IAMC Weekly News Roundup - March 10th, 2013 - IAMC
no-image IAMC

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 10th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

I hope for justice: daughter of Ehsan Jafri, 2002 riot victim (Mar 4, 2014, Hindustan Times)

Nishrin Jafri Hussain, daughter of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed during the 2002 riots in Gujarat, narrated graphic details of the incident at the London School of Economics last evening and said she and her family continued to hope for justice. Hussain, who is based in the United States, was overcome with emotions as she showed pictures of her father and other victims of the 2002 riots to an audience that mostly comprised students. She said she was speaking on “behalf of victims of Gujarat”.

“I still have hope that we will get justice. No one came to help us on that day. Why did neighbours not help? My mother is fighting for justice; she is not going to give up. Why are we not protecting our minorities?” she said.

Speaking at an event titled ‘Gender and the Hindu right in India’ organised by the LSE Gender Institute, Hussain said she met several women who had allegedly been raped during the riots. “When political power comes up, why attack girls? Why don’t you feel that we are the same people? There has to be way by which every girl is protected, whatever their religion,” she said.

Besides Hussain, speakers Angana P Chatterji, Meena Kandasamy and Kalpana Wilson highlighted the many incidents of rape in India and criticised the status of women in the world-view of the RSS family personified by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Hussain’s mother Zakia Jafri had filed a petition against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of complicity in the riots. In May 2013, a Gujarat court upheld a Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) clean chit to Modi in the 2002 Gujarat communal riots.

The SIT, appointed by the Supreme Court in 2008 to determine whether Modi should be tried for his alleged role in the riots, said in its report in 2012 no prosecutable evidence was found against the Gujarat CM.



[Back to Top]

A Warning For Siddharth Varadarajan (Mar 6, 2014, Outlook)

First the facts of the case. Senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan today posted the following on his Twitter and Facebook account: Four thugs recently beat up the caretaker of my flat in Delhi. The incident took place near our home, with the thugs saying, ‘Tell your sahib to watch what he says on TV.’ They also issued a threat to my wife, Prof Nandini Sundar, about her Chhattisgarh case. We don’t know who they are, but it’s clearly aimed to intimidate. The caretaker is recovering. While the police have been helpful and are reviewing neighborhood CCTV footage, I am making this incident public on the advice of friends who believe it may serve some deterrent value.

What exactly these goons had taken offence to remained unclear, since he’s virtually on TV everyday. Varadarajan lives near Jorbagh, in the heart of the capital, barely 2 KMs away from the Prime Minister’s residence. Neither Varadarajan, nor his wife were home when the thugs visited. The incident took place on February 23, near the Varadarajan home, where the caretaker was approached by four thugs who enquired about Varadarajan and his wife. “After confirming his identity, they punched both sides of his face and kicked him,” Vardarajan said, but added that the caretaker is fine now, recovering from the shock.

“I racked my brain at the time but couldn’t think of any issue that would have provoked this kind of goondaism. But then we are not exactly dealing with rational, civilised people here,” he said in response to Outlook’s query. On being asked whether he had ever received any threats before, Varadarajan said that his wife, Nandini Sundar, “has often been harassed on the ground in Chhattisgarh by Salwa Judum types but nothing has ever happened to me before.” Sundar is a professor of sociology with the University of Delhi and has been fighting for the rights of tribals in Chhatisgarh and was one of the original petitioners against the illegal militia Salwa Judum set up by the Chhattisgarh government on the basis of which it was eventually declared unconstitutional and banned by the Supreme Court in 2011.

“The police in Chhatisgarh has often tried to link her to the Maoists through innuendo and disinformation. Once when they did this, I personally complained to the Chief Minister, after which the campaign eased off a bit. But again there is an effort by some in the Chhatisgarh police to discredit her ongoing PIL by claiming she is acting in behalf of Maoists etc,” Varadarajan said. But he added that the police response in Delhi has been exemplary. “We don’t know who to suspect quite frankly because there are no leads. But my flat’s caretaker said they were ‘political type’ people,” he said.

While Varadarajan refused to speculate on who these goons may have been, the immediate conclusion on Twitter, Facebook and initial reports about the incident connected it with his being a “Modi critic”. Varadarajan was the first non-dynastic professional Editor of The Hindu newspaper, for nearly two years, until he resigned in October last year. The new editor-in-chief, at that time, had criticised Varadarajan for not giving adequate page one coverage to the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rallies. Varadarajan is also the editor of Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy and recently reviewed Manoj Mitta’s The Fiction of Fact Finding: Modi & Godhra for Outlook.



[Back to Top]

Himachal BJP MP booked, caught taking cash on camera (Mar 6, 2014, Times of India)

The Himachal Pradesh vigilance and anti-corruption bureau on Thursday booked sitting BJP parliamentarian Virender Kashyap who was allegedly caught accepting cash on camera. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has retained the one-time MP from the Shimla (reserved) seat.

“A case against Kashyap was registered under section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” a police official told IANS. “The case was registered after the authenticity of the video CD was proved by the central forensic science laboratory of Chandigarh,” said the investigating official.

In November, the Himachal Pradesh high court issued notice to Kashyap on a petition for quashing a police inquiry report giving a clean chit to him after he was allegedly caught accepting cash. Petitioner Devashish Bhattacharya has alleged that the state government inquiry in 2010 was not fair and aimed at hushing up the matter. He also sought a fresh inquiry into the case.

Police reinvestigated the case after the intervention of the high court. Official sources said the video CD was in circulation in January 2010 in which Kashyap was seen accepting a bribe from a private party for helping it secure permission for setting up an educational institution in the state. At that time, the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government was in power.



[Back to Top]

NHRC ‘indicts’ home ministry, cops for Delhi encounter (Mar 8, 2014, Times of India)

The National Human Rights Commission “severely indicted” the home ministry, the Delhi government and Delhi Police for their “specious arguments” to its notices in a 2006 encounter case where five people were killed in the capital. The rights panel found the encounter “doubtful” and recommended Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the five people killed. The proof of payment must be submitted by April 17.

In 2003, NHRC had issued guidelines to all states to hold magisterial enquiries after any encounter where there was loss of life. All state governments had accepted the guidelines and acted on them. “The egregious exception is in the National Capital Territory where the Delhi Police, which appears to be deeply apprehensive of any impartial scrutiny of its actions, opposes magisterial enquiries and has an extraordinary veto on these decisions,” said the NHRC.

The government had refused a CBI probe in the 2006 encounter case, which the NHRC believed was essential. In a statement, the NHRC deplored the “intransigence of the authorities concerned for refusing to accept its recommendation to hold a CBI enquiry in this case”. The NHRC set aside MHA’s contention that “the Delhi Police have amply proved that the encounter was genuine and therefore no justification for the relief”. Taking a strong view, the NHRC called the MHA’s response to its showcause notice “an extraordinary assertion made without any mooring in facts”.

NHRC said it was unable to understand how the MHA claimed “the Delhi Police has managed to prove that the encounter was genuine”. “On the basis of the material on record, the Commission has found the encounter doubtful,” said an NHRC statement. The panel had registered a case following intimation by the father of one of the five people killed. According to the NHRC, “There was total non-cooperation from the Delhi government. The police did not forward all the relevant documents to the Commission such as seizure memo of the articles recovered from the scene of occurrence and map of the scene of occurrence. There was no explanation for non-collection of scientific evidence.”

During enquiries, the NHRC found the encounter took place at Yamuna Khadar area and that the Delhi Police was helped by the Uttar Pradesh Police. “This self-serving evasiveness of the Delhi Police is supported by the Union ministry of home affairs, though it is the nodal ministry for the protection of human rights in India. This is a sad reflection on the Delhi Police and on the ministry’s understanding of its responsibilities on human rights,” the NHRC said. Since no magisterial probe was held, the NHRC use its powers to direct the district magistrate of northeast Delhi to probe. …



[Back to Top]

NHRC issues notices to MHA, Delhi Police on wrongful confinement of youth in jail (Mar 10, 2014, Yahoo)

The National Human Rights Commission on Monday took suo motu cognizance of a media report carrying the story of Mohammad Amir, who was released in January after a 14-year-long incarceration in jail, destroying his youth due to wrongful arrest on 27th February1998, from Old Delhi as an alleged ‘terrorist’ when he had just turned 18. While Amir remained confined to a solitary high security cell in Tihar Jail, he had little idea that his father had passed away in penury, and his mother had got paralysis suffering a brain haemorrhage and losing speech amidst a social boycott.

The Commission observed that the issue raises serious questions on the functioning of the police, and if true, the contents of the press report amount to grave violation of human rights of the victim Amir who was implicated in false cases. In the notices issued to the Secretary of Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi Police Commissioner, under case no 1361/30/9/2014, Justice D. Murugesan, Member, NHRC, has asked them to submit detailed reports in the matter within four weeks. Further, the Delhi Police Commissioner has been directed to submit the entire record of the 12 cases filed against Amir along with his report.

According to the media report, carried on the 7th February 2014, Amir left his small home near Azad Market in Old Delhi for Pakistan on the 12th December 1997 to visit his sister who was married there and returned on the 13thFebruary, 1998. A fortnight later, he was arrested on the charges of executing the bomb blasts subsequent to his training in Pakistan. Amir, with the charges of murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation, was named the main accused in 20 low intensity bomb blasts executed between December 1996 and October 1997 in Delhi, Rohtak, Sonepat and Ghaziabad.

Five of these explosions had occurred during a single evening in places as wide apart as Sadar Bazar in Delhi and Ghaziabad, many miles away. The charge sheet filed in April 1998 said that Amir had been trained in Pakistan by the dreaded Abdul Karim Tunda’s gang. It also mentioned that Amir and co-accused Shakeel collaborated to make bombs out of a factory rented by Shakeel in Pilakhua in Ghaziabad.

However, Shakeel was discharged before the start of hearing in ten cases. But in 2009 he was found hanging from the ceiling of his barrack in Dasna Jail. The then Superintendent of Dasna Jail, V.K. Singh, was charged with Shakeel’s murder. Amir was acquitted in 18 of the 20 terror cases for lack of evidence against him after the prosecution failed to produce a single witness in any of the cases connecting him to the blasts. The police produced no witness to support the arrest, and the public witnesses, who were present during the Pilakhua raid, flatly refused to support the prosecution during the trial. …



[Back to Top]

Kandhamal Christians “live in fear because of Hindu fundamentalists” (Mar 4, 2014, Asia News)

“The life of Christians in Kandhamal is an ongoing trauma, because they live in fear of the radical Hindu groups”, The president of theGlobal Council of Indian Christians (GCIC ) Sajan George tells AsiaNews, after yet another attack against the religious minority in the State of Orissa. On 27 February, several members of the Sangh Parivar (umbrella group of Hindutva organizations and movements -ed) damaged a prayer hall under construction in the village of Pradhanpada, threatening the 15 Christians engaged in the work.

After the attack, authorities have deployed around 70 law enforcement officers to ensure safety. Police arrested two people and launched a manhunt for the other attackers. Kunwar Vishal Singh, Kandhamal district chief of police, explains that there is a willingness to resolve the matter amicably, as the incident is linked to a “family dispute” over the land on which the prayer hall is being built. The Police Chief has instead denied that religious hatred is behind the attack.

However, Sajan George calls the attack “shameful” and says that “despite five years having passed since the pogroms in Orissa, the Christian community continues to be denied justice and is still subjected to daily acts of discrimination and intimidation. This latest episode, a few days before the beginning of Lent, clearly intends to intimidate and threaten freedom of religion and worship in Kandhamal”.



[Back to Top]

Muzaffarnagar riots: Politicos condemn UP BJP’S plan to seek tickets for four riot-accused MLAs (Mar 11, 2014, Business Standard)

Cutting across political lines, leaders on Monday condemned the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit plans to seek Lok Sabha tickets for the four BJP MLAs booked on the charge of fuelling Muzaffarnagar riots.

The party plans to propose fielding Kairana MLA Hukum Singh from the Kairana Lok Sabha seat, Bijnore MLA Bhartendu Singh from Bijnore, Sardhana MLA Sangeet Som from Muzaffarnagar seat, and Thana Bhawan MLA Suresh Rana from Saharanpur.

The proposals will be put before the BJP central election committee meeting on March 13.



[Back to Top]

Chhattisgarh: 200 Naxals attack security personnel in Sukma, kill 20 (Mar 11, 2014, IBN)

Twenty security personnel lost their lives in a fierce encounter with Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Tuesday. There were 44 personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Chhattisgarh Police in the road opening party when it was attacked by over 200 heavily armed Naxals.

The dead included 15 CRPF members and 5 state police personnel. Chhattisgarh Police ADG Mukesh Gupta confirmed the deaths. “The incident happened at around 10:30 am. Causalties on Naxal side have not been determined yet. The injured security men have been taken to the hospital,” said Gupta.

“The joint police party had gone out for road opening at 9 am. The party started at Tongpal area and was ambushed by Naxals as they moved ahead. We had losses because of topography which was not favourable to us. There were 44 men in two teams. The forces fired back and as a result the other isolated party was saved,” he said.

He denied that standard operating procedures were violated. “Operating procedures change according to situations. There was no violation of the operating procedures. The forces have fought valiantly. The opening of Jiram post was a major setback for Naxals,” he added.

The encounter took place near the Jiram Ghati area of Sukma and lasted for about 30 minutes. According to police sources, the Naxals overpowered the security personnel at the site where construction was going on a road. Sukma is where Naxals had killed top Congress leaders in an attack in May 2013.



[Back to Top]

Girl in police protection gang-raped (Mar 7, 2014, Times of India)

A gang rape survivor was kidnapped from police protection, gang-raped again on Tuesday night, strangled and dumped in the farm fields of Ferozabad on Wednesday apparently after the accused presumed she was dead. Though the kidnap took place in the presence of two constables posted for her security, the Ferozabad police rounded up her family members claiming they had packed her off to some place to implicate those who were accused of raping her.

The girl was found lying unconscious in the farm fields the next morning. She told the doctors she was gang-raped once again, strangled and dumped apparently after the perpetrators presumed she had died. Doctors at the district hospital too confirmed that the girl was gang-raped and injury marks on her neck suggested serious attempt to strangulate her. Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Ferozabad Rakesh Kumar described her condition as “not serious”.

Two armed police constables posted for her security at her house claimed they were having dinner when the crime took place. When they heard a commotion they came out see what had happened but returned quickly to wear their shoes. By the time they put on with their shoes, the accused had escaped. Though this statement was offered by one of the constables while talking to TOI on phone from the scene of crime barely an hour after the incident, the SSP told TOI that the constables had informed him the kidnap never took place.

Prime accused in the first gangrape case is Dalbir Singh. His wife is a pradhan and has a strong influence across 18 villages in Firozabad. The couple are said to have secured over 30,000 votes for SP MLA Ramveer Singh Yadav, leading to his victory in the 2012 UP assembly elections. Ramveer Singh Yadav is another important part of Akshay Yadav’s election campaign which could be the reason police did not take action. Despite a named FIR no action was initiated against the named accused in the gangrape case till date.

The girl was kidnapped from her house in Jeragaon village under Eka police station of Feorzabad on November 5, last year. Initially police were reluctant to lodge an FIR and it was only when the district police chief intervened that a case was registered 14 days after the incident. The delay by police helped the rape accused as nothing substantial could be found against them in the medical examination of the girl 14 days after the crime. …



[Back to Top]

Inspector Harassed and Assaulted Me, Says Dalit (Mar 9, 2014, New Indian Express)

Residents of Vaiyur village, led by Aadhi Tamizhar Peravai, on Saturday gheraoed the T Kallupatti police station, protesting the alleged harrassment and assault of a dalit worker by an inspector on Friday. Sources said that Palpandi, son of Alagiri from Vaiyur, is a sanitary worker. On Friday, both his daughters had gone to the Vaiyur Panchayat Union primary school, but the younger one, Mahalakshmi did not return home. Later, Palpandi came to know that she had not attended school that day.

Palpandi searched for the girl till evening but she was not found. So, he, along with the headmaster of the school and panchayat union office-bearers went to T Kallupatti police station to lodge a missing complaint. While they were there, locals spotted the girl sleeping behind Palpandi’s house. When the news reached the police station, inspector Paathamuthu allegedly accused Palpandi of trying to lodge a false complaint.

“Mahalakshimi did not go to school. Fearing reprimand by her parents, she hid at a place behind the house, which was covered with bushes,” said a panchayat union office-bearer. “He (the inspector) asked me, which caste did I belong to? When I told him that I belonged to a scheduled caste, he started abusing me, using my caste name. The officer even slapped me on the face and kicked my back,” claimed Palpandi, who sustained internal injuries.

Trouble did not end for Palpandi as a high-ranking police officer threatened him not to make a furore over the issue at the Tirumangalam government hospital, where the former was taken for treatment. “It is a shame that a police officer, who is supposed to protect the common man, behaved in this manner. That too inside the police station,” said R Selvan, Suburban District Secretary, ATP, who demanded that a case under the SC/ST (POA) Act be registered against the inspector.

Reacting to the issue, DSP (Peraiyur range) Balasubramanian said, as a police officer, Paathamuthu was aware of the laws. So, chances of him abusing or assaulting Palpandi were less. Nevertheless, the DSP has assured of further investigation into the matter.



[Back to Top]

Opinions and Editorials

The RSS Hand in Militant Hindutva – By Shaj Hameed (Mar 10, 2014, Twocircles.net)

The February month cover story of the popular narrative magazine, The Caravan, published from Delhi, has already been discussed and debated a lot. Hindutva extremist Aseemanand, speaking to the magazine’s journalist Ms. Leena Regunath, revealed that all the bomb blasts carried out by his team had been with the RSS leadership’s knowledge and approval. Furthermore, the RSS’s national leaders including its general secretary Mohan Bhagwat and national executive member Indresh Kumar had met Assemanand in person and pleaded with him to go ahead with the attacks, at the same time advising him to take care as to not link such terror acts with Sangh Parivar Organisations, especially the RSS. Aseemanand, who has been accused in five bomb blasts across the country which killed a total of 199 innocent people, also revealed that Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections, was a fan and supporter of his extremist activities.

That the RSS has several wings promoting different agendas, all culminating in the aim of converting India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is no secret today. It has also been revealed by different investigations that militant Hindutva is one of the major methods used by the RSS to achieve this goal. On several ocassions, RSS leaders have openly declared their intention tp replace the Indian Constitution with the ‘Manusmriti’, and to establish a social order based on caste-system and untouchability, gender discrimination, denial of basic human rights and superstitions and social evils. When BJP-led NDA had come to power at the Centre, one of the first things it did was to appoint a Commission to review the Indian Constitution. Only because the BJP lacked a simple majority in the Parliament, the country was saved from being sent back to the stone-age.

Today, Aseemanand, Pragya Singh Thakur and Col. Srikant Purohit have been identified as the kingpins of Hindutva terrorism. Aseemanand has long been considered as a stalwart of Hindutva fanaticism in Hindutva terror’s biggest laboratory, Gujarat. In the interviews published by ‘The Caravan’, Aseemanand has stated that creating fanaticism in the minds of Hindus is the best way to stop them from converting to Christianity. He is proud of all the violence he has supervised in the name of ‘stirring Hindutva’ among people. He has reiterated his loyalty to militant Hindu nationalism.

Other Hindutva extremists are worse. Pragya Singh Thakur’s only regret in her bombing escapades has been the low numbers of Muslim casualities. Col. Purohit used his army uniform to further the cause of Hindu extremist nationalism. He used the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik, Maharashtra, as the base of his terror operations. In 2001, this school held a 40-days training camp, in which 115 RSS and Bajrang Dal activists from different parts of the country were taught bomb making, exploding bombs and weapons training. Retired and serving army officers and retired senior IB officers were among the trainers. This was revealed in the book ‘Who Killed Karkare?’ by S.M. Mushrif. Media also revealed that Purohit had stolen about 60kgs of RDX from the army. Apart from using this deadly explosive to carry out bombings, some of it was also used to frame innocent Muslims in arms seizure cases. However, what is still unclear is whether all the 60 kgs stolen have been tracked down.

The RSS has always been aware of the activities of what is now called ‘Abhinav Bharat’. Aseemenand and Pragya Singh Thakur were actively associated with RSS branches, and held responsible positions in the Sangh Parivar. Aseemanand was the top-most national leader of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), animportant Sangh Parivar wing. Pragya Singh was a national executive member of ABVP, the Sangh’s students’ wing. Indresh Kumar, another accused, used to be a national executive member of the RSS. Aseemanand was honoured twice by the RSS, for his ‘achievements’ in perpetrating violence against the minorities, especially those in Gujarat’s Dangs district. Sunil Joshi, yet another accused, who was later murdered allegedly by his partners in violence, used to be a district leader of RSS in Indore. Initially, when Pragya Singh Thakur’s role in terrorist activities was exposed by investigating agencies, the BJP was quick to disown her. However, this angered senior BJP leader Uma Bharti, who complained that BJP wasn’t doing the right thing by disassociating itself from her. However, the BJP later ran to Pragya’s help, alleging that she was being tortured in jail. They did this only after photographs emerged which established that Pragya was well connected to top-most national leaders of the RSS and BJP, including Narendra Modi. Similarly, the RSS ran to Indresh Kumar’s rescue, as soon as the NIA started closing in on him. Perhaps he knew too much. …



[Back to Top]

Holy Cow And Unholy Silence – By B.F Firos (Mar 9, 2014, Countercurrents)

A recent explosive book on self-styled saint and god-woman Matha Amrithananda Mai by one of her former personal attendants and the subsequent blackout by Kerala’s leading newspapers and TV channels need to be analysed in the context of how media houses tend to play second fiddle to the power wielded by some of the veritable spiritual empires with financial, social and political clout.

Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness, written by Australian-born Gail Tredwell, recounts her two decades’ harrowing experiences with the Matha’s Ashram in Kerala. The book is a damning indictment on the spiritual empire built assiduously over the past many years by Sudhamani, born in a poor fishing family in a non-descript village in Kerala’s Kollam district. She attained ‘godly’ power at a very young age by reportedly being ‘possessed’ by Lord Krishna. Years later, she built a spiritual empire worth millions of dollars, with millions of dollars received as donation by the Ashram every year from followers around the world.

The controversial book says Tredwell suffered in silence all the persecutions and trauma in her quest to find Indian spirituality till she left the Ashram in 1999. She was raped by the lieutenant of the God-woman many times in the Ashram. According to her, the true self of Amma is a far-cry from her preaching and public utterances. Buried under the false veneer of divinity and universal love are tales of torture, rape and financial misappropriation. She also alleges that a major portion of the donations are not being used for welfare of poor but instead gobbled up by the family members of ‘Amma’.

The explosive revelations were first reported by newspapers like Madhyamam and news channels like India Vision and Media One. Despite a studied silence by the leading newspapers and TV channels, the issue refused to die down, thanks to the social media, especially Facebook where the contents of the book were widely posted. One leading news paper, instead of reporting about the book, carried only the reaction by the Ashram. In fact, this paper front paged a positive news item about ‘Amma’ in an apparent bid to blunt and deflect the seriousness of the allegations. …

In fact, the withering attack made by Gail Tredwell is not the first one; in the past there have been attempts by rationalists to unravel the sordid saga unfolding within the portals of the self-styled hugging saint’s Ashram. A leading rationalist Sreeni Pattathanam had written a book exposing the many mysterious deaths inside the Ashram.



[Back to Top]

India’s ‘Conversion’ Laws Threaten Religious Freedom – Heiner Bielefeldt with Vishal Arora (Mar 10, 2014, Wall Street Journal)

India’s laws restricting religious conversions–intended to protect people from being forced to change their beliefs – are an obstacle to religious freedom, a senior United Nations figure said in an interview.

Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, spoke to The Wall Street Journal last week. The laws he discussed apply in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and vary state by state.

The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, for instance, says a person who wants to convert to another religion must first get permission from the district magistrate to do so. Mr. Bielefeldt argues that the laws place unreasonable restrictions not only on people’s right to convert to another religion, but also their right to propagate their own religion.…



[Back to Top]

Muslims of BTAD are exiled in their own land post 2012 riots – By Nilim Dutta (Mar 7, 2014, Twocircles.net)

If one types in the above location coordinates into the ‘search’ in Google Earth, it immediately takes one to the image of an empty field somewhere in Gossaigaon Revenue Circle of Kokrajhar District, one of the four Districts in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) of Assam, in the satellite topographic imagery dated 3 May 2010.

When I arrived in that paddy field just off the National Highway 31C on 2 March 2014, nearly four years after that satellite image was taken, the field was no longer empty. More than a hundred ramshackle shelters built with bamboo and covered with multicoloured tarpaulin sheets now dotted the patch of land. For many suffering the paranoia of a relentless ‘silent’ Bangladeshi invasion of Assam, these could even be passed off for new encroachment of Bangladeshi settlers who have sneaked into Assam in recent years.

A visitor would, however, find that most of them speak fluent Assamese, using beautiful literary vocabulary of the written language, even though with a distinct accent. He or she would find many of the younger women to be assertive and articulate, a clear hint of being educated, and speaking in Assamese with the fluency of someone who have been speaking the language all their lives. This alone should dispel any notion of their identity, but they have further proof of where they come from, receipts of land revenue their forefathers had paid as early as 1935 to the Government of Assam under the British in a village about 20 Kilometers north east of their present settlement called Ramfalbil in the neighbouring Dotma Revenue Circle of the same Kokrajhar District.

How have they ended up in this squalid settlement in Joymaguri village in the Gossaigaon Revenue Circle of Kokrajhar District? When the violence against the Muslim villagers broke out in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts in July 2012, these Muslim villagers from Ramfalbil were compelled to flee with their lives to relief camps in Bilasipara in the neighbouring Dhubri District of Assam. Unlike most other villagers from their community who are overwhelmingly cultivators or agricultural labourers, a majority of them were petty businessmen, traders and shopkeepers, and perhaps comparatively more upwardly mobile. When government relief camps for the Muslim victims of the 2012 violence began to be forcibly closed down, even before any compensation were paid, or even before they were enabled to return to the destroyed homes they had fled from, 163 families, mostly from Ramfalbil, finally found their way into this patch of land in Joymaguri.

The land the displaced Muslim villagers now live on, however, is not government land that any accusation of encroachment can even arise but ‘myadi land’ belonging to two generous elderly Muslim gentlemen of Joymaguri village, Karim Ali and Qader Ali. Karim Ali, on whose land the greater part of the present settlement of the displaced Muslim villagers from Ramfalbil is situated, was among those whom I had the wonderful opportunity to meet that afternoon. For someone who has lost all earning from that land, and who can actually ill-afford that loss, it is indeed a generous gesture. It is gestures like these that reaffirm our faith on humanity.…



[Back to Top]

Crony capitalism and state capture – By C.P. Chandrasekhar (Mar 21, 2014, Frontline)

It is a controversy that is unlikely to go away. Arvind Kejriwal’s salvo in the form of a first information report (FIR) against Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily and sundry policymakers and against the decision to double the price of natural gas in India to $8.4 per million British thermal units (mBtu) from April 1 has revived a controversy that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government hoped had died. There is no doubting that Reliance will be a major beneficiary of the decision. And that at a time when it is being accused of having inflated capital costs to garner a larger share of profits (than the government) from the KG-D6 fields leased to it and of having failed to ensure gas output levels and therefore shareable revenues promised in the original revenue-sharing contract. The loser has been the government.

With the general election barely weeks away, the controversy could snowball. But some, like Moily, who are seen as being behind the decision with support from “above” seem convinced that they can brazen it out and deliver a policy, the damage of which will have to be addressed by the next government. That damage could include huge losses in the power and fertilizer sectors and consumers having reduced access to power owing to both high prices and supply shortfall. Benefiting Reliance seems to be a priority, to which all else is being subordinated. Some say this is crony capitalism, where a state-, and not market-, determined price is used to boost private profit. Others see this as the result of “state capture” by big business.

There are many reasons why the decision of the government has been questioned. The first is that its argument that the gas industry will be starved of investment if prices are not raised goes against the evidence, as E.A.S. Sarma, a senior and respected retired civil servant with much expertise in the area, has argued. Second, the principles on the basis of which the new price has been arrived at by the Rangarajan Committee are open to question and not above suspicion of being part of a conspiracy to favour Reliance Industries Limited (RIL). Third, RIL has been charged with wilfully not meeting the production targets agreed to in its revenue-sharing contract with the government, and the matter is now under investigation. Many believe that RIL is hoarding gas to reap higher profits once the prices are raised.

Giving it the benefit of a higher price when this issue is under investigation does seem unusual. Fourth, the government’s claim that this will benefit the public sector oil companies as well does not sell because other parts of the public sector, such as the power producer NTPC, are expected to take a hit owing to cost increases, and the net impact of this on the public sector is unclear. Finally, the UPA government’s decision to implement, at the fag end of its tenure, the new price it had announced does suggest that it wants to be seen as having taken the decision to favour gas producers, including RIL. The allegation that there was a quid pro quo for individuals or organisations responsible for the decision is only a short step from there.

Even if all these strong reasons for concern over the government’s decision were not there, suspicion of undue favour by the government was more than likely. This is not just because of the controversies that have dogged Reliance’s rise to dominance in Indian industry, many of which have to do with its ability to bend the rules and swing government decisions in its favour. It is also because across a range of industries, in all of which Reliance is not necessarily the dominant player, the state is seen as having shown undue favour to big business. The allocations of 2G spectrum licences and coal blocks are just two more visible examples of decisions that middle-class India is convinced constitute evidence of an illegitimate or even illegal nexus between the state and big business, in which the latter is the beneficiary and sections of the former are on the take. All the more so because the evidence that the nexus between the state and private capital, to the “benefit” of both, has strengthened rather than eroded under India’s neoliberal policy regime is too obvious to ignore.…



[Back to Top]

Birth of a State – By M. Rajeev (Mar 21, 2014, Frontline)

February 20, 2014, will remain a red-letter day in the history of Telangana. The passage of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014, by Parliament has brought to an end a saga of struggle for a separate State spanning five decades. The passage of the Bill for the creation of the 29th State in the country saw some acrimonious scenes in the two Houses of Parliament, including the infamous use of pepper spray in the Lok Sabha by the member from Vijayawada, Lagadapati Rajagopal, and the expulsion of six Congress MPs from Seemandhra.

The statehood issue was put on the back burner in the aftermath of the announcement on December 9, 2009, regarding the creation of Telangana by the then Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. The announcement came in the wake of a “fast unto death” launched by Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) president K. Chandrasekhar Rao and after students’ organisations, government employees’ unions and other sections of society joined the Telangana movement.

With Telangana heading for a shutdown on December 6 and 7, the State government headed by Chief Minister K. Rosaiah called an all-party meeting in which all the major parties extended their support to the creation of Telangana. The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and the Congress left the decision to the Congress high command. The minutes of the meeting were sent to the Congress leadership, and the announcement that the process for the creation of Telangana would be initiated followed.

The spate of resignations by Ministers and legislators from Seemandhra that followed the announcement forced the Central government to rethink the decision. Subsequently, it constituted a high-power committee headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna for consultations. The panel conducted an elaborate exercise, holding discussions with a cross section of the stakeholders for over a year, before submitting the report to the Union Home Ministry on December 28, 2010. It suggested six options; keeping the State united was its preferred option.

It opined that the Telangana State was economically viable but preferred maintaining the status quo keeping in view the larger scheme of things. However, a controversy erupted over the committee submitting a supplementary note in a sealed cover reportedly detailing the law and order implications, including the possible escalation of extremism. Challenging the report in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, pro-Telangana petitioners demanded that the contents of the sealed note be made public. The court upheld the contention on the grounds that “the committee travelled beyond the terms of reference in its endeavour to persuade the Union of India not to accede to the demand for Telangana”. The judgment quoted the report’s eighth chapter and said that “the manoeuvre suggested by the committee in its secret supplementary note poses an open challenge, if not threat, to the very system of democracy”.…



[Back to Top]