IAMC Weekly News Roundup - March 12th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 12th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Vigil marks 10th anniversary of 2002 Gujarat riots (Mar 8, 2012, India Post)

More than 100 Indian Americans gathered near the Gandhi Statue at Union Square in New York and simultaneously in at least five other cities across the US on March 3 to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat Massacre in which over 2000 Muslim men, women and children were killed by organized mobs of the Hindu right wing under the chief ministership of Narendra Modi in Gujarat. The anti-Muslim attacks and their subsequent displacement were extensively covered in the international media. Scathing reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as the Indian human rights organizations pointed out that the massacres and gang-rapes were coordinated, organized, and sanctioned. “We are gathering at the Gandhi statue because the Indian government and society needs to decide whether it believes in Gandhi’s worldview or Modi’s,” said Nazeer Syed, a volunteer with the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) one of the over 40 organizations behind the mobilization. Women and children waved placards and shouted slogans demanding justice for the victims of the riots, and the arrest of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

These organizations came together in 2005 under the name Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) and campaigned successfully to get the US State Department to refuse Narendra Modi a visitor’s visa, and to revoke his diplomatic visa. This was unprecedented for a politician of Modi’s stature. “We did not back down then, and we see no reason to now,” said Dr. Svati Shah of the South Asia Solidarity Initiative. “We are mobilizing to reiterate that any nation that allows a mass murderer to remain in power has, at the minimum, a deeply flawed democracy,” she added. Amongst those who spoke at the demonstration included Bhairavi Desai, Head of the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, President of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York, Joe Lombardo, National Co-chair of United National Antiw Coalition, Rev. Mark Lukens, the President of The Interfaith Alliance of Long Island, and leaders of the Coalition Against Genocide. “We will end the demonstration with a silent vigil,” said Habeeb Ahmad of the Muslim Peace Coalition USA. “Each candle at the vigil will be memory of the thousands who died… but it will also bear witness to our hope. We have waited ten years. We certainly do not want to wait another decade,” Ahmed who is a human rights commissioner with Nassau County added. Similar vigils were held by the same coalition of organizations in California, Washington, Boston, Chicago and Florida.

Congressional Resolution recognizing the riots: A resolution (H.R. 569) moved by Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) recognizing the tenth anniversary of the tragic communal violence in Gujarat was passed in the US House of Representatives on March 1. The resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that on February 27, 2002, in the city of Godhra in the western state of Gujarat, India, 58 Hindus were tragically burnt alive in a train coach fire; and immediately following the train fire, communal violence erupted in several towns in Gujarat. In the International Religious Freedom Report of 2003, the United States Department of State found that ‘In Gujarat the worst religious violence directed against Muslims by Hindus took place in February and March 2002, leaving an estimated 2,000 dead and 100,000 displaced into refugee camps. It was alleged widely that the police and state government did little to stop the violence promptly, and at times even encouraged or assisted Hindus involved in the riots. Despite substantial evidentiary material, the judicial commission responsible for investigating the riots reported inconclusive findings. No Hindus have been charged for the violence’.

The resolution also cited a 2002 Human Rights Watch report entitled ‘We Have No Orders to Save You’ stated that ‘Between February 28 and March 2 [2002] the attackers descended with militia-like precision on Ahmedabad by the thousands. Chanting slogans of incitement to kill … they were guided by computer printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their properties… and embarked on a murderous rampage confident that the police was with them. Portions of the Gujarati language press meanwhile printed fabricated stories and statements openly calling on Hindus to avenge the Godhra attacks.’ The United States Government denied Chief Minister Modi a visa to the United States in 2005 on the grounds of a religious freedom violation under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the first and only time such a denial has been issued. The resolution further said that minorities including Christians in Gujarat continue to experience religious and socio-economic discrimination.

In view of all this, the House of Representatives resolved that it: (1) recognizes the suffering of all those persons who were affected by the 2002 violence in Gujarat, India, including those persons who lost their lives in the Godhra train fire; (2) shares the opinion of the United States Department of State that the Gujarat government has not adequately pursued justice for the victims of the 2002 violence; (3) remains concerned by reports from journalists and human rights groups about the complicity of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 violence; (4) applauds the Department of State and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom for their monitoring of religious freedom in India and throughout the world; (5) salutes the role of Indian police officers who, despite personal risk, provided honest testimony about the violence in Gujarat; (6) commends the role of the National Human Rights Commission and the Indian Supreme Court, which has led to some convictions in Gujarat riot cases, and also the arrest of a few high-level leaders in the Modi administration; (7) recognizes the work of Indian and Indian-American civil society groups for their tireless devotion to educating people about human rights and religious freedom in India; and (8) calls on the Gujarat government to heed the recommendations of the State Department to restore religious freedom for all citizens in Gujarat.



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Indian-Americans hold demonstrations against Modi (Mar 4, 2012, Times of India)

Marking the 10th anniversary of the Gujarat riots, a coalition of over 40 Indian-American bodies held a demonstration and a candle-light vigil here, shouting slogans against Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged complicity in the communal violence and demanding justice for the victims. Over 100 people from the Indian-American community came together under the banner of ‘Coalition Against Genocide’ (CAG) for the demonstration yesterday.

Gathered near a statute of Mahatma Gandhi in Manhattan, the coalition pressed its demand for compensation for the victims and to bring the perpetrators of the riots to justice. Women and children held placards and shouted slogans against Modi and his government. Vice President of the Indian American Muslim Council Eastern Region, Mohammad Yusuf Gaddani, said the coalition chose to hold the demonstration in front of Gandhi’s statue as “we have to decide whether we want Gandhi’s India or Modi’s India.”

The coalition claimed that even after 10 years of the Gujarat riots, justice had been denied to the victims and their families and the state government too had shown no remorse for the killings of innocent civilians. “Those who have lost their lives cannot be brought back but we should bring closure to the victims and their families by putting those responsible for the killings behind bars,” Gaddani told PTI. Swati Shah, a member of the South Asia Solidarity Initiative, said it was the responsibility of the Indian and South Asian diaspora to maintain the correct information in public sphere about what had happened in Gujarat.

“We are concerned that Modi wants to raise his profile as a potential candidate for Prime Minister…,” she said. The 40 organisations had earlier come together in 2005 under the CAG banner and campaigned against Modi’s visit to the US. The coalition had sought denial of a visa to Modi and revocation of his diplomatic visa. Gaddani said similar vigils would be held in California, Washington, Chicago, Boston and Florida by local chapters of the Indian American Muslim Council.

He said the people needed to come together and ensure that what happened in Gujarat 10 years ago was not repeated in any part of India again. The demonstration was held just days after a Congressional resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Gujarat communal riots. The resolution shared the opinion of the US Department of State that the Gujarat government had not adequately pursued justice for the victims of the 2002 violence and urged the state government to restore religious freedom.



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Gujarat Riots: No Reconciliation before Justice: ex-CJI (Mar 5, 2012, Twocircles.net)

“No reconciliation is possible before truth is out,” said former Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice J S Verma while speaking at a function here on Sunday, organised by ANHAD and others to commemorate the Gujarat massacre of 2002. “Complete justice should be done to the victims of the massacre,” he added.

Dwelling upon the concept of complete justice, he said, “Reparation, Rehabilitation, Identification of perpetrators and assurance of non-repetition are pre-requisite for reconciliation” adding “unless complete justice is done, there is no point in reconciliation”. He categorically held, “there is no question of forget and forgive”.

Justice Verma, who was the Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at the time of massacres while referring to his visit said, “I felt ashamed knowing the brutalities done to the victims, especially women and children”. According to him, the union governments have also failed to ensure justice for the victims of the massacre. Appealing to the common citizen of India, he urged, “So long Minorities are left to defend themselves the violence will continue. Hence, Majority must come forward”.

IPS officer Sanjeev Bhat said, “No real justice has been done in last ten years” adding “it has been years of shame for people, police and administration of Gujarat”. He advised, “Silent majority has to come forward as there is no change and the tragedy still continues”. Drawing a parallel with Nazi Germany, he alleged, “The democratic space in Gujarat is shrinking day by day and it is rushing towards fascism by its leaps and bounds”. In Nazi Germany, he said, “there was no less development; in fact, it was best kind of development and discipline in Germany’s history ever”. But can it be a model for us, he asked. “The truth will come out for sure, whether justice shall prevail or not, is a million dollar question”. We have to work towards to break the myth that ‘Modi is Gujarat and Gujarat is Modi’. “And I am hopeful and promise to fight till justice is ensured,” IPS Bhatt added.



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Modi must spend rest of his life in jail: Owaisi (Mar 4, 2012, Yahoo)

Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) president and MP Asaduddin Owaisi Sunday said Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi must spend rest of his life in jail for committing genocide in the state. Warning that India will not be able to absorb another Gujarat, he said even if Modi is announced as the prime ministerial candidate, the consequences will be draconian. Addressing a seminar on “Gujarat-10 years of shame” here, the MP from Hyderabad said it was sickening to see leaders of big MNCs going to Gujarat, praising Modi and saying he should be made prime minister of India.

“I am surprised by all these MNCs running to Gujarat and praising Modi as if he is some sort of messiah. I, as an Indian, don’t want this economic growth. I want justice. What is the point of having this investment when you can’t guarantee life of a Muslim, or any person of minority communities or any Indian.” Owaisi asked Congress to fight Modi boldly on secular platform. “For Modi to be dethroned in Gujarat, Congress should not be a B team of Modi. People of Gujarat should know the difference between a successor of Hitler and Mussolini and a party which claims that they are successors of Mahatma Gandhi.”

The MIM leader, however, said the electoral victory will not exonerate Modi of the sins he has committed and pointed out that even Hitler had won election but it did not exonerate him from the crimes he committed against Jews. A former police officer, a journalist, a filmmaker and an ex-chief election commissioner all shared their experiences in Gujarat. Former additional director general of Gujarat police R.B. Sreekumar gave a detailed eyewitness account of the complicity of the state government and how the police officers were not allowed to perform their duties.

“Gujarat riots will remain a black mark on history and heritage of India,” said the officer who has consistently provided evidence of the government’s complicity to Nanavati Commission and Special Investigation Team (SIT). Speaking about his experiences, former chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh said Modi tried to target him for not succumbing to pressure for early elections. Lyngdoh defended his action saying he went by the reports of state’s then chief electoral officer and other officials on the law and order situation. “He (Modi) said James Michael Lyngdoh meets Sonia Gandhi in church. I am not church-going type person. I have not even visited any place of worship in the world,” he said.

“I saw shades of Hitler,” he remarked while referring to an incident during his visit to Gujarat. Rahul Dholakia, who made “Parzania”, spoke on the problems he faced in making the movie on the story of a Parsi boy who disappeared during riots. He described the difficulties he faced in releasing the movie and the pressure brought on him by different quarters. Kingshuk Nag, resident editor of Times of India in Hyderabad, gave a ringside view of the post-Godhra happenings. He said when he visited Godhra the police officers had told him that there was no conspiracy behind the incident. Police later tried to retract the statement. The journalist said the riots were not spontaneous as not a single incident took place for 24 hours and every thing appeared normal in Ahmedabad on the day when the train was burnt at Godhra.



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RSS ‘infiltration’ into state apparatus worries Digvijaya (Mar 5, 2012, Indian Express)

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh on Sunday expressed concern over ‘infiltration’ of RSS into branches of state apparatus and civil services, while likening the Sangh’s right-wing ideology to that of Hitler in Nazi Germany.

At a convention to mark 10 years of the 2002 Gujarat riots in Delhi, Singh said the state had turned out to be a somewhat successful “laboratory” for communal forces which are working throughout India to further their agenda. “Gujarat was a laboratory for such an ideology and it was successful to some extent. Karnataka was now turning out to be another such laboratory, if corruption issues had not taken centrestage, this programme would have moved ahead.”

“The dangerous question is how people like Colonel Purohit and Major Upadhyay of military intelligence are into these things. Why do we see people of such an ideology active in institutional forces like IAS, IPS and even judiciary?” he said.



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Liquor mafia, BJP MLA men attack IPS officer in MP (Mar 9, 2012, Indian Express)

A young IPS officer was attacked allegedly by liquor mafia, including supporters of former BJP MLA Narendra Singh, in Bhind district when he tried to check illegal sale of liquor on a day when another promising officer was crushed to death allegedly by the mining mafia. The alleged incident occurred yesterday when some liquor shops located on Etawah and Lahar Road were selling liquor illegally despite the administration declaring a ‘dry day’ (prohibiting sale of liquor) on the occasion of Holi, police said.

When this was brought to the notice of IPS officer Jaidevan, posted as Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Bhind, he immediately rushed to the spot along with the police force and questioned them, they said. However, members belonging to liquor mafia attacked them with lathis and by pelting stones forcing police to retreat from the spot, police said, adding that no one was injured in the incident.

A case was registered in this regard against Narendra Singh, his seven supporters, and 18 other unidentified persons. So far, no arrests have been made in this regard, they said. Meanwhile, Bhind Collector Akhilesh Shrivastava has issued a showcause notice to the district excise officer A Rangshahi for failing to prevent sale of illegal liquor.

Yesterday, Narendra Kumar Singh, a young IPS officer, was crushed to death under the wheels of a tractor-trolley, allegedly by a member of the mining mafia, when he tried to stop the vehicle which was carrying stones at Banmore in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh.



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‘Are they after him because he writes in Urdu?’ (Mar 8, 2012, Indian Express)

There is surprise and disquiet in the Urdu journalistic fraternity over the arrest of Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi for his alleged role in the attack on the Israeli diplomat. From a village on the Ghaziabad-Meerut border, Kazmi had a variety of journalistic assignments that included a weekly column and the morning news bulletin on DD Urdu. Since 2002, he also helped as a volunteer teacher of English to underprivileged Class XII students at the India Islamic Cultural Centre.

Said journalist Saeed Naqvi, who has known Kazmi since 2002 and who worked with him on a DD pilot show: “He has a long and consistent record as an Urdu journalist… he is open about his views. He is Shia, he knew Persian and Arabic and was invaluable for our show then. Are they after him because he is from the Urdu world?” Kazmi, years ago, served as an intern in UNI Urdu, a wire service for Urdu papers and periodicals. Its former head Sheikh Manzoor said: “Kazmi has a long record as a journalist and was in Syria with all of us. His views on the situation in the Middle-East were always openly expressed. Is there suspicion only because he writes for the Urdu press? What about freedom of expression?”

Editor of Urdu daily Sahafat, Hasan Shuja, who has known Kazmi for more than a decade, said, “I know him well and I am disturbed by these reports. Calling him a terrorist is so irresponsible. About eight days ago, he appeared on a TV show and made a forceful case against the US and backed Iran. I think he has been on the radar ever since. The pressure on the police by Israel to catch someone finally resulted in them picking him up.” Kazmi, his friends and associates said, also worked for the Iranian News Agency IRNA in 1982.

He writes weekly “guest columns” in leading Urdu dailies. In the latest one, entitled Shaam ke khilaaf jang namumkin (It is impossible to attack Syria), Kazmi discussed his recent trip to Syria with other journalists in February and said he “was in Iraq when, in 2002, Saddam Hussain said a referendum backed him, and had exaggerated figures, but Assad actually has mass support”. In a column on March 2, Kazmi spoke of how “Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya are showing footage of so-called disturbed areas in Syria but people are calling up those channels and saying they are okay in those parts.”



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Masood murder: BJP MLA to undergo lie-detection test (Mar 9, 2012, Hindustan Times)

After being questioned and his official house searched, BJP MLA Dhruv Narayan Singh will now be subjected to a lie-detection test by CBI in the RTI activist Shehla Masood murder case with a special CBI court today giving the green signal.

Special CBI magistrate Dr Shubra Singh gave the permission after the agency sought the court’s approval to conduct polygraph test on all suspects including architect Zahida Parvez, Saquib Ali, Saba Farooqui and Dhruv Narayan Singh in connection with the murder case.

Singh gave his consent before the court today to undergo the polygraph test, CBI sources said. The court has already permitted polygraph tests on three other suspects – Parvez, Ali and Farooqui. Dhruv Narayan represents Bhopal Central constituency. CBI had earlier questioned him for nearly six hours at its Bhopal office, and also searched his official residence.

It suspects that Parvez hired the other accused to kill Masood out of jealousy, as she believed that Masood was getting too close to Narayan. The agency, meanwhile, produced today another accused Irfan before the court, which remanded him to the CBI custody up to March 16. Irfan was brought here by the Uttar Pradesh police on a production warrant and was produced in the court of Shubra Singh, after he was formally arrested under section 302 (murder) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) in the Masood case, said CBI lawyer Hemant Shukla.

The central agency had sought his custody for interrogation. While granting Irfan’s custody to the CBI, the court directed it not to “torture” the accused, while the latter was directed to cooperate with investigation. The court also directed the CBI to get him medically examined and submit the report.



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Haryana govt embarrassed, Jats not to end stir, won’t cremate body (Mar 12, 2012, Indian Express)

While the Haryana government issued an official statement on Saturday night claiming that agitating Jats had called of their stir, it was left red-faced on Sunday, after the protesters refused to end their agitation or cremate Sandeep’s body, till the state granted the Jat community, a reservation in government jobs.

Even the release of Jat leaders on Sunday failed to achieve a breakthrough. The body of Sandeep (20), who was allegedly killed in police firing has now been kept on the rail tracks in Mayyar for the last six days. The moment Jat leaders were released, Sandeep’s father Jogi Ram addressed the protesters stating that he will not cremate his son’s body, till the government granted reservation to Jats.

The state government, on Saturday, had bowed to the pressure, and agreed to release 101 Jats, including prominent leaders like Dharampal Choth and Mahender Punia. Not only did the government appear to succumb to the Jats’ pressure, but also made a mockery of the entire legal system as the arrested leaders had been booked on serious charges of sedition and causing disruption on rail tracks.

Despite the serious charges, all the protesters were released by the courts of Tohana and Hisar on Sunday. The Haryana police has also booked a RAF personnel, for Sandeep’s death and has registered a case.



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Dalit homes’ burning: Orissa draws flak over ‘inaction’ (Mar 5, 2012, Indian Express)

National Commission for Scheduled Caste chief P L Punia Sunday slammed the Orissa government for its “failure” to apprehend the people who burnt Dalit homes at Lathor village in January. Houses of at least 45 Dalit families were set on fire at Lathor in Bolangir district on January 22. A Dalit boy Ganesh Suna boy had reportedly bought a shirt but the upper caste shopkeeper, Bharat Meher, accused him of stealing it. Suna and his grandfather protested but were beaten up.

When the Dalits went to lodge an FIR at Khaprakhol police station, a rumour was spread that they had killed Meher, enraging the upper caste villagers, who looted and then burnt the houses of their Dalit neighbours. Punia, who visited the village and the affected Dalit families, who are now living in relief camps in Bolangir Sunday, told The Indian Express that even after two months of the incident, the police have failed to arrest the main accused.

“The police knew about the tension building up in the area. But the inspector-in-charge of the police station instead of defusing the matter, slipped away from the spot which led to the carnage. I have brought this to the notice of the CM and chief secretary during my meeting this evening,” he said.

Punia also said that the state had not yet paid the compensation of Rs 60,000 per victim as mandated by the SC/ST Atrocities Act. “Though the chief minister has announced Rs 1 lakh per family from his relief fund and paid money for damage to property, the government should have paid the Rs 60,000 for assault and intimidation,” he said.

Punia, who had earlier been at loggerheads with the Orissa police over their failure to book the rapists of a Dalit girl in Pipili, said the police should shed their “feudal attitude” to Dalits. “I am happy that the inspector of Pipili police station was dismissed over his negligence of duty. But I hope he be made an accused in that rape case,” he added.



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Opinions and Editorials

Memorial to a Genocide – Editorial (Mar 12, 2012, Sabrang)

February 27/28 marks ten years since the tragic death of 59 persons in a fire in a coach of the Sabarmati Express near Godhra railway station and the criminal manipulation of this tragic incident as a pretext for the Modi government-sponsored anti-Muslim genocide throughout the state. On February 27, thousands of survivors of the mass crime together with lawyers, jurists, activists, artists, artistes and intellectuals from all over the country will assemble at Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad, for a commemoration.

Through words and images, reminiscences and video clips, photographs and digital installations, a wailing wall in memory of missing persons, acknowledgements to those who risked their lives to save others and to those who joined the struggle for justice, with music and tears, the crimes against humanity committed ten years ago will be recalled and the plight of the traumatised and the displaced highlighted. Survivors from Gulberg Society will lead the assembled people through the housing colony and recount the horrors of February 28, 2002. A collective resolve will be renewed to continue the struggle for justice for the survivors and punishment to the perpetrators and masterminds of the carnage. Saviours, those who swam against the tide of hatred to give succour and save lives will be especially remembered… their conversations relayed live.

A unique concert, Music in Memoriam, will be the finale of the live memorial, performed by Shubha Mudgal (vocal), Aneesh Pradhan (tabla) and Sudhir Nayak (harmonium). The entire programme at Gulberg Society, symbolising the holocaust in Gujarat, will be webcast live and posted on YouTube subsequently so that we remember and never forget. The URL for the webcast will be available on www.cjponline.org and www.sabrang.com from February 27. Secular and minority rights activists and groups in Ayodhya-Faizabad, Aligarh, Malegaon, Lucknow, Madurai, Calicut, Mumbai and Delhi will also be having commemorations at around the same time. All these will be available for permanent viewing thereafter.

Communalism Combat will join all the others at Gulberg Society on February 27 to participate in the commemoration. This issue of the journal is part of that effort. We are grateful to the Citizens for Justice and Peace teams in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, the Sabrang team in Mumbai and SAHMAT, New Delhi, for their unstinting efforts and unwavering commitment to this endeavour.…



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Forgotten Worlds: A tale of transit camps – By Communalism Combat (Mar 12, 2012, Sabrang)

Transit camps are a world of their own. They possess an irony that extends from their naming to their very continuity in time. Transit camps are rarely temporary. They begin as an act of desperation, created as a fragment by some desperate councillor and sustained by a few NGOs. As funds run out, even the NGOs leave. Located miles away from the main road, these camps are soon forgotten. They seem to operate in a different space and time. Ekta Nagar is a sandwich of 45 flats in three sombre tiers. The walls outside are cobwebbed and dusty. Even the dust looks aged. Cycles lie huddled. A few tired graffiti offer some signs of commentary. They seem drawn by children. The municipality makes Kafka’s castle seem simplistic. Men talk of mythical cheques they have tried to obtain. They claim that the clerks seek to swallow (hajam) cheques belonging to survivors.

The municipality creates a labyrinth of problems the survivor talks about with awe, talking of paper chases and xerox trails which lead nowhere. For the survivor, the municipality is a form of power which demonstrates their powerlessness. The municipal corporation tyrannises these little nukkads (corners), these habitats eking, surviving and dreaming of a gutter line and a tap connection. What connects the camps to reality is corruption; the corruption of the municipal corporations and the violence of the goons who disallow any act of progress, any little repair or improvement, in case they lose control of their turf. The names of the areas bring out the irony of disaster relief. These areas are named in hope, or maybe cynically, as Ekta Nagar, invoking unity, Citizen Nagar, summoning entitlements. Waste is ubiquitous. Stale plastic and stiff cloth substitute for grass. Dirty quilts lie desperate for a touch of the sun. The only signs of hope are dogs, content on the road, and kids curious about visitors. Governance, as the World Bank would describe it, is non-existent. Corruption and the desperate games it creates become the only chain connecting survivor and state. …

The ethnography of camps demands a range of reflections. One has to admit that merely visiting them, sitting with survivors, walking around, is not living in them. To understand that, one needs to make a leap of imagination, to understand lifeworlds devastated by violence. As one visits different camps, one realises that there is a gradient of pain and suffering. Everyone begins with the story of the Carnage but then tells the story differently. As one compares the difference, one is faced with uneasy questions: Is waiting for help, or even justice, a form of addiction? Does waiting corrupt the giver and the receiver? There are other questions. How does a society where so many ordinary people were murdered, raped and looted live so easily with itself? One sees few traces of guilt. In fact, one sees explanations of the act as if history has at last redeemed itself; one hears the litany of the same arguing that Godhra validated their violence. One feels that a society has canned the event and moved on blissfully. Gujarat, as a society, has washed its memories away.

One is reminded of a sign on the way to Himmatnagar. The tropic of Cancer passes through it. There is a map of the line tracing its trajectory through the town. For a moment one forgets that it is an imaginary line. It almost feels real. One can trace its way across the town. The imaginary line seems more real, more real than the riots are to Gujarat. It is as if facts, reports, dissolve before the refusal to listen. But ‘the real’ hits you as you enter the camp. We move to Sardarpura, Mehsana. Twenty-two families live together as a clan. As a resident explains, we live together as a clan (parivar) but stay separately as families (kutumb). There is the solidarity of a camp, where all members are tied together by ancestry and by the memory of one event. They call themselves the Sheikh parivar. Twenty-two families, 110 individuals. They all remember that 33 of the family died after the Godhra haadsa (tragedy).

History becomes a backdrop to the problems of everydayness. Central to everything is work and the paucity of employment. This is a clan of labourers who work in the fields or who are hired for daily work, contracts for house painting. They also serve as rickshaw-drivers. Most of them do “colour kaam”. They whitewash, distemper, plaster houses. They complain that there is little to do. Stories of hunting for work weave into narratives of 2002. They talk matter-of-factly. When work comes, they earn Rs 50 a day, of which Rs 12 goes in transport to Himmatnagar. They complain that life is tough. Water is a problem. There is water but it is only adequate for cleaning and washing. It is not drinkable. Jaundice seems rampant in the area and medical debt becomes burdensome. Clean water has to be bought in bottles at Rs 20 a bottle. Medicines are expensive and sickness adds to unemployment. …



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In Search of Justice: The battle of memory against indifference – By Communalism Combat (Mar 12, 2012, Sabrang)

My name is X. It could be Zakiya Jaffri or Rupaben or even A or B. I am a citizen, an Indian, a Muslim, a woman, a survivor, a witness. Originally, I never thought of all of these identities. I was just a housewife. Sometimes I feel that housewives stand outside history till politics takes over. I was content in my house and with my family, each relationship, like an envelope, a cocoon that encompassed me. My life was a chorus of familiar sounds and colours, a litany of habit, of children growing up, of generations changing, of working hard even to dream small. Then history intrudes. It mauls you; it molests you as a riot becomes a rape of identities. The normal breaks like a fragile egg and never returns, as we become Humpty-Dumptys of yesterday, never to be put together again.

As housewives, we felt betrayed by the riot. It was a double displacement. We lost our families and we lost our homes. Space and place, both were destroyed. For us, justice became a need to rebuild place, our homes, the little cosmos we call neighbourhoods that kept us going. For us, justice was a search for guarantees, a raises in a different way and that all must answer collectively. What is justice? I admit that I am not a scholar. I am neither a lawyer nor a judge. I have no bywords to hide behind. For 10 years my people have been talking of justice. Many talk as if sentencing one man would deliver justice. One man cannot atone for genocide. One man sounds too puny to embody all the colours of evil unleashed then. Others think that obtaining justice is like repairing a machine. Justice literally summons the plumber to repair the leaks of life. Others see justice as a balance, where one bad deed triggers another.

Godhra led to Gulberg and people think or feel that revenge is a form of justice. Maybe. For others, especially clerks, justice is procedure, a strange occult ritual, where rules must be followed correctly to create an effect. I might be illiterate but procedures guarantee fairness not justice. Procedures can fine-tune justice but justice is something bigger and smaller. It can be done by measure or by rule of thumb. But eventually, for all its sense of measure, proof, objectivity, justice is that moment when a cosmos feels just right again. For others, justice is like an act of certification, a recommendation, a ration card, a badge, a unique identification which says or verifies that a procedure has been followed and a stature confirmed. As a housewife, I claim that such definitions don’t capture my story. My husband was murdered, my children burnt and I was raped. Simple facts. And I asked for justice. I remember the first time we filed an affidavit. We were so proud, so full of civics. It was an initiation ritual, the sense that citizenship is also a form of competence. It was such an innocent act of faith, a belief that the affidavit would bring instant justice. Our belief in the courts was naïve. We thought the courts would hear us and act instantly. I remember Teestaben and Suhelbhai telling us that there was no instant justice. …

It began with our police and the law courts trying to merge cases or ignoring affidavits. An absent-minded or indifferent justice system hurts the dignity of law. The beauty however is that untruth at one level can face the truth of another level. When the local court refused to be fair, the Supreme Court stepped in to guarantee due process. There are tensions. Sometimes the brute rule of majority makes the rule of law seem fragile. But you persist. The Supreme Court in its wisdom set up the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate investigations. The idea is a beautiful one. The SIT had tremendous powers. It could summon anyone, reopen any investigation. Yet it was almost chaste in its use of law, seeking to say little or do even less. I think it saw investigation as a pollution ritual refusing to be contaminated. Law sometimes gets caught in its own paradoxes. …

There is also another displacement that people talk about. Justice for the majority is not a priority. They seem to prefer development to justice. They even believe that development guarantees justice. Development acquires sacredness, a Camelot-like status, whereas justice is seen as banal, even retrograde. We are asked to forget in the name of development, to be citizens by emptying our cupboard of all our identities. Only the empty Muslim is welcome. Progress is a beautiful word. It asks us to erase our memories. When people say that Gujarat has developed, it only means that they have forgotten us. I wish people would develop our transit camps. Begin with hope and tap water. And drainage. We want development too but we want development with freedom and justice. …



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The hypocrisy of RSS and investigation of terror acts – By Ram Puniyani (Mar 11, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Supreme Court slammed the RSS Sarsanghchalak, Dr. Mohan Bhagwat for stating that Karakre had told him that he was under tremendous pressure to nail the RSS in unsolved cases of terror acts like, Malegaon, Ajmer, Samjhauta Express blast (Feb 28, 2012). As per the Chief of RSS, he knew Karkare well and Karkare had solicited his cooperation for solving these cases, and in the context of that had told him about the pressures being put on him. One knows that Karkare was under pressure during that time. One also knows that the investigations in the acts of terror were leading nowhere and after every blast a number of young Muslim boys were arrested, the blame was put on some affiliate of Lashkar, Al Qaeda etc. After Karkare took over as the chief of Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad, the things started moving. The turning point was the meticulous investigation by Karkare’s team which led to the unearthing of the motor cycle used in the Malegaon blast, the motor cycle belonged to Sadhvi Pragya Sing Thakur, the ex ABVP (RSS affiliate) activist, and the leads took the ATS to the whole set of terror group, which were called later as Saffron terrorism by the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. These investigations led Karkare to Swami Dayanand Pandey, Lt Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, Swami Aseemanand, Indresh Kumar, Sunil Joshi, Kasangra and the number of those close to the RSS or close to RSS affiliates. The implication of this was very clear.

Once this Hindutva network got exposed the acts of terror which were occurring at regular intervals in front of mosques and other places, where Muslims congregate for prayers came to a halt. As such it was ironical that the blasts were focused to kill the Muslims and after every act again Muslims were arrested. With the Rajasthan ATS joining the process of investigation the evidence against these Hindutva elements became further clear. The confession of Swami Aseemanand in presence of the magistrate gave the full details of the modus operandi of these acts of terror. The people involved in these acts believed that they are doing these dastardly acts to avenge the Muslim terrorists and that these acts aimed to pave the way for Hindu Rashtra. Swami Aseemanand, the VHP leader working in Gujarat, who was the architect of Shabri Kumbh Mela was the key figure in these blasts in many ways. In the statement given by him in presence of the magistrate he confessed that their group was involved in these activities. Since then more and more beans have been spilling from the Sangh stable, the latest one being that of involvement of Kamal Chauhan in Samjhauta blast. Chauhan has been labelled as the disgruntled element by his parent organization, RSS. This again is the standard ploy by RSS.

Most of those who are caught doing these acts of murders or blasts are claimed to have left the organization some time ago or if possible their association with RSS combine is put under the wraps. One recalls that there was a time when nobody believed that RSS associates can be part of these acts of terror. RSS claims they do not believe in violence. Their claims have come to be exposed one after the other. Now their claim is that they are being implicated by the ruling party to appease the minorities; or that those being charged for acts of terror are clean people and are deliberately being implicated in terrorist acts. Going by the expose after expose, the RSS at one level is trying to disassociate from these terror accused, on the other is propagating that they are accused but not guilty and on yet another level claiming that the investigation authorities have been pressurized to nail the RSS cohorts. This defence is very weak. The statement of RSS Chief is coming at a time when Karkare has already become a martyr for the cause of defending the country. There is no way he can confirm or deny what the patriarch of Sangh Combine is saying. But yes there are some clues which can tell as to what is the truth.

Lets recall that Sadhvi Pragya Thakur was caught for her alleged role in Malegaon blast, none other than Lal Krishna Advani went to the Prime Minister to complain about the torture of Pragya Singh Thakur and demanded investigation into Thakur’s torture. At the same time another Hindutva leader Bal Thakre condemned Karkare, calling him anti National and wrote in his mouth piece Saamna that ‘we spit on his face’! Another Hindutva warrior Narendra Modi called Karkare as Deshdrohi (anti National). Incidentally both these, Thackeray and Modi, are hailed as ‘Emperors of Hindu hearts’. Later Modi called Karkare as a great patriot after his death. Modi went to the extent of offering one crore Rupees to Karate’s widow, which she gracefully refused. On the contrary Congress leader Digvijay Singh claimed that Karkare had called him on the night of 26/11, the day Mumbai was attacked by Kasab and gang, and said that there is a tremendous pressure on him from the Right wing. Digvijay Singh also showed the press clipping to that effect and pointed out that BSNL, Bhopal cannot give the records of the conversation between him and Karkare as the matter was more than a year old at that time, and BSNL does not keep record beyond a year.

There is another source which tells us the direction from which Karkare was being pressurized. Julio Ribeiro, one amongst the police of officer of highest integrity in the country, in his obituary to Karkare (Times of India, Mumbai Edition 28th Nov 2010) pointed out that there was a direct insinuation into the work of Karkare, who was intimidated by Advani and other Hindutva gang. Karkare sought solace and advice from his senior Ribeiro, Ribeiro confirmed that Karkare was being harassed and intimidated by the associates of Advani-Modi and company. Ribeiro advised his junior colleague to carry on with his work irrespective of the pressures. “He came to me because he was looking for someone to hold his hand,” Ribeiro told IANS on phone from Mumbai while stressing that Karkare was not a man to be politically influenced. While this is what the truth is, one can see the motive behind Bhagwat’s statement in the face of so many of his cabal either charged or in jail. In an earlier event Bhagwat’s predecessor K. Sudarshan had also played a similar game. During the investigation of Babri demolition, when the role of RSS combine was coming more and more to surface, Sudarshan said that he heard Gandhian Nirmala Didi saying that there was a blast inside the mosque which demolished the mosque. Fortunately Didi was alive that time to deny something being said in her name. So there is some pattern in the statements of RSS chiefs!



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Rejection of Congress’s Hand Symbol, A Vote Against Aadhaar/UID/NPR And Biometric Profiling – By Gopal Krishna, Vinay Baindur & Anivar Aravind (Mar 7, 2012, Countercurrents)

Electorate in Uttar Pradesh have rejected the proposal of the Indian National Congress to allow themselves to be identified with their biometric data like iris scan and thumb impressions. Rahul Gandhi campaigned in UP using the Aadhaar as an election agenda. Now that he has taken responsibility of his party’s defeat, he should call for stopping Aadhaar project because the verdict is against it.Supporting Home Ministry and Planning Commission’s scheme of uniqueidentity, the party had showcased aadhaar and related National Population Register (NPR) for Multipurpose Identity Card (MNIC), voters in general and poor have given their verdict against it.

The party had claimed that the Aadhaar/NPR card will also address the discrepancies in controversial Below Poverty Line (BPL) list by hiding violation of the provisions of Census Act with ulterior motives. It was used like a fish bait to entrap citizens against democratic and legislative mandate. The message for P Chidambaram, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Nandan Nilekani is that UP electorate who were promised Aadhaar/NPR/MNIC has rejected it. This project is applicable to vehicles and animals too through Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in later phases.

In our country, a surveillance regime has been proposed by Indian National Congress led United Progressive Alliance for the people but not for biometric and other intrusive technologies. Besides India’s Parliamentary Standing on Finance, countries like UK, Australia, Philippines and China have rejected aadhaar/NPR/MNIC like projects respecting people’s mandate. It has reliably been learnt that officials from Infosys company have been giving leadership training to leaders of Indian National Congress. This may have impacted decision making with regard to aadhaar/NPR/MNIC but it has clearly not worked in UP elections.

Recent reports of efforts to put Union Finance Minister and Defence Minister under surveillance reveal that there is paucity of capacity to monitor or regulate these technologies. If this is the plight of the ministers and technologically challenged political class, the threat for citizens can easily be understood. Post UP elections, government must review its capacity to regulate an emerging technology regime that is undermining democracy and sovereignty and should not be misled by unelected cabinet ranked officials who say, “Technology has no history and no bias, it treats everyone the same way.”

History of technologies reveals that it is their owners who are true beneficiaries especially when it is used for social control. There is a compelling need to urgently assess the claims and risks of biometric and surveillance technology and how some companies made UID/NPR/MNIC politically persuasive for the ruling party and intertwined the systems of technology with crying need for governance. UP verdict is also a mandate against diluting federal structure of the country, FDI in the retail sector, free trade agreements (FTAs) that were aimed at turning India into a market democracy where executive and legislative decisions are driven by profit mongers not by public interest.



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National shame – Editorial (Feb 28, 2012, Times of India)

Shocking instances of rape continue to hit the headlines, along with the tendency of police and administrators to blame the victim. The two trends reinforce each other. If the system gives the rapist a reasonable chance to get away with his crime, then it is unable to deter rape. The epidemic of rape incidents across the country once again draws attention to the urgent need to transform our legal and police systems. Five men raped a 17-year-old girl in a moving car in Noida last Friday, while earlier this month a 37-year-old mother of two was raped in the heart of Kolkata’s upscale Park Street. Another woman has been gangraped trying to resist dacoits looting passengers of a local train in West Bengal’s Burdwan district. UP witnesses at least two rapes every day.

What gives cause for dismay is the police’s cavalier attitude towards victims. More often than not, traumatised victims have to battle law enforcers’ social and gender prejudices, manifest in loaded comments about the victims’ moral character and lifestyle. While the police, and even Bengal’s transport minister, made humiliating and suggestive remarks about the Park Street rape victim’s late-night pub drinking, the Noida police made insinuating comments about the minor victim. Worse still, in a complete breach of protocol, the police revealed the victim’s name and address to the media.

Given this sweeping gender bias and insensitivity, victims are more often than not reluctant to seek police intervention – making it easy for the rapist to get away. Police and political authorities across the country need to start treating rape as a heinous crime, and put in place some serious deterrents. A start can be made by instituting a fair number of dedicated rape cells, staffed mainly by policewomen. Victims would find it easier to share information with women officers, rather than be interrogated by their male counterparts. Additionally, gender sensitisation must be a part of police training itself.

It must be stressed here that the answer is not more legislation that merely scales up the quantum of punishment. The answer, rather, is to give teeth to the law by enforcing it. Let’s not forget that conviction rate of crimes against women, despite many legislative amendments, is still a depressing 27% for rape and molestation. Reforming police and judicial procedures in ways that allow speedy and consistent enforcement of existing laws, will go a long way towards assuring justice to victims and deterring further crimes against women.



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