IAMC Weekly News Roundup - June 25th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 25th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal violence erupts in Pratapgarh of UP (Jun 23, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Large scale violence and arson was reported when nearly 35 houses of Muslims were set on fire in a village at Pratapgarh district on Saturday. The violence erupted when villagers set afire houses of Muslims to revenge the alleged rape and death of a dalit girl. Such was the frenzy of violence that while the village was set on fire police remained mute spectator and could not muster courage to enter the village despite the presence of senior officials. Tension was brewing in the region after a dalit girl was allegedly raped and killed by few accused who belonged to minority community. However administration acted tough and the villagers had agreed to cremate the dead body and let law take its own course.

On Saturday when the body was being taken for cremation the relatives had made up their plan. In the midway they kept the dead body on road and started protest. Meanwhile the mob turned towards village Ashtan under tehsil Kunda of district Pratapgarh. They targeted nearly three dozen houses and torched them. Muslims ran for help screaming for saving them. The mob specifically targetted the house of village pradhan Nizam Ahmed and accused Imran, Farahn, Taufiq and Saif. They also used a LPG cylinder to blast the houses. When the news reached to the police they rushed to the spot. But hundreds of villagers had taken positions and captured every road leading to the village. So while the frenzy continued and every house was targetted and burnt police could not muster courage to enter the village. Whenever police tried to enter the village the mob resorted to stone pelting.

Both SP and DM too were standing with force and fire brigades but could not enter the village. At around 4 pm local Block Pramukh Baijnath Singh reached the scene and police started the action. By that time police force of whole district and adjoining districts as Allahabad, Raibareilly, Sultanpur, Kaushambi too had reached the spot. Even then when SP O P Sagar commanded the police force to enter the village, for five minutes none of them moved. By the time police reached the spot the whole village was burning. Fire brigades were pushed into action. Meanwhile screams of people from a house caught their attention. Nearly 100 people had been locked in a house and it was set on fire. Luckily police managed to rescue them. Some of them were shifted to a Masjid in village which was surrounded by force later at around 6:30 pm they were sent to Kunda tehsil in police van for safety. The whole village has been charred and not a single house of Muslims is intact.

Heavy police force has been stationed in the village. DM has assured that a police post will be opened there while senior officials like IG, DIG have reached the spot. This is the second major onslaught on Muslims during the 100 days of Akhilesh Yadav government. The first one being riots in Kosi Kalan where Muslims suffered and now this time the whole village has been wiped out from the scene. Pratapgarh is the home district of two ministers of AKhilesh government – Raja Bhaiyya and Rajaram Pandey.



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Gulberg: Court raps SIT, asks for probe report (Jun 19, 2012, Indian Express)

The special trial court for the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre case on Monday came down heavily on the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team for not producing the records of its probe despite two earlier orders.

Salim Shaikh, who appeared on behalf of the massacre victims, said that they had filed applications to get the copies of report submitted by the Special Investigation Team to the metropolitan court after probing Zakia Jafri’s complaint that accused the Chief Minister and others of complicity in the riots.

Shaikh said that when special court of B J Dhandha asked the SIT why it hadn’t submitted its report despite being ordered twice, SIT’s advocate R S Jamuar asked the court to recall the order.

The court, however, tersely asked him not to play games by bringing in different advocates. Jamuar was arguing before the court in place of special public prosecutor K C Kodekar, who usually represents the state in the case. The court has asked the SIT to produce the copy of its report by June 27.



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NDA’s disarray has to do with the BJP’s Hindutva parochialism (Jun 22, 2012, Economic Times)

The NDA’s failure to field a candidate of its own for President is an indication of the disarray facing the Opposition alliance, aided by faction fights within the BJP. With its preferred choice, former President A P J Abdul Kalam, having bowed out after the Congress outsmarted a truant Mamata Banerjee by roping in Mulayam Singh Yadav, the BJP is backing former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, if only for the sake of having a nominee.

It can be argued that the BJP is making use of its internal failures to reach out to the likes of former Orissa ally and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik and AIADMK’s Jayalalithaa, who together launched Sangma’s Presidency bid. But Patnaik is trying to poach MLAs of other parties, including the BJP, following the recent coup scare in his state. With even staunch BJP allies, the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal (United), expressing support for Pranab Mukherjee, and two Left parties, the CPI(M) and the Forward Bloc joining in, the latter’s already-solid backing looks impervious now.

More than the presidential elections, what is crucial is the open spat between the BJP-RSS and Nitish Kumar over the possibility of Narendra Modi’s emergence as the NDA’s PM candidate. And it posits the central flaw and failing of the BJP in its attempts to reclaim power at the Centre. The RSS, the BJP’s sponsor and perpetual mentor, has sought to dismiss Nitish Kumar’s objections saying that Hindutva itself is secular. The trouble is not with Hinduism, but with the RSS attempt to morph it into something else.

An instance from the Ramayana is telling. When Bharat visits his elder brother in exile to persuade him to return to Ayodhya, Rama declines but asks after his subjects. In particular, he inquires about the Charvakas, a group of atheists, rebels on the fringe of society. If such a group is doing well, so does the nation – this inclusiveness is the defining hallmark of traditional Rama Rajya. In the Sangh’s version, the minorities have to be bludgeoned into second-hand status. So long as the BJP does not forsake this vision, imported through its ties with the RSS, its allies will remain flighty.



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‘Tulsiram saw policemen picking Sohrabuddin, wife’ (Jun 23, 2012, Indian Express ()

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has completed its probe into the 2006 Tulsiram Prajapati encounter killing and is set to file its chargesheet in the Gujarat High Court in a few days, sources said. They added that the probe agency has established that Tulsiram was the third person travelling with gangster Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi when the couple were picked up by police and killed a few days later in 2005. Tulsiram, a Sohrabuddin aide, was killed in an alleged encounter at Ambaji in Banaskantha in December 2006.

“The investigations in the case are over. We are filing the chargesheet before June 30. We have concluded that Tulsiram was the third person travelling with Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi in the Sangli-bound bus coming from Hyderabad. There is enough evidence to prove Tulsiram was travelling with the couple when they were picked up by police,” a CBI officer told The Indian Express.

“Tulsiram was witness to the abduction of Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi. He knew what unfolded after the couple was taken away to Ahmedabad from Sangli. He was under threat,” the officer added. CBI officials also indicated that the names of police officers found to be involved in Sohrabuddin’s encounter killing are likely to figure in the Tulsiram case chargesheet too. Former minister of state (home) Amit Shah, who was earlier jailed in the Sohrabuddin case, is also under the scanner, the CBI officer said, adding that the probe agency had obtained his call records that show he was in constant touch with D G Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandian between December 25 and December 28, 2006, the day Tulsiram was killed. Both Vanzara and Pandian are in jail in the Sohrabuddin case.

Shah, who was also questioned by the CBI in New Delhi in January this year in connection with the Tulsiram case, had denied any involvement, sources in the CBI said. The CBI had taken over the Tulsiram case probe in May last year on High Court’s orders. On Thursday, the probe agency questioned Rajasthan’s former home minister Gulabchand Kataria at its Gandhinagar office. Kataria is currently a BJP MLA from Udaipur, where Tulsiram was in jail before he was brought to Gujarat and killed. Earlier, the CID that probed the Tulsiram case, had given a clean chit to Shah in July 2010.



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Fake Encounter by ATS, Claims Mumbai Blast Accused (Jun 14, 2012, Outlook)

An accused in the 7/11 Mumbai serial train blasts case has approached the Bombay High Court seeking judicial inquiry of the encounter of a person called Mohammad Ali in 2006 by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS), and the role of former Gujarat DIG D.G. Vanzara in it. Ethesham Siddiqui, the petitioner, claims he had seen Ali in ATS’s custody a day before he was killed in the encounter on August 22, 2006. Ali was shot down by ATS team in a building in suburban Wadala. He was accused of being a Pakistani militant.

Ethesham, however, alleges that Ali was detained by ATS a day before, and was interrogated at the ATS’s Kalachowkie office in south Mumbai. “Ethesham, who is an accused in the July 11 train blasts case, was also present at the ATS office for interrogation. He was put up in the same lock-up as Ali. Former DIG D G Vanzara, who was with Gujarat ATS then, questioned both Ethesham and Ali in relation with another case,” Ethesham’s lawyer advocate Naima Shaikh said in the court today. She said that Ethesham learnt of the encounter in February 2007, and had been seeking information on it through the RTI queries since then.

The petition seeks a judicial inquiry of the encounter and also of Vanzara’s role. Vanzara is presently in Gujarat’s Sabarmati jail as an accused in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. The division bench of Justices S A Bobade and Mridula Bhatkar however questioned the delay in approaching the court. “You claim the encounter happened in 2006 and you came to know of it in 2007. Why have you come to court now after five years?” Justice Bobade asked. Advocate Shaikh said the petitioner was collecting information before approaching the court. The bench directed the petitioner to submit all the documents obtained through RTI by June 28, the next date of hearing.



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Police, administration and politics all are communal at heart: Sawai Singh (Jun 21, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Our police, administration and politics, all have become communal at their hearts, said Mr. Sawai Singh, convener Sadbhav Manch Rajasthan. He was making his remarks as a panelist of the Public Hearing of khaki terror victims, organized by Jamaat-e-Islami Rajasthan here at Pink City Press Club on 17th June. At the Public Hearing many victims of police atrocities narrated their sad story – how they were picked, tortured and then implicated in false cases but later court acquitted them. Mr. Singh demanded prosecution of the guilty police officers. Mr. Singh said that as the courts have acquitted the victims from all charges framed against them, the police officers guilty of their illegal arrest and detention should be prosecuted.

Another panelist Mr. Prem Krishna Sharma, senior advocate and president of the Rajasthan branch of People’s Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) suggested forming a high level committee comprising of police and administrative officers as well as dignified citizens, with fully transparent functioning to save the citizens from such kind of illegal arrests. Mr. Tek Chand Rahul, retired judge and State head of Bhartiya Bhodh Mahasabha, stated that the police don’t happen to be an independent agency, but a ‘tool’ of the state government that acts according to their instructions. He expressed his concern about the communal discrimination rampant in the courts of law in our country. The five-member jury also had Mr. Muhammad Ahmad and Engineer Muhammad Salim, both national secretaries of Jamaat-E-Islami Hind.

Presiding over the Public Hearing, Mr. Muhammad Ahmad said: “The most dangerous thing for our country is that the fascist tendency has prevailed all among the politics, administration as well as our judiciary.”It is the responsibility of the government to provide justice to the citizens but when it fails to do so, its life span is shortened, he added. He was shocked over the cruelty that occurred recently during the riots, “they burn people alive and cut out fetuses from the wombs”. Engineer Muhammad Salim said that our government treats the Muslims as if they were citizens of some other country. He was afraid that our country is heading towards destruction, as our government is following the advices of America and Israel. He was of the opinion that Gujrat CM Narendra Modi was guilty of carnage of the Muslims and he expected that he will soon reach to his actual destination that is ‘jail’.

Seven persons, out of the 30 present in the hearing, shared their agony, how they were forcibly or by some ploy, taken to the police station, then to SOG at Jaipur and were detained for several days and some were later implicated in false cases. The victims came all over from Jaipur, Kota, Baran, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Makrana, Behter, Gangapur City, Sikar and Khandela. “Since last few years, in the aftermath of bomb blasts and other terrorist activities, the police have been harassing Muslims in the name of investigations, by detaining them illegally and by convicting them under false charges and keeping them for years in jail for no crime, also by sending notices to some of them and enquiring unnecessarily, sometimes at their residences, sometimes at police stations, time and again. This harassment of the Muslim youth continues till date and should be stopped immediately as it is sheer injustice”said Engineer Khursheed Husain state chief of Jamaat-E-Islami Hind Rajasthan. “Why the pointer of suspicion turns towards the Muslims only after every incident of bomb blast and why it is presumed without any evidence that there should be some Muslim person or organization behind the incident,”said Mr. Khursheed. He said that Jamaat will organize a demonstration at national level in Delhi and will strive to contain this tyranny on political, social and judicial levels.

Mr. Pekar Farooq, Senior advocate at the Rajasthan High Court and state president of Association For Protection Of Civil Rights, elaborated the legal aspects of the cases. He is also a defence lawyer to one of the Jaipur blasts accused Sarvar. Mr. farooq said that there is not any concrete evidence against any of the accused in Jaipur bomb blast cases, but merely due to prejudice, the court is not even granting bail to the innocent people. In the concluding session, some resolutions were passed. Jamaat demanded that: -The government should apologize for ruining three and a half precious years of the acquitted -Compensate them with 25 lakh rupees each -Provide government job to those who are within the age limit -Restore their services if they were in a government job prior to their arrest -Prosecute the officials responsible for their arrest and torture and deduct the amount of compensation from their salaries. -Stop harassment of the innocent Muslims by frequent enquiries and notices -Bring all cases regarding the bomb blasts at various places to one place, so that speedy hearing could be conducted and the innocent may be acquitted and the guilty be punished at the earliest.



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Government suspends Additional director general over Pune prison murder (Jun 19, 2012, Times of India)

A week after Union home minister P Chidambaram expressed concern over the death of Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui in Pune’s Yerawada jail, the state government on Monday suspended outgoing additional director general of police (prisons) Prakash Pawar in connection with the June 8 incident. Pawar, an IPS officer of the 1984 batch who took over as ADG (prisons) in May last year, has been transferred and replaced by Pune police commissioner Meeran Borwankar. His new posting is ADG (training). While Pawar was non-committal on receiving the suspension order, a senior home department official confirmed to TOI that the ADG has been placed under suspension in connection with Siddiqui’s murder.

Expressing surprise at the state’s move, a section of senior IPS officials said it was wrong on the part of the government to place such a high-ranking police official under suspension. “The state has already suspended the jail superintendent and a high-level probe has been ordered. It’s not expected from an official of the rank of ADG to personally monitor what happens in each and every cell of a jail. Instead of taking action against the DIG and IG, the government has chosen to suspend the ADG. We feel he is being made the scapegoat,” a senior IPS official said.

On June 11, Chidambaram held a meeting with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, director general of police K Subramanyam, Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik and ATS chief Rakesh Maria on the Yerawada jail incident. The home department official said Chidambaram expressed shock at the “near collapse of the jail administration” and asked the CM to fix responsibility for dereliction of duty at all levels.

On June 8, IM operative Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui, accused of executing terror attacks in Bangalore and Delhi and being involved in the attempt to blow up Pune’s Dagadusheth Ganpati temple, was strangled two other inmates-Sharad Mohol and Ashok Bhalerao-in a high- security cell of Yerawada jail.



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ACB detains Rajasthan IPS officer for bribery (Jun 22, 2012, Indian Express)

The Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Thursday detained a 33-year-old IPS officer for questioning on corruption charges and under the Excise Act in Jaipur. ACB officials believe an assistant sub-inspector, Prem Singh, who was arrested earlier in the day, had demanded and accepted a bribe of Rs 1 lakh on behalf of the IPS officer in question, Assistant SP Ajay Singh.

ACB IGP Umesh Mishra told The Indian Express that ASP Ajay Singh was detained for questioning. “He was on official leave and on his way to his village when he was detained for questioning. On searching his car, we found two cases or 24 bottles of liquor for which a case under the Excise Act has been registered,” Mishra said. He added Singh was taken to Ajmer for further questioning.

A 2009-batch IPS officer, Singh completed his probation in Jodhpur and was posted as an ASP in the Ajmer North circle. Singh’s involvement in the case came to light on interrogating ASI Prem Singh, who was caught red-handed while accepting a bribe from a chit fund agent. According to the ACB, Ajay Singh was investigating a chit fund fraud case in Ajmer in which Prem Singh threatened to ‘fix’ the agent unless he paid Rs 1 lakh. The agent approached the ACB, which laid a trap on Thursday.



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Centre urged to ban Sanatan Sanstha: State to high court (Jun 16, 2012, DNA India)

The state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has requested the Centre to ban Sanatan Sanstha, the right-wing outfit whose members are accused in the 2006 and 2008 Malegaon blasts. In an affidavit filed before the Bombay high court, the ATS stated that the authority to declare an organisation unlawful is with the central government under section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The affidavit filed by police inspector Rajaram Mandage states that it would be up to the Centre to independently investigate and assess whether the outfits can be declared as terrorist organisations.

The affidavit has annexed a copy of the proposal marked as “secret” sent by the additional chief secretary of the home department to the director of Ministry of Home Affairs in April 2011 informing that three bomb blast cases have been registered against the Sanstha activists. A letter attached to the affidavit says that the activists of the outfit were motivated from the writings in Sanatan Prabhat publication of the Sanatan Sanstha. The government has concluded that the organisation (Sanatan Sanstha) is liable to be banned with its affiliated sister concerns Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Dharna Shakti Sena, the letter says. It has requested the Centre to consider the recommendation and declare the outfits as unlawful and include its name in the UAPA as a terrorist organisation.

Division bench of Justice DD Sinha and Justice VK Tahilramani on Friday asked about the Sanstha’s objective. The lawyer appearing for the organisation submitted that the Sanstha’s purpose is to promote Hindu religion. The court also wanted to know under what provision an organisation can be banned. Sanstha’s lawyer and petitioner’s lawyer JD Khairnar said that as per the affidavit, the organisation can be banned only under UAPA. The court has directed the Sanstha to file a reply within two weeks.



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Pipli victim dies, parents want culprits to be hanged (Jun 21, 2012, Business Standard)

The 19-year-old Dalit rape victim of Pipili died today after remaining in coma for more than six months with her father demanding capital punishment for the culprits. She died of septicaemia, severe respiratory and cardiological complications, Dr B N Maharana, emergency officer of Cuttack’s SCB Medical College Hospital, told reporters. The girl, who was raped and an attempt made to strangulate her on November 28 last year, was admitted at the medical college hospital on January 11 following intervention of Orissa High Court.

The case relating to assault on the girl was being probed by the Crime Branch of Odisha Police which had so far filed four charge sheets against eight people, including a dismissed police inspector and three doctors. While four persons have been arrested till date, the policeman and doctors have not been taken into custody. The body was handed over to the family members of the girl after post-mortem. The victim’s father Babuli Behera of Arjungada village under Pipili police station of Puri district was given a cheque of Rs 10 lakh by the state government as financial assistance to the family.

“I demand capital punishment for the culprits. We will seek intervention of the prime minister,” Behera said. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who was in Puri to witness Lord Jagannath’s car festival, condoled the death of the teenager and assured the victim’s parents that culprits would be punished. The death of the girl came two days after Orissa High Court, which monitored her treatment, directed the state government to continue providing best available treatment to her and gave liberty to petitioner advocate Prabir Das, a social activist, to approach the court in case he felt any negligence in her treatment.



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Opinions and Editorials

The riot & after – By Harinder Baweja, Mahesh Langa (Jun 23, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Shakeela Banu remembers the day vividly. How can she forget February 28, 2002? On that day, Naroda Patiya, a nondescript colony in Ahmedabad resembled a gigantic bonfire hungry for bone and flesh. Mobs gathered on the main road’s Noorani Masjid and then roamed its labyrinthine bylanes shouting slogans of Jai Shri Ram; swords and trishuls firmly in hand. The sharp-edged weapons were used to wound and the fire to char the bodies; many beyond recognition. Among the 95 hapless Muslims that the fire devoured were Shakeela’s mother, two brothers, a sister-in-law and two young nieces and nephews; the children flung into the blaze like little pieces of driftwood. Eight members of Shakeela’s family had been hounded to death and 10 years later, what makes it worse is the fact that their neighbours had turned bloodthirsty and done them in. Naroda Patiya, a locality with an equal mix of Hindus and Muslims had bled the most and Shakeela’s heart still bleeds. She remembers the day death had visited them and she shudders. The neighbours-turned-murderers have been out on bail and every day one of the 300 witnesses, who stood steadfast and testified in court, is being threatened. Judgement day is drawing nearer and the threats and intimidation are increasing with each hour that brings them closer to June 30, when judge Jyotsana Yagnik will deliver a verdict on the 62 accused.

The list of accused tells the grisly story of 2002 and gives a clear anatomy of the riots. Amongst them is one of Narendra Modi’s ministers – Mayaben Kodnani, the local MLA from the area who was, in 2007, made the minister of state in charge of women and child development. Then, there is her personal assistant, Kirpal Singh, so smug on power, he thought he might never be booked for accompanying the minister and distributing lethal weapons. There is also the former Bajrang Dal leader, Babu Bajrangi who had gloated over how he ripped apart the pregnant Kaiser Bano’s stomach and pulled out her nine-month-old foetus. And of course there are the neighbours and accomplices of Kodnani from Naroda Patiya who brought her back to power with the largest victory margin – 1.8 lakh votes – in 2007. But more than the political margin, the distinction that victims draw attention to is the hospital Kodnani ran as a qualified gynaecologist. But on February 28, this giver of life gave birth to deep-seated hatred and sowed the seeds of revenge. The special court, designated by the Supreme Court, heard it in the words of Siddique Mansoor, an eye witness who deposed in court despite the lure of a better life and when that didn’t work, a kidnapping and the direct threat of, “We’ll kill you if you speak about Mayaben”. But Mansoor said it all in court and recounted how he had seen Kodnani order her PA Kirpal Singh to distribute swords, tridents and jerry cans full of kerosene. And then the instigation when she said, “Our Hindu brothers have been killed. We have to avenge their deaths. Kill the ‘miyas’. I am with you. There will be no police enquiry”.

Kodnani’s promise went half-kept. The Naroda Patiya case was initially investigated by the state crime branch, which did not make her an accused on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence against her. Her name made it to the list of accused only after the Supreme Court transferred nine riot cases, including Naroda Patiya, to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2008. Kodnani was not the only recipient of the largesse of the local police. The subversion of justice ran deep and wide. Circumstances were ranged against the victims from day one when the naked dance of death gripped the locality. Scores have testified to how the Special Reserve Police (SRP) whose camp was a stone’s throw from Muslim homes had turned the women and children away, refusing to give them shelter and lathi charging and tear gassing them instead. They have testified to how the police inspector KK Mysorewala had sided with the mob and saluted Kodnani as she exhorted the mob to kill. Despite several testimonies, Mysorewala has not been listed as an accused; a battle, activist Teesta Setalwad has taken to the Supreme Court. The victims were willing to tell their stories to anyone who cared but help had not come on February 28 even though the Ahmedabad Police Headquarter is located a mere four kms away. “No one came to tame the execution squad that killed 95 in a matter of hours,” says NGO, Jan Sangharsh Manch’s Mukul Sinha. Even afterwards, the subversion continued. The police did not annexe the testimonies of the victims to the chargesheet. Cruelly, the police did not pursue the allegations of rape even though survivors reported it and despite the fact that at least one postmortem report indicated sexual assault. Worse, autopsies on 41 bodies were not carried out. The list of omissions is endless – a mobile, dropped by one of the accused and handed over to the police, was not investigated; the police did not probe fire-arm injuries and investigate the larger question of where the guns were procured from; nor did they make any effort to analyse the call records of the accused.

If they had – the anatomy of the riot would have been laid bare. Rahul Sharma, SP Bhavnagar, who had deftly controlled the rioters in his district and saved 500 school children, officially called for the call details, which he submitted to the Nanavati Commission. The officer has now been chargesheeted by the government, but the log is a chilling piece of evidence – the accused were in touch with each other, with the chief minister’s office and the Minister of State for Home, Gordan Zadaphia. Why should Jaideep Patel, the general secretary of the VHP, have been in touch with Babu Bajrangi? Why was the MLA in constant touch with the VHP general secretary and what was Kodnani doing, being in regular contact with the other accused? The log nailed Kodnani’s fate and sealed the lie that the crime branch had chosen to buy – that she was in Gandhinagar on February 28. The SIT, which also finally got seven witness testimonies, was forced to arrest her though it did not oppose her bail when it was granted. The court will now give its verdict on Kodnani, Bajrangi and the other accused but relief is not a sentiment that marks the victims of Naroda Patiya. Most of them have been living under police protection since the trial began in 2009 and many are now planning to move out of home for fear that the neighbours will seek a second revenge. Shamshad Khan Pathan, advocate for the victims, is being inundated with requests for more security. But there is one person who is definitely leaving. Shakeela Banu will be escorting her daughter, who is eight months pregnant, to a dargah. The pain of having lost eight members in 2002 still hits her like a stab. Fresh too are memories of Kaiser Bano’s stomach being ripped open and the foetus being wrenched out.



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Split Wide Open – By Saba Naqvi, Smruti Koppikar (Jul 2, 2012, Outlook)

Does he inspire fear and loathing or does he give inspirational leadership? Is he persona non grata or primus inter pares (first among equals), as one of his admirers describes Narendra Modi? What can be stated with certainty is that the Gujarat chief minister is the most polarising figure on the Indian national stage, and when such a personality aspires to the most powerful office in the land, there is bound to be a reaction that matches it in scale and sheer force. The first sputters came from within Modi’s own ideological family-the nasty episode with RSS’s Sanjay Joshi who had to leave the BJP’s national executive in Mumbai a month ago, the continued campaign by BJP dissidents in Gujarat, and the fact that a senior leader like L.K. Advani has also indicated a disagreement with a projection of Modi as the primary leader. Modi’s supporters would possibly argue that all these are spent forces, the little people in a landscape where the Gujarat CM is a Gulliver-like figure. But they can hardly say that about Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who, like Modi, has won three assembly elections, is politically all-powerful in a state that sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha, 14 more than Gujarat’s 26. His JD(U) is the most significant regional player in the NDA, and in an interview last week Nitish made it crystal clear that he would not be part of the alliance if Modi is the PM candidate. He wanted a “secular” leader, he said. Most critically, as a source close to him says, “he has demanded in the interview that the BJP name a PM candidate now so that they do not imagine they can bluff its allies”. The Bihar CM has made his moves at a time when the BJP is already demoralised and divided over the presidential elections, with the Abdul Kalam plan sinking before it set sail. And when the party finally settled on backing P.A. Sangma, it was pointedly let down by the JD(U) – NDA’s liberal face – and the Shiv Sena – its hardline face – who both decided to back dyed-in-the-wool Congressman Pranab Mukherjee.

Not a good time for the BJP. But it is the Nitish-Modi tussle that will define the future. Trapped between the two powerful bearded leaders from the east and west, the BJP for some days did not field any spokespersons in TV studios on this issue. An official briefing at the party headquarters was cancelled. As a senior BJP leader quipped, “We are quite speechless.” Sources close to Nitish say that he took a strategic decision on the Modi question – the Gujarat CM would like to keep the debate on his economic growth agenda; the Bihar CM gave the signal to focus on the taint of the riots and how Vajpayee and other NDA leaders believe they lost the 2004 general elections because of 2002. The planned nuancing of Project Modi began to go awry in the TV studios when words like fascism, communalism, riots, killers, Hindus and Muslims flew around and it was not Teesta Setalvad but members of the JD(U) who were invoking Hitler to make the point. Then RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat jumped in and said that it is wrong to describe a pro-Hindu leader as not being secular. It was an indication both of an RSS endorsement of Modi and of the Sangh trying to run the BJP. Again not quite the way Modi would like his image to evolve. He has projected himself as the strongman who keeps the RSS in place and possibly even rescues the BJP from its clutches; here the sarsanghchalak was sending the signal that he was a “Hindu” leader who must be supported. It has been a trailer of what is to come if Modi is actually projected as the PM candidate after the Gujarat assembly elections in December 2012. The JD(U)-BJP alliance works well on the ground in Bihar, so having made his point, Nitish will hold his horses till (and if) the BJP makes a formal declaration of Modi for PM. It is recent political history that propels Nitish. In the 2004 general elections, Laloo Yadav, who was losing ground, stemmed the slide when he ensured that CDs and posters about the Gujarat riots were circulated. He managed 22 seats, although less than a year later, he lost the assembly polls. After six months of President’s rule, Laloo lost even more decisively to the alliance led by Nitish in November 2005. The 2009 general elections saw a role reversal when the JD(U) got 20 seats from Bihar while junior partner BJP scored 12 (and Laloo a pathetic four). The next year, in 2010, the JD(U) got close to a simple majority in the assembly, a big achievement in the post-Mandal fractured polity of Bihar and UP. With the BJP, there’s a staggering majority of 206 in a house of 243.

With a 16 per cent minority population in his state, Nitish cannot risk a polarisation against him. Lashing out at Modi and keeping him out of Bihar borders is just good politics. That is why Saibal Gupta, a Patna-based economist considered close to the CM, says that “Nitish is mentally, organisationally and politically preparing himself for a possible break with the BJP on the Modi question. He has to continue with the secular socialist tradition here. Even the BJP’s deputy chief minister Sushil Modi is from that tradition.” Sushil Modi too has said that the future NDA leader should be a Vajpayee-like figure. In Bihar, they say that “our Modi” is different from “that Modi”. A close aide of Nitish says that since the Modi ball has been flung at him, he will hit it hard because it is good politics for him to do so. The CM, he reveals, had been warning BJP leaders ever since Modi took centrestage at the BJP national executive a month ago. “Nitishji,” says the aide, “told the BJP leaders, aap kaise kaise position le rahein hain. Ab hamara position bhi dekhiye (you are taking such positions, now watch mine).” The question that Nitish has brought centrestage is whether the BJP wants to repel allies or attract them. It is something the BJP must confront. It ruled the country with an inclusive figure like Vajpayee. A Modi-centric campaign will take off only if it is proven that he can indeed add to the BJP’s kitty and revitalise the party. So far, even that is just a hypothesis.

BJP’s oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, too doesn’t seem enamoured of the national party’s moves. Despite an association spanning two and a half decades and concurrence over aggressive Hindutva as a political tool, the Sena broke ranks over the presidential polls. In fact, the Sena has repeatedly snubbed the BJP lately. First, Uddhav Thackeray refused to attend last Sunday’s meeting in New Delhi on the presidential poll; a day later, he took apart his ally’s failed efforts to keep the NDA together; the following day, his father and Sena chief Bal Thackeray lambasted the BJP in party paper Saamna, saying-“If you don’t keep a sword, don’t go out to battle”; and when the BJP endorsed P.A. Sangma’s candidature, the Thackerays refused to change their stance. Uncharacteristically again, the Sena surprised everyone by seemingly opposing the effort to project Modi as the prime minister for 2014. “The BJP would have been better off taking the consent of all allies before projecting Modi as the next PM candidate, at least that’s what long-standing allies expect,” says a caustic Sanjay Raut, Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP. The Sena is ambivalent over Modi. In his ideal world, Thackeray Sr should adore a “Hindutva” prime minister who could take on India’s neighbours and project the country as a strong Hindu power on the global stage. But between dreams and reality there is realpolitik and human egos. The Sena leadership believes that Modi would bring new elements into a tested relationship. The Sangh parivar’s projection of Modi as a ‘Hindu hriday samrat’ is, to put it mildly, offensive to the Sena cadre, given that Thackeray Sr has been referred to with that title since the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. Says a Sena insider, “Modi’s persona is such that he doesn’t give any bhav (importance) to other leaders, whereas Balasaheb is used to BJP leaders, from Vajpayeeji to the late Pramod Mahajan, treating him with deference.”

And it’s not just the Sena which has mixed feelings over the projection of Modi as PM; sections of the Maharashtra BJP do so too. For decades, the party was broadly grouped under the RSS-Gadkari loyalists and the relatively modernist Mahajan-Munde acolytes; the two groups have slightly different views on Modi-as-PM, though no one dare discuss this openly. The second group and the Sena share the fear that projecting Modi may polarise votes in 2014 to an extent where the NDA will lose its best chance of coming to power. “Our PM candidate for 2014 has to be a careful and considered decision, not the BJP’s unilateral one,” says Raut. Once upon a time, Chandrababu Naidu gave outside support to the NDA (see interview) and the alliance was a rainbow of regional parties. Over the years, that universe has shrunk. If the JD(U) departs, the BJP would be left with the Akali Dal and Sena as its significant allies. The Akalis are currently engaged in building a memorial to Bhindranwale and friends, an action that can hardly be acceptable in the world according to the RSS. AIADMK chief J. Jayalalitha is said to have an excellent relationship with Modi, but can she alone offset those who would stay away? If the BJP still positions Modi as PM, it would be an exercise in going inward. Individuals often heal themselves by searching within. But it would be paradoxical for a coalition-era political party to attempt that.



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Hollow promise – By Purnima S. Tripathi (Jun 16, 2012, Frontline)

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which never tires of boasting about its pro-minority orientation, has failed to live up to the expectations it created in the minorities. The Ministry of Minority Affairs has not even spent 50 per cent of the funds allotted for development works in districts with a high concentration of minorities. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, led by Dara Singh Chauhan of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and attached to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, has come out with a damning report card on the UPA government’s minority-related initiatives. No wonder members of these communities, especially Muslims, have been left wondering whether there is any substance to the promises the government made. Following the Rajinder Sachar Committee report, which placed Muslims below the Scheduled Castes in terms of socio-economic indicators, the government came up with the idea of identifying districts with a high concentration of minority communities and launching the Multi-sectoral Development Programme (MsDP) in them. The programme was made the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The Ministry was created by UPA-I specifically for the development of minorities, which basically means Muslims, who account for 13.4 per cent of the population of a country where all the minorities together constitute 18.4 per cent. Christians constitute 2.3 per cent, Sikhs 1.9 per cent, Buddhists 0.8 per cent and Parsis 0.007 per cent. The literacy rate; work participation; and access to pucca houses, safe drinking water, electricity and water closet latrines were some of the factors that were taken into account to assess the socio-economic conditions and the availability of basic amenities in districts with a high concentration of minorities. Ninety districts with minority populations of 20-25 per cent were earmarked for the MsDP.

The MsDP was launched in the financial year 2008-09. But has the initiative yielded any results at the ground level? Has it made any difference to the quality of life of those it was meant to benefit? The Ministry of Minority Affairs has asked the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) to find out. The ICSSR report is awaited. Prominent Muslim leaders say nothing has been achieved. Shockingly, the Parliamentary Standing Committee has found that three years after the MsDP was launched, plans to implement it were not even approved for all the 90 districts. In 28 “minority concentration” districts, plans have only been partially approved. Obviously, implementation remains a distant dream. In projects involving the provision of basic amenities, the rate of implementation is not even 50 per cent. Under the MsDP, over 2,95,162 houses were supposed to be built under the Indira Awaas Yojana, but only 1,75,008 houses have been built. No clear reasons have been cited by the Ministry for not building the rest. Also, as against 689 schools and 2,498 primary health care centres supposed to be built under the MsDP, only 334 schools and 1,623 primary health care centres have been built. The Ministry cites delays in construction work because of longer gestation periods and delays caused by the process of floating tenders. The committee refused to buy the argument and took serious note of the lapses in implementation.

During field surveys in hospitals in the notified districts, the committee came across gross negligence in hospitals where augmentation of facilities and services had been envisaged. For example, in a Kolkata hospital included under the MsDP scheme, the committee members were appalled by the lack of physicians, gynaecologists, paediatricians, intravenous facilities, escalators, ambulances, medicines and other basic stuff. Similarly, surprise inspections of schools under the scheme exposed a serious lack of facilities at every level. No wonder the funds earmarked for various development works under the scheme remained unspent. The committee found that out of Rs.2,359.39 crore released under the MsDP from 2009 onwards, only Rs.1,174.93 crore was reported as expenditure by various States and Union Territories. The Ministry cited delay in the transfer of funds to the States to explain the slow pace of implementation. The committee found this unsatisfactory because it is the Ministry’s responsibility to oversee the implementation of projects under this ambitious scheme. The committee discovered that except in Jharkhand, in all other States and U.Ts where the MsDP was in operation, the desired monitoring mechanism did not exist. The State-level monitoring committees, which are supposed to monitor the implementation of all programmes under the MsDP, did not meet at all or met infrequently, that too without proper representation of the legislators concerned.

This lackadaisical attitude of the Ministry of Minority Affairs to issues that can actually improve the quality of life of Muslims has left prominent community members wondering whether the government was at all serious in doing anything for their welfare. They cite the Supreme Court ruling of May 9 in which it directed the government to do away with Hajj subsidies in a phased manner in the next 10 years. Despite the apex court’s totally unambiguous observations in this regard, the government is still to take any steps in this direction, which is surprising as Muslims themselves have demanded abolition of the subsidy because it is against the basic tenets of Islam. The government has retained Rs.12,000 as fare to be paid by Hajj pilgrims and pays approximately Rs.28,000 a pilgrim to Air India, which operates chartered flights. In 2011, more than a lakh pilgrims went on the Hajj, and the total subsidy could be anything between Rs.600 crore and Rs.800 crore. Even Muslim Members of Parliament have demanded that instead of giving the “so-called subsidy”, the government should use that money to provide Muslims medical and educational facilities. In 2004, a group of Muslim MPs, led by K. Rehman Khan, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, submitted a proposal to the Prime Minister suggesting a mechanism for managing Hajj travel on the lines of the one that exists in Malaysia and Indonesia. Under this system, called Tabung Haji in Malaysia, a fund is created in which every Muslim saves money which he can at a later stage utilise to fund his Hajj pilgrimage. The fund, meanwhile, is used to finance development projects. In a small country like Malaysia, which has one and a half crore Muslims, this fund is worth $10 billion. “The Muslim population in India is 180 million. If the proposed institution targets even 10 per cent of this population, it can reach over 15 million investors, and if the average saving per investor is around Rs.25,000, it can aim to mobilise over Rs.30,000 crore in the course of three to five years. This can change the face of the minority community in India,” Rehman Khan said.

Unfortunately, there has been no response from the government on the proposal. In 2007-08, a committee was constituted under the Cabinet Secretary by the Prime Minister. It submitted its report recently, but nothing from the report has been made public. Fed up with the government’s apathy on crucial issues, members of the community have decided to launch a mobilisation drive within the community itself on an all-India basis. In a series of meetings planned over the next few months, prominent Muslim leaders are expected to discuss the “Muslim vision” of India and come up with a plan for the betterment of the community, Rehman Khan said. These leaders include politicians cutting across party lines, parliamentarians, intellectuals and ulemas. A concept paper on “Muslim vision of secular India” has been formulated by Javed Jamil, executive chairman of the International Centre for Applied Islamics, in association with Rehman Khan and Sirajuddin Qureshi, president, Indian Islamic Cultural Centre. The objective is to make the community itself a major stakeholder in its development and motivate members to take their future into their own hands, for which the government will play the role of a facilitator. The approach paper of this plan, which has been widely circulated and discussed within the community, is likely to be finalised into a concrete plan of action soon.



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Terrorism In India: Between Facts And Fiction – By Imran Khan (Jun 15, 2012, Countercurrents)

More and more concerns are being expressed by human rights activists in India today on the question of fabricated and false charges on innocent people. When Dr. Binayak Sen spent his time in jail on such charges, activist groups all over the country and abroad came out and protested. For the first time in the history of human rights movement in India, around two dozen Nobel Prize Winners came out to defend him. It should also be noted that there were even protests against such fabrication in front of Indian embassies in different parts of the world. However, with the arrest of Binayak Sen, the contemporary history of ‘fabricating false cases’ by the Indian state took a new turn. The arrest took place while Dr. Sen was a national leader of India’s pioneering human rights organization, People’s Union for Civil liberties (PUCL). The activists felt that the message was loud and clear: That even human rights defenders can imprisoned for no reason under repressive laws of the post-independent India. Dr. Sen was released due to public pressure. But thousands are still languishing behind bars, waiting for justice. The nameless adivasis who were arrested like Sen from different parts of Chattisgarh, speak of an unknown territory even to the best of our human rights activists. And new messages are given. Even journalists can be grilled. Thus, K.K. Shahina, Azmi, Seema Azad, Advocate Naushad Kasimji and others have become victims of freedom of expression. Fabricating false cases has become a norm today than an exception, according to human rights groups. Minorities, dalits, adivasis, people’s movements and self determination movements become an easy prey to false charges. Recent events illustrate some of the above concerns of the activists. Hundreds of people took out a protest March in Dharbanga village in Bihar recently, protesting the detention of local youth for alleged involvement in the Bangalore Chinnaswamy stadium blasts. Karnataka police arrested Kafil Akthar (26), earlier in the month on what Muslims living in the area see as unconvincing evidence, sparking protests even by local politicians. Now the Karnataka police has also named Fasih Mehmood, a young engineer from Dharbanga who works in Saudi Arabia, apparently based on statements made by Akthar in police custody. Mehmood’s wife Nikhat Parveen, says Mehmood has been arrested by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) on May 14 and has moved a habeas corpus petition before the Supreme Court. The Home Minister P Chidambaram in a press statement denied that Indian Security agencies have arrested Mehmood and said that the Karnataka and Delhi police will approach Interpol to issue a red notice against the missing Mehmood.

It is not merely the Muslims of Dharbanga who are up in arms against what they believe is a witch-hunt. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too had difficulty controlling his rage when the team of Karnataka police arrested Kafil Akhtar, who is a teacher of Urdu at Al Azhar School Dharbhanga, citing involvement in the Chinnaswamy stadium blasts. The police team from Bangalore not only violated jurisdictional authority by keeping the Bihar police in the dark about the arrest; they hauled Akhtar off to the neighbouring state of Jharkhand and remanded him in a court in Ranchi. Nitish’s ire is natural given that he has come to power in Bihar by turning the Muslim votes away from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and has to be sensitive to the increasing sense of victimization among the minority community. But his unease about the arrest could go beyond the dubious manner in which it was executed. Ever since 17th April 2010, when two bombs exploded in front of Chinnaswamy stadium during an IPL clash between Royal challengers Bangalore and Mumbai, the Bangalore police has done more flip-flops on who was responsible for the attack than a circus acrobat. Everyone from the Pakistan-based LeT to PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madani to the betting mafia in Mumbai, has been assigned the villain role in the Bangalore police’s ever shifting narrative. On that day, an hour before the IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, two light intensity explosions were heard going off at the packed MA Chinnaswamy stadium. Initially, the police thought that a nearby transformer had blown up. But as details emerged that 15 people have been injured including five security personnel, it was finally confirmed that two light explosions had occured at the venue. The news created panic and sent the thundering crowd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium into deafening silence. The crowd which had gathered to watch the charged IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians till then had not realised that there were five more bombs planted around the premise of the stadium which failed to explode that day. The then city police commissioner Shankar Bidari who reached the venue a few minutes after the explosions accused Indian Mujahideen for the blasts. Contradicting him, DIG and IGP of the state Ajai Kumar Singh claimed that it was the handiwork of Pakistan- based terror outfit Lashkar E Toiba.

Contradicting both of them, the then (Late) home minister VS Acharya had said that the betting mafia was behind the blast as they wanted to shift the venue from Bangalore to Mumbai. Talking to reporters Acharya had then said, “Underworld normally has links with betting lobby. Some elements wanted to scare away people and shift the two IPL semi-finals from the city to Mumbai”. The match however was later allowed to continue. ” As suspension of the match would have triggered panic and even stampede while evacuating the 30,000 spectators”, Acharya had said. But eventually, the main semi-final matches scheduled in Bangalore were shifted to Mumbai. Interestingly during the same time, IPL had come under the scanner of the union government. On April 22 Union Sports and Youth Affairs minister MS Gill had demanded that Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI) should be brought under the sports ministry and held accountable. The tax exemptions granted to one of the richest sports body in the world prompted Jayanthi Natrajan (the current union environment and forests) minister to call it a classic case of “crony capitalism and worst corporate governance” in the Parliament. During the question hour, several members of parliament had questioned how the union government was handing out tax sops to a board which lacked accountability, transparency and responsibility. The competing theories as to who was really behind the MA Chinnaswamy stadium blasts case was settled; On August 24 home minister (late) VS Acharya contradicting his earlier statement announced that jailed People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader and Muslim cleric Abdul Nasir Maudany has confessed his involvement in the stadium blasts case during his interrogation. Maudany who was acquitted after nine and half years as an under trail for his alleged role in the Coimbatore blasts case, was again arrested on 17th August 2010 by the Karnataka police for his alleged role in the 2008 serial bomb blasts case which rocked the Bangalore city. Handicapped with only one foot, Maudany has several health problems. Three months back, the former Kerala Chief Minister demanded proper medical care to him. But the recent reports indicate that Maudany is turning blind due to lack of proper treatment for his sugar levels in blood. Since then, according to the official claims of the police, six persons have been arrested from Bihar in connection with the stadium blasts case; giving Bihar the distinction of the next terror hub of India after Azamgarh. In a press hand out issued to the media on 8th May this year, the police claims Mohd Qateel Siddique (31years), Afthab Alam (24years), Muhammed Tarique Anjum Hassan (31 years), Gayoor Ahmad Jamali bin Narsulla Jamad Jamali (21years), Gohar Aziz Komini bin Muhammad Luqman Komini (31years) and Kamal Hassan (24years) all part of the Indian Mujahideen cell headed by Bhatkal brothers (Yasin, Riyaz and Iqbal) were all part of a sinister plan to carry out subversive activities all over India (including the Chinnaswamy stadium blasts) from Delhi and Dharbhanga.

The Karnataka police claim (press handout of 8th May) that, the arrest was made in Bihar (at 1.30 pm on 6th May-2012) and that the accused were produced in Ranchi district court, Jharkhand to secure police custody. (They claim that, Akhtar was inciting Muslim youths for Jihad and, was an accomplice of the larger plan of the IM to plant bombs in several prominent places in India). Kafeel’s brother Aqeel Akhtar (39) who has lodged a complaint with the local police told this reporter that his brother was arrested at 6 in the morning, while he was sleeping. ‘ Around 12 people forcefully barged into our house and arrested Kafeel when he was sleeping. When his wife protested and asked them why they were arresting him, they didn’t say anything. My brother has never been out of Dharbhanga, and there is no record of his involvement in any illegal activity. Karnataka police has made a mistake in arresting him’, says Aqeel. While Bihar’s Mohammed Kafeel Akhtar’s case has received media attention due to the statement of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, the case of Syed Abdul Rehman a resident of Chamrajpet, Bangalore arrested during the same time has escaped the attention. Karnataka police who arrested Syed Abdul Rehman(24years) on 7thMay, claim that, Rehman, a petty thief who was arrested in an attempt to murder case in 2010 came in contact with the Pakistan based Al badr group. During his time in Bangalore’s high security Parappana Agrahara prison he was given jihadi motivational training by Pakistan national Fahad. He was given jihadi material and videos inside the high security central prison, and was later introduced to Pakistan based Lashkar E Toiba handlers. Rehman received bail five months ago and was in constant touch with Pak based LET handlers, police say. Money was supplied to him to incite Muslim youth to wage war against India, and Rehman was planning even to break Fahd out of prison and fly him out of the country claims the police.

“We agree that Rehman was a petty thief, and in fact when the juvenile justice act came into force in 2000, he was one of the first people to get relief from it. But to say that, he was an LET handler and was planning to carry out subversive activities is little farfetched” says his lawyer Deepak. When questioned why he had avoided attending the court when out on bail, leading to summons being issued against him, his mother Noor Jan (54) said, ” he was afraid that he would be arrested again. He was all the while with us hiding in our relative’s home. But as the police say he wasn’t planning to go to Pakistan”. Rehman is the youngest of a 10 member joint family. His father 76 year old Syed Ibrahim, a mutawali (caretaker) of Tippu masjid for the past 50 years lost his left leg seven years ago due to an accident in Saudi Arabia. In a heavy voice, he said, ‘My son was arrested 15 days ago when he was coming from his afternoon prayers. The police however show that he was arrested just three days ago. They also weaved lies saying that, a huge cache of arms was recovered from our home”. A red faced Nitish has drafted a letter protesting the manner of arrest to Karnataka Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda accused the Karnataka police of not trusting and informing the Bihar police prior to the arrest (Not even the SP of the area was aware of it). He said, “The Karnataka police has brazenly violated an established law about giving prior information to the local police about arrest of a person from its jurisdiction.” The issue of the arrest has turned into a full blown political controversy in Bihar with opposition parties taking a shot at the government in the assembly. Joint Commissioner of Crime (EAST) B Dayanand who oversaw the arrest however denied that there was any violation on the part of Karnataka police. At the outset, it may be difficult for a common man to judge who is innocent and who is guilty. But suspicions are being placed on the way most of these arrests take place. The ultimate question is: ‘who wins and who loses?’



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A Stick Called 124(A) – By Panini Anand, Debarshi Dasgupta (Jul 2, 2012, Outlook)

Prakash Ram, a farmer from a village near Haldwani in Uttarakhand, had never heard of Mao Tse Tung. Ironically enough, his first lesson on Chairman Mao and his ideology came not from some gun-toting guerrilla but the Uttarakhand police. Accusing him of being a Maoist, they arrested him oncharges of sedition on August 30, 2004. It has taken eight years for the 28-year-old to be finally cleared of the taint, by the Rudrapur sessions court this month. “I spent two of the best years of my life behind bars (he was granted bail in 2006) and six more years in my legal battle for justice,” he says. “I may be free now but this arrest has spoilt my reputation and will make it difficult for me to get work. Who will pay for this? Will someone be held responsible?” The dark days of Emergency, rung in 37 years ago this week, may have become a distant memory for some, but for many others, an Emergency-like situation is a recurring reality. Just as in 1975 and the year after, when the State suppressed dissent and abolished civil rights, the democratic republic of India continues to target disaffected voices and accuse of sedition anyone it sees as a threat. Rajinder Sachar, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court, thinks the situation today is actually worse. “In 1975,” he says, “the Emergency was more of a political game played by one political party but now everyone is restricted from speaking. One law after the other is passed, stopping one from speaking openly. A situation is being created where anybody can be declared anti-national. We are actually going through an undeclared Emergency.”

One of the latest victims of Section 124(A), a law that deals with sedition and which is a handy tool for the government to target trenchant critics, is Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay. A journalist couple from Allahabad, they had written fearlessly about corruption and illegal mining in Uttar Pradesh. Charged with sedition, the two were sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 70,000 by a sessions court in Allahabad on June 8. Seema and Vijay were arrested in February 2010 at the Allahabad railway station on their return from New Delhi. They were accused of being members of the banned CPI (Maoist) group simply because the police deemed the literature recovered from them to be “anti-national”. Their advocate Ravi Kiran Jain argues that this verdict ignores the observations the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court made in 2011 while hearing the bail plea of Dr Binayak Sen, who too was charged with sedition. “If someone has the autobiography of Gandhi at his home, will he be called a Gandhian,” the apex court had famously asked the prosecution lawyer. “Even in this case,” says Jain, “Seema and her husband were simply in possession of some literature on Maoism. This does not make them Maoists.” The advocate now plans to file an appeal on behalf of the duo in the Allahabad High Court. Other than Dr Sen and the Allahabad couple, there were at least six other high-profile cases involving sedition in 2010. They include Arundhati Roy, who was booked under Section 124(A) for making a speech supporting azadi in Kashmir, and Salem-based environmental activist Piyush Sethia, who was accused of sedition for disrupting a Republic Day ceremony in Salem in 2010 by attempting to distribute a controversial anti-mining leaflet. In fact, things took on a farcical turn when Srinagar-based lecturer Noor Mohammed Bhatt was slapped with the sedition charge in December the same year for including a question in an English paper asking if stone-pelters were the real heroes and asking students to translate from Urdu to English a passage that read, “Kashmiri blood is being spilled like water, Kashmiri children are being killed by police and Kashmiri women are being showered with bullets.”

There is no official record of the total number of cases involving sedition, but the sudden spurt in such cases has generated much concern. Civil rights groups have launched a nationwide campaign to have the law repealed. Says veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, who was in jail during the Emergency, “The sedition law is a weapon in the hand of the State which evokes doubts, suspicion and hatred in the mind of the people against whom the charges are made. Such an undemocratic and anti-people law must be repealed immediately. In fact, it should have been done many years back.” Most of these cases (see Memories of Another Day) have targeted people who have fearlessly spoken up for the rights of the marginalised, especially the Dalits and tribals. It was for this reason that Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit rights activist from Mumbai, was picked up by the Maharashtra police from Wardha in January last year for being a “Naxal supporter”. Still lodged in a Nagpur jail, many speculate the real reason he was picked up was his writings and activities that helped mobilise Dalits for their rights. Like him, Gananath Patra, the 73-year-old convenor of Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh in Narayanpatna in Orissa, too was charged with sedition and put behind bars in January 2010. He was released on bail earlier this month due to poor health but on the condition that he must not engage in any activism. He had earlier helped tribals in and around Narayanpatna take back around 10,000 acres of land that had been forcefully acquired from them. Of course, it is activism in areas under the grip of left-wing extremism that the government is extremely sensitive about. Sethia, the Salem-based activist, found himself in the crosshairs precisely for this. Carrying pamphlets criticising Operation Green Hunt, he was set to spread his message cycling all the way to Sivaganga, the constituency Union home minister P. Chidambaram represents. However, the Tamil Nadu police arrested him in Salem itself, even before he could distribute the pamphlets at the R-Day ceremony there. Out on bail since February 2010, the sedition charges still hold. The real cause for his arrest though, Sethia believes, is his fight against illegal mining in the region. He was the main litigant in a case in the Madras High Court that resulted in the closure of a local mining unit that belonged to Vedanta. Funnily enough, there has not been a single hearing in Sethia’s case so far. “Either they should drop the charges, or they should go ahead with the case and finish it off. It is a sort of leash on my activities,” says Sethia, whose questioning gaze encompasses areas like the Forests Rights Act and water pollution and privatisation.

Nuclear energy is another area that the government, including at the state level, has begun to get touchy about. The slightest whiff of opposition is promptly dismissed as anti-national. Little wonder then that as many as 3,500 protesters were charged with sedition in the aftermath of the Koodankulam protests in Tamil Nadu, where locals were agitating against the construction of a nuclear power plant. Says V. Suresh, an advocate at the Madras High Court and someone who has spent time with the locals, “While laws are meant to protect the people, in this case, the sedition law has been clearly misused by the government to further its interests.” Anand Swaroop Verma, Delhi-based editor of monthly journal Samkaleen Teesri Duniya, expresses concern at a different level. This crackdown by the State, he says, has been met with only rare instances of media criticism and scrutiny. He attributes this to a media cooption strategy which ensures reporting of sedition cases is largely favourable towards the government. “Six years back, the PM, in a conference on internal security with CMs, had urged them to coopt the media and get them to play a more positive role in the fight against terrorism,” he adds. The media, of course, often colludes wilfully.

Even when filed on flimsy grounds, the legal hassles and harassment the sedition charge involves serve as a deterrent to others, forced as they are to think twice before taking on the might of the State. Ask E. Rati Rao, vice president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Karnataka. While she was booked under sedition for asking uncomfortable questions on encounter deaths in the Malanadu area in October 2007, the case against her was dismissed in September 2010 after the police failed to file a chargesheet. “All they wanted to do was just terrorise me, and by doing so, terrorise others,” she says. “This sedition law and democracy do not go together. It is leading the State towards fascism.” For a Congress-led government that draws its inspiration and legacy from Jawaharlal Nehru, it would do well to act on what the country’s first prime minister had to say on the sedition clause in a parliamentary debate in 1951 on the First Amendment to the Constitution. “Now so far I am concerned that particular section (124-A) is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons…the sooner we get rid of it the better.”



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Way out of line – Editorial (Jun 13, 2012, The Hindu)

Team Anna and Team Manmohan continue to be at each other’s throats, clearly oblivious to the distaste the spectacle must generate in an already demoralised citizenry. Of the two, the latter ought to take a larger share of the blame if only because ministers are surely restrained from behaving badly by the office they hold. Yet over the past week, senior UPA government ministers have lunged at Team Anna and at Anna Hazare himself with all the finesse of a street bully engaged in a bruising fight to the finish. It was difficult to decide who among Ministers Salman Khurshid, Vayalar Ravi and V. Narayanasami deserved top prize for incivility as they hurled accusations at their civil society opponents.

The Minister for Law and Minority Affairs said he was deeply offended by the team’s personal attacks on the Prime Minister but was himself not above aiming some broadsides at Kiran Bedi, claiming to have tolerated her thus far only because she was India’s first woman police officer. If this was low theatre, Mr. Narayanasamy, who is a Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and Mr. Ravi, who holds the Cabinet portfolio of Overseas Indian Affairs, stooped further in calling the Anna movement anti-national and insinuating that Mr. Hazare has “foreign backing”. Mr. Hazare’s methods can be debated and even criticised but it is shameful for ministers and politicians to question his patriotism.

Some months ago, the PMO had spotted a similar foreign hand behind the anti-nuclear power movement at Kudankulam. This pattern of official paranoia over popular protests is surely ironic considering the government has itself been accused of selling out to foreign interests and must therefore know the pain of being at the receiving end of wild accusations. Not that Team Anna is without its faults. The movement that caught the nation’s imagination barely a year ago looks woebegone today thanks to factional fights and a loss of direction. The group set out to give us a robust Lokpal Bill but has since allowed itself to be diverted by other issues.

It took the anti-corruption battle into the electoral arena only to make no impact whatever. Crowds have thinned at Anna’s protest sites, and the veteran has not helped himself by teaming up with the maverick Baba Ramdev. Anna’s on-again, off-again statements against the Prime Minister have added to the confusion and considerably undermined his team’s effort to link Dr. Singh to corruption charges in the allocation of coal blocks. Unfortunately, the slanging match between Team Anna and the ministers cannot even provide comic relief to a nation fearing an economic downturn and groaning under misgovernance and runaway prices.



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