IAMC Weekly News Roundup - March 19th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 19th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


TIME’s cover story on Narendra Modi a distortion of truth, says Indian American group

Monday March 19, 2012

Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – https://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has condemned TIME magazine’s cover story on Mr. Narendra Modi as a dismal PR exercise intended to whitewash Mr. Modi’s complicity in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.

IAMC has also questioned the timing of the story, coming on the heels of a blog article by the Managing Director of the Brookings Institution that appears to be along the same lines, projecting Mr. Modi as India’s “most admired and most feared politician,” and even eulogizing his apparent concern for the environment, while glossing over the details of Mr. Modi’s role in the murderous carnage of 2002.

“Although TIME’s cover story is not an endorsement, it contains inaccuracies, half-truths and glaring omission of pertinent details on Mr. Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister. These betray its real objective – an attempt by APCO Worldwide, Modi’s PR firm in Washington DC – to combat negative coverage of their client’s documented connivance in gross human rights violations, in order to project him as a Prime Ministerial candidate,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. “Mr. Narendra Modi as the potential Prime Minister of India is a diplomatic and moral conundrum for the United States and other countries of common human values,” added Mr. Khateeb.

While the Indian courts are censuring Mr. Modi for contempt of court and assessing the evidence collected by human rights organizations and investigative journalists, the TIME story and the Brookings article are examples of irresponsible journalism that cares little for facts. Under Mr. Modi’s watch, murderous mobs engaged in the killing of over 2,000 people, in brutal sexual crimes against 800 women, and in the displacement of over 150,000 people, many of whom are still living in refugee camps that lack basic amenities. For the thousands of cases registered during and after the carnage, barely a handful of arrests have been made. In 2005, the US State Department, in an unprecedented move, placed a ban on Mr. Modi from entering the US on the grounds of egregious religious freedom violations under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

IAMC has called upon TIME to run a second story on Narendra Modi and Gujarat, with detailed perspectives added by human rights defenders and whistleblowers in India, the findings of international human rights organizations as well as excerpts from the House Resolution 569 introduced this month in the House by Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN).

IAMC has also called upon the Brookings Institution to salvage its credibility as a think-tank by conducting an official study into the situation in Gujarat both on the human rights and the economic front, instead of merely repeating Mr. Modi’s fallacious claims.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.

For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.


India’s Most Admired and Most Feared Politician: Narendra Modi

Why Narendra Modi is India’s Most Loved and Loathed Politician


Modi gets PR firm Apco Worldwide to hardsell Vibrant Gujarat

APCO Worldwide: Modi’s image builders have dictators on client list

What lies on the other side of US’ praise of Modi


Marketing a Myth (of Gujarat’s Economic Prosperity) by Lyla Bavadam, Frontline Magazine, May. 07-20, 2011

Relative Development of Gujarat and Socio-Economic Differentials By Dr. Abusaleh Shariff

High income, yet high hunger levels in Gujarat

Myth of Vibrant Gujarat


A Decade of Shame

Muslims are Gujarat’s new outcastes: Survey – DNA, March 2, 2012

2002 riots not spontaneous: Study

No entry for Modi into US: visa denied – Times of India, March 18, 2005

Congressional Resolution H.RES 569: Recognizing the tenth anniversary of the tragic communal violence in Gujarat, India

India: A Decade on, Gujarat Justice Incomplete – Human RIghts Watch, Feb 24, 2012

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‘General perception of public is that Narendra Modi is communal’ (Mar 17, 2012, DNA India)

Minister of state in PMO’s office V Narayanasamy on Friday said a decision on replacing Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi would be taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee. …

On Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi being featured on the cover of Time March 26 issue and carrying an article praising him for taking steps to develop the state he has been ruling over a decade, but wonders if he can become Prime Minister, he quipped “I do not wish to make comments on any personalities. It is up to Time magazine to decide whom to publish. It is their assessment”.

“When it comes to Modi, the general perception of public is he is communal. When he was Chief Minister, Godhra incident happened… So I do not have to comment on Times cover. A PIL has been filed (on post-Godhra riots) in the Supreme Court. Let the court decide”, he said.



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Denial of SIT report to Zakia Jafri violation of SC order (Mar 15, 2012, Twocircles.net)

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) on 13th March submitted its final report, a copy of which however was not given to main complainant Zakia Jafri. The issue was raised by her lawyer in the Metropolitan Magistrate Court No.11 today (Thursday).

Advocate Mihir Desai told the court that denying Ms Jafri a copy of the Report/Chargesheet and all documents collected in evidence now itself would be a violation of both the Supreme Court Order and also a right for fair hearing, a right given under various Statutes and under various judgements of Indian Courts.

The SIT had, after a delay of five months, filed a partial report on 8-2-2012 and then on 13-3-2012 filed all relevant documents including Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran’s Report.

Zakia Jafri had on 8th June 2006 filed a case charging chief minister Narendra Modi, his ministers and top officers for the Gulberg Society massacre. The SC had appointed SIT to look into the complaint.



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‘Same weapons in 2 encounters’ (Mar 19, 2012, Asian Age)

In a startling revelation, the CBI probe into the Ishrat Jahan encounter case has revealed that Gujarat cops allegedly used same weapons to kill the Mumbai-based teenager which they had used in the alleged fake encounter of Sadiq Jamal Mehtar in 2003. The agency, sources said, is set to question former deputy inspector-general of police, D.G. Vanzara and former Gujarat Home minister Amit Shah in connection with Ishrat Jahan case. According to sources, the agency recently conducted ballistics tests of the weapons used in the encounter of Ishrat Jahan and Sadiq Jamal.

Sources said, “Ballistic tests were conducted to ascertain if all the police officers mentioned in the Gujarat police records were indeed present at both encounter sites. The agency officials also matched the ballistic reports of the weapons with the empty bullet shells recovered from the two encounter sites”. “There are certain contradictions in ballistic reports. Initial findings indicate that Gujarat cops used the same weapon in the killing of Ishrat Jahan which they had used in the encounter of Jamal. The agency officials are now trying to gather more evidence in this connection”, sources said.

While Jamal was killed near Galaxy Cinema in Naroda area in Ahmedabad on January 13, 2003, Ishrat and three others – Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar – were gunned down by the Gujarat crime branch police near Kotarpur on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. The Central Bureau of Investigation sleuths are now planning to question Vanzara and former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah in this regard, sources added. Vanzara and Shah are also accused in the fake encounter of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and in the murder of his wife Kausar Bi.

“The agency, which has so far examined more than 100 witnesses in Sadiq Jamal case, are also planning to question his family members by the end of this month”, sources said. After the shootout, Gujarat police had claimed that Sadiq was a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba operative and he was on a mission to kill state chief minister Narendra Modi, sources said adding this claim of the state police is also being probed.



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Mumbai constable among five arrested for murdering youth (Mar 12, 2012, DNA India)

A 38-year-old constable of the city police has been arrested by the Cuffe Parade police along with four others for their alleged involvement in the murder of a youth. The constable, Prakash Sawde, who was attached to the MRA Marg police station, was earlier working as a driver of public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam. The deceased has been identified as Khwaja Moinuddin alias Amir, 25. Amir ran a vadapav stall at Gateway of India and also doubled as a tourist photographer. He was the sole bread-winner of his family. Amir was staying in Geeta Nagar slums with his parents and two siblings – Sameer and Shabnam.

According to the police, at around 7am on Sunday, Amir left his home for some work when he was attacked by some locals with sharp weapons. He was rushed to St George Hospital with several injuries, but was declared dead on arrival. A relative of Amir alleged that a few days ago, some local youths had got into a heated argument with Amir over a cricket match and the same group of youths had again fought with him on Saturday. “On Saturday, there was a function at Amir’s residence and several relatives had come to his place. At that time too, these youths were consuming alcohol outside his residence,” said Amir’s cousin Mohammad Shahjahaan.

“The group then got into an argument with Amir’s family members, who had reported the matter to the Cuffe Parade police. However, the police only registered a non-cognisable complaint in this regard. We suspected that the same group had murdered Amir,” said Shahjahaan. “We have arrested five persons, including police constable Prakash Sawde, for their alleged involvement in the crime,” confirmed senior inspector JK Kharat. The others have been identified as Prakash Sawde, Anil Sawde, Kishan Sawde and Vishal Rathi. Constable Sawde is the same person who was shunted out after being spotted wearing a suit instead of uniform during the 26/11 trial. He was then working as the driver of public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam.



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Sunil Joshi murder case: Sadhvi Pragya to stay in Bhopal prison (Mar 13, 2012, Times of India)

A special National Investigating Agency (NIA) court in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday ordered that Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur-who till now was in a Mumbai jail in connection with the Malegaon blast case- be detained in Bhopal prison till the completion of trial in the former RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi murder case. Special NIA court judge Vijay Kumar Pandey issued the order Tuesday after the Sadhvi (ascetic) and another accused Harshad Solanki were produced before the court for the first time since the case was transferred from Dewas district court to NIA court following orders of the state high court in December last year.

Sadhvi Pragya Thakur was brought to Bhopal this morning by train to stand trial in the Sunil Joshi murder case. Harshad Solanki, a suspect in Ajmer Dargah blast and Samjhatua Express bombing incident, was also produced before the court for his alleged role in the killing of RSS Pracharak Sunil Joshi. Sadhvi moved an application before the court, informing that she was not keeping good health and sought facilities for Ayurveda treatment. The court asked the prison authorities to consider providing Ayurveda treatment facilities to her. Vasudev Parmar, Anandraj Kataria and Ramcharan Patel, who are also accused in the case, are now out on bail.

The five accused have been charged under section 302 for murder, 201 for causing disappearance of evidence, 120 b and 34 of IPC for criminal conspiracy with common intention and sections 25, 27 of Arms Act. Mohan and Ghanshayam, two more accused in the Joshi murder case, are absconding and have not yet been charge-sheeted. According to the charge-sheet, Joshi had fallen out with Pragya, his alleged killer due to his boastful nature. Also, he had once misbehaved with Pragya following which she was angry with him and decided to bump him off, the document said.



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Holi revelry causes communal tension in Gopalganj town of Bihar (Mar 11, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Communal tension has griped Gopalganj town of Bihar following Holi revelry near a local madrasa and mazar under town police station jurisdiction on Friday. In the sporadic clashes and stone pelting between the two groups in the last 24 hours have left several people from both sides wounded. Police officers are camping in the area and trying to restore peace and normalcy.

According to the police, about a dozen people have got injured in the clashes and stone pelting between two groups in Tirbirwa area under town police. The police reached the site and pacified the people and restored normalcy on Friday but after an alleged attack on motorcycle rider, clashes have again erupted on Saturday.

It is said that a team of Holi revelers on Friday noon were passing from near a madrasa and mazar. Perhaps Friday prayer was going on at that time. The Holi revelers team was asked not to sing song, which led to scuffle and clashes, leaving one dozen persons wounded. Police have lodged complaints filed from both sides. No arrest has been made so far. Meanwhile, police have organized peace committee meeting in a bid to restore normalcy.



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K’taka: ‘Up to 10 more MLAs watched porn’ (Mar 15, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Chairman of the Legislature Committee probing the porngate episode involving three ruling BJP MLAs in Karnataka on Thursday said eight to ten other legislators had also watched sleazy clips in the Assembly. Shrishailappa Bidarur, however, indicated these MLAs would not be summoned as it’s not part of the terms of reference of the panel. His comments confirm the claim by committee member Nehru Olekar who created a flutter earlier this month saying 8-10 more MLAs, including those from opposition parties, had also watched the pornclips.

Bidarur told reporters that the committee would submit its report to Assembly Speaker K G Bopaiah by March 20. Lakshman Savadi, C C Patil and J Krishna Palemar resigned as Ministers on February 7 a day after they were caught on camera watching porn clipping in the Assembly with regional TV channels telecasting their act which evoked public outrage. “That may be eight to ten”, Bidarur said when asked how many more MLAs had watched the adult content in the assembly.

“while viewing the CCTV (footage) it (eight to ten watching porn) came to the notice but yet the committee has not decided anything on that”, he said. “If necessary”, Bidarur said when asked if these eight to ten MLAs would also be issued notice for deposition but later indicated it was unlikely, pointing out that the panel’s terms of reference concerned “about only these three people”. The panel today called two top officials of the Law Department for consultations with regard to legal aspects of the case and “what can be recommended”, he said.

Bopaiah had constituted a seven-member House panel, comprising four members from BJP, two from the Congress and one from JDS to probe the episode, but the opposition had boycotted the committee alleging the move is an exercise to cover up the scandal. The have maintained that there was no need for probe as the three MLAs have admitted to their actions.



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IPS officer’s murder exposes Madhya Pradesh’s mining mafia (Mar 12, 2012, India Today)

The murder of 30-year-old IPS officer Narendra Kumar Singh on Thursday in Morena by the driver of a tractor trolley involved in the illegal mining trade has brought into the limelight the nexus between corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen and how they are carrying out illegal mining in the state. Singh, who was posted as a subdivisional officer in Banmore, had taken on the mining mafia by seizing a number of tractors and trucks used in the transportation of illegally mined stones from Morena to Gwalior. Driver Manoj Gurjar, who has since been arrested, had a lot to lose. An impounded vehicle meant a fine of Rs.20,000, which is much more than what he earned in a day.

The thriving mining mafia is believed to be active in several districts, including Sehore, the home district of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. And they seem to be operating right under the nose of the administration. A senior officer, who has in the past served as the Katni district subdivisional magistrate, said the local politicians and staff were usually with the mining lobby and so it was difficult for an officer to check the menace. No wonder they were playing havoc with the fate of the state’s lifelines – the Narmada and Betwa, he added.

Stone, which is quarried between Rs.2,400 and Rs.2,800 per load of truck fetches between Rs.3,000 and Rs.4,500 in Delhi. According to a rough estimate, the sandstone business is worth more than Rs.400 crore. The Opposition blamed the illegal mining on political patronage. “Nearly one-third of the state has been given away for mining. Permits have been issued to 93 firms. Ministers’ kin are running these mines,” Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Ajay Singh alleged.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh also blamed the CM. “I have requested the CM to set up a judicial probe for my and his tenure and we should go into leases granted under my and Shivraj’s tenure,” he said. “There is ample evidence to prove that the CM’s family is involved in illegal mining, he added. JD-U leader and NDA convener Sharad Yadav has also called for strict action against the murderers. “Both the BJP and Congress leaders are looting the natural resources in the state,” he said.

“The mineral resources department is not bothered about the rampant illegal mining. It may be that the department is not ready to make the information public for obvious reasons,” RTI activist Ajay Dubey alleged. On a day Kubar Singh, who is part of the sand mafia was arrested for firing on a judicial team in Panna, RLD leader Jayant Chaudhury sought a CBI probe into the IPS officer’s killing. The action will send a clear message that the CM’s government stands for probity, Chaudhury said. Earlier, the police officer’s widow had also demanded a CBI probe. The state government sought to dismiss the murder as a one-off incident. “I am not denying illegal mining. It is a huge state, so illegal mining is a possibility. But it will be too early to say anything on the incident,” home minister Uma Shankar Gupta said.



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Maya-jaal! Ex-UP CM went from 11 cr to 111 cr in 8 years (Mar 15, 2012, Rediff)

From Rs 11.35 crore in 2004 to Rs 87.27 crore in 2010 and now Rs 111.64 crore – this is by and large the story of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. Her affidavit which was filed before the Lok Sabha on Tuesday shows a phenomenal rise in her assets; in 8 years her assets went up by more than Rs 100 crore, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

As per her declaration, the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo graduated from Kalindi College, Delhi University in 1975. She also states that she did her B.Ed from Meerut University and LLB from the Delhi University. However, in terms of the criminal cases there has been no instance where cognisance has been taken against her.

First let us take a look at her latest affidavit which was filed along with her nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha. She currently owns immovable assets to the tune of Rs 96.38 crore and moveable assets worth Rs 15.26 crore. Besides this she has declared that she has Rs 14 crore in five different bank accounts, diamond jewellery worth Rs 96.53 lakh, a revolver worth around Rs 5,400 and murals worth Rs 15 lakh.

Further her affidavit states that she has two residential buildings at Delhi and Lucknow, worth Rs 77.54 crore. She also stated that she filed a tax return of Rs 6.51 crore for the year 2011. She further declared that her immovable assets are valued at Rs 96.38 crore which includes both residential and commercial buildings in Lucknow and Delhi. At Connaught Place in New Delhi she has purchased two commercial buildings which are valued at Rs 18.84 crore.



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MP: Policeman caught on camera raping woman (Mar 13, 2012, IBN)

A policeman was on Tuesday caught on video raping a woman in a slum area in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. The police, who were earlier refusing to entertain a rape complaint against the policeman, were forced to register an FIR when shown the video clip taken on a mobile camera.

Pradeep Singh, an inspector posted in Seoni district, had come to Jabalpur to visit a court. Later, he went to a slum area and entered a hut. When he forced himself on a woman, she cried and people gathered there. The inspector was literally caught on camera with his pants down.

Police first refused to accept her complaint. But soon a person came with the video clip and the police had to register a FIR against the inspector. “It is a serious issue and we are acting on it. He (Pradeep Singh) has been arrested and may be dismissed from service,” said Inspector General of Police V Madhukumar.



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Opinions and Editorials

The Gujarat massacre: New India’s blood rite – By Pankaj Mishra (Mar 14, 2012, The Guardian)

In February 2002 the western Indian state of Gujarat, governed by the Hindu nationalist chief minister Narendra Modi, witnessed one of the country’s biggest pogroms. Responding to reports that Muslims had set fire to a train carriage, killing 58 Hindu pilgrims inside, mobs rampaged across the state. The riots flared up again on 15 March – 10 years ago on Wednesday – and killing, raping and looting continued until mid-June. More than 2,000 Muslims were murdered, and tens of thousands rendered homeless in carefully planned and coordinated attacks of unprecedented savagery. The killers may have been in touch with police and politicians. According to the 2011 Amicus report, two cabinet ministers even sat in police control rooms. A senior police officer and minister, murdered in 2003, claimed that Modi explicitly instructed civil servants and police not to stand in the killers’ way. Of course, Modi has always denied involvement and condemned the riots. The pogrom was extensively televised by India’s innumerable – and then much less complacent – TV channels. Many middle-class Indians were shocked to hear how even the very young had not been spared – the slayers of Muslims were seen smashing the heads of children against rocks. There was some unease even within Modi’s parent outfit, the RSS – whose most revered chief, Guru Golwalkar, wrote in a 1939 book that Nazi Germany had manifested “race pride at its highest” by purging itself of the “Semitic races”.

Since then Indian activists have doggedly pursued Modi through the courts and in the media. In a sting carried out in 2007 by the weekly magazine Tehelka, politicians, businessmen, officials and policemen were caught on tape, delightedly recalling how they murdered and raped Muslims with the full imprimatur of their superiors. No matter: Modi walks out of hostile interviews and ignores rulings from the country’s courts: last month his government was issued a contempt notice for failing to compensate 56 people whose shops were destroyed in the riots. He can describe the relief camps that house thousands of dispossessed Muslims as “child-breeding centres”. The impunity derives from the fact that Modi, though still denied a visa to the US, remains the unchallenged leader of a big-business-friendly state which his American PR firm, Apco – that also represents brutal dictators such as Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev – has successfully rebranded as “Vibrant Gujarat”. Hailed by India’s leading industrialists, including Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, as “dynamic” and “visionary”, and buoyed by landslide victories in state elections, Modi now projects himself as the face of a democratic, economically vigorous and pro-west New India. He has been able to persuade many of his Gujarati compatriots of a liberal-leftist conspiracy against their plucky, entrepreneurial selves. And there are many in the Indian media – bigger, more affluent and more gung-ho since 2002 – ready to complement Apco’s exertions by making the 2002 pogrom seem part of a happily superseded history.

One recent commentator even tried to dismiss it as an anachronism from India’s apparently dark pre-1991 “socialist” past, claiming that it “represented an autarkic economy riot in the era of globalisation”. Apparently, the beneficiaries of Brave New India, educated by an alert media and motivated by economic gain, have a “declining tolerance for violence” – and even someone as fanatical as Modi realises that news of wholesale murder of Muslims, quickly disseminated in the age of globalisation, is bad for business. A recent profile of Modi in Caravan, India’s best English-language magazine, eviscerates this self-flattering image of a democratic and enlightened entrepreneurial class – one that has no time for the Muslim-scalping that people in benightedly socialist India used to get up to. Wholly untouched by remorse, Modi comes across in a carefully researched article by the journalist Vinod Jose as a classic authoritarian populist, bending others to his will rather than bowing to progressive opinion. Jose describes how Modi demanded an abject apology from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) (CII), India’s most prestigious and important business association, which had criticised the Gujarat chief minister over the killings in his state. Faced with a revolt from businessmen from wealthy Gujarat, the CII buckled; it was soon helping to arrange Modi’s first meeting with foreign investors. It was only a matter of time before Tata struck up a beautiful relationship with Modi.

In any case, the non-recurrence of 2002-style killings in India provides little reason to credit its elites with heightened tolerance and compassion. Left behind by economic growth, Muslims are more demoralised and depressed than ever; and the country’s extreme inequalities, often enforced with violence, express themselves in new forms, ranging from suicides by tens of thousands of farmers, to militant insurgencies. Old-style rioting has been replaced by state terrorism, often cheer-led by the elites. (In 2007 India ranked just behind Iraq in annual incidents of “terrorist” violence.) Under Modi’s rule, Gujarat has seen a steep rise in extrajudicial killings. Economic globalisation, far from spurring moral and spiritual growth among its beneficiaries, has helped to create new constituencies – among haves as well as have-nots – for xenophobia and Modi-style authoritarian populism. Riot Politics, an excellent new book based on close ethnographic study of riot-affected areas in Gujarat by the Dutch scholar Ward Berenschot, shows how it was the state’s integration into the global economy, and resulting extreme inequalities, that made poor areas of the state so exposed to anti-Muslim violence. Indeed, the 2002 killings may have been an early example of what the social anthropologist Arjun Appadurai calls “a vast worldwide Malthusian correction, which works through the idioms of minoritisation and ethnicisation but is functionally geared to preparing the world for the winners of globalisation, minus the inconvenient noise of its losers”. Like Modi, the strongmen who supervise these bloody purges of economically depressed and unproductive people are often elected by landslide majorities, and tend to be audacious free-marketeers rather than hopeless socialists. The start of the crony-capitalist regimes of Thaksin in Thailand and Putin in Chechnya coincided with vicious assaults on ethnic minorities. Ten years later, the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom too seems to have been a necessary blood rite – anointing not just Vibrant Gujarat but also the New India.



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Military Medium for the Parivar – By Rana Ayyub (Mar 24, 2012, Tehelka)

One of the most baffling aspects of the 2008 Malegaon blasts probe was the cropping up of the name of the Bhonsala Military School. The Nashik-based military academy was started by Hindu Mahasabha founder Dr BS Moonje. The chargesheet filed by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2009 cited several witnesses from the school who had confirmed that the main accused in the blasts case had indeed been teaching at the school. One of the main accused was Lt Col Srikant Purohit, who had provided training sessions at the school. In fact, it was TEHELKA that had first named the school in its report on the narco analysis test of two of the accused in the 2008 Nanded blast. The accused on whom the narco tests were done had spoken about a certain military officer, whose alias was Mithun Chakraborty, having given them training in the handling of IEDs. According to the narco report, the bomb planter Himanshu Panse and the co-accused Maroti Wagh had said that they had received training at the school for 40 days. They had then returned to Pune in 2003 and executed a bomb blast at the Gausiya Masjid in Parbhani. (Nanded Blast: The Hindu Hand by Shashwat Gupta Roy, 30 December 2006).

Thereafter, TEHELKA had also published investigative reports naming several ex-military men from the school and their involvement in the Malegaon blasts, which was later confirmed by the ATS. That the investigators had not done their bit in exposing the involvement of other elements from the military is a question that TEHELKA had raised in many of its previous reports in which it had also published transcripts of tapes that had thrown up names of several armymen. The reason that the school is back in public memory is a recent statement made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on the school’s platinum jubilee year. In his speech, he said that the country is in need of more such schools and that they had already given two such proposals for the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The aim of the school itself makes for a startling read. It says: “The training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible causalities [sic] of dead and wounded while causing the utmost possible to the adversary… to bring about military regeneration of the Hindus and to fit Hindu youths for undertaking the entire responsibility for the defence of their motherland… to educate them in the ‘Sanatan Dharma’, and to train them in the science and art of personal and national defence.” It did not, therefore, come as a surprise that Bhagwat used the platinum jubilee celebrations of the school to raise the emotive issue of Hindutva once again. “India was better off under the British rule”, and that “military schools run under the aegis of Hindutva institutions are the need of the hour,” he said.

Another senior RSS functionary Prakash Pathak went a step further in announcing the setting up of a military facility especially for women in Nashik. He added that the school run by the Central Hindu Military Education Society had received proposals from various BJP-ruled states such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and also Uttarakhand. There has been an increasing disenchantment within the rank and file of the RSS over a lack of ideology. The announcement made by Bhagwat was more hypocritical than radical. The Gujarat government – if its own education department is to be believed – has no such provision for a military school, especially with the kind of infrastructure a school of this nature requires. Further, as a state minister in the Gujarat government added: “We already have a Sainik School in Sabarkantha, why would we build another one?” It is also interesting to see the statement in the light of what the RSS says in its organisational mouthpiece: that the BJP should follow on the lines of the Narendra Modi-style of governance in Gujarat. Something that has not gone down well with a section of leaders both within the BJP and the RSS. As a senior RSS leader said, “Just a couple of months ago, the RSS was trying to pull up Modi for his arrogance and this sudden change of stance only shows a strategy of convenience.”

While Bhagwat avers that the ideals of Dr Moonje needed to be affirmed with the opening up of many more such schools, there’s another side to the story. Moonje’s grandson Anand Moonje, a one-time director of the school, claims to have been removed from the school only because he exposed corrupt practices in it. Anand, who now runs a flying academy, had clashed with the school management over the manner of its functioning. “I realised that the school was only interested in funds. The Sangh did not care about ideology, all it cared about was its image,” he says. “I exposed the rampant corruption in the school, but senior leaders, including Bhagwat, chose to look the other way. I have papers to prove that land bought in the school’s name was being misused. But they decided to overlook my suggestions.”

Anand is also angry about the dismal condition of his grandfather’s statue in front of the New Delhi Railway Station and had written to Bhagwat about it. “During AB Vajpayee’s regime, he and LK Advani had launched a biography in which my grandfather was portrayed in a derogatory manner. And suddenly you want to be an opportunist and use his name.” At a time when a section of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar is mulling over the strategy to be adopted for elections in the next two years, this could be a curtain raiser. It knows that the promise of starting such schools could help in reaching out to its cadres. Perhaps a clearer picture would emerge once the RSS wraps its three-day convention in Nagpur on 17 March. What would be interesting to see is how it adapts to the demands of a section of the BJP that clearly seems to be at odds with the stance of the Sangh Parivar.…



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The Storyteller Becomes the Story – By Abhishek Bhalla and G Vishnu (Mar 24, 2012, Tehelka)

On 13 February, Syed Ahmed Kazmi was sitting in television news studios as an expert on Iran soon after the bombing of the car carrying the Israel Defence Attaché’s wife in New Delhi. Kazmi, who had widely reported on West Asia, fearlessly spoke his mind, rubbishing Israel’s claim that the attack was masterminded by Iran. A month later, the 53-year-old Urdu journalist is in police custody, accused of being part of the conspiracy to carry out the bombing. Investigators believe that an Iran-based radical group hatched the conspiracy and Kazmi provided them local assistance. While the Delhi Police admit the real culprits have fled India, their claim that Kazmi is a crucial link has raised serious questions on the manner in which the probe is being carried out. After scrutinising court documents and speaking to Kazmi’s family, colleagues and even some officials, TEHELKA has found that there is little evidence to implicate him. The arrest appears to be a knee-jerk reaction since the matter has far-reaching diplomatic consequences. It has also shocked the media fraternity, who believe that Kazmi’s arrest for having been in touch with Iranians sets a bad precedent as speaking to all kinds of people in society is part of journalism.

Senior journalist Seema Mustafa, who was recently part of the delegation that travelled to Syria along with Kazmi, questions the government’s intentions. “Kazmi has taken positions on Israel. Soon after the blast, Israel said Iran was behind it. But the Indian government said Israel is wrong. So when did that position change? At what time did they decide Iran is involved?” she asks. “And just because Kazmi is the best-known face in India with an Iran connection, he was picked up.” The police’s claim of Kazmi being part of the conspiracy is on the basis of his call records that indicate he was in touch with some ‘suspicious’ people from Iran. The police claim that certain seizures made from his home are also crucial. These include a TVS Scooty and a Maruti Alto allegedly used for the reconnaissance. The police allege that the Scooty was used by the bombers for recce and then dumped at Kazmi’s house in BK Dutt Colony, near the upmarket Jor Bagh in south Delhi. However, Kazmi’s family claims that the Scooty has been parked at their house for the past two years, unused. “The Scooty belongs to my uncle who lives in Meerut. He bought it when he was in Delhi a couple of years ago for treatment at AIIMS. Since then, it has never been used,” says Kazmi’s elder son Shauzab, 23, an MBA graduate. “It appears there is no strong evidence against Kazmi till now. Why would anyone continue to keep a motorbike that was used in a terror recce? It’s a far-fetched theory,” asks defence counsel ND Pancholi. …

PANCHOLI is sceptical about the Special Cell probing a case that has international ramifications. “It is claimed by the Special Cell that a big international terror network can be busted through Kazmi. If that is true, the case should be handed over to the NIA or the CBI. The Special Cell is known for fabricating evidence,” he says. Originally from Dholri village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, Kazmi had been living in Delhi for almost 20 years now. He took up journalism in 1988 and had been reporting on Iran for the past few years. He was accredited with the Press Information Bureau with a security clearance from the Union home ministry and has even travelled with the prime minister to cover official visits of foreign nations. Kazmi joined the All India Radio in 1988 as a technical operator and former colleagues say he worked hard to get into the content side of news media. He established his own agency, Mediastar, in 1990. Three years later, he joined Doordarshan’s Urdu channel as a newscaster. “My father was always in search of the truth,” says Kazmi’s younger son, Turab, 18. For the past one week, Turab’s world has gone haywire. He was studying for his Class XII board exams when the Special Cell officers came knocking on the night of 6 March. Sitting in the study on the ground floor of their double-storeyed residence, Turab recounts that eventful night with meticulous detail. “Eight men in plainclothes entered our house. When I asked them who they were, they said nothing. They entered my room and started examining my study material. Later, they took my computer,” says Turab.

Kazmi’s nephew Najaf, who was also present in the house during the arrest, is livid. “One of the officers casually told us that they were going to slap 120(B),” he says. “Since none of us are lawyers, we believed him when he told us that it was related to destruction and vandalism (120(B) relates to criminal conspiracy.) They warned us not to inform the media. One of them said, ‘Be thankful that we have informed you. We could have ensured his disappearance for three months.” According to his family, Kazmi was frugal beyond belief. “He never used to indulge in luxuries. Even his cell phone was second-hand,” says Turab. A voracious reader, Kazmi used to read extensively in Urdu as well as English. Ironically, Turab remembers that a while ago he had seen his father reading My Days in Prison, by another journalist Iftikhar Gilani who was jailed for six months under false charges. Shauzab and Turab are by now used to narrating details to journalists about their father’s arrest. They have prepared a set of arguments that question the police’s assessment. They have also collated pictures of their father with prominent dignitaries, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Turab is ensuring that he uses all possible methods to publicise the “injustice”, including two Facebook pages. However, other members of the family are distraught and desperate for help. Kazmi’s wife Jahan Ara’s best hope for now remains to pray as many times as possible.

Journalists who have come out in support of Kazmi are unwilling to buy the argument that his call details suggest he was in touch with radical groups and hence he has a role to play in the attack. “Kazmi worked for IRNA, the Iranian news agency. After the attack, Israel blamed Iran and obviously there was a lot of interest in the story in that part of the world. He has extensive contacts there who he could be in touch with,” says senior journalist Sukumar Muralidharan. Those who have known Kazmi for long and have followed his work say he was an authority on West Asia. “He was an asset in that part of the world since he knew Persian and Arabic. With his linguistic skills, he had made contacts there and understood the dynamics of the region very well,” says senior journalist Saeed Naqvi. Kazmi’s work in West Asia has been well recognised. He was one of the few journalists from India who covered the war in Iraq in 2003 for Saeed Naqvi’s Worldview India on Doordarshan. He was assigned to cover Iran and Kurdistan as part of a special show for Doordarshan. He went to Syria as part of a delegation 10 days after the blast in Delhi. Contrary to the worldview, Kazmi wrote a column in an Urdu daily on how Syrian President Bashar Assad still enjoys mass support. In an earlier column, he wrote about how people from trouble-hit areas were calling news channels like Al Jazeera that were showing disturbing footage of violence, saying they were actually safe there. Some journalists feel that international pressure must have actually led to Kazmi’s arrest. “He has his biases and strong opinions about some of the issues affecting the Muslim world. He is very passionate about the Palestine issue and was anti-Israel in his writing, but he is an honourable, honest and a deeply religious man. He has hardly showed any signs of jingoism,” says Naqvi. …



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Staring Out Voices – By Neelabh Mishra (Mar 26, 2012, Outlook)

Disembodied fear actualises into horrible reality in a faster, scarier way than presumed at first. In my column after the attack on an Israeli diplomat, I had feared stereotyped profiling and rounding up of people under draconian laws by our security agencies. And I had warned that our agencies should avoid the trap of regarding opposition to western and Israeli policies in West Asia as militant jehadism. In the arrest of S.M. Kazmi and harassment of John Cherian by the Delhi police, my fears now knock menacingly on the door of the same ‘freedom of the press’ behind which I so often seek shelter, a seemingly fragile privilege, though the aam aadmi, whose rights are trampled upon everyday, has no access to even that.

I hate to read conspiracy theories in tea leaves, yet I’m forced to note that both Kazmi and Cherian are journalists with outspoken anti-Israeli, pro-Iranian views. The hand-out for the police visit at Cherian’s house, that the police had acted on a hoax tipoff, makes the visit look ridiculous. But we can only guess how intimidating it must have been for him. More serious, prima facie, is the persecution of Kazmi. Silence on a few vital questions makes the security agencies suspect.

Is there credible evidence against Kazmi, like a legally obtained, incriminating phone intercept? Or does the case stand on a few calls from a journalist to his contacts after a major incident, or a so-called intercept produced by a foreign (Israeli or western) agency? Are there credible witnesses of Kazmi deliberately sheltering any Iranian, or conducting a ‘reconnaissance’ of the Israeli embassy (all journalists on the foreign beat are supposed to know its layout), or any remote terror link? If so, how did the Union home ministry, which controls Delhi police’s special cell that arrested Kazmi, grant him his security clearance for PIB accreditation? And why use a draconian law like the UAPA, which makes bail difficult and treats confession before the police (fabricated or forcibly extracted, who knows) as valid evidence?

Stereotyped profiling and rounding up of innocent Muslims by the police and security agencies, even in terror activities later found to have been committed by Hindu right-wing extremists, was one of the factors that cost the Congress Muslim votes in UP. Trying to protect his pet foreign collaboration, PM Manmohan Singh outshone the Sangh parivar in trying to stoke xenophobia against the popular anti-nuclear agitation in Koodankulam.

Now, under his home minister Chidambaram’s charge, the bar-of racial profiling (Shia working for an Iranian news agency: screams an Israeli news website report on Kazmi), arrest on suspicion, muzzling of dissent-is lowered with an aim to intimidate journalists. Since the Anna agitation, many Union ministers have dreamt of a tamer media. Censorship during the Emergency, Rajiv Gandhi’s failed Defamation Bill-attempts to impose a quietus on the media or public dissent have always cost the Congress dear. Esquires Manmohan and Chidambaram should take careful note.



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Fear of misuse – By R.K. Raghavan (Mar 10, 2012, Frontline)

There is something wrong about the way in which federalism has evolved since 1950 when India gave itself a good Constitution. The enlightened citizen knew that a group of highly motivated, knowledgeable and patriotic Indians drafted the sacred document, which was practical and had borrowed the best features of constitutions the world over while opting for a federal structure. Despite amendments to it in the past six decades, the Indian Constitution has withstood the ravages of crass politics. India may not be a federation in the classical sense, where powers are nearly equally distributed between the federal and State governments. It is a quasi-federation in which the Central government has undoubtedly greater authority than the constituent States in several areas of governance. The question that is now uppermost in debates is whether this apparently unjust distribution of powers is any longer tenable. Is it time to make the States equal partners, ignoring the fact that occasionally some of the States may have acted arbitrarily to serve their narrow partisan and regional ends? These are some of the thoughts floating around in the context of the controversy over the Union Home Ministry’s proposal to set up a national counter-terrorism centre (NCTC) on the lines of the organisation that came into existence in the United States in 2004 in response to 9/11. The Indian NCTC was to commence its work from March 1. But following protests from at least seven Chief Ministers, the Home Ministry announced that the notification issued in this connection would not be operationalised.

The controversy over the Centre’s alleged move to usurp the authority of the States may not die down soon. The episode has given rise to a feeling that the Centre did not do its homework and took the States for granted. The impression one gains from media reports is that the States do not dispute the need to upgrade themselves in the fight against terrorism or the role that New Delhi must play in combating the scourge. The creation of an NCTC per se is not unacceptable to the States. What seems to have irked them is the proposal to entrust it with the authority to make arrests. Without this power, merely placing the NCTC within the Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) for the purpose of coordination may not have provoked the States so much. After all, the I.B. is already liaising actively and purposefully with the States in fighting terrorism, and a generally stable relationship between the two is in place. What has produced sharp dissent is the authority proposed to be given to the new body, which would be part of the I.B., to arrest a terror suspect found in a State and hand him over to the State police. The States see a bogey here. They believe that the Centre could abuse this provision and direct the I.B. to make questionable arrests on the basis of political considerations. This apprehension reflects an enormous ‘trust deficit’ (a euphemism for suspicion, and a favourite expression of some Western-educated Ministers) in the relationship. But then, States cannot be faulted either. This is because Central governments have, in the past, given room for doubts, especially in the area of public order.

A series of arrests in a State that is ruled by a party that is in the opposition at the Centre could well be exploited by a tendentious Centre to bring the charge of failure of law and order. In such a situation, the Centre, in a tirade against that government, could hint at the imposition of President’s rule in the State, although nothing beyond that might eventually take place. This fear of politically motivated destabilisation is what seems to haunt the complaining State governments led by West Bengal. While taking the position that empowering the NCTC to make arrests is well within the ambit of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Union Home Minister has agreed to engage the States in discussions before proceeding further in the matter. This show of grace is most welcome. However, it may at best buy temporary truce. The Home Ministry’s move has evoked adverse reactions from a wide spectrum of experts and scholars also. The I.B. itself could be embarrassed because there is a possibility that the I.B. personnel placed in the NCTC could be tempted to abuse their authority, especially when they are not otherwise accustomed to handling legal authority. I can recall how, way back in the 1970s, transferring the immigration staff at airports from the police to the I.B. led to some undesirable incidents. The power to arrest a terror suspect carries with it the risk of misuse of authority by the empowered organisation. All these years, the I.B. had been an insular body with a specific mandate to collect intelligence. This is notwithstanding the fact that it had an uncomfortably close relationship with the party leading the Central government.

Not many people know that the I.B., as conceived even before Independence, is not a legal entity. It is an attached office of the Home Ministry. Created on the basis of an executive order, it depends on the local police for carrying a piece of information on a crime or terrorist operation to its logical conclusion. For instance, all arrests under the Official Secrets Act, leading directly from information provided by the I.B., are now made only by the police, with the former remaining wholly in the background. When this arrangement has been working reasonably well, and the I.B. and the police have clear-cut roles, where is the need to tinker with it by creating a counter-terrorism outfit within the I.B. and conferring legal powers on it? If the logic is that the local police have been slack or dishonest in effecting arrests using inputs given by the I.B., there should be other methods by which the police can be disciplined and made to act swiftly to pursue the leads provided by the I.B. This is particularly with regard to combating terrorism. Authorising the I.B. to make arrests on its own will undoubtedly vitiate the atmosphere within that elite organisation. The NCTC, as conceived and notified formally by the Ministry of Home Affairs, is modelled after the organisation created in 2004 by the U.S. following the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The NCTC in that country is a coordinating body and has a purely analytical role. The authority to conduct searches and effect arrests in terrorism-related cases still rests with participant law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The arrangement was arrived at on the belief that an empowered NCTC with a charter beyond an advisory function is equivalent to creating a secret police force with no accountability. This might be an exaggerated response to a well-intentioned move by India’s Central government. But the point is that the I.B. is not subject to oversight by Parliament and therefore lacks accountability. This is an argument hard to dismiss in a democracy. It is precisely this logic which many in the current polity advance while denying the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) its much-needed autonomy. What then is the alternative available once there is unanimity that a national centre for counter-terrorism at the Union government level is necessary? There is a strong case for bringing in a separate piece of legislation to create the NCTC as an independent body and give it a purely coordinating rule. This is the status of the NCTC in the U.S., which functions under the Director, National Intelligence, a position created after 9/11, and is directly accountable to the President. The Vajpayee government had in fact created an outfit, which went by the name Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), to coordinate intelligence-sharing. This was done through an executive order. Placed within the I.B. as a clandestine appendage, it had no legal authority, unlike what is now being sought to be given to the NCTC. This is why a new authority that could alter the equilibrium between a responsible Central government and an accountable structure of States is being opposed. What is required is a process of consultation between the two sides so that a viable compromise can be worked out. The Home Ministry has already hinted that this is what it hopes to achieve. This is not difficult to achieve, considering that we are a mature democracy.



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