal detention and the government’s inadequate explanations at the Supreme Court hearings on June 1 and June 6, are shocking. The track record of law enforcement agencies in forcing extractions under duress does not inspire confidence in the claims of the security agencies,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. “While the government has the authority and the responsibility to combat terrorism and defend the nation’s security, random arrests and lack of due process only subvert the rule of law, and alienate sections of the community,” added Mr. Khateeb.

IAMC has welcomed the directive of India’s Supreme Court to the central government to provide details of Fasih Mehmood’s whereabouts.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.

For more information please visit our new website at wwww.iamc.com.

Saudi deports terror suspect Bihar youth

Where is Fasih Mehmood? Saudi says terror suspect deported, India denies

Bangalore cops get warrant for Fasih Mehmood

Interpol Red Corner Notice Against Fasih Mehmood

Citizens demand that Fasih Mehmood be produced before an Indian Court

Zafar Haq
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Communal Harmony

Islamic organization gives scholarships to Hindu students (Jun 10, 2012, Twocircles.net)

The Jamiat Ulama-i Hind Islamic trust Sunday handed out scholarships to nine Hindu school students here, an official said Sunday. “In the past three years, we have extended generous financial aid and scholarships to 25 non-Muslim students and the figure keeps on increasing depending on the number of applications we get,” head of the organisation’s legal cell Gulzar Azmi told IANS.

Trust president Arshad Madani said that the organisation has consciously kept away from making discriminations based on religion since its inception in 1919. “In those days, we fought against the British rulers and those who advocated a separate state of Pakistan. Now, we are present anywhere in the country to provide emergency help to Muslims and non-Muslims,” Madani observed.

The Jamiat Ulama-i Hind distributed scholarships worth over Rs.1.75 million to nine Hindu and 301 Muslim students Sunday, Azmi said. Targeted at students of Class VI to Class XII from different Mumbai schools, Maharashtra’s Minister for Minority Affairs & Textiles Naseem Khan gave away the scholarships to the needy students this afternoon.

Again depending on the requirements and performance of the students, the individual scholarship amounts ranged between Rs.1,000 to Rs.10,000 which covers the annual school tuition and term fees. Besides, Azmi said that the NGO has in the past provided legal aid to the innocent Muslim youths, who had been arrested in various terror charges.

Azmi, declaring concern for humanity, pointed out how the Muslim NGO had provided relief to people injured in last week’s gas cylinder blast in north-east Mumbai, and a recent building crash in the Muslim-dominated powerloom town of Bhiwandi in Thane district. He added that there are many non-Muslim trusts and NGOs which provide financial assistance to deserving Muslim students and his NGO decided, in its own modest ways to reciprocate the gesture.


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IB, ATS plotted murder in jail: Kin of slain terror suspect (Jun 10, 2012, Mumbai Mirror)

A day after the sensational killing of terror suspect Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui inside Pune’s Yerwada Central Prison, his family on Saturday accused Intelligence Bureau and Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad of orchestrating the crime. Qateel, arrested in connection with an attempted blast at Pune’s Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple in 2010, was strangled allegedly by two inmates – Sharad Mohol and Alok Bhalerao, both charged under MCOCA. Qateel was to be taken for a court hearing later in the day.

Mohammed Afroze Siddiqui, one of Qateel’s cousins, reached Pune on Saturday morning to claim the suspected Indian Mujahideen operative’s body. Speaking to Mirror, 40-year-old Afroze, a resident of Dharavi, said that he learnt about Qateel’s murder after television channels flashed the news.

Afroze said that Qateel had suspected that his life was in danger. “Talking to his wife Fatima Shaikh over phone a few days ago, he had said ‘mere saath kuch to hone wala hai, shayad bada koi hadsa (something big is going to happen to me),” Afroze said. “The way the crime took place there is scope for suspicion.

We believe that it was done at the behest of IB and ATS. While ATS may not be directly involved, IB seems to be the main brain behind it,” he said. The cousin said that the family’s suspicions stem from the fact that Qateel’s custody with ATS was ending on Friday and he was supposed to be handed over to Delhi police.

Relatives and social activists accompanying Qateel’s cousin Afroze demanded a written assurance from the state government saying it would bear all the expenses in connection with the transportation of the body to the deceased’s hometown in Bihar. Meanwhile, the Yerawada police have been asked to produce the accused Mohol and Bhalerao before the court of judicial magistrate (First Class) on Sunday.



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Qateel’s murder has frightened families of other accused (Jun 9, 2012, Twocircles.net)

The murder of terror accused Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui in Pune jail Friday morning has sent shockwaves and fear far away in Darbhanga among the families of other terror accused who are in different jails. Since November 2011, about one dozen youths from the Bihar district have been picked in terror cases and are in jails. Qateel was the first among them. “We are terrified after the custodial murder of Qateel. It means the accused who have not yet been convicted are not safe even in high security cell in jail,” said Razi Ahmed, elder brother of Naqi Ahmed, the youth from Deora Bandoli village of Darbhanga picked in January this year in Mumbai blast case.

“My brother is innocent. We have faith in Allah and in the law of the land. We are hopeful that our brother will be acquitted, but yesterday’s incident has frightened the entire family,” Razi told TCN over phone from his village. Razi demanded the government to take this murder very seriously and provide protection to other accused. The incident has in fact frightened entire village. Mr. Shakeel Ahmed Salafi, president, Muslim Bedari Karvan, alleged that Qateel has been killed with a conspiracy, not just after scuffle on a minor incident.

“His murder is result of a conspiracy, not a scuffle. He has been removed so that his acquittal could not ashame the government and agencies. We have seen that Amir was acquitted after 14 years in jail. Qateel has been killed to save the prosecution,” said Salafi, also the native of Deora Bandoli village. “We demand the government a CBI probe into the killing and compensation to his family who is very poor,” Salafi demanded.

One Nadeem Ahmed, from Deora Bandoli, is also among the youths picked since November 2011 from Bihar in terror cases. Bedari Karvan leader informed that Nadeem’s family too is terrified after yesterday’s incident. Qateel from Barh Samaila village in Darbhanga was picked by Special Cell of Delhi Police on 22nd November 2011 in Delhi. He was made accused in Jama Masjid shooting and Chinnaswamy blast. Maharashtra ATS had taken him from Delhi last month for interrogation in the German bakery blast of Pune.



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Kosi Kalan riots: 171 including BSP MLC named in the FIR (Jun 5, 2012, Twocircles.net)

A total of 171 people have been named in the FIRs lodged related to Kosi Kalan riots in Mathura district. The named people include former agriculture minister in BSP regime Choudhary Luxmi Narain, his brother and BSP MLC Choudhary Lekhraj Singh and MLC’s son Nardev Singh. Besides this 1220 unknown people have also been named in the FIRs. Police is conducting raids to arrest the accused named in the FIRs.

The riots in Kosi Kalan claimed four lives officially namely Salahuddin, Kallu and Bhura (both twins) and Sonu Saini. Kallu and Bhura’s brother Saleem named the former minister CH Luxmi Narain Singh and his family members in his FIR. A total of 54 people have been named in the FIR based on Saleem’s FIR. No arrests have been made so far.

Meanwhile, MLC Choudhary Lekhraj Singh claimed that he is innocent. “I was attending the Vidhan Parishad when the rioting took place. My family has a history of Hindu-Muslim unity and I have been falsely implicated in the FIR,” he said.

Cabinet Minister Azam Khan on the other hand maintained that things will be clear after investigation. “Let there be inquiry we have nothing to hide,” he said. Khan however did not term the riots as government failure. “It was failure of some district officials and not the government. Both DM and SP have been shifted. It is sad incident,” he said.

Regarding the reason for the riot, Khan claimed that both sides are losing patience and they have little tolerance level. On Tuesday, the curfew was relaxed from 9 am to 5 pm and no untoward incident occurred. State government has announced a compensation of Rs five lakh each to the kins of the deceased and Rs 50000 to the injured. Revenue minister Ambika Choudhary announced on Tuesday that the compensation has been paid to all the victims.



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Congress dares Narendra Modi for open debate on ‘injustice’ to Gujarat (Jun 11, 2012, DNA India)

A day after it accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of making wild allegations to divert attention from real issues in the poll-bound state, the state Congress on Monday challenged Modi for an open debate on his charge that Centre has been doing injustice to the state. “If he (Modi) has the courage, he should have an open debate with leaders of Gujarat Congress on his allegations that Centre has discriminated against Gujarat,” the state unit Congress president Arjun Modhwadia told reporters.

“The subject of the debate should be the Central assistance given to the state by the erstwhile NDA government and that by the UPA government,” he said. “If he (Modi) is afraid of public debate, he should summon a session of state assembly to discuss the issue,” Modhwadia added. The sharp rebuke from Congress came in the wake of Modi terming the Congress as a “sinking ship” while lashing out at the UPA government at Centre during the state party executive held in Rajkot yesterday. The executive also passed a resolution saying the Centre was adopting step motherly treatment to the state.

Presenting facts and figures in support of his claim, Modhwadia said the UPA government had given more funds to Gujarat in comparison to the NDA government where MP from Gujarat, LK Advani was the home minister. “Modi was using such inappropriate language against UPA government to divert attention of people from the revolt and internal bickering that has been faced by the party,” he alleged. The person who is behaving as a ‘sultan’ of Gujarat is terming the central government as ‘Delhi Sultanate’, which is cheap, Modhwadia said. The Gujarat Congress president has yesterday termed Modi as a “political terrorist”.



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Cow slaughter: SSP suspended for dereliction of duty in Punjab (Jun 10, 2012, Times of India)

After Punjab village situated on Barnala-Mansa road went on rampage over the killing of large number of cows at a factory, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal suspended Mansa senior superintendent of police(SSP) Sukhdev Singh Chahal under suspension for dereliction of duty. THe chief minister has ordered inquiry into the incident. “SSP has been placed under suspension for failing to control the situation and dereliction in duty”, confirmed Bathinda Inspector general of police(IG) Nirmal Singh Dhillon. IG talking to Times of India over phone said chief minister, who was personally monitoring the developments in the aftermath of killing of cows at a factory, has ordered the suspension of SSP Chahal for dereliction of duty.

Police had failed to contain the unruly mob even after clamping of curfew and angry residents keep on damaging factory and putting articles of one of the factory owner’ house on fire. Curfew has been clamped to contain the enraging crowd but people kept on defying the prohibitory orders. The police had to resort to cane-charge to control the unruly mob. Four persons got injured in the cane charging and stone pelting. Joga resident Sukhwinder Dass, who was working in the fields around Saturday midnight, saw a canter getting large number of cows to the factory and then heard shrieking of cows.

“I apprised the villagers about the cows being transported to the factory with suspected intention of killing. When we reached the factory in the wee hours, we found many cows having been killed already and few waiting to be killed”, said Sukhwinder. Seeing the heads of cows, the villagers got agitated. As the news spread, the activists of Hindu organizations started converging at the village and in no time, the activists started damaging the factory, said a villager.

The irate activists of Hindu organizations along with Gowshala sangh members pulled down a part of factory owned by Joga residents Ajaib Singh, Narinder Singh and Bhushan Singh. VHP leader Lalit Kumar demanding stern action against guilty said, “We are shocked to see the killing of cows and the guilty need to be given exemplary punishment.” Going by the agitated activists, district administration clamped curfew but when people kept on rampaging and indulged in stone pelting, police resorted to cane-charge wherein four persons got injured.

Bathinda Inspector general of police(IG) Nirmal Singh, DC Mansa Amit Dhaka, Mansa MLA Prem Mittal visited the place and assured stern action. DC Amit Dhaka said district administration is keeping strict vigil over the situation and trying to put situation under control. Police have booked three partners of the factory under hurting the religious sentiments, cruelty to animals under cow protection act. The owners, however, succeeded in fleeing with family members to escape arrests.



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NIA loses interest in saffron terror cases, accused getting bail one by one (Jun 6, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Two court developments in this first week of June clearly indicate that premier terror probe body National Investigation Agency (NIA) has lost interest in taking saffron terror cases to their natural conclusion, or innocent Hindus also, like Muslims, have been picked in terror cases, and therefore the probe agency is unable to procure evidence and charge sheet them. On Tuesday (5th June), a special NIA court in Mumbai granted bail to Lokesh Sharma in the September 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case in which six people were killed and 100 wounded. The accused got bail because the NIA could not file a charge sheet in 90 days. Twelve members of the rightwing outfits, Jai Vande Mataram and Abhinav Bharat, were arrested for the blast which was probed by slain Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare. The accused in jail include Sadhvi Pragya and Col. Purohit.

“The NIA failed to file a charge sheet within the stipulated 90-day period. Hence, Special Judge Y.D. Shinde directed the accused to execute a bond of Rs.25,000, while granting him bail,” Sharma’s lawyer Aarti Bhide was quoted as saying by IANS news agency. Sharma was first named by the NIA in the 2007 Samjhauta Express train bombing that killed 68 people, mainly Pakistanis. Sharma is the first accused to get bail in the Malegaon blast case. However, he will remain in jail in the train blast case. On Friday (1st June), a Hyderabad court granted bail Bharat Mohanlal Ratheswar alias Bharat Bhai, one of the the accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid bomb blast case which had claimed seven lives during Friday Prayer.

According to The Hindu, the court granted the bail to Bharat after the NIA, which is probing the case, failed to file charge-sheet even after the expiry of 180 days of remand period. The court asked Bharat to produce two sureties for Rs.10,000 each and stipulated that he be available for investigators as and when required, said B. Rajavardhan Reddy, counsel for Bharat. After being released from the jail, he will be taken to Jaipur in connection with the Ajmer dargah bomb blast case, said the news report. The NIA had brought him to the city on a prisoner’s transit warrant in December 2011 from Jaipur for his alleged role in the Mecca Masjid blast case.

The obvious question is: Why casual attitude in prosecuting saffron terrorists in blasts which claimed several human lives, or innocent Hindus, like hundreds of innocent Muslims, have been arrested for terror blasts while the real culprits are on run? Since November 2011, more than a dozen Muslim youths have been picked by Karnataka ATS and Delhi Special Cell – almost all of them belong to Darbhanga and Madhubani district in Bihar – for Chinnaswamy Stadium blast of 2010 and Jama Masjid shootout of the same year. Some people were wounded in the two attacks, none was killed. Villagers and family members say their sons are innocent and have nothing to do with terror attack.

The recent detention/arrest for two attacks is from Saudi Arabia. Darbhanga engineer Fasih Mahmood was picked on 13th May but has not yet been produced in court. Meanwhile, CBI has got Interpol issued warrant against Fasih on the request of Karnataka and Delhi Police for the stadium and Jama Masjid shooting respectively.



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Shehla murder: Zahida questions CBI clean chit to BJP MLA (Jun 11, 2012, Indian Express)

Picking holes in the CBI charge sheet in the RTI activist Shehla Masood murder case, prime accused Zahida Pervez on Monday questioned the “clean chit” given to BJP MLA Dhruvnarayan Singh by the agency while seeking call records of the deceased and results of a narco test conducted on Singh. “Shehla ki call details abhi tak issue nahin ki’… Dhruvnarayan ka polygraph test abhi tak kiya nahi kiya’… charge sheet mein ye sab kyon nahin hai (Why the call details of Shehla Masood were not mentioned in the charge sheet. If Dhruvnarayan’s polygraph test was done then why the findings are not mentioned in the charge sheet)” Zahida asked talking to reporters after emerging from the special CBI court here.

She was produced in the court along with another prime accused and her close associate Saba Farooqui, besides the two other accused.In the charge sheet filed against five accused in the special CBI court last month, CBI cleared the Bhopal MLA of any role in the case and listed five persons including interior designer Zahida Pervez and her confidant Saba Farooqui as prime accused apart from Shaquib Ali, Ifran and Tabish. Admitting, perhaps for first time that she was in relationship with the BJP MLA, Zahida said “Jab mere Dhruvnarayan se sambandh hai aur oose clean chit milee to mujhe bhi milni chahiye’…main aropi hoon ho to voh bhi hain na..(If I have had relations with Dhrunarayan and he is given a clean chit then I should also be given the same ‘…If I am accused then he should also be)”.

Singh underwent a lie-detector test at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Delhi on March 24 last. CBI suspects that since Zahida was jealous of Shehla because of her relationship with the MLA she plotted her murder. Though Singh was given a clean chit in the case his name was mentioned in the charge sheet in connection with the motive of the killing as he was allegedly having a relationship with both Shehla and Zahida. “I am totally dissatisfied with the charge sheet’…I wonder what prompted CBI to make us accused in the case”, Zahida said.

When asked if there was any pressure from the ruling BJP government on the course of investigation, Zahida replied, “My husband used to reach the court on the given date of trial earlier, now he is not even attending calls of others (family members). CBI has been pressurising my family members since I had said that there was santh-gaanth (nexus). CBI sleuths also threatened my family members at my house”, the interior designer said.

Meanwhile, Shaquib Ali ‘Danger’ who allegedly hired contract killers Tabish and Ifran at the behest of Zahida to carry out the hit job on Shehla alleged that they were falsely implicated by CBI in the case. The CBI had claimed to have recovered a .315 bore country-made pistol and some empty cartridge allegedly used in killing the RTI activist from the residence of Shaqib two months back. Shehla was shot dead outside her residence on August 16, 2011 in koh-e-fiza locality in Bhopal.



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Activist’s allegation of discrimination of Muslim students in Gujarat school sparks row (Jun 7, 2012, Times of India)

The Central Advisory Board for Education (CABE) saw some fireworks after social activist Shabnam Hashmi’s controversial remark that minorities were being discriminated against in Gujarat schools drew the ire of the state education minister. As the debate threatened to turn acrimonious, HRD minister Kapil Sibal intervened asking Hashmi to send him evidence of such discriminatory practices.

Hashmi, a newly-appointed CABE member, on Tuesday said, “After 2002 there have been instances when minority students have been struck off the school rolls and there are some schools where children from minority communities do not get admission.” She was speaking at a discussion on implementation of Right to Education (RTE) in states. The CABE meeting included educationists, directors and vice-chancellors from various universities, state education ministers and officials and HRD minister and officials.

No sooner had she finished that Gujarat education minister Ramanlal Vora retorted, “Gujarat has 32,000 primary schools. You cannot speak like this’…please name the schools’….” Sensing that the situation could get acrimonious Sibal, who was chairing the meeting, pacified Vora and Hashmi to send him the names of the schools. “If there are cases of discrimination, we will look into it,” he assured both. Hashmi later said that she would send the names and photographs of schools.



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Lokayukta sends BJP MLA to 3 yrs in jail for graft (Jun 2, 2012, Hindustan Times)

In a first in Karnataka, a sitting legislator has been convicted for corruption by the Lokayukta court, adding to the embarrassment of the ruling BJP. On Saturday, judge NK Sudheendra Rao sentenced Y Sampangi, MLA of Kolar Gold Fields, to three-and-a-half years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 90,000 under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

If Sampangi fails to pay the fine, he will have to stay in jail for another six months, said HN Sathyanarayana Rao, additional director general of police, Lokayukta. The verdict comes after a three-year trial and a bad time for BJP. With the assembly polls just a year away, over half-a-dozen leaders of the party, including former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, have been battling corruption cases.

Sampangi broke into tears as the sentence was read out. He was later taken into custody by the Lokayukta police and sent to Parappana Agrahara central prison on the outskirts of the city. Sampangi’s counsel, Indresh, pleaded for a reduction in the quantum of the punishment, but the court rejected his appeal. He later said they would appeal to the high court.

“Justice has ultimately won. I am happy with the court order,” said former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde, during whose tenure as Lokayukta Sampangi was arrested. “This verdict should act as a deterrent to those who indulge in corruption.” Congress leader Siddaramaiah said the judgment should be an alarm bell for politicians. Many other BJP leaders are facing corruption charges, he added.



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Haryana cops raped us: Children’s home inmates (Jun 6, 2012, Indian Express)

Inmates of the Apna Ghar shelter in Rohtak told a four-member committee that visited them today that they were gangraped by Haryana Police officials, who made them dance naked and forcibly took them out of the home. According to sources, two of the inmates – one deaf and mute and the other mentally challenged – said that when they got pregnant, the incharge of the home stepped on their stomachs and inserted sticks inside their private parts to force abortions. On May 10, a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights team had raided Apna Ghar run by an NGO, Bharat Vikas Sangh, and rescued 94 minors, mostly girls.

Incharge Jaswanti Devi and her son-in-law Jai Bhagwan were arrested. The four-member committee today visited four shelter homes – in Panipat, Sonepat, Karnal and Chhachhroli – where the minors had been shifted. They talked to 28 inmates. Almost all the inmates reportedly said that Haryana Police officials were frequent visitors to Apna Ghar and would abuse them with the help of Jaswanti Devi. The latter, incidentally, is a recipient of a number of state awards for “empowering women”. Rohtak superintendent of police Vikas Dhankar said he was not aware of the charges. “We will look into the charges when the committee submits its report to the high court,” he said.

The Punjab and Haryana HC set up the panel, comprising advocates Anil Malhotra, Utsav Singh Bains, Puneeta Sethi and Sudeepti Sharma, last week. It instructed the committee to visit all inmates of Apna Ghar and submit a report or suggestions. Bains had filed a public interest litigation in the case. Sources said that the inmates were specifically asked whether police officers too had raped them. While some nodded, others started screaming and some burst into tears. One of the inmates said Haryana Police officers would offer sweets laced with drugs before taking them out. One of the inmates, who reportedly broke down, disclosed that a hotel near the Rohtak bus stand was used by “customers” for raping them. “We used to return weeping and screaming in pain,” one of the inmates revealed.

They reportedly told the committee that Jaswanti Devi would also drug them and take them as far as Delhi and Chandigarh at night. In the morning, they would be brought back. Those who resisted were thrashed by Jaswanti and stripped and forced to stay naked. The two inmates who were allegedly tortured into abortion conveyed that they were raped over several days by different men, including Haryana Police officials. One of them got pregnant twice. The Haryana Police had admitted in the high court that Jaswanti Devi, who has been charged with trafficking, torture and bonded labour, may have not just sold inmates but also children of the mentally challenged inmates. Their investigation has revealed that six mentally challenged girls were abandoned by Jaswanti and co-accused Satish in Delhi on the night of May 8.

A watchman with the home, Dev, was reportedly thrashed by Jaswanti after three inmates escaped from on May 7. It was the escape of these girls that blew the lid off the racket. The girls were found by the Delhi Police and they revealed they had been tortured and forced into prostitution. Including Jaswanti and Jai Bhagwan, seven persons are under arrest.



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Opinions and Editorials

Turning to Modi? – By Praful Bidwai (Jun 16, 2012, Frontline)

Amidst the clutter of power struggle, infighting and turmoil in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its cohorts in the Sangh Parivar, which get more intense and ugly by the week, a salient development stands out. This is the emergence of Narendra Modi as the party’s pre-eminent leader and its likeliest prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections. It would be no exaggeration to say that with the BJP’s May 24-25 national executive in Mumbai the long contest for primacy within the “second-generation” leadership following the eclipse of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani has more or less ended with Modi as the winner. That is the unmistakable message from the capitulation of the leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh to Modi’s aggressive self-assertion and his arm-twisting tactics demanding that his bete noire, RSS pracharak Sanjay Joshi, be thrown out of the national executive, which he was to attend as a special invitee. Modi threw down the gauntlet by defying the BJP leadership over many months and finally sending his security detail to Mumbai while making it clear that he would only attend the meeting if Joshi was dropped. Modi, true to form, did not want to offer Joshi an honourable exit but insisted on rubbing his nose into the ground. The decision to expel Joshi was communicated to him by BJP national president Nitin Gadkari past one o’clock in the morning. Joshi was also forced to cancel a scheduled railway journey to Gujarat.

The RSS – the BJP’s progenitor, ideological mentor, political master and organisational gatekeeper – was clearly party to the sacking of Joshi, a lifelong pracharak and a fierce Sangh loyalist. It revealed its “pragmatist” (read, opportunist) face and decided that discretion was the better part of valour: if Modi’s ascendancy seems unstoppable and his pre-eminence unquestionable, so be it. The RSS decides to indulge and cave in to Modi despite his terrible angularities and extreme individualism and his role as a sharply polarising figure who cannot shake off the stigma of 2002. It calculates that these disadvantages are outweighed by Modi’s ability to inspire the party cadre through his demagoguery, his martial image, and his vicious war-mongering rhetoric. Joshi is little known outside the Parivar and holds no public office. He does not seriously threaten Modi’s career prospects. But he crossed Modi’s path in the late 1990s, when he worked closely with then Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, took charge of the State BJP unit, and had Modi banished to Delhi. In 2006, a scandalous CD allegedly involving Joshi surfaced. Although questions were raised about the CD’s authenticity, Joshi had to resign as BJP general secretary and go into political exile. Gadkari recently brought Joshi back into the BJP with RSS backing and appointed him the party’s chief election organiser in Uttar Pradesh. In retaliation, Modi refused to campaign for the party in the five recent State Assembly elections. Modi thus defied the Sangh, something one does not generally do if one wants to get ahead in the BJP. The RSS, somewhat uncharacteristically, swallowed the insult. Then, before the national executive, Modi went for the jugular. He emerged triumphant. The RSS leadership extracted only one concession from Modi: Gadkari would get a second three-year term as BJP president beyond 2012 through an amendment to the party constitution. This pre-empts the immediate possibility of Modi controlling the national party organisation as president. But whether it effectively acts as a restraint on him remains unclear.

Going by the thundering applause he received from party members at the public meeting concluding the Mumbai session, Modi’s ascendancy as the BJP’s supreme leader is uncontested. Not many missed the absence of Advani and Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, at the public meeting. Their boycott was a symbolic, but largely ineffectual, act. So was Advani’s blog the following week implicitly criticising Gadkari and Modi, which was not even discussed when senior BJP leaders met in Delhi. Modi has become the BJP membership’s biggest hero to whom everyone must kowtow. But Modi also proved himself petty-minded, parochial, egotistic, viciously self-serving and vindictive. Whether or not this is compatible with the stature of a national leader, the RSS seems to have decided that Modi is the winning horse; he must be backed. Modi’s anointment is unlikely to go unresisted in the Parivar. An editorial in the BJP mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh and an article in the RSS’ Panchajanya a few days after the national executive criticised Modi for his style. But it is unclear whether such attempts will halt his ascendancy. Modi’s elevation has little to do with the fact that he was recently exonerated by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court under former Central Bureau of Investigation director R.K. Raghavan for the massacre of 69 people, including former Member of Parliament Ahsan Jafri, in the Gulberg Society case. Nor does it have much to do with Gujarat’s much-touted “development” under Modi’s “dynamic” stewardship. Rather, it is attributable to the BJP’s internal dynamics, its electoral calculus, and the fact that Modi brings big-time money with him. Every major industrial magnate, from Ratan Tata to Anil Ambani, and from Mukesh Ambani to Sunil Bharti Mittal, not to speak of home-grown businessmen such as Gautam Adani and Karsan Patel or of all important industry lobbies and chambers of commerce, has lavished praise upon Modi and bought into his “Vibrant Gujarat” and “Swarnim (golden) Gujarat” campaigns. Modi in turn has rewarded them with sweetheart deals.

In doing so, the captains of industry have given the go-by to all considerations of the rule of law and ignored the fact that Modi has blood on his hands from the butchery of more than 1,000 Muslims in 2002. Ten years ago, there was some criticism of Modi from business representatives such as Tarun Das of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Mumbai-based industry executive Deepak Parekh. The criticism became increasingly muted as the CII faced total ostracism from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and was crippled in its role as a lobby group. Now, for many years, criticism has given way to hyperbolic encomiums to Modi as “an inspiring leader” with whom Gujarat is “blessed”, whose “flawless execution” of Gujarat’s “development model” deserves to be emulated everywhere, making Modi the ideal “next leader of India”. In reality, Gujarat’s social development record is at best mediocre. Gujarat is a misgoverned State with unflattering macroeconomic indicators, including a higher per capita debt-ratio than many States. In social sector spending as a proportion of total public expenditure, it ranks a lowly 19 among 21 major States. As many as 74.3 per cent of Gujarat’s women and 46.3 per cent of its children are anaemic. Agrarian distress has driven thousands of farmers to suicide. The official Human Development Report (2004) points out: “Gujarat has reached only 48 per cent of the goals set for human development.” Its gains in literacy, education, health, nutrition, welfare and social security are much lower than its gross domestic product growth rates. Although it is Number 4 among all States in per capita income, it has fallen to No. 6 in education and No. 9 in health. Gujarat’s sex ratios are well below the national average. Contrary to lofty claims, and despite high tariffs, Gujarat’s power supply situation is poor. As I noticed during a recent trip to Mundra in Kutch, where a huge 4,600 MW private power station exists and another 4,000 MW plant is coming up, there are frequent electricity cuts. If Big Business has certified Gujarat as the ideal investment destination despite this, the BJP, at its national executive, tried to whitewash Modi’s appalling communal record by showering praise upon his fraudulent “sadbhavna mission” among Muslims, who have in effect been politically disenfranchised in Gujarat.

The Mumbai conclave thus took forward a process begun at the April 2002 national executive in Goa, which killed all hope that the NDA would dismiss Modi for the anti-Muslim pogrom. In Goa, Vajpayee cast off his “moderate” mask. He made a disgraceful 180-degree turn from condemning the pogrom and equated Islam with aggression and terror in his infamous Lekin aag lagayi kisne? (Who started the fire?) speech. He thus sanctified Modi’s nauseating “action-reaction” rationalisation of the massacre. In Mumbai, Modi was celebrated as Gujarat ka sher (the lion of Gujarat). The Sangh Parivar is looking for a quasi-fuehrer, the Supreme Leader, behind whom BJP cadres can rally in a warlike formation – no matter how incompatible such bellicosity is with democratic processes and how it vitiates India’s social and political climate. The RSS probably gambles that the BJP’s best chance lies in making a concerted thrust against the Congress, which is on the defensive – although Modi’s leadership will alienate Muslims and impel them to rally behind the Congress. It also believes that many potential allies who are supposedly allergic to Modi could fall in line with his leadership, depending on how many seats the BJP wins in the next elections. During 1998-2004, numerous avowedly secular parties, barring the Left, Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party and Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, joined the NDA and tolerated affronts to secularism and the rule of law. That long list includes the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Telugu Desam, the Biju Janata Dal, the Asom Gana Parishad, the National Conference, the Janata Dal (Secular), the Janata Dal (United), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party, besides NDA core allies such as the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal, with whom the BJP has run State governments. Here, the BJP’s weaknesses in relation to the Congress – lack of inclusive political appeal and voter support (which has never exceeded a fourth of the national total), upper-caste bias, and poor attraction for Muslims and most Dalits – become its strengths vis-a-vis the regional parties. ‘… The SIT’s final report also ignores the logical analysis and further investigation suggested by Raju Ramachandran, the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae. It rejects the eminently sensible suggestion that Bhatt be put in the witness box to determine the veracity of his account. Worse, it says Jafri “provoked” the mob that dismembered and burnt him alive. Such viciously prejudiced reports are unbecoming of a halfway civilised society. A high priority for all secular forces in politics and civil society is to expose and isolate Modi.



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Muslim youths of Ujjain: Harassed by police and media – By Mohd. Ismail Khan (Jun 6, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Mohd. Sayeed Ahmed Nagori is a poor carpenter who works day and night and barely able to eke out a living, seeing him working in his small shop one can hardly believe that for Ujjain police he is a potential terrorists and putting him in 24 hours surveillance is a national security priority. Sayeed’s workshop is located in Muslim dominated Kot Mohalla of Ujjain. His shop is in front of a soda store which once used to be the district office of SIMI. In the year 2000 when Dijvijay Singh government did not give permission for All India Convention of SIMI in Bhopal, the activists of SIMI in Ujjain protested and burned effigy of Digvijay Singh in front of their office. Huge crowd gathered to see what was happening, Sayeed was in the crowd. Police charged the crowd and arrested who ever got into their hands; Sayeed was among the arrested and spent a day in jail. He thought the matter is finished. But next day he got to know that police had booked cases against him for disturbing peace and public ordery, if this was not enough his name was also included in pasting alleged inflammatory posters in Ujjain.

Sayeed said, “I was never been member of SIMI nor attended any of its programs, it was just an unfortunate incident for me that I was watching them burn effigy’s and raising slogans. That day changed my life forever. It has been 11 years and the trial is still going on, I have to go to court twice a month for hearing. If I miss a single hearing then police will immediately rush to my home or shop and start questioning about my whereabouts. Last year my mother passed away, I missed the hearing due to the funeral prayers. Next day police officers came to my shop and asked ‘kaun lurhak gaya tha be?’.” “Life is not the same anymore I am always under police surveillance, whenever there is a bomb blast anywhere in the country, two police officers will rush to my workshop to see whether I am still here or ran away. Seeing this long trials, and biased police attitude I don’t expect life to be normal again.” Sayeed was so scared from police, that he stopped us from taking his photo or video, “Sorry, but if Ujjain Police saw my face then again they will come for me and will increase their harassment on my family.”

But this fear was not same for Sarfaraz Qureashi who was eager to talk about the facts about his case. This was his way of keeping of keeping the record straight after being branded as terrorist by the Hindi media in Ujjain. Sarfaraz Qureshi was 20 year old in 1999; he was resident of Ujjain but was pursuing a computer vocational program in Indore. He was an active member of SIMI before the organization was banned. In the year 1999, Indore police booked case against him for allegedly pasting posters on the eve of the Babri Masjid demolition anniversary, which according to the police could have created enmity between different communities he was booked in sec 153 of I.P.C. He returned back to Ujjain and discontinued his vocational program. Again in the year 2000 he was arrested by the Ujjain Police for allegedly pasting posters in Ujjain for all India conference of SIMI in Bhopal. He alleged that he was put into three days illegal detention and was mentally tortured during that period. He was later released after few days but now for police he is a hard-line Islamist who should always be under scrutiny.

Sarfaraz said, “I use to go to the court three times a month for my case hearings. Police used to call me anytime they wished and start taking pictures from every angle. Police continuously keep surveillance on my house and on my family; they even tried to book my younger brother in false cases. This doesn’t end here, police even started visiting the school where I was teaching, the administration got panicked and fired me. Now I joined a new school for teaching but the police have not changed their behaviour.” After 11 long years, in the year 2010 sarfaraz was acquitted in the 1999 Black Day Poster Case, but the All India SIMI Convention Poster Case still haunts him. He says he is a declared terrorist in Ujjain by the local Hindi media. He alleged that police leaked his pictures which they took in their custody to the Hindi media and whenever there is bomb blast anywhere in the country his photo is being shown especially by Sahara Hindi news channel as ‘Atankwadi.’

He is convinced that he lost his father due to this mental harassment by the Hindi media. He said, “A day after the Ahmedabad blast “Lokswami” Hindi newspaper published my picture taken in police custody with my hands in handcuffs on the front page and declared me as master-mind of the Ahmedabad blast and showed me as arrested from Bangalore. My father saw that news item and became ill due to mental tension and fearing my arrest, just a few weeks later he passed away.” Sarfaraz thinks he have become a soft target for police and the media, “whenever there is a bomb blast anywhere in the country local police and IB start visiting my house. Like the recent bomb blast in Mumbai, blast happened in Mumbai and police keep questioning me here in Ujjain and put me in three days illegal detention.” Sarfaraz was desperate to inform the facts to the world about his life and his pending trails to counter the fake news of biased mainstream media. Although he was acquitted in the 1999 poster case, and is sure of getting acquitted in the 2000 poster case, but also knows that false propaganda of the mainstream media and police repression is not going to end so easily. He made an appeal to all the Muslims, Muslim leadership and human rights activists of India to support youngsters like him, because he is sure that they alone can’t fight the system turned against them.



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Violent end – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Jun 16, 2012, Frontline)

The arson and pillaging that followed the killing of Brahmeshwar Nath Singh, the former chief of the dreaded private militia Ranvir Sena, in southern Bihar is reflective of the brutal history of upper-caste violence that the State has been witness to. Around 5,000 upper-caste Bhumihar supporters of Brahmeshwar Singh, popularly called “Mukhiaji”, went on the rampage when his funeral ceremony was in progress. They torched at least 50 vehicles, beat up onlookers and police personnel and attacked journalists who had come to cover the event. Brahmeshwar Singh was shot dead by unidentified assailants on June 1 in Ara when he was out on a morning walk. He headed the Ranvir Sena from 1995 to 2002, and had been accused of 337 murders of Dalit women, children and men. Apart from this, he decisively led the militia in perpetrating hundreds of big and small massacres in Dalit and Muslim colonies, most prominent of which were the Bathani Tola, Laxmanpur Bathe, Sankarbigha and Miyapur massacres. Southern Bihar has been kept on high-alert curfew. Ranvir Sena sympathisers looted and destroyed public property in Bhojpur, Jehanabad and many other districts. They did not allow even the Director General of Police, Abhayanand, to come near Brahmeshwar Singh’s body.

The police failed to take any action against the miscreants. Some regional newspapers reported that the police remained passive in view of the politically sensitive nature of the murder. Since Bhumihars form a powerful political force in the State, the Janata Dal (United) government did not want to rub them the wrong way. When law and order sank to a new low, both Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were outside the State for official reasons. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the primary opponent of the Ranvir Sena in Bhojpur, issued a statement condemning the police inaction. “The vandalism witnessed right in the State capital, Patna, has given a complete lie to Nitish Kumar’s tall claims of good governance. If anything, it has exposed the utter inability or even the refusal of his government to tackle such acts of feudal-criminal violence. Contrast the State’s laid-back attitude on June 1-2 to the brutal ways in which the police have been tackling mass protests, and the inherent bias of the State government and its police administration becomes crystal clear,” it said. Ever since naxalite insurgence in 1968, the CPI(ML) and later the Maoist Coordination Centre (MCC), which is now the CPI(Maoist), started gaining ground in Bihar. Their struggle was among the landless and bonded labourers of the State who were denied not only basic living conditions but also social dignity. In the 1980s, private militias began to be formed when upper-caste landlords, or kulaks, funded the raising of over a dozen small armies. These militias directed their attacks mostly against landless Dalits and Muslims who were CPI(ML) sympathisers. They organised planned pogroms specifically targeting colonies of Dalits and Muslims who sympathised with naxalites. While economic coercion and boycott of labourers became the primary tool of the landlords to enforce the feudal order in the 1980s, the following decade saw the emergence of aggression against Dalit and Muslim villages.

Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary of the CPI (ML-Liberation), writes in the June 2 issue of Economic & Political Weekly: “If we look at the history of the CPI(ML) movement in Bhojpur, we will see that the right to vote has been one of the most keenly contested issues. In fact, behind the emergence of the CPI(ML) in Bhojpur was the Assembly elections in 1967 in which Ramnaresh Ram contested as a Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate and he and all his close comrades were badly beaten up and harassed by the feudal lobby which could not stomach this ‘political audacity’ of the oppressed and the downtrodden. Years later, in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections, when large numbers of Dalits for the first time succeeded in exercising their franchise and electing Rameshwar Prasad as the first naxalite Member of Parliament from Ara, a bloodbath ensued in Danwar-Bihta village just after the polling and as many as 22 persons had to pay with their lives the price for the right to vote.” With the growing political representation of Dalits and communists, the State witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of private armies and mass murders. Naxalites violently resisted the attempts by the upper-caste militias to finish off the labour movement. It was against this backdrop that the Ranvir Sena emerged as the biggest private army of upper-caste landlords under the leadership of Brahmeshwar Singh, who managed to merge several other private militias into one broad umbrella group. In 1994, when a group of CPI(ML) supporters and Bhumihars clashed at Belaur village in Bhojpur district, Brahmeshwar Singh invoked the name of Ranvir Choudhary, who had fought to restore the might of Bhumihars in the region, and posed him as a saint. Thus, Ranvir Sena was named after ‘Ranvir baba’. The militia started its full operation only from 1995, killing CPI(ML) supporters whenever it got a chance. But the trend of planned and large-scale pogroms started with the massacre at Bathani Tola in 1996. This was carried forward with added intensity in Laxmanpur Bathe, Sankarbigha, Miyapur, Senari, Ekwari, Narayanpur, and many more such villages.

After Brahmeshwar Singh’s arrest in 2002, the Ranvir Sena lost its steam as an organised militant force. He was lodged in Ara jail, where he gave a number of interviews to the media. In all his interviews, he openly said that he did not repent for the killings and justified the killing of Dalit children and women who, according to him, would otherwise become naxalites when they grew up or would give birth to future naxalites. He was granted bail in September 2011 despite being the main accused in the massacres. The prosecution drew severe criticism when, during the trial in the Ara district court in the Bathani Tola case, the judge declared him an absconder though he was lodged in the Ara jail at that time. It is for this reason that many analysts have seen a complicit role of the state, the judiciary and the police in protecting Brahmeshwar Singh. After his release, Brahmeshwar Singh formed a farmers’ organisation called the Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan. In a recent interview to Frontline, he said: “We are the first nationalist farmers’ organisation because all the others are either socialist or communist.” He nurtured political ambitions. While he was in jail, he contested the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Although he was defeated, he secured more than 1.5 lakh votes. It is for this reason that he denied any association with the Ranvir Sena when he spoke to this correspondent. “Why are you asking so many questions about the past? Now I am a white-collared citizen and the judiciary has already released me in 20 out of around 30 cases. I will fight for the unity of farmers and labourers. Right now, because of the agrarian crisis, the farmers are unable to pay the labourers the minimum wage but I agree that the labourers should not only get the minimum wage, but at least a sum of Rs.400 to beat the inflation,” he told this correspondent. A known Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) supporter, Brahmeshwar Singh had plans to make it big in politics. And it is for this reason that his family has blamed a fellow Bhumihar leader and legislator, Sunil Pandey, for his murder although the police suspect the CPI(ML). Sunil Pandey is the second-most important leader in the Ranvir Sena. He grew in political stature after Brahmeshwar Singh was arrested and lodged in jail for eight years. Brahmeshwar Singh would always quote the mythological character Parsurama: “I did what Parsurama did. Violent methods are necessary in order to achieve any sort of order in society. Otherwise injustices will prevail.” He perhaps fell prey to his own logic.



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Back to Bathani Tola – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Jun 16, 2012, Frontline)

Bathani Tola and Barki Kharaon are separated only by 100 metres of land but are distanced from each other by a thousand years of conflict. The two villages in Bhojpur district of Bihar are remembered for one of the most brutal feudal-communal massacres in India’s contemporary history. On July 11, 1996, the Ranvir Sena, the dreaded private army of upper-caste Bhumihar and Rajput landlords, marched from Barki Kharaon towards Bathani Tola armed with swords and guns and killed eight children, 12 women and one man. Most of the victims belonged to families of Dalit and Muslim landless agricultural labourers (Frontline, August 9, 1996). On April 16, almost 16 years later, Bathani Tola attracted national attention once again when the Patna High Court overturned the Ara district court order and acquitted all the 23 persons accused of perpetrating the massacre. Organised communal massacres by upper-caste landlords were a routine affair in the 1990s. They were understood to be vindictive assertions by the upper castes to retain their honour in the face of rising backward-caste movements against the conventional feudal order. It is for this reason that Barki Kharaon, home to politically powerful Bhumihar and Rajput landlords who tried to crush the Dalit-Muslim movement of Bathani Tola, signifies a larger regressive political order, something which still persists in the State. There is a clear link between this kind of upper-caste violence and the June 1 murder of Brahmeshwar Nath Singh, the erstwhile chief of the Ranvir Sena, by unknown assailants in Ara, the district headquarters. South Bihar was paralysed as Brahmeshwar Singh’s followers vented their anger on public property despite the presence of paramilitary forces. Such an order of things came to the fore again when the Division Bench of the High Court acquitted all the 23 accused in the Bathani Tola carnage on the basis of insufficient evidence and “untrustworthy” eyewitnesses. In 2010, the district court had handed death sentences to three persons and life imprisonment to the rest. While maintaining that the massacre was unfortunate, the High Court hardly mentioned anything about the exploitative land relations in Bhojpur, which was the basic premise for the attack. The enormity of the caste massacre had horrified the nation and the international community. The killings went on for more than two hours from 2 p.m. on that day. There were three police pickets within a range of one kilometre, including one in the village itself, but no action was taken to prevent the crime. An 18-year-old woman was gang-raped. The breasts of a 25-year-old woman were chopped off before she was killed. A nine-month-old child was tossed in the air and chopped into two as she fell to the ground. A pregnant woman’s womb was slashed open and the foetus impaled on a sword.

The massacre also marked the time when political mobilisation in defence of the Ranvir Sena was at its peak. As the support for it from upper-caste landlords grew, the Ranvir Sena continued its unfettered violence in many villages even though the outfit had been banned by the State government in 1995. Bathani Tola, in a way, became the template for other feudal massacres that occurred in Bihar subsequently and also for communal pogroms elsewhere, such as the one in Gujarat. The High Court judgment sparked severe criticism from society, for throughout the hearing, the court questioned the accounts of eyewitnesses, most of whom had lost their family members in the massacre. Ignoring the plight of the victims, the verdict repeatedly states that the witnesses (survivors) are “lying” and “spinning tales” and are “untrustworthy” and “totally unreliable”. Many persons in political circles blamed the state, the police and the political system for the shoddy investigation in the case. The court acquitted the accused mainly on two grounds. First, it said that the first information report (FIR) was filed only 12 hours after the carnage, implying that it may not have been the right account. Second, it did not rely on the survivors’ accounts. The court observed that the eyewitnesses could not have survived the massacre if its perpetrators had come into the village with the aim of killing everyone present there. In its judgment, the court noted: “In the present case, we find it quite conflicting that the allegation and the act are such that the miscreants had come to eliminate everyone in the village. After killing, they set fire to the houses. How could they not bother to look for people hiding in close vicinity of the village itself? The witnesses and the accused are neighbours and of neighbouring Tola [colony]. They would not be exposing their identity in broad daylight giving people opportunity to identify them.” It further said that the eyewitnesses who claimed they were hiding in the ditches around the village could not be found by the investigating officer. ” Ahar [irrigation channel] is a conspicuous place but surprisingly the witnesses hid there and, from time to time, were able to peep out unconcerned of their safety, which is quite unnatural. Some witnesses are said to have hidden in bushes but on objective finding of the IO [investigating officer], there was no such place. People, who were intent to liquidate everybody, naturally would have seen that there were no male members’…. This is unnatural for the prosecution witnesses. Because of these reasons, we have found the identifications made by the prosecution witnesses not worthy of reliance for the purposes of this extreme punishment of either death or life imprisonment,” the judgment noted.

Kishun Choudhary, a survivor who lost three members of his family and who filed the FIR, told Frontline: “We were so scared that we did not walk out of the village. We had lost our family members. When the police came after four hours, they ill-treated us and abused the dead bodies. We protested. We did not even believe in the police. The massacre happened when there were three police pickets in the range of one kilometre. Only after we came out of the shock did we manage to go to the police station and file an FIR. How can the court question this?” Kishun Choudhary was given a grade IV job as compensation. He shifted to Ara. However, he quit his job eight years ago when Bhumihar landlords of Barki Kharaon threatened him to withdraw his case. Since he felt insecure in the city, he decided to move back to Bathani Tola to be among his community members. Nayeemuddin, one of the survivors who lost four of his family members, including his infant daughter, asks: “Who killed 21 people that afternoon, if it wasn’t those we named in the FIR? Who will take responsibility for my life, now that all those I gave evidence against are free? I have gone through much turmoil. I was one of the survivors, but the court did not believe in my accounts. Can I ask who will the court believe if it does not believe one of the survivors?” In order to understand the Bathani Tola massacre, a brief account of the history of southern Bihar is necessary. Land has been the central issue in the politics of Bihar. Because of the fertile land irrigated by the Ganga, the districts of Bhojpur, Gaya, Patna and Arwal have historically been a hub of political movements. During the colonial era, Bihar was the heart of the zamindari system, which drove deep wedges between Dalits, the backward classes and the upper castes, who had a major share of the zamindari. Even after its abolition in 1950 and the introduction of the Land Ceiling Act in 1961, the landlords worked their way up in politics to retain most of their land, to the extent that Bihar has the worst record in the implementation of land reforms. According to a 2009 report, among the landowners in the State, 96.5 per cent are marginal or small farmers. They own about 66 per cent of the total land. Medium and large farmers comprise just 3.5 per cent of the landowning community, but they own roughly 33 per cent of the total land. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) gathered strength and its activists started to concentrate on landless agricultural labourers, who were Dalits or members of the backward castes. It was successful in building a base among the poor.mIn order to counter the communist movement, the upper-caste landlords started organising private armies with the declared aim of fighting to restore lost honour. Northern Bihar has bigger landlords, but the value of their land is much lower than that in southern Bihar because northern Bihar is a flood plain. It is because of this that the landlords of southern Bihar are much more aggressive about possessing land. Most of the upper-caste leaders come from southern Bihar. In 1971, Bihar witnessed its first feudal massacre when 16 Santhals were killed in Rupaspur in Purnea district. In the years to come, private armies such as the Kunwar Sena of Rajputs, the Brahmarshi Sena, the Savarna Liberation Front, the Pandav Gang and the Sunlight Sena emerged to fight for upper-caste landlords. Encouraged by this, a few backward-caste landlords also formed private armies such as the Bhumi Sena, the Kisan Kranti Sena and the Lorik Sena, run by either Yadavs or Kurmis. In 1995, the politically powerful Bhumihar landlords brought all the upper-caste armies under the Ranvir Sena.

They declared that the Ranvir Sena was formed to wipe out communists from Bihar so that the tradition of feudalism, given to them by their ancestors, was maintained. The Ranvir Sena started organising young people, including minors, and took violence to a new level, the first major manifestation of which was the Bathani Tola massacre. When the upper-caste-organised violence increased, naxalites retaliated. According to police records, naxalites killed 93 upper-caste landlords between 1994 and 2000. The biggest attack was in 1996 when the CPI(ML) allegedly killed eight Ranvir Sena members at Nadhi village in Bhojpur district. In 1997 and 1999, the CPI(ML) conducted two big raids in Jehanabad district and killed 16 landlords. The CPI (ML-Liberation) is still a strong force in Bhojpur and Jehanabad, where it has elected representatives. The biggest naxalite attack was carried out by the Maoist Coordination Centre (MCC), which, along with other naxalite outfits, merged into the CPI (Maoist). In 1999, the MCC killed 35 Ranvir Sena members in Senari village in Jehanabad district as a show of strength. The MCC was a strong force in 1987 when it killed around 50 Rajput landlords in Aurangabad district. But after that, its strength diminished. The Senari massacre in 1999 was an indication that the party was back in the reckoning. But it could not gather much political strength after that. Today, the CPI (Maoist) has a presence only in Jharkhand. The people of Bhojpur have elected communist leaders to the Assembly and to gram panchayats. The movement for minimum wages and dignity reached its peak in Bhojpur. But with the formation of the Ranvir Sena, CPI(ML) activists began to come under frequent attack. The Rajputs and Bhumihars of Barki Kharaon beat up Dalit and Muslim residents of the village as they protested against the illegal encroachment of gair mazarua zameen (panchayati lands) in the region. The local imam bara (place of worship for Muslims) was occupied illegally in 1995 and then destroyed. Three graveyards of the Muslim community were occupied by the landlords. On an appeal, the Patna High Court gave an order in favour of the Muslims, but the administration did not act. The aggrieved Dalits and Muslims participated in the Karbala Mukti Morcha, a rally to ensure that the court decision was implemented. Soon after, tensions between the landlords and labourers intensified. The landlords allegedly killed Mohammed Sultan, a resident of Barki Kharaon who had participated in the rally. The Dalit and Muslim residents of the village were forced to shift to the nearby Bathani Tola, which was then a sparsely populated village. After six unsuccessful attacks on Dalits and Muslims in Bathani Tola, the Ranvir Sena finally carried out the infamous massacre of July 11, 1996. Brahmeshwar Singh had said that the Ranvir Sena killed women and children to prevent the proliferation of naxalites. Subsequent to the Bathani Tola massacre, the militia went on the rampage, killing people in Laxmanpur Bathe, Shankarbigha and Miyapur and many other villages. The massacres ended with Brahmeshwar Singh’s arrest in 2002, but minor incidents of violence against Dalits and Muslims still continue in Bihar. The Bihar government plans to appeal against the High Court decision in the Supreme Court. The accused residents of Barki Kharaon are protesting against the move. “We are all falsely implicated. I was a minor when this incident happened. How could I have killed people? I was not a part of the Ranvir Sena which perpetrated the crime,” Munna Singh, a Rajput landlord who was sentenced to life by the district court, told Frontline. Brahmeshwar Singh was implicated in 30 cases, of which he was acquitted in 20. He headed a Patna-based farmers’ organisation called Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan, which declares that it is a “nationalist” organisation as opposed to “socialist or communist”.

“The Bihar government is going to the Supreme Court only when it involves upper-caste people. Sudama Prasad, a communist leader accused of killing an upper-caste landlord, was acquitted. Why did the State government not go to the Supreme Court then? The court has clearly written in Paragraph 54 of the judgment that all the witnesses have lied and the accused have been falsely victimised,” Brahmeshwar Singh had told Frontline a few days after the verdict was pronounced. Bathani Tola’s investigation points to the complicit role of the state and the dominant class in fudging evidence. It also shows how the investigating agencies dilute evidence if the case involves a politically powerful community. Anand Chakravarty, a retired teacher of the Delhi School of Economics, spoke about the deep chasm between the rule of law and justice, at a convention held against the Bathani Tola judgment. He said that justice should be understood not just in a judicial sense but in the wider sense of economic, social and political justice. Citing instances of judicial bias against Dalit and Adivasi agrarian labourers, he quoted the Tamil Nadu High Court verdict in the Keezhavanmani massacre of 1969, which had found it “astonishing” and “‘difficult to believe” that “rich men, owning vast extents of land”, one of whom even “possessed a car”, could be guilty of burning alive 42 Dalits. In the context of the Rupaspur (Purnea) massacre of 14 Adivasi sharecroppers in 1971, he quoted the words of a well-known advocate who had justified the massacre: “It is because of me [that is, the landlord] that he had the land, it is because of me that he had a livelihood’…. Now he is violating that relationship by refusing to share the crop; this is a breach of trust which cannot be tolerated.” Chakravarty spoke of the principal social contradictions of Bihar that resulted in the massacres by the Ranvir Sena in the 1990s. The apparent reason for the massacres lay in contestations over land, wages and social dignity, he said, and the mobilisation of the radical Left groups on the latter issues, he stressed, was largely to demand the rights within the constitutional framework. The real reason for the massacres, he felt, was that the assertion of the underclass was viewed as an act of defiance against the hierarchical class and caste order. He held that the Bihar government today, for all its rhetoric, was actually deeply inimical to the economic, social and political entitlements of the oppressed classes and that, therefore, the prospects of justice for the latter were quite bleak. Bathani Tola, in present times, vindicates this argument. Even today, at least 90 bighas of panchayati land is still under the illegal occupation of the landlords. The labourers get Rs.70 a day as wages, whereas the official minimum wage is Rs.144. Any assertion on the part of Dalits leads to violence and social boycott of the whole community. Even today, a Dalit is not allowed to wear new clothes in front of a Bhumihar landlord.



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Where 5,000 Graves Don’t Speak – By Mirza Waheed (Jun 18, 2012, Outlook)

Recently, I came across the work of Slovenian poet Tomaz Salamun and found myself unexpectedly distressed, even outraged, after reading his short poem Not the War. In the words “Not the murder, silence brings one back to the scene of the crime”, Salamun is perhaps talking of love. But I am thinking war, and am transported back home, to Kashmir, to scenes of nameless burials and sites of extra-judicial killings. I was angry at the silence of the Indian State, and more crucially perhaps, the hushedness of the country’s vibrant civil society, at the discovery of thousands of unmarked graves in troubled Jammu & Kashmir. It has been nearly a year since the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), a human rights body appointed by the state government, released an extensive report on the presence of 2,156 bullet-ridden bodies in unmarked graves in the border districts. It confirmed what a local rights group, the International People’s Tribunal of Kashmir, had revealed in a landmark investigation in 2008. Hundreds of the bodies were of men described as “unidentified militants”, killed in fighting with the armed forces during the armed insurrection of the 1990s. But, according to the report, at least 574 of them were of those “identified as local Kashmiri residents”.

Like many Kashmiris and Indians, I waited for something to happen-international outrage perhaps, a furore, a commission of inquiry and, one might be forgiven for thinking, even the possibility of justice-for the State cannot exonerate itself from its responsibility of delivering justice with a mere investigation. (Surely, one doesn’t hear too often of mass graves these days, except perhaps those of the Balkan conflict of the 1990s or of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq!) But, apart from news reports in the Indian and the international press, and the local administration’s vague talk of a truth and reconciliation commission-I wonder how one can reconcile in the absence of truth-nothing significant has happened. Kashmiris have, of course, always known that the hundreds of Kashmiri men who disappeared, mostly in the 1990s, but also in subsequent years, did not vanish into thin air-they were buried, unaccounted and unrecorded, in nameless graves in the Himalayan tracks near the LoC. We have also known that not all of them were combatants killed in fighting with the armed forces. Many of them were victims of fake encounters and extra-judicial killings, as has been revealed in the many cases of men previously described as “dreaded militants” found to be innocents killed for medals or money. In one appalling instance of wilful perversion of justice-the Pathribal fake encounter of March 2000, around the time US president Bill Clinton was to visit India-the Indian State has so far refused to prosecute army officers involved in the premeditated murder of five innocent men portrayed as terrorists who had massacred 35 Sikhs of Kashmir. This, when the Central Bureau of Investigation has submitted evidence that the men were “killed in cold blood”. Many in Kashmir have reconciled to the idea that justice may never be done, the guilty may never be punished and grieving relatives may be condemned to Sisyphean waiting.

The publication of the SHRC report last year, confirming the presence of unmarked graves at 38 sites near the mountains of Kashmir, while reopening old wounds also gave fresh hope to the kin of those who had disappeared-that there may be some closure after all; that the Indian State may, in a rare moral turn, address one of the darkest chapters of the 22-year-old uprising against its rule in Kashmir; that it may finally be willing to listen to what rights groups, journalists and the parents of the missing have been saying for years. The report came out last August, and the same commission subsequently ordered a further probe, citing the presence of nearly 3,000 more graves in the remote districts of Poonch and Rajouri-some allegedly with multiple bodies in them. But apart from one impassioned editorial expressing shame, a couple of speciously-framed TV shows attempting, among other things, equivalence between the all-powerful state and a beleaguered people, the media, while running the story, largely ignored the issue. “There is every probability that these unidentified dead bodies buried in various unmarked graves at 38 places of north Kashmir may contain the dead bodies of enforced disappearances,” the SHRC report had said. How can we not, then, express outrage over what could potentially constitute evidence of crimes against humanity? We’d do that if, say, the graves were made in Tripoli, under a dictatorship, wouldn’t we? Somehow, and for reasons unknown, unmarked graves (some with only heads in them) found in the disputed backyard of the world’s largest democracy have been deemed not heinous enough. Are we to assume mass graves made in a democracy are somehow more humane?

Does not such a discovery merit even a customary response from the Indian State? As far as I remember, there has been no official comment by the Central government in Delhi, so deeply entrenched is India’s policy of indifference and denial on Kashmir. And what of its intellectual classes who were on site, and rightly so, when India signed the UN resolution against Sri Lanka for its atrocities against Tamil civilians during the campaign against the ltte? If the conscience of a nation is not stirred by the discovery of thousands of nameless burials in what it claims as an integral part, the claim not only rings hollow, it was and will only ever remain a claim. In recent months, some well-meaning commentators and Kashmir experts have started talking about moving on, about the dividends of peace, about economics as opposed to politics-as though these dual aspects were congenitally detached. This is more or less consistent with the outpourings of some members of India’s new class of beat intellectuals-they move from issue to issue, or studio to studio, with equal panache-and their callousness towards the tragedy of Kashmir is matched only by their disdain for even contemporary history. Perhaps the most serious and bizarrely anti-intellectual assertion, and therefore an insidious one, seems to project the idea of peace as somehow incompatible with the idea of justice, and those who demand it as some kind of violence fetishists-as though talking about massacres stems democracy and progress.

In the Indian establishment-and indeed the political philosophy espoused in statist writing on Kashmir employs language disturbingly reminiscent of an ‘establishment project’-there has been a sudden spurt in conversations around the ‘dividends of peace’ in Kashmir. This is, of course, not possible without the buy-in of a thriving comprador class in the conflict-torn land. Translated into realpolitik, this otherwise benign phrase seems to convey to a subject population that it is time they forgot their long-held aspirations for freedom, as also about possible crimes committed by a state that has been nothing but militaristic in its dealings with them. The jackboot comes draped in a flag emblazoned with the words “Let bygones be bygones”. As for the talk of a truth and reconciliation commission to close the story of unmarked graves, while it is unambiguously noble in its pacifist aspirations and surely the right thing to do to assuage the pain of a people, it seems ludicrously premature in a place that is run by a system of repression. (It must be noted that, for all practical purposes, the Indian State and its client elites operate without a moral system in Kashmir.) One is, again, compelled to ask some elementary questions: truth and reconciliation, yes, but on who on whose terms? Can it mean anything if the terms are set by a repressive state? One hates to suspect this, but the people who tout this as a solution may not even fully understand the import of the phrase and have perhaps forgotten that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa came into effect after the end of apartheid, not while it was in full play. Even if one were to make an attempt to attend to the views of those who preach “moving on”, a single, simple, inquiry stands in the way: How does one move on from thousands of graves in one’s front garden?



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Koodankulan And Democracy: People Vs State – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Jun 5, 2012, Countercurrents)

Democracy is a strange contradiction. At the one hand it provide us the legitimate government even if it is elected on minority votes and the other side it is used displace people who do not matter much for the state in the name of ‘national interest’. Any protest against such ‘national interest’ is brutally suppressed. That apart, the governments are using media and other social networks to malign such movements where people have stood up against a certain project which the government consider absolutely important for the growth the country. As a nation which need growth and development too but at what cost. Our policy makers also need to listen to people’s voices and understand what they are demanding. Why the peaceful protests are turning violent? The fact of the matter is that Indian state has rarely listened to democratic voices. It only wakes up when the peaceful protest turned violent as the state try to not only bulldoze them but completely destroy them.

The protest against Nuclear Power Plant in Koodankulan has been building up for years but there was no attempt by the authorities to understand them. But government only woke up when over ten thousand villagers including school going children and old people protested peacefully on the project site. For days, the government authorities could not go inside the project area and government feared any police action would widely damage its international image. Hence it used all its tricks to foil the movement. It tried to divide the people on one hand and the other side carefully orchestrated a campaign in the media that the entire anti nuclear projects are American Funded. In fact, it was shocking to see the Prime Minister of India jumping in the entire exercise and blaming the US donor agencies for spreading campaign against the Koodankulan Nuclear Power Plant. It would have been better for the prime minister to lodge a protest to the US government if such a thing has happened. Unfortunately, the government did not do so.

Now, the authorities in Tamilnadu are working on various fronts to foil the movement and defame it. The state government has filed criminal cases against the leaders of the movement and hundreds others. Movement leaders have been asked to surrender their passport. Dr S.P.Udayakumar who was teaching at Minnesota in the United States and returned to India in around 2000 is facing persecution by the authorities. Udaya is a strong voice against communalism and nuclearisation process. He could have stayed in the US with his lucrative job but came back to India and settled in Nagarcoil at his parents place. He started school for children as well as provided coaching for civil services to numerous students. His parents have been threatened with dire consequences and his movement is being monitored by the state intelligence. People in the Koodankulan Nuclear Power Plant area have been opposing the said project for years. They knew that it will damage their livelihood and ecology. The beautiful coastal line in the entire region is damaged. The fisher folk are facing complete threat to their lives as their fish catch is completely reduced and fishing has become life threatening due to the building of nuclear power plant. They have to go for deep sea fishing now which push them to unknown territory including crossing over to Sri Lankan territory. The repercussions are very high as they are caught in the inter country disputes and face punishment for the same. The Sri Lankan activists, however, blame Indian fishermen for fishing against the international norms which has resulted in loss of sea produce in India now therefore compelling them to cross over to Sri Lankan side which would definitely not be acceptable to that country.

During my visit to the region along with the movement leader Dr S.P.Udayakumar, I asked many fisher folks as why are they opposing this ‘nuclear plant’ which is of great ‘national importance’ of us. They laughed at me and said how many of our political leaders are ready to ‘die’ for the ‘nation’. Why should the ‘national interest’ mean snatching livelihood of tribal, fisher folks and Dalits. How can you serve any ‘national interest’ by killing your own people and destroying the beautiful coastal belt of Kanyakumari. The fact is that we are heading for an ecological disaster. This region faced the worst crisis during the Tsunami along with Sri Lanka. Obviously, after the Fukishama disaster, a new debate has started internationally about the nuclear safety. Memories of Chernobyl disaster in Russia and Fukishama nuclear plant in Japan are alive in our heart. Indians have not forgotten the Bhopal Gas disaster in 1984 which may not be called a nuclear disaster but can be included in the similar category. In the Koodankulan area, the sand mafia has been operating against the people. Many of these places were out of bound for local people. The issue is whether Koodankulan’s peaceful stir against nuclear power plant pricked the conscience of the nation? It does not seem to have done so. The problem with the Indian people is that there is a rat race here, a herd mentality. It takes long for people to understand. Their minds do not really work independently. For those living in their ‘glass houses’, far away from these projected sites, the protest is against our ‘national interest’.

They would not feel why the government does not speak to them. Why have the children come to the street? Why do the authorities always come with the idea of ‘foreign’ interference? Does government think that such a big movement can be purchased by the Americans or Europeans that easily? If that is so then what is the government doing? If money can buy everything can’t our governments do the same? Why don’t they listen to people or even ‘purchase’ them as they might have lot of middlemen in the region. The government however will not say why Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State is meeting the State Chief Ministers and talking about investment? Is not that a violation of our federal structure? Is not an interference with the internal matter of India when she goes to meet Jaya and Mamata in their respective states without informing the centre about it? Such innuendos are insulting for the people who are fighting to live a dignified life. A nationalist would never allow his environment, his rivers, his coast, forest and water resources to die. A nation is not just a geographical entity. It cannot be a nation if there are no people. No nation can be happy if its people are unhappy. And a nation is not just its power elite. Indian nation is build by its farmers, workers, fisher folks, tribal, Dalits and many more working masses. You cannot build it by destroying their livelihood and denigrating their protest. It is time we realize that ‘national interest’ cannot be bigger than the ‘people’s interest’. The government must listen to people’s voices for their rights and act accordingly.



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