IAMC Weekly News Roundup - June 3rd, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 3rd, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Godhra riots case: Zakia Jafri takes on Narendra Modi, looks forward to justice (Jun 3, 2013, DNA India)

Zakia Jafri, the wife of 2002 post-Godhra riots victim and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, on Monday accused the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat Government of playing ‘dirty tricks’ to divert attention from the case. “The case was interrupted in- between because of the transfer and relocation of the judges, now that things are in order the case has reopened,” said Jafri, when asked to comment on the reason for the delay in this case. “Now, they (Narendra Modi’s Government) want to push the case further to benefit during the elections. But now, that the case has reopened I am very hopeful that the decision will be in my favour,” she added.

The Gujarat High Court on Monday resumed hearing Zakia Jafri’s case, where she has challenged the clean chit given by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 61 others. She continues to claim that they were conspirators in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which her husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was one of those killed in the Gulburg Society massacre in Ahmedabad. Earlier, the lawyer of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, which had given a clean chit to Modi in 2002 post-Godhra riots case after investigating complaint filed by Zakia Jafri, in April had said, “Modi has never said that go and kill people”.

Opposing the protest petition filed byJafri against SIT’s closure report, its lawyer RS Jamuar said, “(social activist) Teesta Setalvad and others have falsified the complaint targeting Chief Minister who had never said that go and kill people. During the second day of arguments, SIT lawyer targeted Setalvad, who has taken up the cause of riot victims, and who is helping Zakia, whose husband, Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, was killed in the riots. Dubbing Setalvad as the sole “writer” of “fictitious” complaint against Modi and others, advocate Jamuar said: “The so-called incident of CM giving instructions to high-level police officers not to take action against the rioters is a sole creation of Teesta Setalvad. There is no evidence.

The 2002 Gujarat violence was a series of incidents starting with the Godhra train burning and the subsequent communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat. On February 27, 2002, the Sabarmati Express train was attacked at Godhra by a Muslim mob. Fifty-eight Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were killed in the attack. This in turn prompted retaliatory attacks against Muslims and general communal riots on a large scale across the state, in which 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were ultimately killed and 223 more people were reported missing.

The Supreme Court, in its order dated February 7, had allowed Zakia to file a fresh protest petition and had also directed that she be supplied with entire report of the inquiry by the SIT in her complaint to enable her to file the protest petition. Ehsaan Jafri was among 69 people allegedly burnt alive by a rioting mob on February 28, 2002 at the Gulbarg Housing Society in Ahmedabad.



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Probe role of Modi, Shah in 2003 fake encounter case: Sadiq’s brother (May 30, 2013, Times of India)

A special CBI court on Wednesday issued notice to the probe agency over an application demanding probe into the alleged role of Gyharat chief minister Narendra Modi and former minister Amit Shah in the 2003 Sadiq Jamal Mehtar fake encounter case. The petition for further probe was filed by Sadiq’s brother, Shabbir.

In his petition, Shabbir has stated that the CBI had not investigated deeply into the case and many aspects of the encounter had not been looked into. Special judge V K Vyas has asked the CBI to file its reply on the application by June 5.

Shabbir has demanded that the CBI be directed to conduct further probe into the role of subsidiary Intelligence Bureau of Mumbai, and joint director of central IB, Rajinder Kumar, for falsely profiling Sadiq as a terrorist and illegally detaining him.

The application claims that the role of senior police officers like D G Vanzara and P P Pande had not been investigated yet. It has demanded probe into “the role played by then home minister and the chief minister in the entire conspiracy and direct the CBI to file supplementary chargesheet and take such further necessary actions required under the law”.

Shabbir has also requested the court to direct the CBI to conduct investigations against a couple of assistant central intelligence officers of Mumbai SOG who had visited the Central Intelligence Unit in Andheri where Sadiq was allegedly detained and tortured. He has questioned the alleged inaction against police officers like Gururaj Savaddati and Rajinder Kumar who were allegedly instrumental in generating false intelligence inputs.



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CBI summons IB official for ‘fake alerts’ ahead of Ishrat encounter (May 30, 2013, The Hindu)

The Central Bureau of Investigation has issued a summons to senior IPS official Rajendra Kumar for allegedly generating fake IB alerts, ahead of the encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan, to the effect that the Mumbai girl and three others had links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the four were out on a mission to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Simultaneously on Wednesday, a petition was filed by Shabir Jamal, brother of Sadiq Jamal, another alleged fake encounter victim, complaining of a dubious role by the same Information Bureau official in fabricating inputs that Sadiq was out to kill Mr. Modi and other senior BJP leaders.

Sadiq was a scooter mechanic in Saurashtra’s Bhavnagar city. The CBI is looking into this case as well. These two incidents as well as two alleged gun battles post-2002 Gujarat riots up to 2004 have been declared fake encounters or so alleged. Eight people were killed. All the encounters took place in early hours, all near Ahmedabad and all the victims – they were allegedly out to kill Mr. Modi – died at the hands of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch police, whose boss then, D.G. Vanzara, is now behind bars in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case.

Four other police officials are also involved in this as well as Sadiq encounter case. Mr. Kumar served as IB Joint Director in Gujarat between late 2001 and early 2005. The encounters under Mr. Vanzara happened on the basis of “intelligence inputs” of threat to Mr. Modi generated only after October 2002. Human rights activists, lawyers and retired senior police officials have been saying for long that it was Mr. Kumar who tipped off Mr. Vanzara and company. It is on record that most of those who were bumped off had only a history of petty crime but were later linked with terror groups who had a singular purpose of eliminating Mr. Modi, L. K Advani and senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders.

In the Ishrat Jahan case, the first finding that the encounter was fake came in 2009 from metropolitan magistrate S.P. Tamang, whose report maintained that the girl and three others had been kidnapped by sleuths of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch from Mumbai on June 12, 2004, brought here and killed in cold blood in furtherance of personal interests like promotions and gaining appreciation from the Chief Minister.

As for the 2003 Sadiq encounter case, Shabir Jamal, in his petition, sought further investigation into the alleged profiling of his brother as a terrorist, and the role and conduct of Mr. Kumar (now posted in New Delhi) in “hatching a conspiracy to illegally detain and confine Sadiq Jamal in their [IB] office at Bungalow 15, Sahibaug, Ahmedabad.”



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Custodial death: Mujahid’s family turns down UP govt’s compensation (May 29, 2013, IBN)

The family of terror suspect Khalid Mujahid, who died in police custody on May 18, on Wednesday refused to accept the Rs 6 lakh compensation offered by Uttar Pradesh government. On May 26, the state government had assured “justice” to Mujahid’s family and announced a financial assistance of Rs 6 lakh.

On Wednesday, Cabinet minister Paras Nath Yadav went to Mujahid’s residence at Mastana locality in Madiyahon to hand over the cheque to his kins. But, Mujahid’s uncle, Zaheer Alam Falahi refused to take the cheque stating what the family has lost is “irreplaceable” and can’t be compensated.

Falahi also claimed that the government did not help them “when they needed it most”. The district administration officials are making efforts to convince the family, sources said. Mujahid died on May 18 in Barabanki while being escorted to Lucknow jail after a hearing. He was being brought back to Lucknow jail after hearing in a Faizabad court. The accused fell sick and fainted near Barabanki border and was rushed to district hospital where doctors declared him dead.



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Police must account for Malegaon probe (May 28, 2013, Indian Express)

It has taken six years, four agencies – state and Central – and a confession by the “real” accused for four Hindu right-wing men to be established as the masterminds behind the Malegaon 2006 serial blast case. In the aftermath of the blasts in Malegaon, a powerloom hub near Nashik known to be communally sensitive, the local police and then Maharashtra’s premier Anti-Terrorism Squad had raided Muslim mohallas, rounded up scores of men, and allegedly illegally detained and tortured them for months. The chargesheet filed by the ATS in 2006 and later validated by the CBI in 2007 alleged to have recovered RDX, arms and ammunition, jihadi literature, incriminating cellphone records, and records of journey to foreign countries for terror training by these young men.

This line of investigation now stands exposed by the NIA probe as well as the confession by Swami Aseemanand, prime accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts. If the Muslim youth originally charged are now acquitted, the point of contention remains whether the state government will take the erring officers to task. Since the men were booked under the stringent legislation MCOCA, mandatory sanctions for prosecution were granted by top IPS officers and bureaucrats. Seven of the nine accused were said to have confessed “their crimes” before magistrates (they later denied making the confessions).

Under MCOCA legal measures can be taken against officers in such cases, and they can receive up to three years of imprisonment. With the NIA investigation report submitted to the court, will the police officers and judicial officers who built up what appears a false case against the Muslim youths now face this action? This is not the first time that men from minority community have been wrongly picked up and left to languish in jail. In the February 2007 Hyderabad twin blasts case too, as many as 70 Muslim men had been rounded up, only to be later exonerated.

Maharashtra should look into the matter, particularly as most of the officers in this case are also handling other terror cases in the state and are mired in similar controversies, as well as compensate the affected youth handsomely. This is essential if faith in the police force has to be restored.



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Bangalore bomb blast: Cases filed against 11 Muslims were foisted, says report (May 28, 2013, Times of India)

A report of the fact-finding team from the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation (NCHRO) reveals that the cases filed against 11 Muslim suspects in connection with Malleswaram bomb blast were foisted by the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police and evidences were fabricated against them. The bomb blast took place near BJP office on April 17. The fact-finding team comprised NCHRO’s TN president Bhavani B Mohan, Karnataka president Ramesh and others. The team had visited Malleswaram and held enquiry with people there. Nine suspects were arrested from Coimbatore in the case.

Speaking to media, Mohan said the Bangalore police filed an FIR immediately after the blast saying that the blast was carried out by members of terrorist and anti-national organizations. “This clearly shows that the Bangalore police didn’t conduct any detailed investigation before filing the FIR. They have fixed the accused without conducting any investigation as per law.” The report mentions that the blast was carried out to help BJP gain political mileage in the Karnataka assembly election.

“The SIM card used to trigger the blast belongs to a prominent RSS leader. But the leader was not arrested or questioned by the police. This raises many doubts about the investigation,” Mohan said. A footage taken from a CCTV near the BJP office clearly shows a person parking a motorcycle in the spot before the blast. But the police did not release the footage or photograph of the suspected person.

The investigating officers of the Bangalore city police were not ready to speak to the team, he added. The arrests were made from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka in connection with the bomb blast case. “Investigation by the Bangalore police is biased. The case should be transferred to CBI for an independent and an impartial investigation,” said Mohan.



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Bodoland minority panel unhappy over CBI probe (May 29, 2013, Business Standard)

A minority Bodoland student’s panel Wednesday demanded a high level probe into the 2012 riots in Assam, saying they do not trust the ongoing investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The clashes that broke out in July 2012, between the Bengali-speaking Muslim settlers and Bodo people led to the killing of over 100 people and displaced over five lakh others in three districts of the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD).

The CBI, which took over the investigations of the riots, later chargesheeted 37 people in connection with the killing of four youths on July 20 at Joypur in Kokrajhar that triggered the violence. “We have serious doubts in the credibility of CBI as it has been proved that they work in the favour of the ruling government in the recent past,” said the All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU) president Sahabuddin Ali Ahmed. “Their report seems to be not neutral and we demand another high level inquiry to be instituted to nab the real culprits,” said Ahmed.

On Tuesday, the ABMSU also took out a huge a rally in Guwahati and handed over a memorandum to Assam Governor J.B. Patnaik seeking immediate measures to rehabilitate about 6,000 riot hit families and are living in a deplorable condition in various relief camps. The students’ panel also alleged that the ruling government along with the BTAD authority has conspired to evict away all the people belonging to the minority community even though they have been staying there for a long time.

“The group of ministers along with the BTAD administration has hatched a new conspiracy to drive away the Muslim peasants living in the area for last many decades,” he said. “According to the latest joint resolution of them, these peasants will be provided Rs.50,000 if they sign a bond that they will leave their land. And the helpless poverty-stricken peasants are signing this bond,” he said.

In Gosaigaon sub-division there are some 3,000 such families and in Kokrajhar sub-division there 4,000 such families, he pointed out. “Once they sign the bond, they will have to leave the BTAD as they will have no right to buy land there,” he said adding that it was decided in a meeting between Group of Ministers (GoM) and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohilary,” he said. The students’ panel further said that they would continue the agitation if the state government does not pay heed to the demand.



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CPI(M) Condemns Maoist Attack, Holds BJP Govt Answerable (Jun 2, 2013, Peoples Democracy)

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly condemns the barbaric attack by the Maoists on a convoy carrying Congress leaders participating in the ‘parivartan yatra’ of the party in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh. The attack has led to the death of 18 people including senior Congress leaders like the state Congress president and injuries to several others. This is the latest and most shocking example of the politics of violence and terror practiced by the Maoists against all their political opponents.

The Chhattisgarh government is answerable for the reported lack of security arrangements for the yatra. On the one hand, the BJP government allows the killing of innocent tribals, as happened last week, in the name of fighting the Maoists and, on the other hand, it utterly fails to protect legitimate democratic activities in the state.

The CPI(M) extends its condolences to the families of all those killed. It demands a high level enquiry into the incident. It also demands firm action to be taken to stop these Maoists depredations. It calls upon all democratic forces to fight the politics of violence by the Maoists.



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Punjab cop held for forcing nursing student to unnatural sex (Jun 3, 2013, Hindustan Times)

A 46-year-old Punjab Police constable has been arrested for forcibly having unnatural sex with a 20-year-old nursing student after beating up her companion in a park here on Saturday evening. The accused has been identified as constable Naval Kishore posted at Punjab Police’s crime investigation agency’s (CIA) police station. The incident happened when the victim, a second year student in a private nursing college and her companion, a final year student in the same college here were in the deserted Gandhi Garden at around 5pm on Saturday evening. In his statement to police, the boy stated that the constable accused them of indulging in indecent behaviour in public and when he objected the constable beat him up and demanded bribe for not registering a case against the couple.

Following which both students panicked and the constable let the boy go to fetch money to be given as bribe for their release. The boy added that soon after he left the garden, the policeman threatened the victim and forcibly took her away on his motorcycle to an abandoned house, about 2km from the garden, and committed the crime. The constable brought her back to the garden at around 7pm after which the boy took the girl back to her college hostel. The duo did not report the matter to the warden or college authorities that night.

At 9am on Sunday, they finally disclosed the incident to the college director, who informed the girl’s Amritsar-based parents. The family took the victim home to Amritsar without informing the police. On Sunday afternoon, members of the victim’s community learnt about the incident and fearing that the college might hush up the matter reached the institution to ascertain the whereabouts of the girl. It was then that the girl’s parents were called to bring her back for medical examination from Amritsar, which proved the charges leveled against the cop.

The delegation met DSP Vibhor Sharma and SP Lakhbir Singh in the presence of local Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Joginder Singh Jindu after which the complaint was lodged against the accused policeman at the Ferozepur Cantonment police station at 9.30pm on Sunday. The victim also certified the boy’s statement in the police station after which the constable was arrested on Sunday night. Police sources said the constable had been in detention since then.

Senior superintendent of police Varinder Paul Singh said the police acted promptly and the constable would be meted out exemplary punishment, besides, the departmental action once proven guilty. Judicial magistrate, first class, Pardeep Singhal sent the constable in a day’s police remand. He has been booked under Section 377 (for unnatural sex) of the Indian Penal Code.



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A drop of woe for 1,200 dalit families in Ahmedabad (Jun 2, 2013, DNA India)

While close to 3,900 villages of Gujarat have been officially declared scarcity affected, the condition of dalit communities facing social discrimination in rural areas is even worse. Findings of a survey conducted by dalit rights organisation, Navsarjan Trust, indicated that only in Ahmedabad district nearly 1,200 dalit families in 22 villages of the district were facing a severe water crisis. It is not only because of drought situation but also because of social discrimination by non-dalit communities. A group of 20 women representatives from these villages submitted a memorandum to the Ahmedabad district collector on Saturday to voice their water woes.

Kirit Rathod, chairperson of water right protection committee of the Navsarjan Trust, talked about the findings of the survey. “These 22 villages are located in five talukas of Ahmedabad district that includes the assembly constituency of state panchayat minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. Dalit women are facing social discrimination over drinking water… Dalit women cannot wash clothes near the village tank. A police complaint was lodged against dalit women by non-dalit women at Arnej village in 2011 over the belief that they were getting polluted bythe water drops from the washing of clothes by Dalit women,” he said.

“At Bhurkhi village, though a pipeline for water has been laid, water is not flowing through it. People still have to go to the well to fetch water. They have to use dirty water of the village pond to wash their clothes and utensils,” added Rathod. He further stated that the right to water is a fundamental right to live. We want the village panchayats of those villages, where untouchability is practised, should be superseded by the government. The dalit areas in the villages should be given water by utilising the funds of the scheduled caste sub-plan scheme of the government. “We have submitted our memorandum to additional collector KK Dudhat, who has promised to solve it,” said Rathod.



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Opinions and Editorials

The Terror After The Event – By Ashish Khetan (Jun 10, 2013, Outlook)

I was quite settled in my career when a court in Pune sentenced Mirza Himayat Baig, a terror suspect, to death in April this year. I was working with a TV station, drawing a decent salary and covering, among other beats, internal security. A source in the Maharashtra ATS – the same organisation that prosecuted Baig for the Pune German Bakery blast – had told me soon after the arrest that Baig was innocent but was being fixed by some senior ATS officers. The latter apparently felt that their prospects for future lucrative postings would be dented if the case remained unsolved. The blast happened in February 2010, Baig was arrested in September. The usual suspects (always members of SIMI or some other radical Muslim outfit) being falsely implicated in terror cases by our investigating agencies is not a new phenomenon. We have only to check the trajectory of the series of terror cases that have ended in acquittals over the past 10 years. Mostly, after such acquittals there is the usual criticism from civil society and journalists, but that’s par for the course for our investigation agencies. After a few critical op-eds and commentaries, all is forgotten.

For over a year, I researched several terror investigations, including the 7/11 train blasts (2006) and collected material evidence – internal documents of the agencies themselves – that showed how they were peddling different versions of the same, integral terror plot before different courts of law. It was apparent that, for our agencies, the truth had multiple versions for multiple purposes. There was one version for internal consumption of the agencies, another for the courts. Within the courts, there was one version for a court in UP, another for a court in Gujarat and yet another for a court in Mumbai. Interrogation reports of terror suspects were tailored in different and often contradictory ways by different agencies to suit their respective cases. I was intending to use this material to write a book. The idea of using it to intervene in a judicial process never crossed my mind then. After Baig’s sentence was pronounced, I got in touch with my ATS source again and asked how Baig, if he wasn’t involved in the blasts, had got the death sentence? He laughed and replied: “That’s the beauty of our criminal justice system. All you need to show is the recovery of some explosives and arms and a few tutored witnesses.”

Baig was a poor Muslim who with great difficulty had completed his graduation and done a teacher’s course. In 2006, misfortune struck. Some of his acquaintances were arrested in a controversial Aurangabad Arms Haul case in May that year and he got dragged in too. (This is one of the most mysterious of terror cases. It took five years for the ATS to frame charges against the arrested accused. The last one heard, only two police witnesses had been examined). Baig spent the next five years (till he was arrested) trying to earn an honest living. He did a diploma qualifying him to become a teacher in this period, besides various odd jobs including teaching at a private coaching class. On April 17, when the judge in Pune pronounced the death verdict, Baig broke down. “In the German Bakery blast, 17 innocent people were killed. I am the 18th victim of the blast,” Baig told the court. Barring the Indian Express, no other mainstream English newspaper reported at that time on Baig’s protestations in the court. Six months before Baig was handed the death sentence, a terror suspect named Qateel Siddiqui, 28, was killed in mysterious circumstances in the high-security ‘anda cell’ of the Pune Yerawada jail. My source told me that Qateel’s death and Himayat’s innocence were linked. He gave me two interrogation reports of Qateel prepared by an ATS inspector. Qateel was arrested about a year after Himayat’s arrest. But there was a catch. He wasn’t arrested by the Maharashtra ATS but by the Delhi Special Cell. My source asked me to access Qateel’s interrogations reports by the Delhi Police and other agencies and compare it with the ones prepared by the Maharashtra ATS.

I spent the next few weeks procuring the material on Qateel available with other agencies. Finally, I had detailed interrogation reports prepared by not just the Delhi Special Cell but also the Bangalore police. As per these reports, Qateel was not only involved in the Bangalore Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts of 2010 but also the Pune German Bakery blast. More importantly, these reports completely contradicted the ATS theory of Baig being involved in the blast. As per both these IRs, it was Qateel and Ahmed Siddibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal who had come together to plant a bomb at two different places in Pune. While Qateel was supposed to plant the bomb at the Dagduseth Halwai Ganesh temple, Yasin took it upon himself to plant the bomb at the German Bakery. Also, as per these IRs, Yasin and Qateel were together until 2:30 PM on February 13 in a room they had rented in Katraj locality of Pune. Qateel was given the bomb by Yasin on the afternoon of February 13. Both bombs were supposed to go off around the same time, that is, between 6:45 pm and 7 pm. But the Maharashtra ATS theory (that had already been presented in the form of a chargesheet against Baig by the time Qateel was arrested) was that Yasin was with Himayat Baig the entire day on the 13th and that the two had gone to plant the bomb at the Pune German Bakery. On the other hand, the Delhi and Bangalore Police reports had no reference to Himayat Baig whatsoever. …

These are not mere issues of legalities. When law enforcement agencies show absolute contempt for law, justice and truth, when innocent members of a community are falsely implicated in case after case and when the system turns a blind eye and fails to take correctives, it’s not just the idea of justice but the very idea of India that is at risk. My petition before the Bombay High Court has asked that an independent commission of inquiry be ordered into the conduct of the ATS and direct punitive action be taken against the police officers found responsible. Part of the decision lies with the court, the rest with the people of India.



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The dark side of a very red moon – By Harinder Baweja (Jun 2, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The description of Darbha Ghati – where Chhattisgarh’s Congress unit got butchered – as ambush point, took me back to a journey I’d made last year in another part of the state. I’d hit ground zero in Bijapur – also part of Bastar and I was being driven by CRPF men along a slim metalled road. The 21 kms had only just been constructed under the supervision of gun-wielding security personnel and this stretch had its own milestones. “Ma’am, this is what we call ambush point. This is where we lost seven men,” said a voice in the dark as we drove down that slim road where turning on headlights was completely inadvisable. A little further is where 12 men had been killed in an explosion and just ahead, another milestone: the place where a jawan had died of a heat stroke.

The majority of security personnel I spoke to did not want to be part of the ‘war’ – the same war New Delhi and its ministers have vowed to fight with renewed vigour after losing Mahendra Karma and state Congress president, Nand Kumar Patel. They desperately want to be out of this war theatre because as one of them said, “We don’t know who is a Naxal and who is an adivasi.” Here, in the jungles of Bijapur, or Sukma or Narayanpur, the state is near absent and the Centre has one response – pump in more troops. And so it did, after the May 25 attack on the Congress cavalcade. But are more boots on the ground response the answer? Will the additional troops be able to distinguish a Naxal from a tribal? Will it help these men – part of a plan, unimaginatively codenamed Operation Greenhunt – understand who the enemy is, who they need to train their guns against? Wait, they don’t even know who they are hunting.

The men in khaki are well trained. They carry the best automatic weapons; even sleep with loaded guns resting on their chest, but these men, drawn from distant Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu neither know the terrain nor the language. A few days spent in ground zero had made it plainly clear – the Centre’s paramilitary is trying to do what the local police should be doing, but they are demotivated, too scared or sympathetic of the tribals. Many local police officers have families in the villages of Sukma and Bijapur and know that if the locals veer towards the Naxals, it is because they want food, clothing, education, healthcare facilities and legitimate rights over the land that is theirs. This is what the state and the Centre need to understand. You cannot deprive the adivasis their due; their minerals, their land rights through MoU after MoU with mining companies. Also, you can’t hope to divide the tribals through vigilante groups as the Salwa Judum tried to.

The State received the best intelligence it could have hoped to get through Alex Paul Menon, one of its district collectors, who was taken hostage by the Naxals a year ago. In the 13 days he spent in custody, Menon had long conversations with his Naxal kidnappers. Of the over 100 armed rebels he had a chance to interact with, as many as 70% told him they had taken to arms in reaction to Salwa Judum. That was a year ago but the lesson was clearly not put to any use, for Chhattisgarh, instead of undoing the damage, is still continuing arming civilians. It is just not using the Salwa Judum nomenclature. Now we are hearing of plans to take the war into the Naxal camp. We are also hearing of surgical strikes and enhanced air force missions, but let us come back to the plain truth – the Naxals live amidst the tribals.

What have the state and central governments done to wean the tribal from the Naxal? What indeed, have the governments done to craft a policy around the basic principle of making the tribal the stakeholder? The tribals have only been divided into the hunter and the hunted. It is imperative now for the state to reflect and not demand another offensive, another war. But if that is what they will do – because firefight is all they can do – I suggest they leave their air-conditioned rooms in Raipur and New Delhi and talk to the paramilitary forces. They will tell you that they are living a dog’s life and are being hunted by day and night, because they’ve been forced into an inhospitable war where they don’t know who they are battling and who they have been forced to declare war against. Be fair and just by the tribals – that’s the only starting point for the present and the future.



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The Hell Of Living Souls – By G Vishnu (Jun 1, 2013, Tehelka)

On 14 May, police rounded up four men in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh, 260 km west of the state capital, Lucknow, in connection with a month-old case of murder. Three days later, one of them, a 33-year-old farmer named Balbir Singh, lay dead in a hospital in Lucknow. “The police gave him electric shocks and injected acid and petrol in his body,” says his brother- in-law, Sunul Kumar. “They forced him to sit on an electric heater that burnt his body horribly.” According to Kumar, Singh told him before dying that the police wanted him to confess his involvement in the murder.

So critical was his condition that Singh was moved to three hospitals in as many cities before he died. He named the policemen who tortured him in a dying declaration before a magistrate. The police were forced to register a case of murder. Five lowly policemen were suspended. No arrests are yet made. A sub-inspector is on the run. Devendra Pandey, who heads the police station of the alleged perpetrators, was merely transferred, though, according to Kumar, it was Pandey who gave Singh the electric shocks. Singh has left behind a one-year-old son and a pregnant wife.

The scourge of torture by police and prison officials is routine, random and vicious across India. On 18 May, Khalid Mujahid, 32, fell dead on his way back to a prison in Lucknow from a court in Faizabad. His death has generated unusual focus and political attention on the issue of police torture and custodial deaths. For the most part though, police torture hardly ever features as a red-button issue for Indians. First, there is a sense that torture only happens to the deserving. Second, there is a common perception that torture is the only – even if illegal – way of extracting crucial information from deadly terror suspects or mafia gangsters. Both these assumptions are false.

Torture almost never yields accurate information. In fact, it is a security hazard as victims often confess in utter desperation to crimes they have not committed, while the real perpetrators roam free. Equally, torture is not restricted to rare cases. Often, it is perpetrated on those caught on trivial charges. According to the NHRC, over 14,000 people have died in police custody and in prisons in the decade ending 2010. This translates to a rate of more than four deaths a day. In the past three years, the NHRC has recorded 417 deaths in police custody and 4,285 deaths in judicial custody.…



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Taking The I Out Of RTI – By Shonali Ghosal (Jun 1, 2013, Tehelka)

On 30 March 2012, after reading a report on tax evasions in a local newspaper, Babubhai Vaghela, an Ahmedabad-based activist, filed a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking details of defaulters who were fined in the case. After receiving no information within the 30- day time limit outlined in the RTI Act, 2005, he filed an appeal with the higher authority – the First Appellate Authority – as mandated by law and waited for its response. The wait lasted for three months before the Public Information Officer (PIO) at the revenue department disposed of Vaghela’s query citing ‘lack of merit’ in the application. “Since there is no rule to fine the appellate authority if it does not respond within a certain timeframe, authorities take their own sweet time even to drop cases,” says Vaghela. However, this is just one of the examples of officials circumventing the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) most successful pro-people and pro-accountability legislation.

Consider this. Pending cases and appeals are piling up at both the Central and State Information Commissions (CIC/SICs) in multiples of 10,000. And the 30- day timeframe, within which a person is bound to receive information as per the Act, no longer stands. Individual states have interpreted the Act in different ways to bypass the 30-day timeframe and the SICs are slow, and often defiant, in penalising erring officers. Take for instance the Madhya Pradesh SIC, one of many commissions that came to a grinding halt after the Supreme Court’s September 2012 order, which said that only retired judges could be appointed to the transparency panel. Citing lack of clarity in the SC ruling, the MP SIC stopped entertaining appeals later that month. Although, the SC subsequently stayed its ruling on the issue, the state has shown little interest in appointing members to the SIC. Today the MP SIC has no members – the posts of 10 Information Commissioners and the Chief Information Commissioner have been lying vacant for over a year now.

But even before the SC order impeded the work of SICs, states interpreted the Act in different ways, adding clauses to limit the ambit of the Act. While Karnataka fixed a 150-word limit on applications, the Sikkim and Allahabad High Courts now demand 500 as application fee, as opposed to a fee of 10 mandated by the Act. Maharashtra went a step further to limit queries to one subject per application. Maharashtra, however, is one of the better performing commissions, even when pitted against the CIC. While eight commissioners working in the CIC disposed 20,097 cases from June 2012–March 2013, five commissioners in Maharashtra disposed 23,693 cases in the same period. “What has damaged the RTI more than anything else are some Supreme Court judgments and statements like we don’t want 75 percent of the time of 75 percent of the country’s government officials to be spent on RTI. Statements like these encourage PIOs to take their own sweet time in responding to queries,” says Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner. He further believes that the commissions aren’t disposing cases fast enough as no one has set any minimum requisites for how much work is expected of an IC. “That and the fact that erring officials are seldom punished, means that PIOs do not fear the law.”

Odisha Information Commissioner Jagadananda, however, believes that the heart of the problem lies in the fact that neither citizens nor officials received any training in the transparency law. “We have never had any public programme teaching people how to frame questions, because of which they sometimes tend to fish for minor details from an entire ocean of information. Similarly, panchayats were never trained to catalogue information,” he says. Even so, he confesses that while the demand side (applicants) is better organised with civil society intervention, the supply side (public authorities) needs fine-tuning. In some cases, the Act has been so willfully distorted that often citizens are penalised for demanding information. Rakesh Ranjan, convenor of the Madhya Pradesh Suchna Adhikar Abhiyan, an NGO, recounts an instance where one of his colleagues was pulled up for approaching the Appellate Authority after an RTI application received no response following the 30-day time period. “When 30 days passed by, he went to the Appellate Authority to complain of not receiving information. Instead of registering his appeal, he was told that in accordance with amendments made by the state, an application has to be cleared in 180 days.” More shocking is that he was told that he had violated the rules by attempting to file an appeal after just 30 days and subsequently threatened with penal action.

“This is in contravention of the Act. No state rules can dilute the spirit of the Act. They’re meant to operationalise the Act, not curb it,” says Jagadananda. What is disturbing is the fact that an ombudsman that was supposed to keep the bureaucracy in check is now teeming with former bureaucrats. Most SICs are full of retired bureaucrats ranging from former chief secretaries to police officers. Much has been said about the appointment of four politically connected Information Commissioners at the Andhra Pradesh (AP) SIC, whereas the RTI Act states that “no person with political connections be appointed to the CIC or any SIC”. Appointments were made even though the Governor had rejected the four names. Turns out that despite the hurry to have them instated, the four members have not conducted any hearings because there is no place for them to sit in the SIC’s office. They, however, continue to draw salaries from the exchequer. …



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No Upright Seams – By Prachi Pinglay-Plumber (Jun 3, 2013, Outlook)

Fast, furious, frenetic, frenzied. The ‘F’ words are the calling cards of 20-over cricket. Yet, a week after the IPL ‘spot-fixing scam’ hit the airwaves, and for all the hoo-hah over the arrest of Sreesanth & co, the pace of investigation, as Ravi Shastri might say, has been slow and low. No new players, Indian or foreign, have been named. No new matches or teams have been exposed. No new tactic of conceding “14 runs per over” has been unveiled. The monies being bandied about have been pitiable. The scam’s going nowhere. Fast. That said, a lot of side-shows have been blowing up on various tangents. Bollywood, bookies, team owner…there have been arrests and alleged charges aplenty. Calcutta, Indore, Jaipur, the police have been digging bookies out of the woodwork from all sorts of places. Indeed, the spot-fixing has been snowed under by the hectic ‘revelations’, fuelled by an unabashed and most untimely tug-of-war between the Delhi and Mumbai police. One is after the Rajasthan Royals; the other is catching up with the Chennai Super Kings. One is probing spot-fixing, the other betting. And in this sly war by innuendo and guilt by insinuation, littered with trivia about actresses, escort girls, cellphones and jeans, the only strand common to the parallel narratives are two characters out of Bigg Boss: Shilpa Shetty because she co-owns RR, and Vindoo Dara Singh because he is close to the one who owns CSK and to the one who captains it: Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

In the background of all this shadow boxing lurks the familiar figure of suspended IPL chairman Lalit Modi, whose co-brother Suresh Chellaram is a co-owner of RR. Ranged against him at the CSK end is Gurunath Meiyappan, whose father-in-law just so happens to be BCCI president N. Srinivasan, with whom Modi has been involved in a long and noisy tussle. (Incidentally, Meiyappan, as we go to press late on Thursday, was under risk of being declared a fugitive by the Mumbai police). Little wonder, as the RR fixing scandal morphed into a CSK betting one, the signals from London, where Modi is holed up, were the most eagerly anticipated. “Lalit K Modi” didn’t disappoint, distilling his insight in a torrent of 140 characters. “This spot fixing mess is getting even worse. Srinivasan and family should immediately resign….be banned with immediate effect.” Easier tweeted than done. Despite a grand total of six cricketers-Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila, Ankeet Chavan, and three ex-players Amit Singh, Baburao Yadav and Monish Guddewar-and 11 bookies and their friends being behind bars, despite the video evidence the police say they have, despite the daily media leaks, and despite even an international umpire, Pakistan’s Asad Rauf, falling by the wayside, no one knows where all this anecdotal and circumstantial evidence will lead.

At the moment, in the fog of breaking news, the distinction has been lost between fixing and betting, fact and slur. Says former Mumbai police commissioner D. Sivanandan: “People are lapping up juicy details about where players went, shopped, the girls they were with etc, but we need to examine what is illegal in those actions. Perhaps nothing. There is in fact not even a specific law to define the match-fixing crime. It boils down to section 420 (cheating) read with section 120-b (criminal conspiracy). That they cheated the public is not legally sound. Tomorrow, a member of the public could say Sachin Tendulkar cheated because he got out. The crime needs to be proven beyond a shadow of doubt.” That will not be easy. “Cricket falls under the category of ‘game of skill’, like rummy or bridge. So betting or gambling charges won’t apply as they apply for a game of flush, which is pure luck-based,” says Ravi Mandrekar of the Maharashtra Cricket Association. “So the section applied is cheating, but who exactly is being cheated? Also, it will be very hard to prove if a player’s actions were by default or deliberate,” he adds. Delhi police have charged the players under Section 409 of the Indian Penal Code (criminal breach of trust by agent), which carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. While Sreesanth’s towel indicator may seem like a piece of evidence, all the call detail records are of another accused, Jiju Janardhanan. Besides, all these CDRs (after they match with voice samples of the accused) need to be verified and accepted by the court. Cash has only been recovered from Chandila’s aunt’s house. …



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Deposit and despair – By Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay (May 31, 2013, Frontline)

Trouble does not seem to end for the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal. The collapse of the chit fund company Saradha Group is one of the biggest financial scandals to hit the State and may well be the ultimate undoing of Mamata Banerjee’s government. The Trinamool Congress, which completes two years in power in May, will find it next to impossible to disown its close ties with the tainted organisation or provide a plausible answer to the righteous indignation of lakhs of gullible investors, including a sizable section of urban and rural poor, who constitute much of the party’s support base. Though the extent of loss to the investors is not known, some estimates state that the group may have collected more than Rs.20,000 crore through its various deposit-collection schemes in West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Tripura, Jharkhand and Bihar run through its 160 companies.

Although the Saradha Group, under the leadership of its founder and chairman and managing director Sudipta Sen, was carrying on its operations in the State for over a decade, it was in mid-2010 that its activities started gaining momentum and coverage. It forayed into the media business, and between 2010 and 2011 acquired or launched 10 organisations, both in the print and television media. With the help of publicity, it became a household name. Its position strengthened further with the change of government in May 2011 when the Trinamool Congress came to power, ending the 34-year-old rule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front. The company’s media wing practically became the government’s mouthpiece. Kunal Ghosh, Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member, was the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Saradha Group’s media unit, and Shatabdi Roy, Bengali film actor and Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha member, was the brand ambassador for some of its businesses.

“At a time when chit-fund, Ponzi-scheme and illegal deposit-collecting companies were in their heyday, Saradha and Sudipta Sen ruled the roost,” an industry source told Frontline. There was hardly a public ceremony or occasion of the Saradha Group that was not graced by Trinamool’s Ministers or other bigwigs. Their faces would adorn the banners and advertisements of the various companies of the group. Trinamool leaders have been photographed with Sudipta Sen and other top functionaries of the group. Such blatant display of bonhomie apparently helped foster confidence in the minds of ordinary people about the bona fides of the group’s schemes. “We put our trust in the State government and our money in Saradha,” said Alok Das, a small farmer from North 24 Paraganas, who has lost a deposit of around Rs.1 lakh.

The group began to feel the heat with the establishment of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and, according to political observers, after Mamata Banerjee pulled out of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre in September 2012. The bubble finally burst when the group started defaulting on the payment of dues to investors early this year. Its media units started to close down by mid-April, rendering more than 1,000 employees jobless, and the crisis exploded right in the face of the government as hundreds of agents of the various Saradha schemes staged demonstrations outside the house of Mamata Banerjee and the offices of the Trinamool Congress. Many of these agents had fled their homes to escape the wrath of the investors. As of May 8, 10 of them had committed suicide. …



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Book Review

Ayodhya: The Dark Night (The Secret History of Rama’s Appearance in Babri Masjid)

Author: Krishna Jha, Dhirendra K. Jha
Reviewed by: Dr Aga Syed Sameer
Available at: HarperCollins Publishers India, A 53, Sector 57, NOIDA, UP, India. http://www.harpercollins.co.in/
How Babri was occupied in 1949 (May 30, 2013, Milli Gazette)

This is one of the few books based on investigative journalism that grips the soul of the reader right from the beginning. It is based on the much debated controversy of medieval India, that has engulfed whole of India in its pangs in modern times, and is still shaping the politics on the religious front. It breaks all the myths woven around the idea of “Birthplace of Rama” during the past seven decades by Hindu religious bodies like — VHP, RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and BJP, right from the day when Mahatma Gandhi was murdered. It was the single most influential issue that catapulted BJP into the fore-front of politics soon after it embraced Ayodhya as its main campaign issue in the 1980s. The book not only breaks the myths but also enlightens its readers about the ideology and working of various nefarious elements placed well within the cog-wheels of politics and administration in modern India. It introduces the reader to the little known world of sadhus and akharas. The castes and creeds of the various akharas, the temples they maintain, the competition with other akharas, their intricate and well-guarded beliefs, their subservience and their religio-political motives.

The events that laid the foundation of the myth of the “miracle of Rama’s appearance” in the Babri Mosque in December 1949, still propagated by Hindutva elements all over India, are the main plot of this book. The book identifies the “miracle” of “Rama’s Appearance” to be the brain-child of the three friends – Mahraja Pateshwari Prasad Singh (ruler of the princely state of Balrampur), Mahant Divijay Nath (head of the Gorakshapeeth in Gorakpur and President of Hindu Mahasabha) and KKK Nair (Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Magistrate of Faizabad). The trio were united together by their Hindu communal sentiments to hatch a conspiracy that would irreversibly mould the history of modern India on the religio-political front. Each one of them served as an important cog wheel in the idea of “Hindutva Statehood” cashing on the sentiments of the Hindu majority of the newly born State of India. The trio were the perfect pack of finance, religion and administration against which no one would have won. The book identifies Mahant Digvijay Nath as the main mastermind behind the whole conspiracy of Rama’s “appearance” in the Masjid.

The authors write, “Mahant Digvijay Nath – the powerful president of the Hindu Mahasabha unit in the United Provinces – who became the party’s national general secretary just two days after the Babri Masjid incident. That the Mahant, one of the prime accused in the Gandhi murder case, could achieve this (planting of the idol) just months after being acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence is in itself indicative of the state government’s attitude towards the activities of a communal organization like the Hindu Mahasabha and its leaders”. The authors further describe the psyche of Mahant Digvijay Nath as being “…..politically the most cunning sadhu of the twentieth century. The game he played was carefully considered. Here was a sadhu who understood politics sufficiently to deal with the Congress on equal terms, but asserted his Hindu identity strongly enough to never be seen to grovel. His arrest in the aftermath of the Gandhi murder was significant; so too was his release in the absence of clinching evidence”. Talking about KKK Nair, the authors write “…KKK Nair presided over Faizabad for nine months and fourteen days, from 1 June 1949 till 14 March 1950 when he was relieved of his job, and in that short period, he made a huge impression…. The mutilation of the Mosque was just one testimony of his conspiracies”.

In another place the authors tell, “Nair was an outspoken Hindu communalist who, despite his official position, was openly advocating that the mosque be handed over to the Hindu community.” The authors have painstakingly joined the pieces of the puzzle that led to the notion of “Miracle” inside the main dome of Babri Masjid 60 years ago in the darkest night of the Modern India – 22nd December 1949. The book also identifies the villian who volunteered to realize this conspiracy on the ground – Abhiram Das. Abhiram Das was a Naga Vairagi living within the confines of Hanumangarhi – the main seat of power of the Nirvani Akhara. Abhiram Das, later known as ‘Ramjanmabhoomi Uddharak’ (liberator of the Rama birthplace) or simply as Uddharak Baba, died in 1981. According to the extensive research by the authors, Abhiram Das was born in village of Rarhi of district Darbhanga in Bihar to a poor family of farmers who had fled to Ayodhya to save himself from the clutches of poverty. The authors have described Abhiram Das as “foul-mouthed, ill-tempered and an almost completely illiterate sadhu”. He grabbed this opportunity of planting the idol of Lord Rama (Rama Lalla) in the Babri Masjid on the night of 22-23 December 1949 along with two of his cousins – Yugal Kishore Jha and Indushekhar Jha (both of whom were completely clueless about the happenings of that night till that happened).

The idol that was planted by Abhiram Das under the main Dome of the Masjid was given to him by another Vairagi – Vrindavan Das, who according to the authors, lived in a thatched hut near the gate of the Masjid. The authors write, “Abhiram Das took the idol from Vrindavan Das and grasping it with both his hands, walked past him…towards the wall that separated the inner courtyard around the Babri Masjid from the outer courtyard that contained Ramachabutra… and said, ‘Follow me’. With these words, he held the idol firmly and began climbing the wall.” Writing about the night of 22nd of December as “the truly dark night” in which the whole conspiracy was put to action on the ground by Abhiram Das, the authors write, “…Abhiram Das and others had taken the idol of Rama Lalla inside the mosque well before twelve o’clock that night when the shift at the gate changed and Abdul Barkat (guard on duty) resumed duty. And when after midnight and before dawn, the beating of ghanta-gharial began along with the aarti, he (the guard) woke up and saw that scene… (as told by Acharya Satyendra Das)”. This was the modus operandi. It was well envisaged by the conspirators that the one who would plant the idol had to lie low till the dawn, so that it can be claimed that the idol had “manifested” itself under the main dome of the Masjid and not by any human intervention. For that claim, the statement of the guard on duty from the midnight was later exploited to claim the miracle of the event. …http://www.milligazette.com/news/6989-books-how-babri-was-occupied-in-1949-india