IAMC Weekly News Roundup - June 24th, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 24th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Godhra Muslim trust to help poor Hindu widows (Jun 23, 2013, Indian Express)

In an effort to propagate the virtues of communal harmony among the people belonging to different communities, an Islamic charitable trust has organised a programme in Godhra Sunday wherein Hindu widows from weaker sections of the society will be offered monthly grocery kits to support their family.

The Hamdard Charitable Trust, which had so far been giving groceries to Muslim widows since 2010, has decided to extend the facility to Hindu widows in order to propagate communal harmony, trustees said. The facility will be launched at an event organised Sunday.

“We have identified over 50 such widows. Even Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Godhra has given us a list of 20 such widows who could avail our assistance,” Ishak Kharadi, a member of the trust said.


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Modi’s rally strong message against minorities: Bajwa (Jun 24, 2013, Indian Express)

Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa on Sunday accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of fanning communal hatred and working against the interest of minority communities. Reacting to Modi’s rally at Madhopur, Bajwa said holding the rally on border of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir was deliberate and a strong message against the minority communities. “Both the states have minority populations and the rally venue was aimed at communal polarisation. Punjab had already faced a long spell of communal disturbance and J&K is still facing communal strife. Modi proved he is the fountainhead of communal hatred and has no agenda for development of the nation. He is desperate to become the prime minister at the cost of unity and integrity of country,” he said in a statement.

Slamming the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab, Bajwa said both SAD and BJP are two sides of same coin. “They have a common agenda to grab power by hook or crook. The interests of Sikhs and other minority communities are not safe in the hands of this alliance, which is an opportunist arrangement,” said Bajwa. He added: “Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who addressed the BJP rally, should get Modi’s magic wand of development and try it in Punjab where SAD-BJP alliance had pushed the state from first to 12th rank on economic indicators. The NDA had lost its relevance after most of its partners have left the alliance. SAD and Shiv Sena are the only two parties supporting BJP and all three are based on communal agenda.”

Questioning the sanctity of the SAD-BJP alliance, Bajwa said SAD was opposed to the construction of peace memorial for the 25,000 innocents killed during terrorism days in Punjab while the BJP has failed to take a decisive stand on the issue. He also accused Modi of shedding “crocodile tears” for victims of Uttarakhand flash floods.



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CBI looking into allegations of Modi hand in 2003 encounter (Jun 21, 2013, Times of India)

The CBI has for the first time submitted before a court that it is investigating “relevant points” of the allegations about the role allegedly played by chief minister Narendra Modi, former minister Amit Shah and top IB police officer Rajinder Kumar in the Sadiq Jamal Mehtar fake encounter case. Sadiq was killed near Galaxy cinema in Naroda in January 2003. After the encounter, the city crime branch had dubbed him a terrorist out on a mission to kill Modi and other saffron leaders to avenge the 2002 Gujarat riots.

On Thursday the probe agency also submitted before a special CBI court that it was looking into the conduct of officers of the subsidiary Intelligence Bureau in Mumbai and those who had projected the Bhavnagar youth as a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative. The CBI said it was probing further into the conduct of Mumbai-based journalist Ketan Tirodkar and ‘encounter specialist’ police officer Daya Nayak. The agency made these submissions in response to the special court’s notice over the demand for further investigation made by Shabbir, Sadiq’s brother.

Shabbir had claimed the CBI had gone silent after chargesheeting eight policemen last December, though the probe report showed the murder was part of a larger conspiracy and various agencies were involved in it. Shabbir’s application said the roles of top police officers such as D G Vanzara and P P Pande had not been investigated yet. He had demanded a probe into “the role played by then home minister and the chief minister in the entire conspiracy and (directions to) the CBI to file a supplementary chargesheet and take such further necessary actions required under the law.” Special CBI judge V K Vyas posted the case for further hearing on July 3. Justice M R Shah of the Gujarat high court had handed over the investigation of the case to the CBI in 2011.



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IB officer had hand in Ishrat killing: CBI (Jun 23, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The CBI investigation team has concluded that Intelligence Bureau (IB) special director Rajinder Kumar had ‘actively connived’ with the Gujarat police team that killed alleged Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) suicide bomber Ishrat Jahan and her three associates in a fake encounter on June 15, 2004 in Ahmedabad. Sources say since the investigation team’s conclusion is based on statements of lower level Gujarat police personnel involved in the encounter and the investigators so far have not found any material corroborative evidence, the agency is likely to seek legal advice before a charge sheet is filed.

“At the moment, the charge sheet is being finalised and it will be sent for legal vetting,” said a CBI official who did not wish to be named. The Gujarat High Court has given the agency time till July 4 to file a charge sheet in the case. “Contrary to some of the earlier media reports, GL Singhal, the Gujarat cadre IPS officer and an accused in the case, has not given a statement before magistrate under section 164 of the criminal procedure code,” said the official. The agency has recorded at least 10 statements before magistrates, mostly from witnesses.

Meanwhile, IB officials are keeping their fingers crossed on the issue of filing any possible charge sheet against Kumar. Kumar has been interrogated twice by the agency. At the time of his second round of questioning, he demanded removal of Gujarat cadre IPS official Satish Verma from the investigation team alleging that Verma was targeting him as they didn’t go along well at the time of his posting in Ahmedabad. After Kumar raised the issue, Verma didn’t sit in the second round of questioning on June 18.

Verma, who was assisting the CBI in the investigation of the case as he was part of the successive special investigation teams of police officials formed by the high court, will also part ways with the CBI on June 23. “Once Kumar had raised objections, for the sake of fairness, it was better to remove Verma, although, his disassociation with the investigation team came at a late juncture,” said an IB official, who did not wish to be identified.



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Malegaon blasts: RSS pracharak used code names during training (Jun 23, 2013, Times of India)

Rajendra Chaudhary, a bomb planter in the 2006 Malegaon serial blasts, said that all the youths who attended a terror training camp in Madhya Pradesh in January 2006 were given code names by mastermind Sunil Joshi to hide their identities.

In its chargesheet, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) stated that the terror training camp was organized by RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi (murdered in 2007). “Joshi gave me a new name as Samundar. Another participant Kamal Chaowhan was given the coded name of Vijay, Lokesh Sharma was called Ajay, and Joshi himself was called Manoj. This was to hide our identity,” Chaudhary said in his statement. He, along with three others, is behind the bars for their involvement in the 2006 Malegaon blasts.

“We would discuss the atrocities on Hindus by Pakistani Muslims and planned to target Muslims’ places of worship, their institutes, religious processions etc. We took pledge to take revenge,” Chaudhary added. Dhan Singh – another arrested accused – said that they were shown a movie, Black Friday, based on 1993 Mumbai riots and blasts, as part of indoctrination process. “I used to attend my village’s RSS shakha since 2002 where I came in touch with Sunil Joshi. Our only motto was revenge and attack on Muslims,” Singh said.

Singh said that in 2008, on the instructions of wanted accused Ramchandra Kalsangara, he along with one Dinesh had taken a motorcycle to Sendhwa in MP. NIA suspects that the same bike was used in planting bombs in Malegaon in 2008. Their associate, Lokesh Sharma, has also been arrested for the 2008 Malegaon blast. Singh, Chaudhary and two other accused said that they continued their terror-related activities even after the 2006 Malegaon bombings, according to the chargesheet.

“Amit Hakla and our group shifted to Manvata Nagar in Indore in September 2007. Our activities like preparing bomb and chalking out plans to attack Muslims continued till October 2008,” Singh told NIA. A witness told NIA that Sunil Joshi wanted to kill Justice U C Banerjee, chairman of Godhra Commission. Joshi, along with the witness, had even conducted reconnaissance of Banerjee’s house and adjoining areas in Kolkata on October 15, 2005. “After the recce, I learnt that Joshi wanted to kill Banerjee and I got separated from him,” the witness said.



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PIL seeks action against ATS, IPS officers for ‘framing’ 9 muslim youths (Jun 24, 2013, Indian Express)

A Kandivali-based businessman has filed a criminal PIL in Bombay High Court seeking action against senior IPS officers including former Maharashtra ATS chief K P Raguvanshi for the alleged false implication of nine Muslim men in the Malegaon blast case of 2006, after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed its chargesheet in May naming four accused from Indore as perpetrators.

Sayyad Ameen Mustafa (30), in his PIL has stated that the ATS which had arrested the nine Muslim men following four explosions in Malegaon on September 8, 2006, had, until December 2010, opposed the grant of bail or discharge to the nine and violated their fundamental rights. In November, 2011, however, a special MCOCA court released them on bail. In the PIL filed through lawyer Ejaz Naqvi, Mustafa has asked the court to go through the chargesheets filed by the ATS in 2006, by the CBI in 2011 and the latest by the NIA.

The PIL says NIA chargesheet names four Hindu men from Indore as being those responsible for the blasts. Mustafa has stated that Lt Col Prasad Purohit, arrested in the Malegaon bomb blasts of 2008, has admitted his role in the conspiracy behind the 2006 blasts.

The PIL urged the court to order a departmental inquiry against 16 police officers – officers attached to the ATS in 2006 including Raghuvanshi, Subodh Jaiswal, Jagjeet Singh, Kisan Shengal, Naval Bajaj, S D Baviskar, retired DGP P S Pasricha, Malegaon SP Rajvardhan, SP (Thane Rural) Archana Tyagi, DCPs Amitabh Gupta, Dhananjay Kamlakar and Niket Kaushik and Deputy SP CBI Raman Tyagi. Mustafa demanded that the officers be asked to raise funds to compensate the nine accused. He asked that the accused be granted emotional support and their rehabilitation be ensured.



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Custodial death: SC dismisses West Bengal govt’s plea against CBI probe (Jun 24, 2013, Times of India)

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed Mamata Banerjee government’s plea challenging a Calcutta high court order for a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death of aTrinamool Congress worker in Dhaniakhali police station area in Hooghly district of West Bengal. “We are not inclined to entertain it,” a bench of justices AK Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi said on the West Bengal government’s petition.

The high court had on May 13 ordered a CBI probe in the case and had directed the CID, which was investigating the case, to hand over all papers and documents with regard to the case to the central agency. Nasiruddin, a Trinamool Congress worker, was allegedly picked up by officers of Dhaniakhali police station on January 18 from near his house in connection with a case regarding registration papers of his newly-bought small transport vehicle.

A friend of Nasiruddin was allegedly called to the police station in the late hours of January 18 and was asked to take him to hospital claiming that he was not well. On being taken to a government hospital, the doctors declared Nasiruddin brought dead. The state government had handed over the investigation into Nasiruddin’s death to CID following a furore over the death.

A PIL was then filed by an advocate praying for a CBI investigation claiming that a fair and impartial investigation was not possible by any state agency as the allegation was against the state police. The high court, upon hearing the submissions of the petitioner and the state, had criticised the pace and manner of the investigation.



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Uttarakhand Tragedy: Babas or ‘Religious men’ held with Rs 1 cr in stolen money (Jun 24, 2013, Indian Express)

Rescuers working to evacuate stranded pilgrims claim to have recovered over Rs 1 crore over the past two days from the last few batches to be airlifted, money that had apparently been looted from this devastated town. The stolen jewellery and money, some of it in muddied and wet bundles of cash, amounts to Rs 1.25 crore and will be dispatched soon to the district magistrate by the NDRF and ITBP.

Officials said many of those trying to make away with the loot were religious men or “babas”, and were only caught because of some alert troopers. Given the offerings made at temples in the holy town, cash to the tune of crores changes hands on a regular basis. The single bank that serviced the town has been washed away, as is the case with the cash registers and strong boxes in most shops and establishments. While the presence of personnel at the main temple has kept it relatively safer, donation boxes and treasure chests at other temples have been forced open.

“What got us suspicious was that some babas lined up for evacuation had with them stacks of fresh, unused notes. A quick search revealed that the notes were all numbered and probably belonged to a bank,” a rescue personnel said. “One of the babas had Rs 62,000 in cash hidden in a dholak (drum). Another had a packet of prasad that revealed Rs 10,000 in sequenced notes. One had sewn Rs 1.2 lakh into his clothes,” another rescuer said. People are let off if the money appears to be their own – Being of different denominations, and appearing well used.

A veteran official almost broke down while talking about one religious man who had an unusually large number of rings and bangles on his hands. A search revealed more such ornaments on his person. “He confessed that he had robbed pilgrims, even cutting off the fingers of a few.”



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Gadchiroli killings: Cops nab ‘Naxal’ but fail to explain motive (Jun 21, 2013, Indian Express)

The Gadchiroli police on Thursday announced the arrest of an alleged Naxal, Shivaji, and claimed that he was involved in the Naxal operation that led to the killing of Lloyd Steel vice-president (mining) Jaspal Singh Dhillion, Hemlata Minerals owner Mallikarjun Reddy and policeman Raju Sadmek in Gadchiroli. But the police failed to explain why the Naxals killed them.

Apparently the police had picked up “a suspiciously loitering” Shivaji five days ago from close to the spot where the killing took place in Lendar village. They announced the arrest on Thursday after the Naxals sent out a messenger to some journalists in Etapalli town to inform them about Shivaji’s detention and the likelihood of him being eliminated in a false encounter.

After the whole story of Shivaji’s detention became public, the police released a vague press note late on Thursday night which said he was arrested “in connection with a crime in Etapalli”. The Naxalites had reportedly told the journalists that Shivaji belonged to Rengawahi Burgi in Kanker district of Chhattisgarh.

However, DIG (Gadchiroli range) Ravindra Kadam said the police detained him to first get the entire story from him. “He doesn’t know anything about what transpired between Naxals leaders Aitu and Narmada and the three victims since Shivaji was on a recce outside. He told us that the three had come to meet the Naxals to request them to allow iron ore mining project. The Naxals were opposed to it,” Kadam said. On why the Naxals had to kill the three persons, Kadam said, “We can’t say anything about it at this moment. We are investigating.”



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For madrasa students, road to DU rife with roadblocks (Jun 24, 2013, Indian Express)

Since the time 19-year-old Syed Rahman was in school, he wanted to be a doctor. Hailing from Bhagalpur district in Bihar, Rahman received his education at a madrasa in Azamgarh. Only recently did he discover that getting an MBBS degree was no easy task. “I wanted to study medicine, but when I started looking at colleges I realised that I was not eligible, since I had not studied science in Class XII,” Rahman said. Rahman is among the numerous madrasa students who come to Delhi University every year to get admission in one of the undergraduate courses. And most of them end up compromising on their choice of subject since they do not meet the minimum eligibility criteria prescribed by the university.

“By the time my results were out, admissions in DU were almost over. I managed to get a seat in Urdu (H) at Satyawati College. Otherwise, I would have had to defer my studies by a year,” Rahman said. Last year, DU had directed its colleges to admit students from madrasas after the institutions were recognised by state boards. The recognition came with a rider – students in madrasas would have to be taught all the necessary subjects in which they wanted a graduate degree.

“The university directive was based on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and universities had received a circular from the MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) on this. While the recommendations have been implemented, the problem faced by these students have not been solved,” principal of Zakir Husain College Aslam Parvaiz said. “Moreover, most madrasas do not have teachers or lab facilities to teach science subjects,” he said.

Talking about the problems faced by madrasas students, Parvaiz said, “Many students from madrasas contact the college for admissions. Unfortunately, they either do not have the required marks or have not studied the subjects.” Admission problems faced by madrasa students is not limited to medical sciences. According to Hamid Raza, a DU aspirant and also a madrasa student, subjects like economics and commerce are also out of reach for them.

“We study a range of subjects such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Unani medicine, history – tarik-i-Hind (history of India) and tarik-i-Islam (history of Islam). We know how to read the stars and predict the weather. But, we are not taught sciences the way other Boards teach. Getting admission in DU for commerce is not possible,” Raza said.



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Hate speech: Court directs MNS chief Raj Thackeray to appear before it (Jun 24, 2013, IBN)

A Delhi court has asked Maharahstra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray to appear before it on July 26 in connection with a complaint about his alleged hate speeches against Bihar natives, rejecting his plea for exemption from personal appearance. The court rejected Thackeray’s plea for exemption on the ground cited by him that since he has been given Y-category security, he is unable to appear before it.

“This is no ground for exemption. The person has already been provided security and thus he is supposed to appear before the court. Otherwise also, a bailable warrant has been issued against him on January 3, 2009. Exemption plea is dismissed,” Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Devendra Kumar Sharma said.

He also directed MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar, who has also been named as an accused in the complaint, to appear before it. The court passed the order on a complaint filed by advocate Premchandra Jaiswal, who is a member of Bihar State Bar Council, Patna, against the MNS chief’s alleged hate speeches against natives of Bihar and “demeaning” their religious festival of Chhath and also his party workers criminally initmidating them.

The complaint case was initially filed before a court in Patna in 2008 and summoning orders and non-bailable warrants were also issued against the accused persons. The case was transferred to Delhi in 2010 by the Supreme Court along with similar other complaints filed against Thackeray for allegedly making hate speeches on the plea of MNS chief.

The ACMM had earlier issued notices to both the accused for June 22 but they sought exemption from personal appearance. While allowing Parkar’s plea for exemption on medical grounds, the court rejected Thackeray’s plea for exemption on the ground mentioned by him that he is unable to attend the court as he has been provided Y-category security.



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Opinions and Editorials

The Humble Manoeuvre: Will BJP unite behind a modified Modi? – By Prarthna Gahilote (Jul 1, 2013, Outlook)

‘Being disrespectful’ was a serious charge. So Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi addressed it by paying respects. Not to one, but to all three of the oldest leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He called on the trinity of Murli Manohar Joshi, Lal Krishna Advani and Atal Behari Vajpayee, in ascending order, who blessed the rising son from the west. Just two days earlier, on June 17, Modi’s bete noire in the National Democratic Alliance had declared the alliance broken. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar echoed the Congress line of “disrespecting its elders”, and had cited it as one of the reasons for the divorce, considered a sin in the Hindu undivided family. So even as Modi, on June 19, was busy brokering peace with the old guard in the national capital, violent clashes between the workers of the BJP and JD(U) in Bihar sealed the bitter and acrimonious end of their 17-year-old alliance.

Modi in monsoon-deluged Delhi was willing to “take everyone along in decision-making”. Striking a conciliatory note, he was reminding leaders that the Congress had to be taken on “together” in 2014. Sources in both the Advani and Joshi camp confirmed that the “meetings had been on a positive note”, the brinkmanship had been buried and brotherhood was being evoked. Modi in Delhi clearly wanted to be seen as moderate and accommodating, far removed from the image of a power-hungry satrap. If the message is the medium of politics, Modi packaged and delivered it effectively with his tactful gesture. A surer signal was sent on the back of floating rumours of his visit to Ayodhya on June 25 and then the delayed denial by his office. Modi modified had arrived. Bihar, however, is too far from Delhi. Modi’s bait of equality and solidarity within the party remained unbitten in Patna. Nitish emerged victorious in the Bihar assembly with 126 of the 243 votes in the no-trust motion against his government. “Wave, what wave?” he thundered. “There is no wave for any particular leader in India,” he said, decimating in one stroke both the BJP claim over Modi or any incipient Congress talk over Rahul Gandhi. The BJP may have staged a walkout from the vote, but Nitish and his government are staying.

If you expected any word from NaMo on any of this, there wasn’t even a tweet. Not as he won over the BJP old guard, not when Bihar was lost. As second- and third-rung leaders bared their lungs calling Nitish names, Modi held his silence. The ‘Hindu rashtra’ is yet to hear Modi’s views on the first casualty of the act of his elevation as chief of the campaign committee. The petty job of circulating Nitish’s video praising Modi a decade back in 2003 was left to the BJP’s media cell. A week is a long time in politics, and considering the JD(U) took exactly that much time in breaking ties with the BJP after Modi’s elevation in Goa, worthies found some ammunition in a 10-year-old video to humiliate Nitish and ease the depression. Not one to cow down before a challenge, Modi perhaps is choosing his time. He has kept his silence for the moment, insiders confirm, “to strike when it will hurt the most”. Perhaps he is taking a change-of-season break to erupt from Uttar Pradesh, hoping the anti-Modi feeling ebbs by then. On the agenda of the newly elected campaign committee chief, therefore, are 75 rallies across poll-bound states in the next three months. The first of these will kick off on June 23 in Pathankot but former Modi aide and loyalist and now national general secretary Amit Shah has bagged a rally in Lucknow in the yet-to-be-finalised itinerary. It is in this state that the BJP is hoping for its biggest strike, polarising the political landscape. If UP, with its decisive upper-caste votes cast in BJP’s favour, the calculation is that a Modi wave could well graduate from being a hypothesis to a reality.

Many in the party, though, see things a shade lighter. “It is an uphill task,” says a senior party leader. “I’m ready to believe the Modi wave theory, but where are the seats adding up from?” Nitish was right of course when he said, “It needs 272 seats to become the prime minister. In this era of coalitions, there is no point living in illusion. Even when we were in the NDA, there was no hope of getting 200 seats. Now we’re not there.” BJP leaders in Delhi seem to agree with him. Behind closed doors, furious calculations are being worked out. While Rajasthan may hold some hope, where the BJP under Vasundhararaje is sure of bettering its tally of five out of 25 Lok Sabha seats, Delhi, with seven seats dominated by the Congress, does little to help. In Andhra Pradesh, there is still a cloud over Chandrababu Naidu’s readiness to abandon the state’s 18 per cent Muslim and 12 per cent Christian population. In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee shows no sign of risking her 28-30 per cent Muslim vote for an alliance that may not be able to cobble up 200. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, every bit a regional leader assured of his own clout, sources confirm, is “not ready to allow Modi into MP”. Those close to the chief minister confess, “The MP CM fears Modi damaging his prospects in order to remain the tallest regional leader himself.” Neighbouring Chhattisgarh has had a tilt of the apple cart. Raman Singh, a hugely popular leader himself, is up against the aggregate anti-incumbency vote for his MLAs. Making his position even more precarious is the sympathy post the decimation of the state Congress leadership in the May 25 Maoist attack. With Himachal and Karnataka lost, Punjab under the Akalis remains the only state to tag behind the saffron party. As a senior BJP leader sums up, “Forget the allies. The immediate concern is to get our own party enough seats in 2014.”

Meanwhile, Mohan Bhagwat, leader of the now-out-of-the-closet overriding authority in the saffron parivar, camped in Delhi for two days, was holding meetings with BJP leaders like Venkaiah Naidu, former party president Nitin Gadkari and BJP’s eldest dissident L.K. Advani. In an hour-long meeting held in rrs headquarters at Keshav Kunj in Delhi, Bhagwat, sources confirm, spoke to Advani in detail about the “inner functioning of the BJP”. Sources also say the two leaders stayed away from discus-sing RSS functionary Suresh Soni’s ouster and Modi’s elevation. Instead, a detailed discussion was held on “the strategy for the party in 2014 and the upcoming state elections”. “Bhagwatji and Advaniji,” a senior RSS leader confirmed toOutlook, “also spoke at length about the need to coordinate and bring together nationalistic forces in the country and what the BJP’s role should be given the current circumstances in the nation.” In a deviation from norm, the Sangh was quick to issue a press release regarding the Bhagwat-Advani meet, calling it a “detailed and candid interaction”. It was also said that “Bhagwatji suggested that such useful exchange of views should continue in the future as well”. While parivar harmony seems to be all the flavour, post its split with the JD(U), the saffron family is still doing some serious math to conjure up its Hindu rashtra.



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Ishrat Encounter: Can’t get away with murder – By Manoj Joshi (Jun 18, 2013, The Hindu)

The Ishrat Jahan encounter case is like the proverbial can of worms whose contents have already spilled out. Not only has it shone the spotlight on the ruthless and, possibly, illegal manner in which the police and intelligence agencies fight terrorism, it has also exposed the Narendra Modi government’s poor record of managing the Gujarat police. And now, it has created schisms within the State police force, and between the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). At the outset, some plain facts: first, fake “encounter killings” – the term used for extrajudicial execution of criminals and alleged terrorists by the police – are not unique to Gujarat. Hundreds of them take place across the country and the policemen involved are often feted as “encounter specialists” whereas, in fact, what they specialise in is the cold-blooded and completely illegal executions of unarmed persons. Second, there is no exemption for anyone in India’s security set-up to carry out extra-judicial executions. In other words, there is no Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) which indemnifies the State police, politicians or Central intelligence officials from killing alleged terrorists without judicial due process.

Writing on his website earlier this month, the BJP leader, Arun Jaitley, reiterated the Gujarat police account that the Ishrat group was out to assassinate Mr. Modi and, based on information provided by the IB, it was intercepted and its four members killed in the encounter; after backing the State police version, the Union government changed tack and was now trying to use the case to attack the BJP. A few “disgruntled police officials” formed the core of the CBI’s case and an effort was being made to target BJP ministers like Amit Shah and Gulab Chand Kataria of Rajasthan with the eventual aim of hitting at Mr. Modi. Now, the Union government had taken it a step further by undermining the IB in its pernicious campaign to harm Mr. Modi and the BJP. Mr. Jaitley, also the former Union Law Minister during National Democratic Alliance rule, has not said much about the other extra-judicial killings in Gujarat. A Supreme Court mandated Special Task Force headed by a retired Justice H.S. Bedi is investigating 16 encounters that took place between 2003-2006 in Gujarat. In most of the encounters, those killed were alleged to be targeting Mr. Modi and other top BJP ministers in the State. This was the accusation against Sameer Khan Pathan, Sadiq Jamal, Mahendra Jadav, Ganesh Khunte, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Tulsi Prajapati, Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh (aka Pranesh Pillai), Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana. It is another story that most were petty criminals and there is no real evidence that they were out to kill Mr. Modi.

As for Ishrat and her companions, there is considerable mystery about their antecedents and how they came together. As Mr. Jaitley points out, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) journal, Ghazwa Times, acknowledged her as a cadre, and later withdrew its claim. News leaks claim that the LeT operative, David Coleman Headley (Daood Gilani), had told the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that Ishrat had been recruited by the LeT and that this fact had been communicated to the Indian intelligence, or the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). But there is no reference to Ishrat in the NIA’s report of Headley which was made available to the media and which did have some references to other LeT plots that Headley was aware of. There is something to the issue though since G.K. Pillai, the Union Home Secretary in 2009, acknowledged an affidavit of his ministry to the Gujarat High Court that said there was intelligence information that Ishrat and her companions were terror suspects. More recently, in 2011, Mr. Pillai had reiterated that he stood by the IB tip that linked Ishrat Jahan to an LeT module. But whether or not Ishrat and her group were terrorists is not the issue. What the Gujarat police officials are being charged with is extra-judicial killing. There are no exemptions in the law for carrying out fake encounters even if the targets are terrorists. The IB is not exempt from the operation of the law of the land either. Mr. Jaitley, of all people, should know that only the judiciary has the right to order an execution, and, after due process.

The ugly truth is that the Gujarat government cynically used the instrument of extra-judicial executions to burnish their own anti-Muslim credentials. In the process, their police officials and, possibly, their ministers, have broken the law. The behaviour of Gujarat police officers such as D.G. Vanzara among others was perhaps most brazen because of the protection they felt that they had from the then Home minister Amit Shah, and, possibly, Mr. Modi. Murder is a very grave charge, and it is far more serious when those accused of it are officials or ministers of the government sworn to uphold the law of the land. Whether or not the police officials who have given the CBI evidence of the wrongdoings of the Gujarat police officers are disgruntled doesn’t really matter. What matters is the truth, and the legal consequences thereafter. Then there is the issue of the IB. Whether or not Rajendra Kumar, the IB Joint Director in Gujarat, crossed a legal threshold can only be determined through further investigation, and may eventually have to be dealt with by the courts. But there has been something deeply disturbing about the manner in which India’s internal intelligence agency has worked on some terrorism cases in the past. There are several incidents – the Ansal Plaza “encounter” of 2002, or the 2006 attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters, to name just two – which appear to have been staged for domestic political effect, rather than any other purpose. Incidentally, one of the incidents was during the rule of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the other, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

There are no independent means of verifying whether the IB stays within the red lines of the law when it gathers intelligence information or processes and forwards it to State police forces because there is no oversight mechanism to ensure that. Alone among the democracies, India keeps its intelligence agencies away from parliamentary oversight and, indeed, there is little or no internal oversight either. Likewise, short of recourse to the courts, there are no means available to the citizen to take up the issue of police excesses. The result is the persistence of a culture of impunity among the police and intelligence authorities. Hopefully, on the issue of the Gujarat extra-judicial killings, the courts will weigh the evidence that the SIT and CBI have gathered. Those accused will have the opportunity to respond, and the courts will weigh the evidence and pronounce their verdict. But given the gravity of the charges, there must be some greater takeaway for our security set-up. First, there is the need for a mechanism to ensure that charges of police excesses are quickly investigated and dealt with. Second, terrorism or no terrorism, the intelligence agencies of the country need to function within the law, and this is not something that can be done on the basis of self-certification, but a fact established through an independent, internal inspectorate, as well as a larger parliamentary oversight system.



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In defense of Indians wrongly accused of terrorism – By Waleed Hussain (Jun 16, 2013, Mid-Day)

Sometimes, empathy, even justice, comes from unexpected quarters. Nestled in the narrow lanes of Imamwada is the operating office of the Jamiat e Ulema Maharashtra, which certainly qualifies as one such place of respite for the wrongly-accused Muslim youth in the country. The 500 sq ft office can easily be mistaken for a religious school. But appearances can be deceptive. Amid the many mounds of petitions and chargesheets is the Jamiat’s legal cell that is currently defending more than 200 accused in over 33 terror trials across the country. Jamiat e Ulema Maharashtra is an organisation that commenced to offer legal aid to Muslim youth whom the organisation believes to be innocent yet wrongly framed by the police in 2007. The General Secretary of the Jamiat e Ulema Maharashtra’s legal cell, Gulzar Azmi, tells us that their organisation does not defend criminals. Despite the gravity of the charges levied against the accused whom the Jamiat defends in the court of law, Azmi clarifies that these are innocent Muslims who have been framed by the police.

The police, he says, often picks up Muslim youth and books them under draconian laws such as TADA, POTA, MCOCA and UAPA. Thanks to these very laws, the police manages to keep the youth in custody for long durations without any material evidence. Azmi adds they are often tortured, coerced and made to confess crimes they did not commit. The 80-year-old tells us that there is a process to selecting such trials. “Our legal team checks the facts of the case before accepting the brief. Only when we are satisfied that the accused is innocent do we offer to provide legal aid,” says Azmi. “The law of the land says that each accused person is considered innocent until proven guilty, but in the case of Muslims they are considered guilty until proven innocent,” Azmi adds. Azmi’s colleague, Advocate Shahid Nadeem Ansari has also been associated with the Jamiat e Ulema Maharashtra for the last four years and regularly attends the trials in MCOCA courts since 2012. “Legal aid is the right of every accused, and it is also in the fairness of justice. Every person, no matter what crime he/she is accused of, has the right to be defended in a court of law. The Jamiat offers legal aid only to those accused who are innocent and not criminals,” says Ansari.

“The police investigates the case and makes arrests. However, it is the court that decides whether or not the accused is guilty of the crime based on the evidence that is produced. As per the law, an accused deserves a fair trial and the legal cell of the Jamiat assists in that process,” adds Ansari. Advocate Ansar Tamboli, who has been working with the Jamiat since the last two years, says that the law of the land is very clear about legal aid. “If an accused cannot afford to hire an advocate to defend himself, the court offers the person with legal aid and a lawyer is appointed to represent the accused during the trial. So what is wrong if the Jamiat is offering legal aid to the accused,” asks Tamboli. “The legal panel of the Jamiat cross checks the facts of the matter before accepting the case and appointing a lawyer for the accused. We have appointed lawyers for 20 accused in the Aurangabad Arms haul case but we refused to defend Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, as we were not satisfied with his background,” he adds.

Azmi is vocal about the injustice meted out to Muslim youth in recent times. He discusses the 2006 Malegaon blasts, to begin with. “The blasts that killed several innocent Muslims in Malegaon in 2006 were investigated by the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS). Nine Muslims were arrested and charged for having committed the heinous crime. We defended these youth in the Sessions court and appealed to the higher court for a reinvestigation of the case. The case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) but it did not offer any new inputs. Finally, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) investigated the case and arrested right-wing radicals for having planted the bombs and spreading terror in Malegaon. The nine men arrested by the ATS are innocent and have been framed.” Another case in point, believes Azmi, is the Mumbai serial train blasts case. The ATS arrested and charged 13 accused for the crime. However, during the course of the trial, the Crime Branch arrested a member of the Indian Mujahideen who confessed to having conducted bomb blasts across the country since 2005. The accused also confessed to having executed the Mumbai train blasts. “How is it that two different sets of people are staking claim to the same terror blasts? This means only one thing that the investigating authorities have not discharged their duty properly,” says Azmi.

The president of the Jamiat e Ulema-Hind, Maulana Arshad Madni met the Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav seeking the release of several youth languishing in jail for years without trial. The UP government decided to withdraw the cases, however the Allahabad High Court has raised objections to the move. Advocate Nithya Ramakrishnan will represent the Jamiat in the High Court when the matter comes on board. “Take the recent case of the Muslim youth arrested from parts of Bangalore, Hubli and Hyderabad last year. The Bangalore police claimed that these youngsters were planning a terror attack. However, when the case was transferred to the NIA, the boys were let off as there was no material evidence against them. One of the arrested youth was a journalist, while another was a scientist. Their careers have been destroyed.” When the youth were arrested, the Jamiat sent a fact-finding team to Bangalore. The team discovered that no lawyer was willing to come forward and defend these accused. The legal fraternity had already brandished them as terrorists and refused to defend them in a court of law. However, the Jamiat did not give up hope, and a team of lawyers agreed to defend the accused. Months later the NIA discharged the youth for lack of evidence. …



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Bludgeoned By Water – By Anubha Bhonsle (Jul 1, 2013, Outlook)

It’s 5 a.m. The Jolly Grant airport looks like a missing persons bureau. From the early hours, when security personnel were changing duty rounds, young and old men have been arriving at the airport. In their hands, they hold pictures. Some are carrying passport-size photographs of loved ones missing in the floods. Others are holding up group photos of relatives or friends on vacation. Many of those stranded in the hills are pilgrim groups from across the country, groups of 20, 30, and in some cases even up to 70 people—family members, friends, people from a neighbourhood, who had got together to make the char dham yatra or pilgrimage to the four holy spots, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath. Many of the pilgrims are elderly. This is not an Uttarakhand tragedy; it is a nationwide tragedy. For there are pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, everywhere.

A young man has come with his uncle from Akola in Maharashtra. His father and mother had saved up for the char dham yatra. They were barely metres away from Kedarnath when tragedy struck. Gangadhar Pandey, who managed to survive with his entire family, spoke of cars being washed away in a gush of water. He has been lucky. Some folks have heard by SMS from their relatives stranded in the hill towns and pilgrim centres. Those at home are relieved that they will be back soon.

Not many people want to talk about the dead, about what happens to the dead bodies, of how to account for people whose bodies have been washed away. The official toll, at the time of going to print, stood in the low hundreds, but is likely to touch many hundreds, and some are talking in terms of thousands. Rescue is focused on evacuation and quick transport of those requiring medical help to hospitals. Many survivors have painful memories, of horrors unimaginable at pilgrimage sites. Survivors say the Kedarnath temple has suffered heavy damage, and its gateway is full of debris. They speak of houses and hotels in the vicinity submerged by slush and mudslides.

Since lots of roads have been washed away, rescue workers are trying to create temporary roads, bridges, and even small pathways to bring stranded people down. A hundred army jawans and officers have slithered down to Gaurikund with basic needs, food, medicines etc. They will spend the next few days with those stranded there, keeping their morale up. The return home hasn’t been immediate for many. But those who managed to get a sortie back to towns like Dehradun consider it a miracle that they have survived. Full recovery is going to be a long haul. The char dham yatra is likely to remain suspended for a year. Even evacuation is likely to take a few more days. But evacuation of those in need of medical care will be completed immediately.

It’s a herculean task for the armed forces. Their choppers have flown sorties every minute of good weather; on the ground, personnel have worked round the clock, reaching cut-off areas, clearing slush. Air Commodore Issar, who is in charge at Jolly Grant airport, says his choppers have done 50-60 sorties on good days, shuttling about five persons each time. For the Hindu faithful, the char dham yatra has regained its true sense of awe. Ditto for the Sikh pilgrims to Hemkund Sahib. But it will also mean a return to faith with even greater strength, for having faced nature’s fury at its worst and survived miraculously.



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State-Sanctioned Violation – By Suhas Chakma (Jun 1, 2013, Tehelka)

Four undertrials die in police custody every day in India – a disturbing number for one of the oldest judicial systems in the world. Between 2001 and 2010 the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) registered 14,231 custodial deaths. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as custodial torture not leading to death seldom makes news. Nonetheless, once the police dismiss the death as a suicide, result of sudden medical complication or self-inflicted injuries, justice eludes the deceased’s relatives as the entire system works to shield the torturers. India’s law enforcement agencies have perfected the use of torture to extract confessions. By legislating laws like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act that made confessions made to police officers admissible as evidence, India has gone a step further in providing State sanction to make torture an integral part of its judicial process.

India has no explanation for rampant use of torture by investigating agencies and for the absence of an anti-torture law. After being censured by the UN Human Rights Commission in May 2008 for human rights violations – including torture and enforced disappearances – India promised to enact a law against torture and ratify the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). The government subsequently drafted the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008. Though the Lok Sabha passed the Bill without any debate, it had to be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee following objections in the Rajya Sabha. The committee submitted a revised version of the Bill in December 2010 but this Bill has effectively been shelved. India had nothing to report when it appeared for the UN scrutiny again in May 2012.

Even the Supreme Court, despite making the right noises, has failed to stamp out torture. Although it issued a set of guidelines in 1996 for the police to follow in all cases of arrest or detention as a measure to prevent custodial violence, these guidelines have had no deterrent effect on investigating agencies. But the SC has so far, however, shied away from ruling that torture does not form part of official duty, thereby insulating investigating personnel from legal scrutiny. Under existing laws, law enforcement personnel cannot be prosecuted without prior sanction from the government. In fact, contradictory judgments by the SC on the requirement of prior sanction for prosecuting erring officials have also not helped the fight against torture. The NHRC too has equally failed in controlling custodial deaths, not to mention torture. It rarely recommends prosecution of the guilty and limits its recommendations to compensating the victim. In the past 20 years, the NHRC has not intervened in a single torture case being tried in the courts. Although, since 1993, it has made it mandatory to submit video records of the post-mortem examination in case of a custodial death, to date it has not established a medical advisory board to examine these videos!

Internationally, India’s track record remains extremely poor. Of the 193 member states of the UN, 153 nations have ratified the UNCAT. India remains among the handful of countries that haven’t. In June 2011, the Danish High Court rejected the extradition of Kim Davy, the prime accused in the 1995 Purulia arms drop case – in which a large consignment of arms and ammunition were dropped from an aircraft in Purulia district of West Bengal – on the ground that he would risk “torture or other inhuman treatment” as India has not ratified the UNCAT. The two countries are yet to find a way to resolve Davy’s extradition.

India has so far maintained its silence both on tabling the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, as drafted by the Parliamentary Select Committee and the ratification of the UNCAT. But silence is not an option for India before the courts in Europe. A number of extradition requests by India relating to terror suspects are currently pending before courts in UK and possibility of torture in Indian prisons figures as the key issue against extradition. It is difficult to see how extradition can be allowed when India’s own NHRC registers four deaths in custody every day, and the government by its omission permits the use of torture for administering justice.



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Dubious distinction – By Purnima S. Tripathi (Jun 14, 2013, Frontline)

The Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women in its report titled “Victims of sexual abuse and trafficking and their rehabilitation”, submitted on May 8, has said that if the Central government does not take immediate steps the number of victims of sexual abuse will increase at a rate that is higher than the rate of population growth in the country by the end of 2013. The 30-member committee, headed by Congress MP, Rajkumari Ratna Singh, noted that incidents of crime against women reported in the country had increased consistently from 2007 to 2011: 1,85,312 cases in 2007, 1,95,856 cases in 2008, 2,03,804 cases in 2009, 2,13,585 cases in 2010 and 2,28,650 cases in 2011.

The report stated that despite such a spurt in crimes against women – rape, molestation, dowry death, sexual harassment, mental and physical torture, kidnapping and trafficking – the Centre did not appear to have a concrete plan to persuade States to prevent such crimes, its excuse being that police and public order are State subjects. The committee suggested that the Centre set up a coordination committee/monitoring mechanism where crime prevention techniques and other related aspects could be discussed regularly with State governments. On the basis of these discussions, proactive measures such as providing financial assistance for modernisation of police forces for weapons, communication equipment, training and so on can be initiated within a time frame in States where improvements are significant, and remedial measures can be taken in States that are slow in improving.

Data from 53 mega cities – with a population of 10 lakh or more – show a total of 33,789 cases of crimes against women were reported from these cities in 2011 against 24,335 in 2010. Delhi, with 13.3 per cent of all such cases, topped the list followed by Bangalore, Hyderabad and Vijayawada. Delhi accounted for 17.6 per cent of rape cases, 31.8 per cent of kidnappings, 14 per cent of dowry deaths, and 10.1 per cent of molestation cases. These megacities, the committee noted, had been transformed into safe havens for criminals. The committee also observed that data collection by the National Crime Records Bureau appeared to be faulty as its figures did not tally with those presented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. It also lamented, among other things, the small number of forensic science laboratories in the country and the lack of enough fast-track courts to decide such cases expeditiously.



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