IAMC Weekly News Roundup - June 16th, 2014 - IAMC
no-image IAMC

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 16th, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

BARTI to take communal harmony lessons to schools, may train teachers (Jun 12, 2014, Indian Express)

After a workshop to improve communal harmony, Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute (BARTI) will send books on teachings of social reformers such as Dr B R Ambedkar and Sant Kabir to aided schools in the state, and if cooperation from education department is received, BARTI plans to train teachers to impart lessons on communal harmony to students.

The first book that will be sent to all schools will be on Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj written by Jaisingh Pawar. “The distribution of books will take place in a phased manner. We have already got one such book written about the life and teachings of Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj. We will start distributing it soon,” said D R Parihar, director general, BARTI.

BARTI plans to send other reading materials and pamphlets containing material on equality, social justice, ethics, moral values, brotherhood etc. “It is important that students develop a scientific temper and look at things in a communally sensitive way. Only then can we eradicate atrocities against SC and ST in the society,” said Parihar. “BARTI was established to propagate teachings of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. There is a need that his teachings as well as core issues of the Constitution go to masses. The best way is to inculcate fraternity, equality and social justice in students so that they grow up into responsible citizens,” said Parihar.

Parihar said BARTI will talk to the education department to see if teachers can be trained to impart teachings of great leaders, along with regular lessons. “We will talk to the education department. We are ready to train teachers if they are interested. It is the need of the hour that students learn the importance of keeping scientific temper and not have a communally coloured view. The teachers can be trained during holidays like winter or summer break. It will not be forced on anyone,” said Parihar. “We will send books to gram panchayats so that teachings of such personalities reach villagers too,” added Parihar.


[Back to Top]

Rise of communal tensions after BJP Government formed at center (Jun 11, 2014, Times of India)

As Maharashtra gears up for its Assembly elections later this year, tensions have already started developing. Several reports of communal, religious and caste based nature have erupted in the last two weeks after a Narendra Modi led BJP Government took the center stage in New Delhi. The opposition rendered hopeless and dejected after the National Results have almost got a life line with these happenings. They are quick to blame Modi Government for this tension being created. This too is easy to assume and blame for anyone that Modi and BJP, who have always traditionally been blamed for communal politics is flaring up this tension across the country.

While the radical and right wing groups will definitely feel pumped up and elated with BJP at the power, it may not necessarily mean Modi is giving them a free hand. Modi has made his intentions clear in his Foreign Policy approach and wishes to want to stay clean of it. But those that will benefit from such communal tension will be definitely Congress and Opposition, who had used Fear of Riots as the chief strategy in Lok Sabha Poll 2014 to prevent Modi from becoming the PM. Now if they succeed – it is going to be an easier task to win people back – gradually.

While Modi is a debated name and there are equal number of people who love or hate him, blaming him for the communal tension in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh – as both stated ruled by oppositions of BJP – is somewhat not beyond doubt. It might be a lot lying beneath the blanket. But it is also known to all that all the child groups and organizations of BJP are maintained in a Hierarchy where even a town level Hindu wing worker also have direct contacts to the top leaders of RSS. The recent investigation and proceeding has proved that the Pune violence is executed by Hindu Rashtra Sena. Pune is known for the pride people take in their glory of History and Hindutva – the same people of Pune themselves are demanding to ban this group for its terrorism activity.

The Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai was arrested by the Pune crime branch on Tuesday for his involvement in a criminal conspiracy that led to the murder of 28 years old Mohsin Shaikh on June 2 in Hadapsar and events preceding the murder. The most notorious part of the Maharashtra Police administration is that – Desai is documented as officially arrested before the murder of Mohsin Shaikh. Although Section 120[B] & 302 are framed against Desai, police staged the exit path of him by documenting his official arrest date as June 2 – just few hours before Mohsin’s murder. It is known to all that this Dhananjay Desai has notorious criminal background already. As Maharashtra gets more into the election mode, the situation may get all the more worse in coming days unless proper control measures taken. Especially outsiders are feeling the heat already and this is not good news for the liberal crowd of cities like Pune or Mumbai.



[Back to Top]

Online posts against Narendra Modi spell trouble (Jun 16, 2014, Times of India)

Social media in India has suddenly become a decidedly dangerous place for dissent or irreverence, especially if Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at the centre of your dissidence. State administrations, be it in Goa, Karnataka or Kerala, have shown great alacrity in arresting, browbeating and often simply terrorizing anyone who is even slightly critical of Modi on networking sites. On a few occasions, at the receiving end of the police’s anger — and anxiety — have been students not even out of college.

Naval engineer Devu Chodankar got into a fair bit of trouble in Panaji last month when he posted some comments on Facebook which were deemed to be anti-Modi. Though he withdrew them later, a sessions court ordered his arrest and rejected his anticipatory bail plea after inputs from the local cyber crime cell said there was a “larger game plan to promote communal and social disharmony”.

The police went on to file an FIR under Section 153(A), 295(A) of the IPC, besides Section 125 of the Representation of People Act and Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act. Justifying these sections, some of them non-bailable, police inspector Rajesh Job told the court that Chodankar’s custody was being sought as his interrogation was “essential” to find out if there was a greater conspiracy behind the posts.

Last month, Syed Waqas, an MBA student in Bangalore, was arrested for allegedly circulating offensive messages against Modi on WhatsApp. And on May 15, author Amaresh Mishra, who wrote the script for the Saif Ali Khan-starrer ‘Bullett Raja’, was arrested from his Gurgaon residence for posting messages on his Twitter account, that was later closed by the UP police. At that time, Modi had not yet taken oath as India’s Prime Minister.

“Unlike in America, where (Barack) Obama is routinely panned for some of his policies, where he is made fun of for clicking selfies during funerals or for sometimes staring at the behind of beautiful women, one has to be careful in India when it comes to our politicians,” says a professor in Sikkim University.” All parties in India are on the same page. You just can’t question their leaders.” The censure isn’t limited to social media and networking-microblogging forums. In the past four days alone, Kerala police have registered two separate cases against 18 college students and teachers for “defaming” Modi in their respective campus magazines.



[Back to Top]

Gujarat HC directs Nanavati panel to allow Sanjiv Bhatt examine intel reports during 2002 riots (Jun 16, 2014, Indian Express)

The Gujarat High Court on Monday directed the Nanavati Commission, probing the 2002 riots, to allow suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt examine the intelligence reports generated during the 2002 Godhra riots. The bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice JB Pardiwala directed the commission to allow Bhatt to inspect the documents by Friday and has kept the matter for further hearing on June 26. NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL) is a co-petitioner in the case.

Bhatt had written several letters to the Nanavati Commission, as well as the Gujarat state government, asking for the documents pertaining to the 2002 riots. After the state government’s refusal, Bhatt and PUCL had approached the High Court through a PIL seeking 42 types of documents. The court had directed the government to release the documents.

Last year, Bhatt again filed a civil application in the court stating that nine documents were not given to him. The state had argued that these documents are classified and they can’t be shared. They also said that some other documents have gone missing. The court ruled in Bhatt’s favour and asked the sate government to let Bhatt inspect the classified documents.

Bhatt, a controversial cop who is under suspension, had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court against former Chief Minister Narendra Modi, now the Prime Minister, alleging that Modi told senior officers to “let Hindus vent out their anger” following the Godhra train burning incident that led to riots in the state.

Bhatt has also claimed that he was present in the meeting in which Modi allegedly ordered the officials to stand down. However, Bhatt’s claim has been trashed by the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team probing the riots. In case of Zakia Jafri, who has alleged Modi of being involved in the conspiracy, the SIT didn’t rely on the statement of Bhatt while giving clean chit to Modi.



[Back to Top]

IB’s NGO-scare report to Modi plagiarises from old Modi speech (Jun 13, 2014, Indian Express)

In its 21-page classified report, Impact of NGOs on Development, first reported by The Indian Express, that identifies certain foreign-funded NGOs as threat to India’s national economic security and the Gujarat model of development, the Intelligence Bureau has cut and pasted from a published speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to describe the modus operandi of certain organizations.

On September 9, 2006, then Gujarat chief minister Modi had lashed out in a speech at a “wealthy” and “influential” class of NGOs that “hire PR firms to continually build their image” with “money coming from abroad.” The occasion was the release of the first edition of NGOs, Activists & Foreign Funds: Anti-Nation Industry edited by Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak – a collection of articles on what they called the anti-Hindu agenda and corrupt practices of certain NGOs and activists – at New Delhi.

Modi’s speech at that function was included in the second edition of the collection. The second paragraph on the fourth page (page number 417 in the book) of Modi’s article, NGOs as Non-Accountable Businesses, reads as follows: “Another conspiracy – a vicious cycle is set up. Funds are obtained from abroad; an NGO is set up; a few articles are commissioned; a PR firm is recruited and, slowly, with the help of the media, an image is created. And then awards are procured from foreign countries to enhance this image. Such a vicious cycle, a network of finance-activity-award is set up and, once they have secured an award, no one in Hindustan dares raise a finger, no matter how many the failings of the awardee.”

The second paragraph on the third page (Part A) of the IB report on NGOs reads: “A small group of activists and NGOs at times have succeeded in shaping policy debates in India. Apart from that, in some cases it is observed that in a cyclical process, an NGO is set up, funds are obtained from abroad, a few articles are commissioned, a PR firm is recruited and, slowly, with the help of the media an image is created. And then awards are procured from foreign countries to enhance the image, after which Government machinery finds it more difficult to act against the awardee.”

When asked of the IB had asked for permission to use the paragraph from the book she edited, Radha Rajan of Vigilonline said she stood vindicated. “No, the IB did not contact me. But probably they were present at the high-profile book release next to the BJP office on Delhi’s Ashoka Road in 2006,” she told The Indian Express. Contacted by The Indian Express, a senior IB official closely associated with the report declined to comment.



[Back to Top]

Disappearance of key witness: two ex-ATS officers in the dock (Jun 12, 2014, Mumbai Mirror)

A CBI investigation has found two Mumbai police officers responsible for the mysterious disappearance of a prime witness in the 2008 Malegaon serial blasts case. Dilip Patidar, who was a tenant of Ramji Kalsangra, one of the main accused in the blasts case, was last seen by his family when he was picked up by a Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) unit from his home in Indore’s Shanti Vihar Colony in November 2008.

The investigating agency, which registered an FIR in connection with Patidar’s disappearance after it was asked by the Madhya Pradesh High Court to investigate the matter, has now charged Assistant Commissioner of Police Rajan Ghule and Police Inspector Ramesh More with abduction, criminal conspiracy, wrongful confinement with the intention of extracting a confession, kidnapping and creating false evidence.

Ghule and More were attached to the ATS in 2008. Ghule is now with the Thane police and More is serving with the Navi Mumbai police. While Ghule and More’s defence was that Patidar disappeared after seeking to go home to fetch his identity papers, which were required to record his confession before a magisterial court, the CBI has rubbished their claim, saying that Patidar was never produced in any magistrate’s court.

The 2008 Malegoan serial blasts had left seven people dead and several injured. Kalsangra, believed to be one of the main conspirators behind the explosions, went underground after the blasts and has remained untraced since. Since Patidar was a tenant of Kalsangra for many years, the ATS had wanted him to become a witness.

While he was in Mumbai, Patidar, according to the CBI, called his father and one of his cousins on a few occasions. The calls were short and on each occasion Patidar informed that he was in ATS’s custody and that they wanted him to become a witness in the Malegaon blasts case. Patidar’s case is throwback to the disappearance of Khwaja Yunus, an accused in the December 2002 Ghatkopar bus blast case. Yunus, a native of Parbhani was arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch just days after the blast. …



[Back to Top]

Custodial death, sexual abuse: HC orders FIR against 9 cops (Jun 11, 2014, Asian Age)

The Bombay high court on Tuesday has ordered the Mumbai crime branch to file an FIR against nine policemen and investigate into the alleged custodial death of 24-year-old Agnelo Valdaris and sexual abuse of the three others held in a robbery case by Wadala railway police.

A division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice Pramod Dattatrya Kode observed that prima facie it was a serious crime. The Judges directed the director general of police to personally monitor the investigation of this case. The crime branch has been directed to probe the role of policemen into the death and the matter has been posted for further hearing on June 13. The court was hearing a petition filed by Leonard Xavier Valdaier, father of the deceased and three others, Sufiyan Mohammed Khan, Mohammed Irfan Hajan and Arbaz Shamim Khan, who were also arrested in this case along with Agnelo.

The petitioners demanded a probe by the CBI. However, the judges did not accept this application. The judges directed the government of Maharashtra, which is among the respondents, to hand over the post-mortem report, medical reports and copy of the hospital register to the petitioner. It is alleged that Agnelo Valdaris died in police custody on April 18, 2014.

The three other men have alleged that the police sexually abused them in custody.On the other hand, the Wadala railway police has claimed that Agnelo died after coming under a running train while trying to flee from custody. Petitioners’ advocate Yug Choudhary has denied all allegations and said they did not commit any theft, he also said that the police was responsible for Agnelo’s death.

The four boys were picked up by Wadala railway police from their residence on April 15 and April 16. They were taken to the police station where they were allegedly beaten up and questioned where they had kept a gold chain and a ring suspected to be stolen by them.The petition also sought compensation of Rs1 crore for the deceased and Rs50 lakh each for the three others who were allegedly sexually abused in custody.



[Back to Top]

Hindu Rashtra Sena chief arrested for Mohsin’s murder (Jun 11, 2014, Times of India)

Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai was arrested by the Pune crime branch on Tuesday for his alleged involvement in a criminal conspiracy that led to the murder of 28-year-old Mohsin Shaikh on June 2 in Hadapsar and events preceding the murder. Senior police officials said interrogation of 17 suspects arrested so far for attacking Mohsin revealed that Desai had instigated them to launch a series of violent protests after objectionable posts were put up on a social media site. He will be produced before the Pune cantonment court on Wednesday afternoon.

Desai had incidentally been arrested on June 2 afternoon for distributing pamphlets with objectionable content. Mohsin was murdered later on the same day. A senior official told TOI that though Desai was not directly involved in Mohsin’s murder, he was clearly involved in the conspiracy that led to the murder. Shahaji Solunke, additional commissioner (crime), who is supervising investigations in the Mohsin murder case, said, “Investigations have revealed that Desai had conspired with other activists to commit Mohsin’s murder and other offences. We are collecting evidence to prove his complicity.”

Assistant commissioner of police, cyber crime, Gopinath Patil, told TOI that Desai was arrested under section 120 (b) – (criminal conspiracy) read with section 302 (murder). On Tuesday morning, the police secured a production warrant for Desai from the Pune cantonment court. Assistant public prosecutor B R Patil told the court that Desai’s custodial interrogation was important to ascertain his exact role in the conspiracy, which he played with the other accused and to collect evidence in the case. The court then granted the production warrant.

Officials of the Yerawada central prison, where Desai was lodged following his arrest in pamphlet distribution case, handed him over to the crime branch and Hadapsar police at 5 pm. Desai was taken to the Sassoon general hospital for a medical examination after which he was taken to the Hadapsar police station for further investigations. Elaborating on his participation in the conspiracy, senior officials said that on January 19 this year Desai had held a big rally in the city and given a provocative speech. On March 17, he distributed pamphlets bearing objectionable matter in cantonment and Loni Kalbhor areas. His workers staged a rasta roko at Warje Malwadi on June 1 – a day before Mohsin’s murder, to protest against the objectionable posts on a social media site. There were subsequent incidents of rioting and stone pelting that were reported in several parts of the city.

“Considering the sequence of events and subsequent murder of Mohsin, it is clear that Desai’s intentions were malafide, there was a conspiracy and Desai was behind it,” a senior official said. Desai was brought to state-run Sassoon General Hospital for routine medical check up. “Our doctors carried out Desai’s clinical examination and enquired about his health complaints. This was a routine heath evaluation to see whether he needs any immediate medical care,” said D G Kulkarni, medical superintendent of Sassoon Hospital. Kulkarni, however, refused to divulge further details. …



[Back to Top]

MP recruitment scam: Ex-minister held (Jun 16, 2014, Indian Express)

Former BJP minister Laxmikant Sharma was arrested by the Special Task Force (STF) on Sunday for his role in the alleged illegal recruitment of contractual teachers in government schools. Sharma was a powerful minister and held the technical education, culture and mining portfolios between 2003 and 2013 before losing the Assembly elections in November last year. The STF had questioned him twice in the past but let him go claiming it did not have sufficient evidence. On Sunday, a team of STF officials questioned the BJP leader at his home before taking him to the STF office in the afternoon.

More than 250 persons, including officials of Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, brokers, politicians, students and parents, have been arrested by the STF so far in the examination and recruitment scam that came to light last year. The agency has already arrested Sharma’s OSD but had delayed the former minister’s arrest, an action that was slammed by the Congress.

The agency had filed two separate FIRs against Sharma for his role in recruitment of contractual teachers whose names he had recommended to MPPEB officials who manipulated OMR sheets to ensure they cleared the examination. STF (AIG) Ashish Khare said Sharma would be produced before a court on Monday. The agency is investigating irregularities in at least 10 examinations, including the pre-medical test (PMT).

The agency had seized several documents and computer hard discs that showed how names recommended by powerful persons like Sharma besides bureaucrats and those who operated syndicates, cleared the examinations conducted by MPPEB. The former minister had first surrendered in December last year claiming he was innocent and that he came to know of his involvement only through newspapers. He was questioned by the STF one more time.

The BJP leader’s arrest comes a day after the agency declared a reward of Rs 5,000 on information about mining baron Sudhir Sharma. The latter was also the minister’s OSD when he held the mining portfolio. The former minister and Sudhir Sharma had surrendered together but the agency had not arrested either of them. The mining baron was issued several notices but he did not appear before the agency announced a cash award. The Congress, however, alleged that the delayed arrest was an attempt to save the CM’s chair. Congress state chief Arun Yadav and Leader of Opposition Satyadev Katare reiterated the demand for a CBI probe into the mega scam.



[Back to Top]

Four remanded for attack on madrassa (Jun 10, 2014, Times of India)

The court of judicial magistrate first class P D Zambre on Monday remanded four men in police custody till June 12 for allegedly ransacking a madrassa along the Handewadi bypass in Hadapsar during the protests over some objectionable posts on social networking sites on the night of May 31.

In their remand plea, filed by assistant police inspector Y A Nandre, the Hadapsar police said that the four men – Pravin Zambre (23) of Holkarwadi, Sujit Holkar (19) of Thite Aali, Haveli, Sagar Dikshit (23) and Chandrakant Rajesh Bhadle (27), both from Uruli Devachi – were arrested from Mantarwadi phata around 8.50am on Monday following a tip-off. The police seized three motorcycles used by them during the attack.

According to the remand plea, the four were part of a larger group of 10-12 youths on motorcycles who attacked and ransacked the madrassa around 11.30pm on May 31. All four men have admitted to their involvement in the attack, the plea stated.

An offence under various penal sections, including unlawful assembly, rioting and deliberate and malicious attempt to outrage religious feelings, was then registered following a complaint by Maulana Meraj Ul Islam Mumtaz Sheikh of the religious school.

Public prosecutor B R Patil pleaded for seven days’ remand in police custody for the accused on the grounds that the police have to arrest some more suspects, including the mastermind behind the attack. The police also have to find out if the four men are linked with any organization or political party, he said.



[Back to Top]

Shame for Modi Sarkar: Rape survivor wants CBI probe, names Nihal Chand as culprit (Jun 14, 2014, Deccan Chronicle)

Breaking barriers and ending her four-year-silence, the rape survivor who named Union Minister Nihal Chand Meghwal in her rape case on Saturday demanded a CBI probe into the incident. On Friday, notices were issued to Nihal Chand Meghwal, Minister of State (MoS) in the Narendra Modi government, by a district court in Jaipur.

The victim had filed a First Information Report (FIR) in 2011, alleging sexual exploitation by her husband. She had accused him of drugging her and then letting his associates rape her. The FIR also named MOS chemicals and fertilizers Meghwal, now the only minister from Rajasthan in the Modi cabinet, as one of the people who sexually exploited her.

The police closed the case in 2012 stating that the charges by the rape survivor were false and fabricated. She appealed to a district court, following which additional district judge Prem Prakash Gupta issued notices to Meghwal and 17 others in this case asking them to respond by August 20.



[Back to Top]

Opinions and Editorials

Kidiad Massacre In Gujarat – By Abdul Majid Zargar (Jun 11, 2014, Countercurrents)

During the Gujarat riots 2002, one has heard much about brutal massacre of Muslims at Gulberg society, Panchmahal, Naroda Patiya & Naroda Gam. What has relatively remained untold is the massacre at Kidaid on March 2nd, 2002. On this date Muslims were fleeing in two lorries from their village, Kidiad in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat. The Hindutva mobs halted them at two different spots about ten Kilometers apart and killed seventy of them with a military precision in a meticulously planned operation. Twenty one killers were identified out of which only nine could be captured(rest declared as absconders) and put on trial. In the trial court, they were represented by a battery of lawyers having affiliations to VHP & other Sangh parivar outfits.

All of them were acquitted in a hasty judgment on 11th October 2002, roughly seven months after the commission of crime. In his judgment, the judge held that Police had failed to conduct further investigations despite repeated request by victims & they had also refused to implicate the assailants actually named by witnesses. In effect, the submissions of the victims & witnesses were used against them by a highly biased Judiciary.

All these & many other details about the Gujrat pogrom 2002 are contained in an excellent, courageous & scrupulously researched book – “the Fiction of Fact Finding-Modi & Godhra” written by Manoj Mitta, a journalist & senior Editor with Times Of India. It is a multi-dimensional book which informs the reader as to how things happened, how the events were camouflaged & how the judicial apathy and pliable institutions conspired with the government machinery to successfully erase everything from the horrific event?

In chapter 5, the author deals with the examination of Narendra Modi by SIT formed by Supreme Court following Zakia Jaffri’s Complaint and points to brazen loopholes, contradictions and ambiguities in the statements made by Modi reducing it to a farce exercise and a travesty of Justice. Intriguingly, the chairman of the SIT absented himself from the critical interrogation process with questions and answers in a written format, not cross examining him on basic contradictions in his testimony. In this masterpiece of investigative journalism, the author identifies the violations of law perpetrated by the Special investigation team (SIT ); and brings to fore, the failings of the Supreme Court of India in discharging its basic Constitutional responsibilities to the people. …

Modi has since become Prime Minster of India and it remains to be seen whether the bath he took in Holy Ganges in Varanasi on the eve of parliamentary elections will cleanse him of crimes committed against Muslims in Gujarat, or will the long arm of law catch him one day to account for the sins committed by him.



[Back to Top]

Cause vs. Catwalk – By Archana Nathan (Jun 12, 2014, The Hindu)

She refuses to be pinned down by labels and is as fearless, articulate and candid as the protagonists of her film. Filmmaker Nisha Pahuja released her film, The World Before Her, a feature length documentary, across multiplexes in the country last week.

The World Before Her gives us access to two radically opposite women: Ruhi Singh, a 19-year-old contestant of the Miss India Pageant and Prachi Trivedi, a 24-year-old staunch member of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Navigating through the private worlds of Ruhi, Prachi and others like them, the film offers an insight into their minds, their dreams and the choices before them.

The film was released in New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Kolkata and Mumbai this past week. Pahuja brings her film to Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad (special release) today. She talks about her film, the process of filmmaking, the documentary in India and more in this interview: …



[Back to Top]

Murder Most Foul – Editorial (Jun 21, 2014, EPW)

The murder of a 28-year-old man in Pune by a Hindu right wing group is not just shocking but a warning of bad times ahead. Mohsin Sadiqe Sheikh, who was employed by an IT company, was on his way home on 2 June. He was surrounded by a group of men belonging to the Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) and beaten to death with hockey sticks. Sheikh happened to be wearing clothes that identified his religion; his killers were on the rampage against some unknown persons who had morphed pictures of Shivaji and the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray that had appeared on Facebook. Had the police taken action earlier to stop these mobs, Sheikh would not have been killed. Instead for close to three days the police stood by while members of right-wing groups subjected Pune to mindless violence and destruction of public property.

This is not the first time that a desecration of a leader’s statue or an obviously mischievous offensive post on social media or a perceived insult to a particular personality has set off violence. Yet, there is no excuse for why the police failed to crack down on the miscreants. The HRS is not a new group. Its leader has been booked several times for inflammatory statements and other infractions of the law. The police was well aware of this. Yet, inexplicably, the group was allowed to paralyse the city and only after Sheikh’s murder did the police take some action.

Such seemingly sporadic acts of violence take place ahead of elections. Vested interests ensure that emotions are provoked, stoked and, worse, expressed in violence against the vulnerable. A similar tactic was tried in eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) in 2013 with the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar. It paid rich dividends in the Lok Sabha elections in the form of a religious consolidation of votes. …

In a situation that reeks of irony, the media reported that the Bharatiya Janata Party would target Maharashtra with its high internet penetration to replicate its successful nationwide social media campaign during the Lok Sabha elections. At the same time, the state’s deputy chief minister, giving the example of China, called for a ban of social media, although he quickly retracted the statement. Clearly, social media will play an ever greater role in politics in the years ahead. Monitoring it and dealing with offensive posts while at the same time safeguarding freedom of expression is the challenge that law-enforcement authorities face today.

Going by the record set by the Maharashtra police, it is clear that they are ill-prepared to meet this challenge. With Maharashtra’s assembly elections scheduled for later this year, it is very likely that efforts to foment communal and casteist violence will only increase and the avenue for such provocation could well be social media. Unless the police is trained to respond with greater alacrity than it did to the recent trouble in Pune, we could well see a repeat of UP in Maharashtra later this year.



[Back to Top]

The great NGO scare – Editorial (Jun 13, 2014, Indian Express)

Less than a month after the Narendra Modi government took office, civil society organisations can be said to be feeling the heat. An Intelligence Bureau report to the prime minister’s office has warned against a range of NGOs, suggesting they pose a threat to the economy, and that they have collectively cost India 2-3 per cent of its GDP. The IB’s list includes not just international organisations like Greenpeace that have drawn attention to the environmental damage of coal-based and nuclear energy, or those with extensive foreign funding, but also many Gujarat-based NGOs that have campaigned for the victims of the 2002 riots, among other issues, including the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

This is not the first time a government has had occasion to complain about motivated civil society organisations – the UPA often deployed the FCRA to delay or revoke licences, and former PM Manmohan Singh has complained about the “foreign hand” instigating campaigns against nuclear energy. This charge is not entirely baseless. Many NGOs do have agendas that further the interests of their funders, while others are driven by the particular causes they speak for. They are not meant to take the large view and harmonise interests. By their very nature, advocacy groups take the narrow, intense position. The logic of the voluntary sector and private capital often work in concert, and try to supplant the legitimate functions of the state. They are often irritants to the government, but they also often aid governments in informal ways, fill gaps on the ground, bring a useful view to policy and legislation. In other words, there is no single theory of civil society organisations or one ideal approach to them. NGOs cannot be red-flagged and harassed – the government’s test is in how it reacts to their interventions.

The UPA erred on the other side too, on occasion, treating NGO orthodoxy on GM crops as equivalent to the scientific consensus, for instance, or inviting civil society to take on an outsized role in drafting policy through the NAC. But the Modi government must be wary of taking a repressive attitude to NGOs, merely because they articulate alternative priorities. It will be challenged, like all governments are, and its task is to accommodate diverse perspectives where possible, to shoulder past the ones that it judges irrelevant, and know that some criticism is inevitable given the tradeoffs of any decision-making. It must realise that scapegoating NGOs is not going to strengthen the government.



[Back to Top]

The North-eastern challenge – By Sanjoy Hazarika (Jun 9, 2014, The Hindu)

The recent attacks and killings in Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya by armed non-State groups represent a challenge and test for the Narendra Modi government and the need to understand the frustrating complexities of the North-eastern region.

Things are not being made easy after strident demands by the newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party MPs from Assam to rid the State of “Bangladeshis,” a phrase that many from the minority community say is aimed at targeting them, irrespective of nationality, and one that can swiftly turn into a security nightmare not just for governments in Delhi and Dispur, but also for ordinary people caught up in a storm. For a moment, the “Bangladeshi” issue has moved away from the headlines because of other events that have captured public attention. …

The Modi government must send a clear and unambiguous message to its members and followers that they cannot take law into their hands over the issue of “Bangladeshis.” This could spread fear, tension, mistrust and worse in Assam. Due process must be followed – otherwise there is acute danger of violence, tragedy and abuse of human rights just because of a person’s religion. Isn’t the Pune murder of the young Muslim techie by Hindu thugs a warning and wake-up call?

The media must play a sober role in this because definitions of “Bangladeshis” are often blurred and arbitrary. We need to abide by the recent judgment in the Meghalaya High Court which, while stating the obvious, defined a Bangladeshi as someone who came to India after the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Many tend to look at much earlier cut off dates in their search for “illegal migrants.”

New Delhi needs to inform all State governments in the region – whichever the party – that the murder of innocents, of whichever ethnicity, religion or language group, and the abuse of rights by armed groups (or security forces) and local thugs is unacceptable. Such violations need to be met with a cabrated robust response aimed at showing results in a specific time frame.



[Back to Top]

India must stop denying caste and gender violence – By Nilanjana S Roy (Jun 11, 2014, BBC)

When I think of Badaun, the small village in India’s Uttar Pradesh state near the spot where two young girls were raped and then hanged from a mango tree, one detail out of all of the horror is inescapable: their deaths were by no means inevitable. …

According to a Reuters report, when the girls did not come back, the father of one went to report the missing children to the police. The constable on duty slapped him and sent him away. This is the detail that cannot be forgotten. If the father had not been from a less privileged caste, if the police had searched for the girls, they might have been found before their assailants hanged them from the tree on the village common. …

One of the most horrifying aspects of the Badaun crimes is how normal they are, fitting the general pattern of caste crimes. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records crimes against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes – the most disadvantaged groups – in a separate category. These crimes are grievously under-reported, but even so the figures for 2012 are revealing: 651 cases of murder, 3,855 cases where people were hurt, 1,576 cases of rape, 490 cases of kidnapping and abduction, and 214 cases of arson.

The need to end the collective denial is urgent if the country is to acknowledge just how widespread the epidemic of violence is, and how savage the caste and gender wars have become. Those at the receiving end of the ropes and the flames are so often the poorest, the most marginalised, the most profoundly silenced.

In Delhi last week, the families from Bhagana were briefly evicted from their place of protest. The police had been casually violent; a complaint alleges that the protesters, many of them women, were beaten and sexually assaulted by police officers. After some negotiation, they were allowed to continue with the protest.



[Back to Top]