IAMC Weekly News Roundup - June 17th, 2013 - IAMC
no-image IAMC

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 17th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Hindu tenant gets separate water line (Jun 13, 2013, Mumbai Mirror)

The name ‘Aman’ is a nice fit for this building on 5th Khar Road – it has had a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian family occupying its first two floors for many years. But information gathered by the building’s owner from the local civic office this week has shown that the sense of communal amity may have been superficial. Documents procured by the owner Ayub Khan this week under the Right to Information Act have revealed that the family of Chogmal Jain – who occupy the ground floor along with a Christian household – got a separate water line sanctioned by the municipal corporation for their flat because they did not want their water coming from the same source as that of their Muslim and Christian neighbours.

While Jain on Wednesday claimed his faith had nothing to do with his dedicated water line, the then engineer with the water department in H West ward clearly mentioned “religious reasons” in his two-page sanction note. “The owner of the premises has extended the connection to a suction tank. The tenant is not getting water through a direct line due to extension of water connection to the tank. The applicant (Jain) is not ready to accept its (tank’s) supply due to religious reasons,” says the note. Aman building was constructed in the 40s. It was a ground-plus-one structure with Jains and the Christian family occupying the ground floor, while the Khans occupied the first floor. The three houses had two water lines – one for the Khans and other for the occupants of the ground floor. The line for the ground floor was split into two sub-lines carrying water directly to the two houses.

In the 80s, Khan added two floors to the building and sold four new flats on these floors. With number of occupants in the building rising, he decided to construct water storage tanks on the ground floor and the terrace. The two lines which were earlier carried water into the flats directly, were diverted to the tanks. The Jains, however, were not comfortable with this arrangement. A compromise was arrived at and an outlet was created from the new BMC line coming into the building before it reached the two storage tanks. A pipe was attached to this outlet to supply water to the Jains.

But there was a problem – since the storage tanks had booster pumps and rapidly pulled in water, the Jains on most days had to do with a trickle. Chogmal Jain applied for a separate line first in 1999 and then again in 2002. The sanction came in 2003. Khan claims he was not informed about this and the BMC did not seek his clearance before accepting the Jains’ request. “We wrote several letters to the BMC to find out how the line was sanctioned without clearance from my side. The civic body should have obtained an NOC from us before giving the new line,” said Khan. After his queries were ignored, Khan used the RTI to seek all documents and correspondence pertaining to the new connection. Last week, the papers were handed over to him. What the papers revealed was a big blow to the building’s Amar-Akbar-Anthony story. “It has come as a huge shock to us that a family that has been living with us for around 70 years has had a problem drinking water from the same tank as ours,” said Khan.

Jain, however, maintains that he sought a new connection because he wasn’t getting adequate water. “We have always had a direct line supplying fresh water to our house. All of a sudden the owners diverted that line to the tank as a result of which we had to suffer. We did not want to take water from the tanks as we were used to fresh water supply from BMC’s direct line. Moreover, we were worried that the tanks were being controlled by the owner and they would harass us for water. Hence we applied for a separate line.” He also denied applying for the connection on religious grounds. “I don’t know why the engineer sanctioned the line on grounds of religion.”


[Back to Top]

Pandya widow ‘closer to truth’ (Jun 14, 2013, The Telegraph)

The widow of a slain Gujarat minister today claimed she was “closer to the truth” after meeting the man who had been cleared of the murder but not before he had spent eight years in jail. Jagruti Pandya said she would reveal whom to investigate if a fresh probe were to be ordered, the assertion coming at a time the CBI is believed to be taking a re-look at the 2003 murder of former home minister Haren Pandya following fresh leads.

“I will tell the CBI whom they should investigate,” Jagruti told reporters at her residence this morning, a day after she returned from a visit to Visakhapatnam jail where she met Asghar Ali. Ali was in Sabarmati jail for more than eight years before his acquittal in 2011. He was later arrested by Andhra Pradesh police in connection with another case.

Jagruti said she had always wanted to meet Ali to find out the “truth” but it was not possible in Sabarmati jail, adding that she “became all the more curious” after Gujarat High Court acquitted him and 11 others, ticking off the investigating agency for “botching” up the probe. Pandya, once a close aide of chief minister Narendra Modi, was shot dead in Ahmedabad in March 2003. His father Vitthalbhai Pandya, who has since passed away, had blamed Modi for the “political murder”. Ali is believed to have promised Jagruti all possible help in her battle for justice. Asked why, Jagruti said it was because he was innocent. “He did not kill Pandya,” she added.

Jagruti said Ali told her the CBI and Gujarat police, with the help of Andhra police, had framed him and that he had been tortured into signing a confessional statement. She also said Ali told her that before being arrested by the CBI, he had never been to Ahmedabad. Ali told Jagruti that when he was in Sabarmati jail, he had handed over a letter to the then prison superintendent, Sanjiv Bhatt, the IPS officer who has been suspended since he filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging Modi’s involvement in the 2002 riots.

The letter, which apparently disclosed the identity of the “real killer”, was dismissed as “fake” by the state government. Ali told Jagruti that in the letter he said it was not him but Tulsi Prajapati who shot Pandya. Prajapati was an aide of small-time gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh. Both were killed in an alleged fake encounter in a case that has embroiled several Gujarat IPS officers and Modi aide Amit Shah. Ali believes that three IPS officers, who were posted in the Ahmedabad crime branch when he was brought there, played a crucial role in “cooking up” the case and misguiding the CBI. An agency source said the Pandya murder case might be reopened following new evidence but refused to elaborate.



[Back to Top]

NDA splits as JD-U leaves, BJP hits back at Nitish (Jun 16, 2013, Yahoo)

Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) ended its 17-year-old alliance with the BJP Sunday after days of simmering tensions, marking a major split in the country’s main opposition grouping. In a bitter end to weeks of feuding, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told Governor D.Y. Patil to sack all the 11 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers in his government for not working and vowed to prove his majority in the assembly Wednesday. Simultaneously, JD-U president Sharad Yadav announced he was quitting as convenor of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance(NDA). “We are not responsible for ending the alliance. We are pushed to this situation so as not to compromise with our basic principles,”Nitish Kumar said here. “We don’t care for the repercussions, we are not worried.”

The JD-U, one of the oldest allies of the BJP, is the 14th party to desert the NDA, which was born in 1998 and ruled India for six years under the leadership of the now ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “The JD-U is formally out of NDA and we have ended our alliance with the BJP,” Yadav told a press conference also attended by Nitish Kumar. Both stated they would not dilute the party’s “basic principles” – a political euphemism to mean they would never accept a BJP seemingly led by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The JD-U’s departure forced BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi to demand Nitish Kumar’s resignation while Sushma Swaraj called the divorce “sad and unfortunate”. The fissures between the BJP and JD-U were triggered by Nitish Kumar’s opposition to Narendra Modi and the BJP decision to make the Gujarat strongman its public face in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. “We were forced to end our alliance with the BJP in view of some latest development that put us in a difficult situation and so as not to compromise with our basic principles,” Yadav said.

He sought to draw a line between a Modi-driven BJP and BJP stars Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, pointing out that the JD-U alliance with the NDA was based on a national agenda forged during the Vajpayee-Advani era. “Now it seems the BJP is trying to bring controversial issues like the Ram temple into its agenda,” he said, referring to the raging temple row of Ayodhya that the BJP had put on the backburner for years. The BJP hit back. Sushil Modi asked Nitish Kumar to resign on moral grounds. “He was elected as head of the NDA in Bihar when he was made the chief minister. Now that he is no more an NDA leader, he has no moral right to continue.” Sushil Modi, once considered close to Nitish Kumar, said the JD-U decision was “a black letter day”.

In Kanpur, BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said his party won’t go back on the decision to make Narendra Modi its election campaign chief. “Whatever decision has been taken on Narendra Modi, we will not go back at any cost, whether the NDA alliance breaks once or 10 times.” However, BJP chief Rajnath Singh was more guarded in his reaction, even as he defended the decision to elevate Narendra Modi. “Why did the JD-U snap ties (with the BJP)? What was our mistake? They have disintegrated our emotional relationship of 17 years,” he said, while addressing the BJP’s youth convention in New Delhi.

“To be successful in the general elections, we have made Narendra Modi the chief of the election campaign committee. Is that my mistake? Every political party creates a campaign committee for any elections. Was the JD-U angered just by this and snapped such old ties?” he said. Earlier Sunday, Nitish Kumar met the governor and said he wanted all BJP ministers out of his ministry as they had stopped attending office. “This situation cannot continue. Ministers are meant to work. Such a situation is not acceptable,” he said, adding he had called for a special session of the assembly Wednesday to prove his majority. The JD-U has 118 seats in the 243-member assembly, only four short of majority, while the BJP has 91 members. There are six independents in the assembly while the Congress has four members. The BJP has accused the JD-U of trying to poach its legislators.



[Back to Top]

‘Mahalkar part of Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts’ (Jun 13, 2013, Indian Express)

The identity of one of the four persons who planted the bombs in the Samjhauta Express, Ramesh Venkat Mahalkar, was disclosed for the first time by the NIA in the supplementary chargesheet. The agency said he has been missing from his home in Surgaon village in Nanded, Maharashtra, four years before the blast. He was so far known as Amit alias Prince and was involved in Malagaon blasts and the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast.

The agency told the court that Mahalkar left his house around 2002-03 from his native village and there was no information about his whereabouts. His family did not reveal the reason why he left the house and his identity was established through school records. The NIA claimed that accused Rajendar Chaudhary used to visit Mahalkar’s room at Sarvsampan Nagar, Indore. It was at the same place that the four Samjhauta blast accused received the bombs from Ramchandar Kalsangra, who used to pay the Mahalkar’s house rent and is now on the run.

The NIA revealed it was in this Indore room that accused Kamal Chauhan and Mahalkar sealed the bottles filled with inflammable oil, which “later became part of the assembled bomb”. The probe has found that Mahalkar learnt to use timer bombs, make pipe bombs and fire pistols at a training camp at Bagli forest in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, in January 2006. The NIA was taken to the forest area where the bomb training was imparted by Chaudhary. Forensic examination of soil samples collected from the area had showed presence of high-grade explosive RDX.



[Back to Top]

Ishrat Jahan case: CBI says it has evidence against IB officer (Jun 14, 2013, Indian Express)

CBI director Ranjit Sinha Thursday claimed the agency has sufficient evidence against Intelligence Bureau special director Rajendra Kumar for his alleged involvement in the 2004 fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan and four others. As reported by The Indian Express Thursday, the move by the CBI to name Kumar as an “accused” in the case has sparked a row with IB director S A Ibrahim even complaining to the PMO.

On Thursday, home secretary R K Singh called the CBI director and IB director to discuss the controversy and defuse the situation. The agency said it will question Kumar on Tuesday and may not arrest him.

“We have evidence against Kumar and the agency’s proceedings are as per the law,” Sinha said after the meeting. According to the CBI, Kumar, who was then a joint director in the IB, colluded with the then Gujarat DGP K R Kaushik and then joint commissioner P P Pandey to generate the IB input that led to the encounter and was also involved in planning it.

The BJP said the CBI-IB dispute would hurt national security. “It has gone this far because Congress tried to misuse the IB for short-term political gains,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.



[Back to Top]

Ex-DGP KR Kaushik now an accused in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case (Jun 13, 2013, DNA India)

In a new development in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday summoned former Ahmedabad commissioner of police (CP), KR Kaushik as an accused. He had also been questioned by the investigating agency, a few days earlier.

The 1972-batch Gujarat IPS officer was earlier questioned in connection with the intelligence input that was provided to him from the central Intelligence Bureau (IB), which was eventually communicated to then the joint CP, Detection of Crime Branch (DCB), PP Pandey. Pandey, also sought by the agency in the case, has been untraceable since May 10.

The CBI, after the questioning of central IB special director Rajendra Kumar as well as suspended Gujarat IPS officers GL Singhal and DG Vanzara had concluded that the said intelligence input was ‘cooked up’ only with the intent of eliminating Ishrat Jahan and three others.

During the course of investigation, the agency had found that Kaushik was privy to the intention of the accused cops to stage the encounter. However, he was not physically present when the killings took place. Sources in the agency claim it is also looking into why and how the conspiracy to stage the killings was hatched.

According to sources, being head of the city police at the time, he is responsible for the criminal act that took place under his jurisdiction, as he was aware it was going to happen. Kaushik, according to the sources, was cornered by the CBI on the basis of the IB input that he had passed on to DCB. Following his retirement as Gujarat director general of police (DGP) in September 2008, he has been working with a corporate company.



[Back to Top]

Khalid Mujahid’s uncle: Both SP and Congress leaders are playing game (Jun 14, 2013, Twocircles.net)

Khalid Mujahid’s uncle Zahir Alam Falahi has been fighting the court battle since his nephew was arrested in 2007. After Khalid’s custodial death on May 18, he also filed an FIR against and a case was registered against 42 police officers including former DGP Vikram Singh, ADG Brijlal and others who were on duty during the time of Khalid’s arrest in Barabanki. Hasan Zia Rizvi of TCN spoke with Zahir Alam Falahi on his battle for justice.

UP government has ordered CBI probe, you are still demonstrating, what are your demands? The CBI probe has still started, and if it will take longer time we’ll have to knock the door of the High Court. On our demands, we want that 42 police personnel, including intelligence agency officials, against whom FIR has been registered, should be arrested immediately and probe should begin immediately. Further, we demand from the government to immediately release Tariq Qasmi as he face threat to his life. We have lost faith in the Police and are worried about his security.

You alleged recently in the Press club that senior SP leader and minster in the Akhilesh cabinet, Azam Khan knows everything and is hence silent? Yes, I actually responded to a statement of Azam khan, where he had said “the case will be submitted in 3 courts, 1st district court, 2nd high court and 3rd court of God”, responding to the Barabnki court’s refusal to accept UP government’s petition on withdrawing cases against Khalid and Tariq. The government has not yet taken it to the next stage that is the High Court. Further, I suspect that being a senior minster he knew about the conspiracy against Khalid Mujahid.

UP cabinet has accepted the RD Nimesh Commission Report and it may be tabled soon in the Assembly. What do you have to say? Both SP and Congress leaders are playing game. Nimesh Commission report should be submitted to High Court and case should be registered against the police officers who took custody of Khalid. Instead the UP government argues in court that the cases should be withdrawn as it would promote harmony.

Rihai Manch is leading a sustained demonstration for 23 days now. They have been supporting the cause for long… Yes, we owe to them and applaud their efforts. They have really helped us fight and supported in all our efforts. They have been working for not only Khalid and Tariq, but for the release of several other innocent Muslim youths who are in jail on fabricated terror charges. I am also thankful to all those individuals and social organisations who extended their support in our struggle for justice.



[Back to Top]

Eidgah razed, Wakf Board seeks Hooda’s intervention (Jun 15, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Three days after the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) demolished an Eidgah at Palam Vihar, members of a mosque committee on Friday asked chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to ensure that the land should be transferred to the Wakf Board.

Huda officials had demolished the boundary wall of the Eidgah constructed on a 2.75-acre plot in Palam Vihar on Monday. The plot was acquired by Huda in 2007. The mosque committee members said that the chief minister met with the Chauma Masjid Intezamia committee members and assured them that the land will be returned to the Wakf Board.

“As per the procedure, the Wakf Board will have to send an application to the deputy commissioner in this regard. The CM will have to move it in the cabinet, following which the cabinet will approve the land to be de-notified from Huda and returned to the Wakf board”, said Suhel Khan, member, Chauma Masjid Intezamia committee.

On the other hand, the area resident welfare association president, Sunil Yadav, said that the land should be put to use for the residential purpose and ensure peace in the locality. “We have already informed the district administration and police department that the residents want peace in the locality,” Yadav said. Rohtash Jhangu, vice president of Palam Vihar RWA, said, “The land belongs to Huda and it should be allowed to make use of it.”



[Back to Top]

Telangana protest: Hyderabad turned into a fortress (Jun 14, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The Andhra Pradesh capital was today turned into a fortress with 10,000 policemen from the state and 2,000 Central paramilitary force personnel deployed in view of the ‘Chalo assembly’ protest called by pro-Telangana parties. Police have denied permission for the protest and imposed prohibitory orders in the limits of Hyderabad and Cyberabad Police Commissionerates which will be in force till 6am on June 15.

A number of roads leading to the legislative assembly in central part of the city have either been closed or traffic diverted. Office-goers and others had a tough time in view of the restrictions. The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) has regulated its services, while the South Central Railway has cancelled or partially cancelled its local trains. A number of educational institutions have declared a holiday on Friday.

The students of Osmania University sought to march to the Assembly but they were stopped by the security personnel. TRS, BJP and Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), under whose auspices the protest is being organised, have alleged that the Andhra Pradesh government has “unleashed repressive measures to put down the Telangana agitation.” Maintaining that they intend to organise the protest peacefully to voice the separate statehood demand, the leaders of TRS, BJP and the JAC had sought permission for the rally from the government.



[Back to Top]

150 Maoists attack train in Bihar, shoot 3 men dead, loot arms from RPF jawans (Jun 13, 2013, Indian Express)

Over 150 armed Maoists today carried out a daring attack on a Patna-bound train, killing three persons, including an RPF jawan, and injuring five others in Bihar’s Naxal-affected Jamui district before looting passengers and fleeing with weapons. Police and railway officials said RPF jawan Sukhnath D Singh and a passenger were killed in the attack while Kumar Amit, a Patna-based Bihar police sub-inspector, was found dead in an AC coach when the Dhanbad-Patna Inter-City Express reached Keul at Lakhisarai, ECR Chief Public Relation Officer (CPRO) Amitabh Prabhakar and Lakhisarai DSP Vijay Prasad said.

Five persons, identified as K P Singh (train guard), Manoj Kumar Singh (railway employee at Jamalpur), Dharmendra Sah (Lakhisarai), P K Tripathi (Patna) and Satish Kumar (Muzaffarpur) suffered injuries and were given treatment at Keul station, Prabhakar said adding that Manoj Kumar Singh’s condition was stated to be serious. Around 150 Maoists forcibly stopped the train near Kunder Halt between Jamui and Mananpur railway stations, about 170 km from Patna, at 1320 hours and fired indiscriminately for about half-an-hour on the train and its passengers, Additional Director General of Police (ADG), Law and Order, S K Bharadwaj said.

The Maoists also looted weapons from two RPF personnel and later let the train go towards its onward journey, he said. Two companies of CRPF have rushed to the spot to carry out a combing-cum-search operation against the Maoists who retreated into the forest after carrying out the daring daylight attack on the train, Jamui district magistrate Shashikant Tiwari said. The operations against the Maoists was being led by the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Md. Abdullah, he said, adding blood stains have been found on various spots which pointed to injuries or casaulties among the retreating ultras.

The Maoists also detonated explosives to deter the security forces from chasing them, Tiwari said. The DM said that prime facie it appeared that the Maoists attacked the train to loot passengers as also weapons from the RPF escort party. Bihar’s Director General of Police (DGP) Abhayanand said details about the sequence of events had been sought from the District Magistrate of Lakhisarai. Minister of State for Railway Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the Maoists were now looking for soft targets to create a fear psychosis.

“They are now cornered. That is why they are now looking for soft targets,” he said. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in Delhi that CRPF personnel have been rushed to the trouble spot. The injured train guard and the RPF jawan were in a serious condition, Railway Minister C P Joshi said. The passengers were safe and the train resumed its onward journey after about 75 minutes, Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal said. The Naxals retreated into the forest after carrying out the daring daylight attack on the train, he said. The Maoists also detonated explosives to deter the security forces from chasing them, Tiwari said.



[Back to Top]

Outraging modesty of women: Victim’s version enough to nail accused, says HC (Jun 13, 2013, Indian Express)

The Bombay High Court has held that in cases of outraging modesty of women, the evidence tendered by the victim should be sufficient to nail the accused and it was not necessary to seek corroboration. The court observed this while finding a man guilty of outraging the modesty of his brother’s wife. In this regard, the Judge relied entirely upon the evidence given by the victim. “Such evidence can be given only by the victim herself. There is no other to see, depose or corroborate it. There have been divorce proceedings between the complainant and her husband. She was living in the same house with her child. The family members would naturally not help her if such an incident transpired,” noted Justice Roshan Dalvi.

The victim has been cross-examined at length. However, no discrepancies were pointed out in her evidence. “No other can depose on her behalf”, the Judge noted in her order on June 10. The court dismissed an appeal filed by Ashok Ghodke against a Pune magistrate’s order finding him guilty of outraging the modesty of his sister-in-law. However, he and other family members had been acquitted of charges of cruelty (section 498A) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of Indian Penal Code. The high court also upheld the lower court’s order of February 24, 2009, rejecting the plea of the accused that there was no independent witness in the case.

“There would be none under such circumstances. Only her (the victim’s) little son was present with her. The incident happened after midnight. Hence the neighbours would be asleep”, the judge observed. “She was not allowed to shout when she tried to shout because the applicant herein closed her mouth. He would have overpowered her. The learned magistrate has rightly observed that multiplication of witnesses is unnecessary and such evidence needs no corroboration of any sort”, Justice Dalvi remarked. The high court held that the magistrate had correctly said that no woman would take recourse to such type of incident to falsely implicate anyone by putting her character at stake.

In fact, in this case the complaint was also under Section 498A and 406 of IPC. This has been prosecuted and the accused acquitted. Their acquittal of that charge has nothing to do with the proof of the charge against the applicant herein only under section 354 of IPC, Justice Dalvi noted. She observed that the case of outraging modesty of the victim has to be seen essentially only from her evidence as the incident transpired within the confines of the kitchen in her house though another witness has been examined in that behalf also. The incident transpired at 1 AM on October, 21, 2007, when the accused jumped in the victim’s bed in the kitchen where she was sleeping with her son. However, she somehow rescued herself and called her mother-in-law.

Rather than helping her, the mother-in-law told her that her husband was going to leave her and that she should assume that her brother-in-law was her husband. There were strained relations between the victim and her family members. Her husband was having an affair with another woman. He used to come once in a week to the house. Only her father-in-law was a good person. Hence her mother-in-law did not come to her assistance. She tried to run away outside the house when her brother-in-law and mother-in-law caught her and the latter poured kerosene and both of them beat her. The victim ran away from their clutches and went to her sister’s place to seek shelter. “In fact, the proof of the charge of outraging modesty by the brother-in-law of the victim in view of the strained relations with her husband, and the act of the mother-in-law of the victim in not helping her when she shouted for help but in fact asking her to surrender to her other son shows the mental cruelty also”, the judge observed. Justice Dalvi asked the accused to surrender before the concerned magistrate within six weeks.



[Back to Top]

Opinions and Editorials

New push to Hindutava – By Kuldip Nayar (Jun 14, 2013, Deccan Herald)

It has introduced pure communalism to the soft Hindutava that prevailed so far. By appointing the hardliner Narendra Modi, Gujarat chief minister, the panel chief for the 2014 Parliament election, the party has dropped every bit of ambiguity over secularism. It is stark Hinduism for all to see. Apparently, the old leadership resisted the decision. Senior leader L K Advani had even submitted his resignation from all the posts he held in the party. Yet the irresponsible younger cadre was in no mood to accommodate the sober point of view. For them, a sharper communal politics was the minimum. Advani had reportedly warned behind the walls that Modi was not a proper person for India. The atmosphere may become more bitter when the BJP propagates the Hindu Rashtriya openly. True, the concept goes against the very grain of the constitution which wanted the country a secular democratic republic. But the BJP has found no benefit from it. In the future, the very word, secularism, will come under different interpretations.

Therefore, Modi’s acceptance speech was understandably vehement against the Congress, the largest political party which has come to be associated with secularism. He wants the party to disappear from the scene so that there is no confusion between the BJP, a Hindu outfit, and the Congress, with secular credentials. This may or may not happen but the BJP has embarked upon the task of wiping the slate clean with no mention of secularism whatsoever. Since independence, even long before it, the freedom struggle was based on the idea of an independent India which would know no difference on the basis of community or caste. The leaders immersed in that struggle agreed to India’s partition but not to the thesis that the religion could be mixed with politics. Secularism is thus the corner stone of the structure that India has tried to raise after partition. It has not been an ideal effort. Yet it has kept the country together, with no recurring example of communal divide.

In the process, the nation has also come to recognise the distance between the communal forces and the secular elements. It has resulted in a healthy development: secular political parties have generally kept away from the BJP to stall its installation at the Centre. The induction of Modi may not defeat the process. But it will definitely confuse the Hindus who, leave some apart, are animated with cosmopolitan thoughts. They stopped the BJP winning in the last two parliamentary election because when the time for casting votes came, they put their weight behind the liberal forces which has kept the country more or less midway, neither left or right. The danger of its going right has increased now. RSS, which has initiated and supported Modi sees in him someone nearer to their ideology of Hindutava and anti-Muslim. Real Modi was, however, exposed when he blessed the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat a decade ago. Not a word of regret even after years only underlines his anti-Muslim thinking. How can India have a person like him as the prime minister?

The repercussions of such a person at the helm of BJP, not possessing even a semblance of liberalism, can be dangerous. Obsessed with driving a wedge between Hindus and Muslims, he can vitiate the young mind. Liberalism or idealism already receding to the background, bigotism and the extremism will go to allocate what is left of the composite culture. When I was India’s High Commissioner at London, prime minister Margret Thatcher asked me the secret of India staying together for centuries. I told her that we did not believe that the country was divided into black and white. We believed that there was a vast grey area. We went on expanding that area. That was our secularism. Modi will make black further bleak and shut every opening for the grey area to expand. In the last few decades, the BJP has purveyed the impression that it is looking for a space that will give it an image of being right of Right, that of pro-Hindu but not of extremist. Modi will stop such an ideology developing. It will be saffron all the way.

The BJP has foolishly come to realize that it would have to sharpen difference with the Muslims to look different. It believes that if there is any time to play the Hindu card, it is now. This is a wrong thinking, leaving no space for even small gestures for conciliation. The greatest benefit of Modi’s importance will be to the Congress.Not that it is intrinsically secular but it has the reputation of being so. The Muslim electorate, nearly 15 per cent, will move towards the Congress and adversely affect large parties like of Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi party, which has a large Muslim following in UP. The party’s image is also secular. The Congress will gain because the next election is not that of state Assembly but of Parliament. The Muslims, know the importance. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the BJP’s allies, may still part company with the party. The real loss is that of the Indian nation. At a time when it looks that the various elements have found their identity within the country, Modi’s image of parochialism comes in the open. The idea of India will be jeopardised. It is a pity that the country will be unsettling when it is settling down to an ideology which may not be purely secular but does not disturb people of different faiths to live a life of their own in their own way.



[Back to Top]

Narendra Modi On Sardar Patel: Putting Goebbels To Shame – By Shamsul Islam (Jun 13, 2013, Countercurrents)

Gujarat Chief Minister and Hindutva icon Narendra Modi, while inaugurating an all-India conference on livestock and dairy development on June 11, 2013 in Gandhinagar, announced a nation-wide campaign to collect small pieces of iron from farmers and use them to build a ‘Statue of Unity’ in memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first interior minister of independent India in Nehru’s cabinet. He announced, “On the day of Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary on October 31, 2013, we will launch a nation-wide campaign, covering more than five lakh villages throughout the country, to collect small pieces of iron of any tool used by farmers from each village, that will be used in the building of the statue.” This ‘Statue of Unity’ is to be the tallest statue on Earth: the 182 metres (392 feet) tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – the Iron Man – will be built opposite the Sardar Sarovar Dam over the Narmada river in south Gujarat.

Modi lamented the fact that architect of modern India, “Sardar Patel brought the nation together. But gradually his memories are fading away” and went on to declare that “to reinvigorate his memory and as a fitting tribute to the Iron Man of India, we are building this statue, which will be double in height than the Statue of Liberty in New York.” He also reminded the audience that “Sardar Patel was also a farmer who was instrumental in bringing farmers into the freedom struggle.” This grandiose project of Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who is an RSS whole-timer, raises a few pertinent issues. He was inaugurating a national conference on livestock and dairying, both of which are passing through a very critical phase due to famine, corporatization of agricultural land and high costs. The well-being of livestock and dairying is essentially connected with the well-being of farmers.

According to official data, in the last one decade, on an average, one Indian farmer committed suicide every 40 minutes due to debt, sub-standard seeds/manure, high costs and scarcity of water, to name only few of the endless problems. In the same decade millions of head of cattle have perished due to famine, shrinking pasture lands and handing over fertile lands to business houses and builder mafias. Dairy products have become luxury items beyond the reach of common Indians. India leads the world in having the largest number of under-nourished children and women. Shockingly, Modi had no comments on this worsening scenario. Modi’s love for Sardar Patel is intriguing for many reasons. Patel was a Congress leader who, inspired by Gandhi’s principle of non-violence, led a great and very powerful movement of farmers at Bardoli taluka in 1928. This is known as the Bardoli Satyagraha and the then pro-British English Press described it as “Bolshevism in Bardoli” and Patel as its “Lenin.”

Patel was awarded the title ‘Sardar’ after this heroic struggle. This peasants’ movement started against the extortionate lagan imposed by the British rulers and landlords and selling of large tracts of agricultural land to moneybags of Bombay. Sardar Patel led the movement but he had devoted Congressmen/women workers, both Hindus & Muslims, like Imam Saheb Abdul Kadir, Uttamchand Deepchand Shah, Mohanlal Kameshwar Pandya, Bhaktiba Desai, Darbar Gopaldas Desai, Meethubehn Petit, Jugatrambhai Dave, Surajbehn Mehta, Umar Sobani and Phoolchand Kavi, who challenged the colonial masters and their henchmen at the ground level. One important fact to be noted is that the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS, which existed during this period, kept aloof from this historical struggle. Modi’s co-option of Patel, who was a prominent Congress leader of the anti-British freedom struggle, is part of a ploy of the Hindutva camp to be seen as part of the freedom movement despite having betrayed it. This kind of co-option game is likely to succeed, as the Congress as a party has become indifferent to its anti-colonial legacy.

Dead persons do not speak, and Sardar Patel cannot appear to put across the truth. However, contemporary documents show that Modi’s and the Hindutva camp’s love for Sardar Patel is based on lies. Sardar Patel hated Hindutva politics and was the person who imposed the first ban on the RSS. … Despite all these facts, Narendra Modi claims to love Sardar Patel. It only shows that Modi has no qualms about resorting to deceits for selfish gains. Sardar Patel is a ready-made heroic figure. Modi does not have to manufacture him. He and the RSS have only to hide the fact that the man was opposed to their organization and had acted against it, and then, by what can only be called theft, proceed to make him one of their own. This defiance of historical fact is characteristic of the strategy of the Hindutva camp. Goebbels is dead, long live Modi.



[Back to Top]

Whither Justice: Fabricated Cases And State – By Ram Puniyani (Jun 15, 2013, Countercurrents)

Rihai Manch, a forum for getting justice to the falsely implicated youth in the cases of acts of terror has currently (June 2013), held a protest Dharna (sit in) to demand the arrest of police and IB officials responsible for the death of Maulana Khalid Mujahid, to implement the R.D. Nimesh Commission report and to release the innocent Muslim youth implicated in acts of terror. This campaign is getting broader support from more human rights groups and affected community. This is the major effort by a civic society group to democratically protest against the insensitive and biased state machinery, to pressurize it to come to the path of justice.

The Samajvadi Party, Akhilesh Yadav Government in UP, had earlier claimed to be the major champion of the cause of Muslims, to the extent that the main leader of this party Mulayam Singh Yadav was derogatorily called Mulla Mulayam. But as he came to power last time also during his regime many a communal episodes, violence, took place under the very nose of the Government. Currently also Akhilesh Yadav’s regime is marked by over 27 episodes of major riots. On the top of that this Government in its election promise had said that the innocents, implicated in the acts of terror will be released. On the contrary, the death of Maulana Khalid Mujahid in the police custody has raised sufficient doubts about the intentions of the Government.

Even R.D. Nimesh Commission report was kept in the cold storage from last one year, and now when it has been released finally, the government is refraining from taking action, hiding behind the argument that it will be discussed in future Assembly session before action is taken on the report. As such Government has full prerogative to take action at Cabinet level. People fear that this commission report may also face the same fate as the other commission reports, which are generally put on the backburner or put in the cold storage. Ashsish Khaitan, one of the journalists with dogged determination, sensitivity and honesty, has floated a portal, Gulail (Slingshot) to highlight the investigative reports related to the framing of innocents by authorities. Many an officers have falsely implicated innocents, despite knowing the truth, to enhance their own career prospects or to due to the biases which have gripped the large sections of the law enforcement agencies. These agencies regard that only youth from one religious community are responsible for the acts of terror.

Khiatan also opines that putting forward the truth of such cases is also not of much use; as in such cases reports of honest investigations are overshadowed by the biased reporting and opinions in the print, T.V. and social media. He is pinning his hopes on judiciary and the people’s campaigns for getting justice. The ongoing dharna in UP is drawing the attention of the social groups and is being sustained for over two weeks by the social activists and the pained and anguished community, whose young ones’ are being incarcerated and have to suffer not only the future career prospects but have also to get the blame, which ostracize them from social life. In this direction various efforts have been undertaken in the past but after temporary response and restraint the investigation agencies lapse in to their usual prejudiced actions.

Not only can this be seen in the case of UP, but overall one sees the wide gulf between the promises and actual actions of the so called ‘secular parties’. While in Maharashtra the Congress coalition came to power with the promise of implementing Shrikrishna Commission report of 92-93 riots, after coming to power on this promise it put forward the usual excuses and the guilty police officers and political leadership continued to be in their positions of power despite sufficient proof of their involvement in instigating and participating in the riots., As for as justice to the victims and action against the guilty is concerned Samajvadi Party seems to be no different. The R.D. Nimesh Commission has given the full truth based on which it can proceed to punish the guilty police officers, but that’s what is being avoided. The credentials of so called secular parties are more are less similar, be it the Congress or be it the Samajvadi Party, they have very opportunistic attitude as far as the justice to minorities is concerned. While communal parties are out to do away with the rights of minorities and deny them justice through and through, these so called secular parties have dual character. They promise and are unable to deliver as their calculations are built around the vote bank politics. …



[Back to Top]

Flawed vision – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Jun 28, 2013, Frontline)

The strategies adopted by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government throughout its nine years in power to combat the guerilla tactics and growing political influence of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) have been characterised by ad hoc and ill-planned security initiatives. These initiatives have time and again fallen flat, underscoring the absence of a larger political vision to take on left-wing extremism (LWE).

The gruesome attack by Maoist insurgents on a convoy of Congress leaders and workers at Darbha Ghati in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar division on May 25 and the developments before and after the attack have once again highlighted the confusion in the ruling dispensation on the question of combating insurgency. In fact, the situation in the context of the May 25 incident is far more complicated than before on account of a combination of political, administrative and security matters.

This is so because the Darbha Ghati incident has not only brought up questions about the efficacy of the anti-LWE security machinery and its evaluation at the administrative level but raised pointed queries about the collusion of segments of mainstream political leaders with the Maoists in perpetrating such acts of violence. Consequently, the topmost leadership of the Congress, the principal constituent of the UPA, has been compelled to launch its unpublicised internal probe into the incident, focussing primarily on the collusion angle. Given the track record of the Congress in the past nine years, this initiative may not result in altering the leadership’s vague perceptions about combating LWE.

The biggest question, according to a senior security specialist who was part of the highly successful counterterrorism operations in Tripura, which shares its border with Bangladesh, during the late 1990s, is whether the security machinery, the administration and the political leadership can make realistic, fact-oriented and level-headed assessments about the situation on the ground and advance commensurate action on the basis of this assessment.



[Back to Top]

CIC’s Nudge – Editorial (Jun 22, 2013, Economic &Political Weekly)

The Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling that all political parties are public authorities under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and that those currently designated as national parties should not only appoint mandatory information authorities but also disclose information under relevant sections of the Act within six weeks is a landmark decision. It has, not surprisingly, visibly shaken some political parties. It has also divided public opinion about its implications. The practical difficulties of implementing the order notwithstanding, studies on party democracy, regulation and finance inform us that there is considerable merit in the spirit of the ruling. The general atmosphere which probably encouraged the CIC intervention may have been, as has been correctly observed, a result of a pervasive climate of distrust of political parties in general and politicians specifically. Yet, this widespread trust deficit is not something specific to India but is shared with most other democracies where large proportions of the citizenry find political parties more corrupt as compared to other institutions. Consequently, the demands for greater and constant public scrutiny of politicians and political parties have been steadily rising.

The new institutional literature in political science informs us that regulation can be used to manoeuvre political parties to successfully serve societal needs and public interest. Most recently, the European Union (EU) was involved in a long-drawn-out discussion on regulating the functioning of European political parties. In this connection, the Giannakou report of the European parliament not only covered funding aspects but also examined issues relating to internal party democracy. In the academic literature, the calls for greater transparency, accountability and consequently regulation and scrutiny of political parties have been advanced primarily on three grounds. The first could be called the public good argument. From a distinctively anti-party tradition, there has been a complete reversal in the discourse in party studies. E E Schattschneider’s much-cited assertion that “modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of political parties” is emblematic of the central position of parties in representative democracies today. Parties are, in this public good perspective, seen as necessary and vital institutions in a democracy which not only link citizens to the government but also provide them an important space to express their opinions and interests.

This argument is amply evident in the CIC order in numerous places where it recognises the critical role of parties and their remarkable impact on the lives of citizens. The ruling echoes Schattschneider when it says, “no political party, no democracy” and then goes on to place high expectations on political parties. In its understanding, parties are not only the “building blocks of a constitutional democracy” but the “lifeblood of our polity”. Furthermore, the CIC also earnestly holds that parties are “engaged in performing a public duty”. Implicitly, the CIC believes it is this public good or duty that allows parties to receive public funding. The order, drawing from various judicial pronouncements, argues that government funding, albeit indirectly in the form of subsidised land and building, income tax exemptions, free airtime on All India Radio and Doordarshan during elections and so on, supposedly helps achieve a “felt need of a section of the public or to secure larger societal goals”. Consequently, it is the same public good that expects political parties to exercise greater transparency in their functioning.

The equality and fairness argument is the second reason often advanced in favour of greater regulation of political parties. The literature notes that regulation of party functioning will allow for greater transparency which not only ensures fair competition between different parties but also helps maintain a level playing field. The third reason is that openness in political parties increases the confidence and trust of the people in public institutions, and consequently strengthens democracy and reinforces the legitimacy of the system. At the same time it is held that regulation also checks misuse/abuse of power and helps maintain the integrity of the democratic process. The concerns that the provisions of the RTI Act could be used unfairly by rivals and that providing information may take up substantial resources in terms of staff and time need to be addressed. The “substantive public interest” criterion could be used to open up specific areas and sectors to greater public scrutiny. This could include finances, membership registers and the constitution, and rules and regulations. It should be made mandatory for political parties to provide requisite information in these three areas in an intelligible form on a regular basis. The Election Commission could become the repository of this data, freeing parties from any so-called unfair use of the RTI.

The answers to questions as to what political parties are, what they are expected to do, and how they are managed have not only varied from society to society and also from time to time but there have also been different voices within a society. There are clearly no objective answers. Every system needs to evolve according to its own requirements and build rules and regulations which would define the role and contribution of political parties. The spirit of the CIC ruling is only a gentle nudge towards possibly renewing our democratic commitment and cleansing its fabric. Even if this order is not agreeable in its present form, the idea of greater public accountability of the financing and functioning of political parties is one whose time has come.



[Back to Top]

On rape, from silence to justice – By Jonathan Derby (Jun 15, 2013, The Hindu)

Recently, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released its annual Crime in India report for 2012. It reported 24,923 police-registered rape cases across India, a slight increase of three per cent compared to last year. In Delhi city, the increase was much sharper: there were 585 reported rapes, an increase of 29.1 per cent from last year. No doubt in the coming days, headlines will exclaim a rise in rape across India, especially in Delhi. Perhaps they will report that Delhi remains the rape capital of India. While this may or may not be true, these types of headlines do not tell the full story. Yes, rapes reported to police have increased. But it is wrong to assume that more reported rapes mean actual rapes have increased too. In India, as is the case across the world, sexual assaults reported to police reflect “the tip of the iceberg” of the reality of sexual assault beneath society’s cold, murky waters.

Frankly speaking, in a country with 1.2 billion people, the NCRB’s statistic on reported rape cases is a very low number. In contrast, a 2007 Ministry of Women and Child Development study surveyed 12,447 children across 13 States in India. The study revealed that 20.9 per cent of the children surveyed had suffered severe forms of sexual abuse, which includes sexual assault, making a child fondle private parts, making a child exhibit private body parts and being photographed in the nude. Given that children comprise more than one-third of India’s population, you begin to understand the tremendous gap between reported and actual incidents of sexual assault across all sectors of society. This gap points to a culture of silence that resists reporting, or even acknowledging, that sexual assault has occurred.

Keeping this in mind, there is a more hopeful way to look at the higher reported rapes in 2012: more victims and their families overcame the pressure to keep quiet about sexual abuse. They preferred justice to silence. The media plays a powerful role in changing this culture of silence towards sexual abuse. For example, the media’s focused coverage on the rape and eventual murder of the 23 year-old physiotherapy student on December 16, 2012 keyed massive public outcries, which pressured the government to strengthen sexual assault laws. As a result, the government enacted the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which broadens the definition of rape, increases protection for rape victims and makes punishments harsher. In the same way, if the media responsibly highlights the wrongs of sexual assault and the importance of acknowledging that it occurred, more victims will be encouraged to demand justice. But this leads to another problem.

One fact safely drawn from the NCRB’s statistic on reported rapes is that more rape cases are entering India’s criminal justice system. It is a system overburdened and ill-equipped to effectively investigate and adjudicate its cases, which results in weak police investigation, long delays for courts to complete trials, low conviction rates and insensitive treatment of victims. In fact, according to the NCRB, in 2012 there was only a 23.3 per cent conviction rate for rape cases in India. Making matters worse, a large number of “elopement cases” clogs the criminal justice system: cases where a young girl and boy fall in love and run away together. The girl’s unhappy parents file kidnapping charges, police track down the wayward couple, and the parents compel their daughter to claim she was raped. Generally speaking, elopement cases become apparent soon after they are reported to police.

An organisation called Counsel to Secure Justice conducted an informal study on rape cases in Delhi that analysed over 350 rape trial judgments from 2011. Interestingly, nearly one-third of the cases it analysed were elopement cases. The average case took approximately 32 months to wind its way through the criminal justice system and reach judgment. Not surprisingly, these cases had a less than an eight per cent conviction rate. The victim girl, who is the key witness in the case, would often recant her story when she testified, destroying the case. Ultimately, extensive media coverage and strong laws do not mean much if victims who report sexual assault have no faith in the system that delivers justice. The media should look more deeply into the NCRB statistics and report on stories that prevent justice; the stories to which the statistics point. That way, the media can pressure the government to ensure that the criminal justice system works for victims who have the courage to report sexual assault crimes. They can play an invaluable role in breaking down the culture of silence that shrouds sexual abuse.



[Back to Top]