IAMC Weekly News Roundup - June 18th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 18th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

India protest over ‘unfair targeting of Muslims’ (Jun 14, 2012, BBC)

Civil rights activists in India have held a protest against the “unfair targeting of Muslims in the name of fighting terror”. Protest organiser Shabnam Hashmi said scores of Muslim boys and men were being held in jail on false charges. Muslims no longer felt safe even in their own homes, she said.

The activists had planned a protest outside Home Minister P Chidambaram’s house, but they were detained by the police on the way to the venue. They were later released. “We are not saying do not arrest those involved in terror activities. But do not pick up everyone. Do not pick up innocents,” Ms Hashmi told the BBC.

“Disappearances and illegal detentions have become rampant in the name of fighting terrorism. It is as though a new wave of counter-terrorism has been launched to terrorise the youth belonging to the Muslim community,” she said. Activists blame government agencies for the recent disappearance of a Muslim engineer, Fasih Mohammad, in Saudi Arabia.

In the past too, the community has expressed concern that Muslim boys are picked up randomly and they are “imprisoned, tortured and branded terrorists without a proper investigation”.



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Qateel Siddiqui murder: Yerawada jail visitor records searched (Jun 13, 2012, Times of India)

The Pune police, currently probing the murder of Bangalore bomb blast case suspect Qateel Siddiqui inside Yerawada jail, is now examining the visitors register at the jail to find out who visited the duo accused in the murder case in the last one month. Siddiqui was strangled to death in his cell by two gangsters, Sharad Mohol and Ashok Bhalerao, on Friday. tnnHe had been arrested by the Maharashtra ATS in connection with his alleged role in an attempt to plant a bomb outside the Dagdu Seth Halwai temple in Pune on February 13, 2010. He was also suspected to be involved in the Delhi Jama Masjid firing case and the blast near Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy stadium.

Mohol and Bhalerao have been booked for Siddiqui’s murder. “Investigators have gone through the jail register and have taken down details about the visitors in the last one month. They will cross check the background and credentials of the visitors and the purpose of their meeting with Mohol and Bhalerao,” said a police source. While Siddiqui’s relatives allege the murder was pre-planned, the two accused said it was the result of a sudden fight.

Cops are also looking up the last visit of the two accused to a Pune court, which happened just two days prior to the murder. “We are going by the evidence and trying to conduct a fair probe. We are in the process of verifying facts and corroborating various people’s statements. It is too early to say anything about the developments in the probe,” said a police officer.



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Gulberg riot: Court ticks off SIT, asks for probe papers (Jun 5, 2012, Indian EXpress)

The special trial court for the 2002 Gulberg Society riot case on Monday asked the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) to produce relevant documents of its probe carried out on a complaint by Zakia Jafri before the court.

Making its displeasure known after SIT sought adjournment on the ground that its final report on Zakia’s application was pending for adjudication by the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court, the special court of B J Dhandha tersely asked it if there was anything to hide in the documents which were sought.

Salim Shaikh, the lawyer for victims and witnesses in the case, said the next hearing on the matter would be on June 18.



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State wants Centre to ban right-wing Hindu outfits (Jun 16, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The state home department wants the right-wing Hindu outfits Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Dharna Shakti Sena declared as terrorist organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). An affidavit filed by the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) has stated that only the Central government has the authority to declare any organisation as unlawful under section 3 of the UAPA. The Centre can independently investigate and assess whether the outfits should be declared terrorist organisations, the affidavit states.

The affidavit has annexed a copy of a proposal marked as “secret” sent by the additional chief secretary of the home department to the Director (NIC) of Ministry of Home Affairs in April 2011, noting that three bomb blast cases have been registered against Sanstha activists. The home department reportedly stated in the letter that the outfit’s activists have been influenced by the writings of the Sanatan Prabhat, one of the Sanstha’s publications.

According to the proposal, the government has concluded that the organisation should be banned along with its sister concerns. It has requested the Centre to declare the outfits unlawful, and include them in the list of terrorist organisations under the UAPA. The court was hearing a PIL filed by Vijay Rokade seeking the declaration of the outfit as a terrorist organisation. A division bench of justice DD Sinha and justice VK Tahilramani on Friday enquired about the Sanstha’s agenda.

The Sanstha’s counsel submitted its purpose was to promote the Hindu religion. Justice Sinha also enquired about what provisions allowed an organisation to be banned. Sanstha’s counsel, and the petitioner’s lawyer JD Khairnar, said the organisation could be banned only under the UAPA. The court directed the Sanstha to file a reply to the ATS affidavit within two weeks.



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Ishrat case: CBI to quiz Intelligence Bureau officials on terror alert (Jun 18, 2012, Times of India)

The CBI will soon question some officials of the Intelligence Bureau in connection with its 2004 alert regarding Lashkar-e-Taiba’s plan to attack some BJP leaders leading to an alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan by Gujarat Police. The CBI has decided to question some IB officers to understand the basis of the warning and the source of inputs, the agency sources said. CBI sources said a Special Investigation Team constituted by Gujarat high court had recommended probe into the role of the IB officials.

They said CBI has found some indications which require the role of IB officials to be probed. They said CBI has also analyzed intelligence input generated from the IB here cautioning the state police about Lashkar-e-Taiba’s plan to attack BJP leaders L K Advani, Narendra Modi and VHP leader Praveen Togadia. The sources who refused to give the names of the IB officers said the people who were handling VIP security wing of the snooping agency will be examined to understand the basis of the alert. The agency will also investigate the inputs received by Gujarat police that led to identification of a blue car, in which Ishrat Jahan was travelling, as the car in which the alleged terrorists were travelling, they said.

The CBI on the instruction of Gujarat HC took over the probe of the alleged fake encounter in which 19-year-old Ishrat, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed on June 15, 2004. The extra judicial killings were carried out by Ahmedabad police crime branch team led by suspended IPS officer D G Vanzara, who has been arrested in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. An inquiry by metropolitan magistrate S P Tamang had alleged that 21 police officers, including then crime branch chief joint commissioner of police P P Pandey; Vanzara; the then ACP G L Singhal; and ACP N K Amin were involved in the conspiracy regarding the encounter.

Vanzara and Amin are also accused in the encounter killing of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin and in the murder of his wife Kausar Bi. They are in jail at present. The high court had ordered the CBI to also probe the claims made by the state police after the encounter that Ishrat and the other three persons were LeT terrorists on a mission to kill Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The directives came as the HC-appointed SIT had concluded that the encounter was staged by police. The agency had filed the FIR after the SIT probing the case gave its complaint to the CBI on December 15, 2011, charging all 20 policemen with murder and destruction of evidence.



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Police station chief arrested in Bihar for custodial death (Jun 16, 2012, Yahoo)

A police station chief has been arrested in Bihar’s capital following the custodial death of a man, police said here Saturday. Salman, 50, who was charged with stealing vehicles, died from injuries he sustained when was allegedly beaten up during interrogation at the Maner police station here, a police official said.

Police station chief Ras Bihari Paswan has been arrested, and all others posted at the police station have been suspended, Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Amrit Raj said.

Salman’s condition deteriorated after a local court sent him to judicial custody. The authorities at Beur jail here, where Salman was to be lodged in judicial custody, refused to take him in owing to his serious condition, a relative claimed.



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Day after, town in Amreli observes bandh, 9 held for rioting (Jun 16, 2012, Indian Express)

A day after a group clash, Damnagar town in Amreli district observed a bandh on Friday following a call given by one of the two communities involved in the violence. Meanwhile, police arrested nine persons after a complaint of rioting and damaging properties was lodged against a mob of 200 for pelting stones on a government bus.

Police have also registered cross complaints in connection with the clash reported between two communities that left 10 injured on Thursday. Police said a case of attempt to murder and rioting has been registered by one Iqbal Derriya against nine persons, including local leaders like Harji Vavadia, Bhimji Vavadia and Sanjay Viradia.

While a second case was filed by Harji Vavadia against Iqbal Derriya and 10 others for attempt to murder and riot. “The situation is under control. But the town remained closed on Friday,” said an official with the local police.



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Minority students may miss IIT chance after court order quashes sub-quota (Jun 15, 2012, Daily Mail)

The Supreme Court’s refusal to stay a high court order quashing the 4.5 per cent minority sub-quota will seriously affect over 40 per cent of the students shortlisted for counselling by the IITs under this category. According to sources at IIT Delhi, the first 175 to 190 rankers out of the total 325 minority students – mostly Muslims – will get a seat. In other words, anything between 42 to 47 per cent of the shortlisted minority candidates – who were earlier assured of a berth – may lose their chance of entering the IITs.

The first round of allotment however, is yet to be announced as the IITs are already two days behind schedule. According to the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) counselling brochure, the announcement should have been made by 9am on Thursday, that is June 14. The delay has been attributed to software problems. According to Avinash Mahajan, JEE chairman at IIT Bombay, the first round of allotment will be announced by Saturday afternoon. He, however, refused to comment on the chances of minority students securing a seat following the apex court’s refusal to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment.

Meanwhile, the minority candidates have been on the edge about their fate. ‘I called the JEE office and was told that the first allotment will be announced before Sunday,’ said Adil Ali Nirban (18), who was ranked 290 in the minority category and 3,426 in the overall OBC category. Earlier under the proposed 4.5 per cent sub-quota under the OBC reservation, 441 seats were reserved by the IITs for minorities. But the number of candidates fell severely short and only 325 were called for counselling, which practically assured them of a course and IIT of choice.

But with the Andhra Pradesh High Court striking down the sub-quota on May 28 and the SC not staying the order, the fate of these students became uncertain. The sub-quota has now been merged back into the OBC quota and the minority students have had to compete for seats along with other OBC candidates, which meant that their chances of getting a course or IIT of choice or securing admission at all is difficult unless their rank in the overall OBC category is good.



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Controversial guru Nityananda in police custody (Jun 13, 2012, Yahoo)

Controversial Hindu religious guru Nityananda Swami, who was missing from his ashram for five days following allegations of sexual exploitation of women, was Wednesday taken into “protective custody” by Karnataka Police. The 32-year-old, who is also facing rape charges, came to a trial court in Ramanagaram, about 50 km from here, to surrender after cases were slapped against him and his disciples over fracas at his ashram near here last Thursday and Friday.

Ramanagaram district police superintendent Anupam Agarwal told IANS that when Nityananda sought to surrender, trial court Judge Komala (who uses only one name) asked him to appear before the court Thursday. Hence, he was taken into “protective custody” in view of the tense situation in Bidadi, 35 km from here, where Nityananda has an ashram on a 29-acre plot, Agarwal said. Bidadi is in Ramanagaram district.

Chief Minister D. V. Sadananda Gowda June 11 ordered Nityananda’s arrest and sealing of his ashram in the wake of trouble with media personnel last Thursday and a group of Kannada activists the next day. Nityananda had called a press conference to give his version of the story following telecast by a Kannada TV channel of interviews of several women who alleged that they had been sexually exploited by him. Ramanagaram police have filed cases against Nityananda and his disciples as also against Kannada activists for the fracas at the ashram last week.

The guru went missing from his ashram late Thursday and suddenly appeared before the Ramanagaram court Wednesday, though earlier in the day he had issued a media statement that he would be back in his ashram Thursday. After the chief minister’s order to seal the ashram and arrest Nityananda, Ramanagaram police have been searching the premises for the last two days for any evidence of alleged immoral and objectionable activities there.

Nityananda faces a rape case filed in 2010 following telecast by a Tamil TV channel of a video showing him in sexual acts. Soon after the telecast, Nityananda went into hiding for over a month from March to April. Karnataka Police found him in Solan in Himachal Pradesh and he was sent to a jail in Bangalore for about seven weeks. He has been out on bail since June 2010.



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3 Odisha doctors charged in Pipli gangrape case (Jun 13, 2012, IBN)

Odisha Police have filed a chargesheet in a local court against three doctors, including one a hospital chief, for allegedly neglecting treatment of a woman who was gangraped on November 28, 2011, an official said on Wednesday. It was the fourth chargesheet the crime branch of the state police has submitted in the court of the judicial magistrate at Pipili in Puri district, nearly 20 km from in Bhubaneswar, in the gangrape of a 19-year-old woman on November 28, 2011.

The crime branch had earlier filed chargesheets against many people, including the four who allegedly gangraped the woman and against a police officer who did not take immediate action as in-charge of a local police station. The latest chargesheet was filed on Tuesday against DN Moharana, superintendent of Sriram Chandra Bhanja (SCB) Medical College and Hospital at Cuttack, Milan Mitra and KC Sahu, both doctors at a hospital in Bhubaneswar, a senior official of the crime branch said.

“They have been charged under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act,” he added. The woman was allegedly gangraped by some people near her village Arjunagoda, 10 km from Bhubaneswar, on November 28, 2011. The doctors have been accused of denying her proper treatment. The crime branch has so far arrested four people in the case. It filed it’s first chargesheet against the arrested people in March but said that there was no evidence of rape.

However, according to the woman’s family, she was gangraped by a group of men who had earlier assaulted her in 2008 and against whom she had filed a molestation case. The incident came to light when the woman was denied proper treatment at a hospital. The case had also created a political storm, prompting Agriculture Minister Pradeep Maharathy to resign Jan 19 on moral grounds after the opposition and the girl’s family alleged that he was protecting the accused. The incident is being investigated by the crime branch and a one-man judicial commission headed by a retired judge of the Orissa High Court.



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Opinions and Editorials

The Hunted in India – By Vinay Bhat (Jun 15, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Besides neo-liberalism, perhaps the greatest phenomenon to be globalized has been America’s global war on terror. Post 9/11, nation states have reinvigorated their violent campaigns against marginalized groups. In India, state violence in its quest for both capitalist modes of development and homogenization of the population into a uniform saffron shade has pushed many to imprisonment and death. The Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) released a report titled “Torture in India 2011”, which states that “a total of 14,231 persons i.e. more than four persons per day died in police and judicial custody in India from 2001 to 2010. This includes 1,504 deaths in police custody and 12,727 deaths in judicial custody from 2001-2002 to 2009-2010 as per the cases submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).” It is in light of these gruesome facts that a new human rights battle with the State needs to be waged. Until a few years ago, perhaps little would have been common between names like Qateel Siddiqui, Fasih Mahmood, Soni Sori, and Lingaram Kodopi. But separation in geography, religion, and class does not prevent a bond through common experience. This common experience has been dealt through successful state sponsored oppression and targeting. In the past one could have perhaps rejected incidents such as what has happened to the individuals above as aberrations that occur during the maintenance of law and order. But the recurring theme of targeting, incarceration, torture and oppression definitely reveals more than that. With all its fangs in public view, the State is quite explicitly waging a war on its citizens and will not stop at anything.

On June 8th 2012 Qateel Siddiqui, an individual accused for terrorist activities was murdered by inmates in the Yerwada jail, Pune. Siddiqui was arrested on the basis of having links with the Indian Mujahideen (IM) – a phantom group, having so many conflicting stories around it that one would be more inclined to believe in unicorns. Siddiqui was in a high security prison, which begs the question how was this attack carried out if not with the complicity of the prison officials. An interesting twist to this tale is that the inmates that killed Siddiqui – Sharad Mohol and Amol Bhalerao are said to have done so under the pretext of him being involved in “anti-national activities”. This is a repeat from the state’s earlier portrayal of Chotta Rajan as the nationalist don, out there to protect India from the anti-national don Dawood Ibrahim. It was not sufficient to eliminate an under-trial, and one had to create a heroic motive to the murder, so that what one should expect from society even in this case is only silence. A few weeks before Siddiqui’s murder, an Indian engineer based in Saudi Arabia Fasih Mahmood was apprehended by plain clothes Indian and Saudi officials in Saudi Arabia, while he and his wife were packing to be transferred to another city. Mahmood was to be deported on the same night of May 15th, but almost four weeks on, the Indian Government cannot even say where Mahmood is. The only person who seems to know of his whereabouts, is the “terrorism expert” journalist Praveen Swami, who like the past can pass his summary judgments and seems to have the entire Indian intelligence machinery at his disposal. Swami reported that the Interpol was to issue a warrant for the arrest of Mahmood in connection with the Bangalore stadium bomb blasts, and that Mahmood had links with IM. Now of course, the Indian Government categorically denies knowing where Mahmood is. In response to a twitter campaign asking where Fasih Mahmood is, Syed Akbarudin the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs had only this to say: “It is not only you. We are all working to know that”. Official reports state that the Saudi Government is neither accepting nor denying knowing Mahmood’s whereabouts.

It is this vicious collusion of the State with the media generating terrorists out of ordinary citizens, which ultimately helps maintain the status-quo. In the tribal belt of India, the media white-washing of Operation Green Hunt into a war against Maoism, helps maintain public sentiment on this state of civil war. Our silence helps emboldens the State to grant a presidential gallantry award to SP Ankit Garg responsible for the sexual torture of an Adivasi school teacher Soni Sori. The violence is thus legitimized. A few years from now, no one will even question the authenticity of these arrests, for the perpetrators have all been decorated as heroes, while the victims painted as villains. Soni Sori’s name routinely appears now in tabloids as a Maoist – with the token word “accused” altogether dropped. Sori faced the worst forms of humiliation in prison, with independent medical exams revealing that stones were inserted into her vagina and rectum. Sori has written about this from jail mentioning that “unspeakable things were done to her”.

Her nephew Lingaram Kodopi, suffers a similar fate in Chattisgarh for committing the crime of video documenting the burning down of three villages in Dantewada by State-sponsored vigilante groups. Kodopi was branded as a Maoist almost a year before he was arrested, having been declared the spokesperson replacing the earlier spokesperson Azad. Like his aunt, Kodopi has also called on our collective conscience by writing from jail, appealing to us and asking society if their crime is to that they are “Adivasis”. Kodopi speaks of the ill treatment through food deprivation and beatings that he and other inmates accused of Maoism routinely go through in prison. His most chilling words reflect the situation that the marginalized in India must feel each day. “Probably, I do not belong to this country at all.” he says in desperation.

Siddiqui is dead now, and we will perhaps never know the truth about his innocence or the lack of it. The chapter will be closed as an act of inmate violence. Our saffron society would want us to wipe away Mahmood, Sori and Kodopi from our memories as well. The blood-thirstiness of Indian elites is not a new phenomenon but post 26/11 has breathed new life. Tolerance for judicial processes is limited, and we would rather simply eliminate “all threats”. And, so even the Supreme Court on certain occasions has to sentence people without evidence to satisfy the “collective conscience of the country”. This is the convenient way out. There is however pockets of people who are fighting for the dignity of those summarily pronounced as lesser humans. These fights must not go on in isolation any more. There is method to the madness in which these individuals are targeted, and so the resistance must have an equally potent method. It is time to fight a concerted battle on the streets for our brothers and sisters who are oppressed and speak in unison when it is our turn to speak. There lies our hope. A democracy cannot tolerate a hunt on any section of its citizens.



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Gujarat: Myth and reality – By Bhalchandra Mungekar (Jun 12, 2012, Times of India)

A war of words has erupted between the chief ministers of Bihar and Gujarat. Bihar’s chief minister Nitish Kumar has slammed Narendra Modi for taking potshots at the state’s slow socio-economic growth. The altercation began with Modi saying that caste politics has ruined states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Hitting back, Nitish has said that Modi should look at the conditions in his own state before criticising others. For the last several years, Modi has been successful in projecting his “vibrant Gujarat” as a role model of economic growth and himself as ”Vikas Purush”. Though one must give due credit to Modi for his effective skills in making projections, one must also critically analyse this “growth story of Gujarat” based on facts and figures. Regretfully, as one examines the facts since Modi came to power in Gujarat in 2001, the story appears to be hollow and, at times, contrary to what is being projected.

First, about the rate of economic growth. During 1995-2000 and 2001-10, Gujarat increased its annual rate of growth from 8.01% to 8.68%. But so is the case with other major states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. In fact, Gujarat was ranked second after Rajasthan (8.34%) in the first period and third after Uttarakhand (11.81%) and Haryana (8.95%) in the second period. What is remarkable, Bihar and Orissa, the two most backward and poverty-stricken states, have also shown growth pick up from 4.70% and 4.42% in the first period to 8.02% and 8.13% in the second period. Even smaller states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have registered growth of 11.01% and 8.96%, respectively. During 2001-04, the rate of industrial growth for Gujarat was 3.95%, and during 2005-09, it was 12.65%. In isolation, this appears to be a phenomenal jump, but not so when compared to some other states. During these sub-periods, industrial growth for Orissa was 6.4% and 17.53%; for Chhattisgarh 8.10% and 13.3%; and for Uttarakhand 18.84% and 11.63%. Thus, the hitherto industrially backward states have far surpassed Gujarat.

In FDI, too, Gujarat has not been a leading state. During 2006-10, Gujarat signed MoUs worth Rs 5.35 lakh crore with potential of 6.47 lakh jobs. But Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu with Rs 4.20 lakh crore and Rs 1.63 lakh crore worth MoUs, expect about 8.63 lakh and 13.09 lakh jobs. To top it all, Chhattisgarh and Orissa have signed MoUs worth Rs 3.61 lakh crore and Rs 2.99 lakh crore more than Gujarat without much fanfare and Modi’s much-hyped industrial summits. In the area of credit-deposit ratio, Gujarat is far behind other major states. In 2010, Gujarat’s share in total deposits of the scheduled commercial banks was 4.70%, as against 5.42%, 6.20%, 6.34% and 26.60% for Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, respectively. The share of Gujarat in total credit disbursed by these commercial banks was 4.22%; while the same for Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tami Nadu was 29.75%, 6.71% and 9.61% respectively.

The amount of per capita deposit and per capita credit for Gujarat was Rs 37,174 and Rs 24,268; while for Tamil Nadu, it was Rs 42,580 and Rs 47,964; Karnataka Rs 49,598 and Rs 38,154; and Maharashtra Rs 1,10,183 and Rs 89,575. Even Kerala did better than Gujarat with Rs 43,890 and Rs 27,912. In terms of per capita income (PCI), in 2011, Gujarat ranked sixth among major states with PCI of Rs 63,996, after Haryana (Rs 92,327), Maharashtra, (Rs 83,471), Punjab (Rs 67,473), Tamil Nadu (Rs 72,993) and Uttara-khand (Rs 68,292). What about inclusive growth in Gujarat? Though Gujarat, with 31.8% people below the poverty line did better than Maharashtra and Karnataka, it still lagged behind Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, where poverty levels were 19.7%, 20.9%, 22.9% and 24.1%, respectively.

On three important social indicators, viz life expectancy at birth (LEB), mean years of schooling (MYS) and school life expectancy (SLE), Gujarat is far behind some other states. In Gujarat, the LEB during 2002-06 was 64.1 years and it ranked ninth among major Indian states. In the areas of MYS and SLE, during 2004-05, it ranked seventh and ninth, respectively. Kerala ranked first in all three indicators. Even Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka performed much better than Gujarat. With respect to Human Deve-lopment Index (HDI), Gujarat’s story is devastating. The HDI for Gujarat, in 2008, was 0.527 and it ranked 10 {+t} {+h} among major states. Kerala stood first (HDI: 0.790), Himachal Pradesh scored 0.652, Punjab 0.605, Maharashtra 0.572 and Haryana 0.552. With respect to three HDI components – income, health and education – Gujarat does not present a shining story. In this respect, states like Kerala took the lead in every sector, while Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal did better than Gujarat.



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Cartoons, Textbooks and Politics of Pedagogy – By G. Arunima (Jun 2, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)

Much has been written in the last few weeks on what has now been designated as the “cartoon controversy”. To recap briefly, after six years of their publication, some Lok Sabha members (across political lines, including the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party- BJP) raised a strong objection to the inclusion of Shankar’s now publicised 1949 cartoon, about the delay in the framing of the Constitution, in the National Council of Educational Reserach and Training – NCERT’s Class XI Political Science textbook. The objection was that Shankar’s cartoon, by positioning a whip wielding Jawaharlal Nehru behind Bhimrao Ambedkar (riding a snail) had ridiculed Babasaheb. The refrain of those objecting to the cartoon was that this insult had hurt dalit sentiments, and therefore the cartoon must be withdrawn from the books. Several events and claims followed the initial question in Parliament including demands for the removal of the particular cartoon in question; all cartoons; and the books themselves, the minister for human resource development (MHRD), Kapil Sibal’s apology, other than the attack on professor Suhas Palshikar’s office, all of which are now well known. In this piece therefore I do not wish to rehearse this familiar terrain, but to open up for discussion certain issues that I think deserve some reflection. These include the history of dalit politics and its radicalising influence, in intellectual and activist contexts; contextualising the idea of “hurt sentiments” within a longer history of such claims, and its implications for a social justice agenda ; and the problem of the visual in pedagogic practice.

However, let me begin first with a brief history first of recent textbook writing controversies in this country. In 1998, the MHRD minister Murali Manohar Joshi of the BJP had convened a meeting of the education ministers from different states. Here, amongst many other suggested changes, was the introduction of the idea that “education must be Indianised, nationalised and spiritualised” (SAHMAT:5). The NCERT books that were then written, with full government sanction, are amongst the worst, and most dangerous that I know of. It was not merely their unimaginably communal and casteist content that was at fault; it was also that there were glaring omissions, and were riddled with extraordinary factual errors. Significantly, the substantial protest against the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s sponsored NCERT textbooks came mainly from amongst the same group of academics and scholars who were involved in the debates and discussions that led to the writing of the new NCERT textbooks in 2005. As one of the critical commentaries in the early 2000s noted. Phule is absent, Ambedkar figures only in the communal award context and as Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution. Their role in stimulating and organizing lower caste movements….are suppressed…Perhaps the most atrocious statement, in a textbook almost unimaginably bad, occurs on (p. 59): ‘The task of the framers of the constitution was very difficult. Their foremost job was to ensure the integrity of the country taking into account the presence of Pakistan within India itself’. What is the teacher or student meant to make out of this? (Sarkar 2002: 72-76).

Unless I am entirely mistaken about this, I must say that I do not remember the kind of generalised and sustained criticism against either the errors, or the politics, of the NDA text books a decade ago, as that presently being levelled against the inclusion of Shankar’s cartoon in the political science text-book. This is significant as those books, other than being intensely communal and casteist, utilised the worst “familial” tropes of Brahminical patriarchy while speaking of history or politics. In my struggle about how to respond not merely to the initial outcry over Shankar’s cartoon, but also the increasingly polarised debate on this issue (often sustained by the speedy general common sense created via social networking sites such as Facebook) I have been wondering not merely about this incident, but also about the larger questions that under-gird this moment, and how best to respond to it, politically. In the course of the last few weeks what has become increasingly of concern to me is the structuring of political polarisation (pro/anti dalit). Significantly, now, the writers of the textbooks, the committee, and most recently the authors and signatories of the petition defending the books (and hence opposing the removal of the cartoon) have been characterised as either downright casteist, or at least deluded by elitist and upper caste myopia. As in an earlier moment, “progressive”, and “left liberal” (whatever that means) has replaced the earlier epithet of “pseudo-secular”. What is lost in this slightly self righteous ire is not merely the histories of sustained earlier protests by the self same “progressives” but also their involvement in writing textbooks in which for the first time not merely dalit, and the much longer and complex history of anti caste movements, but also of inter-sectionality (the complex engagement of gender/caste and class concerns) is centrally addressed. Naturally this happened as the writers were shaped by, and share many aspects of the same broad terrain of politics and criticality generated by dalit movements (as indeed different moments of the women’s movement, and other ongoing struggles for justice and self determination in India). …

With this it was no longer possible to retain the Nehruvian fiction of the unmarked Indian citizen. The Left could no longer pass off caste as an Indian version of class, and the universalist assumptions of both Left and mainstream women’s movements were confronted with the urgency of examining their own privileged positions that rendered invisible caste and religious difference, and thereby highlighting the limits of their own political positions. Significantly, one of the earliest such political challenges within the women’s movement came from scholars based in the south, who brought the complexity of Mandal/Masjid and Fund/Bank politics to critique the assumptions about a unified female subjectivity (Tharu and Niranjana 1994:93-117). This, and Gopal Guru’s (1995:2548-2550) seminal intervention, “Dalit Women Talk Differently” are amongst the arguments that provoked some of the most serious intellectual debates. They also inspired a new body of critical scholarship to emerge in this decade. Indeed, I would say that the intellectual/ political debates on caste, and religion, have been the ones that have shaped not merely curricular changes, but also led to struggles for the creation of new interdisciplinary departments like the study of discrimination and exclusion, and for affirmative action (implementing reservations); equally, these have also pushed for new pedagogies in that intensely political space – the classroom. The reason for highlighting some of these issues here is because I believe that the criticality of the social justice agenda raised by dalit movements, and subsequent scholarship, is not well served by the idea of “hurt sentiments”. Such an idea is also perilously reminiscent of Hindu right wing demands, which have universally been couched in terms of assuaging “hurt sentiments” (most recently the controversy over M. F. Hussain’s paintings of naked Hindu goddesses, and over Ramanujan’s interpretation of the Ramayana in Delhi University’s history syllabus). In each of these instances the demand, at the very least, has been of removing the “hurtful” object from the public domain; most often it leads to demands for bans, and attacks on those who differ from the “hurt” community. Yet, unlike the Hindu right wingers’ cacophony about their “hurt sentiments”, which I would dismiss almost instantaneously as these are made as part of majoritarian muscle flexing, I do wish to engage more seriously with the wider context to which the present dalit outrage gestures.

In an early essay in which she tried to bring into the same frame what she called the “politics of recognition” (identity) and the “politics of redistribution” (class) Nancy Fraser (1996) underscores the immense urgency of not dismissing one, by the other. The crux of her important, and complex, argument is that social justice politics needs to find ways by which the logical trajectories of both these demands are kept alive, as they do not necessarily follow one from the other. In other words, correcting economic marginalisation and deprivation does not automatically remove invisibility, stigma or disrespect. However, as Fraser also argues, political realities are far more murky, and [b]ivalent collectivities…may suffer both socioeconomic maldistribution and cultural misrecognition in forms where neither of these injustices is an indirect effect of the other, but where both are primary and co-original. In their case, neither the politics of redistribution alone nor the politics of recognition alone will suffice. Bivalent collectivities need both. (ibid: 15) [emphasis, author’s]. In our context of multivalence, we are faced with a far greater challenge of how to structure intersectional alliances within the context of a social justice agenda. …



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Who will answer for Lucas’ death? – By Kunal Majumder (Jun 16, 2012, Tehelka)

Every morning, as the villagers of Nawarnagu in Palamau jungle, Jharkhand, travel to work – farming or picking tendu leaves – jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) stand at their pickets, “protecting” them from the Maoists. The jawans stop every vehicle, ask for the driver’s licence, enquire about their destination, family and jobs. At other times, they conduct combing operations inside the villages, entering homes, shops and schools in search of Maoists. On finding anything or anyone suspicious, the jawans immediately take them into custody. According to official data, 577 people have been killed in anti-Maoist operations since the creation of Jharkhand in 2000. Human rights activists allege that the casualties include many innocents. The latest in the list, they claim, is Lucas Minj, 33, a deaf-mute tribal who was shot dead on the banks of the Koel river inside the Palamau jungle on 31 January 2012. For the Minj family, the death of Lucas was only the beginning of the miseries to follow. The family claims that they are facing backlash from the security forces because they dared to file a police complaint seeking an investigation into the death. Lucas’ cousin Sylvester is one such victim. The 40-year-old lies in the orthopaedic ward of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Ranchi, with his neck and head strapped to iron rods; his left hand paralysed. “It’s difficult to speak,” he mutters, as his eldest son, Roshan, enters the room. With a pregnant mother and five young siblings at home, it’s Roshan’s responsibility to look after his father.

On 5 April, Roshan was at home when some villagers informed his mother, Susanna, that Sylvester had been beaten up by CRPF jawans. Sylvester was returning home from Chhipadohar in a shared private jeep. CRPF and COBRA jawans from the Labra police picket were patrolling the entrance to his village. They stopped the jeep and asked the driver for his licence, which he didn’t have. All the passengers were asked to step out and questioned. “They asked about my village, family and soon realised that I was Lucas’ cousin,” recalls Sylvester. He was forced to stand on his head, legs in the air, for 30 minutes. A COBRA jawan kicked him in his neck, rendering him unconscious. Later, Sylvester was put back in the jeep and let go. Sensing trouble, the driver dropped him midway, where he lay alone, howling with pain, unable to lift his head. After much effort, Susanna’s relatives carried him home to Karamdih village on a cycle. Once home, Sylvester lay in bed, unable to move. Susanna managed to collect some money from her relatives and took him to a local government hospital, where the doctors referred him to RIMS. They had no money for the journey until Lucas’ brother, William, pitched in. William works as an NGO worker at Daltonganj. All six brothers, except Lucas (born deaf-mute), attended missionary schools. Their grandfather, John, was a schoolteacher and first-generation Christian convert. Their father, Kliment, was a farmer. After college, all the brothers found respectable jobs in Ranchi – teacher, guard, firefighter, driver, NGO worker and police constable. Only the youngest, Prakash, stayed back in the village to look after Lucas and the family property.

On 31 January, security forces were combing Lucas’ village Nawarnagu, located 50 km from Chhipadohar. The day before, it was the turn of Karamdih, Sylvester’s village. Clashes between the Maoists and CRPF were reported. Villagers of Nawarnagu admit that the rebels were holed up there when the security forces were in the neighbouring village. “But do you expect them to wait for the security forces to attack them? They escaped easily,” says a villager. At around 8 am on 31 January, just like any other day, Lucas took the family cattle – 17 cows and 19 goats – into the forest for grazing. Jawans from the CRPF, COBRA and state police surrounded the village between 9-10 am, says Ranjita, Prakash’s wife. The villagers heard two gunshots between 9.30-10 am near the Koel river, located less than a kilometre from Lucas’ house. Usually, Lucas returned home by noon. That day, he didn’t. “We thought he got scared of the police and was hiding in the jungle,” says Ranjita. On 4 February, fishermen from a neighbouring village found a body floating in the river. Prakash and Ranjita feared that it could be Lucas’. But they were afraid to venture out of their house. Two days later, the couple went to check the body and their worst fears came true. A bullet had gone right through Lucas’ head. He was lying on his stomach with his sickle beside him. The next day, the family buried his body in the village graveyard. “We never thought of approaching the police because we suspected the security forces had murdered him,” says William.

However, a rumour made the rounds that the Maoists had killed Lucas, an allegation the rebels vehemently denied. “Lucas was deaf and dumb. He has been living here since birth, looking after our cattle for 15 years. Why would the Maoists suddenly want to kill him?” asks Prakash. William finally filed a complaint with the police on 12 February. Two days later, Lucas’ body was exhumed and sent to RIMS in Ranchi for a post-mortem examination. The post-mortem report confirmed the Minj family’s suspicions – Lucas had been shot around the same time the security personnel were conducting the combing operation in his village. On 17 February, when his body was being brought home, the Maoists declared a strike to protest his death. Fearing the Maoists, the ambulance driver transporting Lucas’ body refused to venture deeper into the forest to get to the village. Lucas was buried at a new grave in Chhipadohar. William pursued the matter, meeting senior police officers, who assured help. But nothing happened. “Nobody answered why my brother was killed,” he says. Instead, the family was hounded by the security forces for approaching the police.

On 5 April, the day Sylvester was attacked, William was also roughed up. William was stopped at the same Labar police picket. His camera was confiscated. It had contained the photograph of a CRPF jawan who had abused him a day ago. He was branded a Maoist spy and the photo was converted into “telling evidence”. He was slapped, humiliated and threatened with death. “I thought they were going to kill me,” he recalls. However, locals informed William’s family in time, who immediately alerted human rights activists in Ranchi. They, in turn, requested a senior police officer to intervene. That’s how William survived that day. But the family still lives in fear. While the police has instituted a highlevel team to investigate the death of Lucas and the violence against Sylvester and William, the CRPF refused to respond when asked about the incident. Lucas’ brother, the police constable, has been posted at the same hospital to keep an eye on Sylvester under the pretence of looking after him, despite the former’s reluctance. “What kind of people would assign one brother to spy on another?” asks human rights activist Gladson Dungdung. Pushed into a corner by both the Maoists and the State, the tribals are in a quandary. Meanwhile, CRPF Inspector General (Operations) DK Pandey, who is in-charge of the anti-Maoist operations in Jharkhand, has demanded the enforcement of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state. But before it can get a free hand to fight the Maoists, the CRPF has to answer for the pending charges against it.



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Caste & the city – By Pankaj Mullick (Jun 9, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Hardly anyone seems to have paid attention to India’s dismal showing at the UN Human Rights Council’s universal periodical review when the latter alleged that India is “all words, no action” on working against caste and related discrimination. The allegations are built around, among other things, data from the National Crime Records Bureau, which says, “Atrocities against Dalit women include: Verbal abuse and sexual epithets, naked parading, pulling out of teeth, tongue and nails, and violence, including murder. Dalit women are also threatened by rape as part of collective violence by higher castes.” The review is startling also because it alleges that over 160 million Indians continue to endure caste-based persecution. The number and allegations are severe but didn’t register more than a blip on the national media’s radar.

The common perception is that even that mention may have slipped the average urban Indian’s attention because he doesn’t often think about caste and is only vaguely aware of the identity that his family name endows him with. Discrimination based on caste happens in back-of-beyond villages. Cities, meanwhile, are too economically motivated to be affected by caste. Or that’s what we’d like to think. Caste is alive in Indian cities. Discrimination, though subtle, exists. However, things are changing. Says André Béteille, professor emeritus of sociology, Delhi University: “The growth and expansion of a new middle class, attendant on demographic, technological and economic changes is altering the operation of caste.” Caste continues to show up in cities in everything from its oldest bastions – marriage – to new ways in issues related to employment and education.

This, despite the fact that the central premise behind caste-based marriage – maintenance of the gene pool – has been debunked by science along the way. For instance, ongoing research by the Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology, as quoted by Patrick French in his book India: A Portrait, reveals that “upper-caste Hindus seem to be much closer to Muslims than other higher castes” and that “the caste system has no genetic basis”. The other caste bastion – occupation – though affected, is showing resistance to change. “In certain professions, especially academia and media, recruitment of lower-caste candidates is discouraged by the higher-ups. There is a fear of new opinions coming in conflict with existing thought. This resistance is also seen in art, cinema and the sciences – all influential professional spheres,” says Chandra Bhan Prasad, a self-trained anthropologist and the first Dalit to have a regular column in an English daily.

Still, caste is in the process of being undermined as the economics of their situation forces people to work together disregarding caste. “Once there weren’t enough worldly goods to own and people thought more about life after death. Now, they think, ‘if I am without a good car or an AC, I am in hell’. The fear of hell within their lifetime is greater than the fear of hell after,” Prasad jests. Notions of pollution, however, prevail. Mari Marcel Thekaekara, a human rights activist and writer based in Gudalur, Tamil Nadu, says “in an upper middle-class Maharashtrian (mixed-caste) building in Worli, a bai told my daughter hers is the only family that doesn’t keep a separate glass for the bai.” Where caste has inadvertently become prominent in urban environs is in the form of relative deprivation – a feeling of being deprived of what one believes oneself to be entitled to – arising from the reservation policies of the Indian government (even though they have done a lot of good – for example, 13% of IAS officers now are from lower castes, as opposed to being negligible at the time of Independence). A feeling of resentment seems to be simmering among people of the general category.

“A periodic recaliberisation of reservation quotas is needed to tackle new resentments,” says sociologist and former JNU academic Dipankar Gupta. On the other hand, people of various lower castes – who wouldn’t otherwise dream of even having a meal with each other – are mingling for a common aim. “These people are coming together – under a caste-based umbrella – for a non-caste based aim,” one that is economically driven “for social assets like education,” says Gupta. So, while urbanisation is undermining the dehumanising phenomena of caste, social notions are being chipped away far more slowly. While in urban areas old caste biases are being diluted, newer ones are taking hold. “Reservation is creating resentment because people see benefits extended to those who’ve become upper/middle class due to quotas,” says Dipankar Gupta. One suggestion, he says, is: “A periodic recaliberisation of quotas.”



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‘Honor’ In killing – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Jun 4, 2012, Countercurrents)

A secular democratic constitution in India has not guaranteed its implementation whenever our ‘social fabric’ is under ‘attack’ and popular ‘culture’ is threatened by incidents which many term as ‘western onslaught’ on our ‘moral values’. The writ of the constitution therefore does not run when society is in conflict with modern values and individuals who dare to embrace these values face threat to their lives. Killings for the ‘honor’ have become regular now in India which is struggling to find its place among the comity of ‘civilised’ and ‘developed’ nations. Many of these stories are being put under petty criminal category thus ignoring the ugly reality of caste prejudices prevailing in our society. May be it is the new mechanism of protecting the interest of powerful feudal elements in our society who rules us and yet unable to change themselves according to democratic secular modern values which respect the choices and identity of an individual. Honored killing is a crime against modern human values which respect dignity of individuals and their rights to have a life on their own. Hence it is not a crime done by an individual but an idea based on age old nations of superiority of race and caste which does not consider a woman equal to man and decide her destiny. It is an idea which does not believe in giving space to individuals to decide about their destiny. It does not even allow them to explain their action. If is simply brutal and dictatorial in nature. Hence, it is certainly much bigger crime than what an ordinary criminal could do as it involves all those who believe in superfluous racial philosophy where intermingling of different communities by way of marriage must not only be disowned but also discouraged.

One cannot expect any reform from the political class as it thrive on the ‘majoritarian’ sentiments where any assertion of individual identity against the prevailing customs and traditions is considered an onslaught on the culture. Hence they resort to usual rhetoric that the incident as the internal matter of the community and let the law take its own course. The power of this primitive idea comes from the ‘collective will’ of those who flourish on the ignorance of the people. They emerge from the ‘collective identity’ of the people in our villages now commonly known as Khaps. Hence despite completely illegitimate in their nature they wield enormous power from people’s support to maintain status quo as any change would threaten their very existence and that is why that idea has to be brutally suppressed and where needed need to be eliminated without any remorse. They are the law themselves. When everything is politics then the biggest casualty would be the rule of law. It would not be an exaggeration to say that though India has a secular democratic constitution it is. And our political laws and constitution remain helpless to this and it should remain our biggest concern. There is no war against it. Today, the identity politics has far reaching impact as it fetch good votes and is your vehicle to power. Therefore, political parties are ready to condone it as these communities remain ‘ideal’ to their way to seat of power. It is here, we are disturbed in the inability of our law enforcing agencies to protect individuals who need their support. How can the writ of constitution run large in society where violation of laws means your strength? How do you promote idea of equality and justice where these primitive ‘values’ marketed by not just political parties but also by corporations just to increase their access to the masses. The fact is that honored killing is the direct outcome of gender discrimination in our society and existing patriarchy.

Our state apparatus has never been secularized and democratic. That is why people who need protection and support of the system find it difficult to approach authorities because of fear of their antipathy. Several years back a boy from Balmiki community in Delhi fell in love with a girl who happened to be from a upper caste Jat family. Both of them ran away from their respective homes and got married in the court. Immediately after the incident when the families came to know about the incidents, the Jats attacked the village of Balmikis in a Delhi suburban area and demolished their houses. They threatened the parents of the boy with dire consequences if the girl was not produced before them. The girl’s parents filed case of abduction against the boy’s family and the police starting humiliating them. Some of us decided to form a committee for the protection of the boy and met the police officials in Delhi to protect the family of the boy as well as other Balmiki families in that region. When we met a senior police officer he said that it was a ‘social’ problem and added that we should not to take it as an ‘administrative’ problem. ‘You see policemen do also have castes and most of the Delhi police personnel hail from the Jat, Gujjar and other communities from Western Uttar-Pradesh and Haryana. This lower staff of ours has its own social values and would go by the social norms.’ The officer suggested that we should engage with communities and work for social change.

It is shocking that this view point comes from a senior official who is given responsibility to uphold the law. I said,’ Sir, ‘why cannot you tell your junior officers to follow the law of the land and protect the innocent.’ Despite his assurance, things did not change. The girl was put under tremendous pressure where she changed her statement many time. The social activists were not there to follow it. The fear of ostracisation and dislocation from the village was so powerful that the family of the boy did not want any outside intervention. They tried their best to fight in the court but the reality is that it was clearly a war among the unequal and finally we heard they reached some compromise and do not want to talk much about it. In the west, honored killing is basically closely linked to the Islamic values in certain countries where the family has protection law if they kill their children to ‘protect’ their ‘honor’. The fact is that we are no better in India though we have the protection of the law yet it remains highly ineffective in dealing with the issue. Any marriage without consent of the parents is considered an embarrassment and humiliation. Parents do not marry their child; instead they marry with power and prestige. The terms may change, the glamour may be there but ultimately the Indian marriages are big fad and an impediment in the way of choice of an individual.

The question is how can fight against such atrocious primitive idea. Will mere constitutional provision work in protecting the youngsters against brutal killings? Why are we unable to challenge our social practices? Is it the fear of isolation in community and society that compel us to succumb to their pressures? If we want to fight against this practice then who will initiate the process? Once we fight against honored killing which are actually racial in nature as it is caste based violence, the forces of the status quo will be in action. Yes self arranged honored marriages have the potential to make many workless, all those who thrive on it, but definitely they will revive our love and give honor to individual. Nothing is more enlightening and satisfying than human freedom. The so-called freedom that we achieved from the British was a political freedom. We have not yet won our battle for individual freedom and their right to choose their aith as well as their partners. India has a long way to go to be included in the category of nations which can truly claim to be civilized nation as it has not yet been able to protect those individuals who chose to live together despite all the protest from the society. A society can not be bigger than the choices of two individuals to come together. This is the biggest challenge that we face today in India where the individuals have to face the might of society based on primitive socio-cultural taboos termed as ‘values’ which violate basic principles of human rights and human dignity. Let us demolish it to ensure a dignified and honored life for our children.



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