IAMC Weekly News Roundup - March 25th, 2013 - IAMC
no-image IAMC

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 25th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Media mostly spread bitterness, says columnist Soroor Ahmed (Mar 25, 2013, Twocircles.net)

“Role of media in promoting peace and communal harmony is mostly negative. Media, indeed, spread bitterness”, believes senior journalist and eminent columnist of The Telegraph, Soroor Ahmad. Addressing a talk on ‘Role of media in promoting peace and communal harmony’ at Patna Book Fair on March 23, Ahmed, in his scholarly speech, said that peace and communal harmony is essential for development, but unfortunately, media sabotage it.

As long as media remains silent on social issues, peace and communal harmony will be present. The moment media starts playing things, mostly for sensationalization and susceptibility to market forces, peace gets disturbed. Today is the time of explosion of information, particularly by electronic media and social networking. Egypt’s Tahrir Square protests, India’s Anna Hazare’s movement etc demonstrate that social media in general, and networking portals in particular, provide new sources of information, which is almost uncontrollable.

National problems are being decided by whims of few individuals. This rapid diffusion of the internet and the rise of dedicated social platforms dramatically changed the infrastructure of social connectivity. Today anybody is capable to plant news, without knowing its far reaching repercussions. Loyalty to the public interest and social values has taken back seat, he said. The advancement in technology media has become all-pervasive, wide and deep.

Maulana Abdul Masjid Qasmi, Secretary General of Shanti Sandesh Kendr, Patna, stressed that though there are various writers and journalists who are honest, truth loving and unbiased, there is, unfortunately, a section in the media, which is less responsible and they believe in promoting disintegration. Quoting from Geeta and Holy Quran, Maulana said that speaking truth is the essence of all religions in the world. Over the years, the problem of communalism has adversely affected progress of this country. Time demands that social values and loyalty to the public interest is given prime importance. ‘Development will be rapid only in a peaceful society’, he asserted.

Dr. Abdul Hai, a renowned surgeon and social worker presided over the function. He emphasized that various clashes take place because of misinformation about the issues. It has now been widely recognized that the print, electronic and other forms of social media can effectively play a very significant role in promoting communal harmony and peace. We need to use all possible sources of media to clear the cobwebs of misunderstanding among different communities. The organization’s website www.shantisandeshkendr.org was also launched by Dr. Abdul Hai on the occasion. The theme of Shanti Sandesh Kendr is ‘learning and sharing in the light of scriptures. The Kendr is working for communal harmony, peace, national integrity and universal brotherhood. The program was organized by Shanti Sandesh Kendr, Patna, Bihar.


[Back to Top]

Modi not using Central funds to tackle drought: Modhwadia (Mar 26, 2013, Indian Express)

State Congress president Arjun Modhwadia Monday alleged that Chief Minister Narendra Modi was not spending Central funds to tackle drought-like situation in the state and instead was busy trying to realise his “dream”.

“150 cities and towns in north Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch are facing shortage of drinking water and women are agitating with pots. There is shortage of fodder for cattle and employment is a major problem in rural areas. The Centre has allocated Rs 1,500 crore in Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) over the years. But Chief Minister Narendra Modi is not using the money as he wants to save it to fund his publicity campaigns,” Modhwadia while addressing a press conference in the city.

“Presently, Gujarat government has Rs 1,500 of CRF meant to be used to counter such a scenario. Instead of starting relief work by using these funds, Narendra Modi government is only giving work under NREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005). Modi is just not bothered about ground realities at home and is just too busy to fulfil his big dream (of becoming the next prime minister),” Modhwadia said.



[Back to Top]

Sadiq encounter: HC rejects Barot’s bail plea (Mar 22, 2013, Indian Express)

The Gujarat High Court (HC) Thursday rejected the bail petition of suspended deputy superintendent of police, Tarun Barot, in connection with the 2002 Sadiq Jamal Mehtar encounter case. Sadiq was killed near Galaxy Cinema in Naroda area of Ahmedabad on January 13, 2003.

According to CBI, Barot was one of the main accused in the case. CBI counsel I H Syed had argued before the court that it was an admitted position that the person has been killed by police. Now, he added, it was a pre-planned conspiracy under which a “fake intelligence input” was created against Sadiq to say that he was a terrorist.

“After his coming from Dubai in 2002, his custody was first taken by Mumbai Crime Branch and then given to Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch. Barot had taken his custody in Mumbai before the encounter,” said Syed.



[Back to Top]

Four Dhule victims killed in police firing were shot in back: post-mortem reports (Mar 25, 2013, Indian Express)

The post-mortem reports of the Dhule riot victims reveal that at least four of the six victims were shot in the back by the police. While the police have maintained that they fired in self-defence after the mob reportedly attacked them during the January riots, the local Muslim community has alleged that the police “selectively targeted Muslims” and fired on people who were fleeing.

Of the five post-mortem reports available with The Indian Express, four victims were found to have bullet entry wounds in the back. Imran Ali Qamar Ali, 25, suffered “a firearm entry wound in the left scapular region of his back below his left shoulder”. The exit wound is on his chest. Aasif Iqbal Naim Ansari, 30, had a “firearm entry wound on the back of his right shoulder”. The bullet exited from “the back of his left shoulder after travelling horizontally and lacerating his spinal cord”.

Shaikh Aaseem Shaikh Naseer, 25, suffered a firearm “entry wound on his back, on the right side below the shoulder”, with the bullet exiting through his chest. He also has another firearm exit wound on the “lateral side of his chest”. Said Patel Rais Patel, 30, had a firearm entry wound “on the right side of his back, below the shoulder”, which then exited though his chest.

Mohammad Rizwan Shah, 22, is the only victim who had bullet injuries in the front. The bullet entered his thigh and exited from his right upper buttock. The Dhule police seem to have followed protocol and fired below the waist in this case. The post-mortem report of Yunus Shah, 22, who was shot in the neck and died four days later, is not available with The Indian Express. All the post-mortems were conducted in the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology of the B H Government Medical College and Hospital, Dhule.

The Maharashtra Police manual lays down a strict protocol that needs to be followed while opening fire to disperse a mob. “Firing must aim low and at the most threatening part of the crowd with a view not to cause fatalities but to disperse the crowd. As soon as the crowd show signs of breaking up, the firing must stop,” it says. When contacted, State DGP Sanjeev Dayal said: “The state has already appointed a judicial commission which will look into all aspects of the riots.”



[Back to Top]

Suspect held upside down, then belted with chains, batons (Mar 19, 2013, Mumbai Mirror)

The eyewitness account of Ibrahim Malik, who was present when his fellow detainee Naushad Sheikh died in the custody of the Chembur police on Saturday night, has blown holes in the police’s claim that Sheikh died of self-inflicted injuries. Malik described in his statement how the police made Sheikh (46) stand on his head before torturing him with a baton, a metal chain and a nylon strap for nearly an hour. The police have claimed that Sheikh died after banging his head against his handcuffs and an iron grill in the detention room. Malik’s statement has been recorded by the local deputy commissioner of police as well as the Mumbai Crime Branch, which has been assigned the investigation. Malik and Sheikh, who were close relatives, were picked up by the Chembur police on Saturday evening; while Sheikh was wanted in a pick-pocketing case, Malik seems to have been detained simply because he was with Sheikh when the police arrived. The two were put in a room with three other suspects before cops allegedly tortured Sheikh till he collapsed.

The Chembur police, however, were quick to dismiss Malik’s claim, maintaining that Sheikh died after banging his head on an iron grill in the detention room. The three other detainees present have sided with the police in their accounts, but Malik’s shocking allegations – combined with the circumstances of Sheikh’s death – have dealt a serious blow to the police’s version. Sheikh, father of four, lived with his wife, teenage daughter and son at Shivaji Nagar, Govandi. His two elder daughters are married and live elsewhere. He had two cases of robbery against his name before the police, suspecting his involvement in a month-old pick-pocketing case, detained him and Malik at 9.30 pm on Saturday. When the two were taken to the station, Naushad told the cops that was not involved in the case for which he was being held. However, they were taken to the detention room and made to wait for hours. Nobody had questioned the two till 11.30 pm, though they were given food after Sheikh told the cops he was hungry.

Bhausaheb Gaikwad, a person arrested for stealing cell phones, was already present in the detention room, while two detainees – Manjeet Singh Gabdia (25) and Akash Sarang Pillai (21) – both residents of Chembur, were brought in subsequently. Around 11.30 pm, head constable Dilip Sawant and police naik Sanjay Gabla started interrogating Gaikwad. According to Malik, the cell phone thief was also assaulted with the nylon strap and baton. Sometime later, he was taken out of the room before the two cops turned their attention to Sheikh. Around 2 am, Sawant and Gabla handcuffed Naushad and made him stand on his head, according to Malik’s eyewitness account. “He was assaulted repeatedly with the thick nylon strap, a wooden baton and a metal chain. Naushad cried out for help, but they did not stop. When I tried to intervene, the cops threatened me. Naushad eventually collapsed, bleeding. The cops wiped blood on his face and took him to hospital. Soon after, I was taken out of the detention room,” Malik said in his statement. Sheikh reached Sion hospital at 2.30 am; doctors declared him dead at 3.10 am.

The police, however, claim that when Sheikh was questioned about the theft, he banged his handcuffs against his forehead and later banged his head against the iron grill, injuring himself fatally. The initial post mortem report confirms that Sheikh died of a head injury, which fits the police’s claim. But the post mortem report also says is that there were multiple contusions all over Sheikh’s body, which clearly indicate that he was tortured. Another pertinent question is why Sheikh was handcuffed while the other suspects were not. Supreme Court directives not only ban handcuffing within police stations, but also during transit. Also, the Chembur police did not record the detention of Sheikh and Malik in the station diary or the case diary. If Sheikh was a suspect in the pick-pocketing case, why did the police neglect to do this?

There is also a discrepancy in sequence of events as narrated by Malik and the Chembur police. According to police records, mobile phone thief Gaikwad was brought to the detection room at 1.30 am and sent back to lockup at 2 am after interrogation. Malik and the other two detainees, however, said that Gaikwad was in the detection room from 11 pm onwards. Finally, the Mumbai Crime Branch said in their panchanama that there were no blood stains on the iron grill of the detention room’s window. Sheikh’s handcuffs, however, were blood-stained. “We want a c”ase of murder to be registered against the cops. It is a clear case of custodial death due to police torture,” advocate Manish Wankhede, who represents Malik and Sheikh, told Mumbai Mirror. Sheikh’s family is expected to write to the police commissioner to press this demand. …



[Back to Top]

Delhi Police is trying to create communal tension: Rihai Manch (Mar 24, 2013, Twocircles.net)

Delhi Police is trying to create communal tension in the country by spreading false news of terror hreat during Holi festival, alleged Rihai Manch. In a press released issued today human rights organization stated that the arrest of Liaqat Shah has clearly exposed that Delhi Police’s criminal intention. Liaqat Shah was recently arrested by Delhi Police alleging that he was a wanted terrorist while Jammu & Kashmir Police refuted that and said Shah was in fact a surrendered militant.

Rihai Manch today in Lucknow burnt an effigy of Delhi Police Crime Branch to register their protest. Rihai Manch also alleged that a local intelligence officer KK Singh stopped the media from taking pictures of their effigy burning. The Manch demanded immediate arrest and filing of charges against officers responsible for spreading lies about Shah.

Socialist Front of India’s president M. Afaque, All India Muslim Forum’s Dr. Aftab Ahmad, Muslim Sangharsh Morcha’s Abu Zar, M. Shoaib, Haji Ahmad Hussain, M. Reyaz Guddu, M. Irfan, M. Niyaz, Ghufran Siddiqui, Saif, M. Shafhar, Rajiv Yadav, and Shahnawaz Alam also participated in the protest.



[Back to Top]

Tripura moots action against spiritual fraudsters (Mar 22, 2013, The Hindu)

In the wake of a spate of complaints, action is planned against self-styled godmen and astrologers who allegedly deceive people through allurement in Agartala. West Tripura district magistrate Kiran Gitte said on Friday action against such people was contemplated earlier, but could not be executed due to certain serious engagements, including the recent Assembly elections. “Now that elections are over, we will take appropriate measures on the issue.”

Officials said sub-divisional magistrates would be advised to issue notice to local cable television channel operators for selling slots to ‘self-styled godmen and astrologers,’ who have booked rooms in the city hotels. Spiritualists and astrologers from various parts of the country use cable television channels to propagate their ‘supernatural’ power and talent. They perform live TV shows, inviting telephone calls from viewers, who are ultimately asked to come for ‘personal meetings.’

Action against cable operators is likely to be taken under the amended Cable Television Network Regulation Act. The West Tripura district administration will also ask the Agartala Municipal Council to remove hoardings displaying ‘supernatural talents’ of astrologers and spiritualists.



[Back to Top]

Communal clashes near Vikarabad town, 46 Muslims arrested (Mar 24, 2013, Twocircles.net)

A communal brawl exploded at Mominpet Mandal near Vikarabad town located at 75 km from Hyderabad. Clashes between Hindus and Muslims erupted when the latter objected on playing of high music devotional songs from Hanuman Mandir which was ‘disturbing’ prayer meetings at neighboring Jama Masjid. According to local Muslims, devotional music with high volume was being played in the Mandir during the mosque prayer meetings since last Ramzan which annoyed them. Last evening during Maghrib prayer when the same thing continued, some Muslim youths went to the Mandir and raised their protest, which prompted Hanuman Mandir administration to stop the songs.

But after some time, activists of Bajrang Dal arrived and continued the music with even louder voice. According to the police when tension gripped high, both communities used the loud speakers of mandir and masjid to give call to the members of their respective community to assemble for protest. Due to the calls from loud speakers hundreds of people gathered at the spot, which soon led to communal clash. Police restored to lathi charge injuring many people from both communities.

In the night police arrested 46 people of Muslim community from adjoining areas of the mosque on the charges of inciting communal riots. Muslim leaders raised this issue of arrest of Muslim community members in the state legislative assembly. MIM legislative assembly floor leader Akbaruddin Owaisi charged the government of being biased towards Muslims in dealing with communal clashes.

Replying to Owaisi’s remarks Home minister Sabita Reddy indirectly charged Muslim community of instigating communal conflict by suggesting that youths from Muslim community went into the mandir with their shoes to raise their protest, which later prompted counter protest. MIM leader in the assembly, however, said that the Home Minister statement is bundle of lies to hide the inefficiency of her government in dealing with trouble mongers.



[Back to Top]

Ex-CBI DIG held guilty of bribery (Mar 20, 2013, Indian Express)

A former senior CBI official was convicted Tuesday by a court for accepting bribe for not invoking TADA against the Jain brothers in the 1991 Jain hawala case.

“I hold that prosecution in present case has been fully successful in making out case against accused O P Sharma that he accepted bribe of Rs 10 lakh from L K Kaul (complainant) in connection with case which was being supervised by him pertaining to hawala transactions involving senior politicians and government servants,” special CBI judge Pradeep Chaddah said.

In 1991, a CBI team raided industrialist Surendra Jain and his employee Jainendra Jain and allegedly seized huge amount of cash. Sharma said this was meant to be passed on to terrorists and started threatening them.



[Back to Top]

Dowry slur against senior cop (Mar 23, 2013, Times of India)

After former law minister Raghunath Mohanty and his family, it was the turn of senior police officer Gopabandhu Mallick to face allegations of dowry torture.

The Balasore town police station on Friday received an FIR from Santosini Mallick, naming several persons, including the senior cop. Santosini is a relative of Mallick, said DGP Prakash Mishra. Mallick was not available for comments.

Earlier this month, senior BJD leader Raghunath Mohanty had to quit as minister after his daughter-in-law lodged a dowry torture case.



[Back to Top]

UP top cop humiliates Dalit woman, says who will rape a mother of four (Mar 22, 2013, Dainik Bhaskar)

At a time when the country awaits a strong anti-rape law, an officer of the Uttar Pradesh police officer was caught on camera humiliating a rape victim who wanted to register a case. Deoria Additional Superintendent of Police Keshav Chandra Goswami not only insulted the lady but also passed extremely sexiest remarks against her.

The dalit woman belonging to Karan Chapra was allegedly raped by one Santosh Kumar of neighbouring village on Wednesday night. When the woman and her husband went to the Bankata police station on Thursday for lodging an FIR, the police station in-charge registered a case of eve-teasing. Dissatisfied with the Bankata police, the couple came to the ASP last night to seek his intervention. When the victim narrated her ordeal to Goswami, he asked the people accompanying her how old was she and how many children did she have.

When he came to know that she was the mother of four children with the eldest being 17 years old, Goswami made an extremely insulting and insensitive commented, saying that “no one is going to rape such an old woman”. Meanwhile, the ASP said that in her complaint the woman had levelled charge of eve-teasing but she gave a second complaint in which she mentioned rape. The ASP said that medical examination of the woman has not confirmed rape.

Meanwhile, Director General of UP Police, AC Sharma, has offered an apology and has assured that strict action will be taken against the ASP. IG (law and order) R K Vishkarma said in Lucknow that the DGP has sought an explanation from the ASP. “The DGP also expressed regret over the hurt caused to the woman because of the insulting remarks,” the IG said adding that the case of the woman has been registered.

The IG said that the new officers being recruited in the police force would also be sensitised and given training in proper behaviour so that such things are not repeated. Woman organisations of the district have condemned the police officer and demanded action against him for his “insensitivity and insulting remarks”. The anti-rape bill has already been passed by both Houses of Parliament and will now be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent following which it will become a law.



[Back to Top]

Opinions and Editorials

The Modi Card And The Muslim Ace – By Ajit Sahi (Mar 30, 2013, Tehelka)

India’s Muslims, goes the conventional wisdom, are a votebank. That bank is now working aggressively towards becoming the central bank of Indian politics with a view to dominating its future political currency. If conversations, events and initiatives of the past four weeks are an indicator, Muslim social and political organisations as well as prominent Muslims have evolved a one-point agenda: to deny the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongman Narendra Modi a shot at becoming India’s prime minister after the 16th General Election that is due in a year. Their tactic: defeat the BJP and its potential allies in every Lok Sabha constituency where the Muslim vote can sway the result.

“Narendra Modi is the No. 1 enemy of India’s Muslims,” says Salman Hussain, a fiery Islamic scholar who teaches at one of India’s most influential Islamic seminaries, the 19th-century Darul Uloom Nadwatul, at Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. “If Modi becomes prime minister, more Muslims will be massacred, more mosques demolished.” While that may be rabble-rousing at its worst, there is no denying that the anti-Modi sentiment among India’s nearly 180 million Muslims has deepened since a cry went up in the BJP last month to name Modi the party’s top prospect for the Lok Sabha election.

“The BJP is fundamentally an anti-Muslim party and Modi proved that with his role in the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat,” says Arshad Madani, who leads a faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an influential sociopolitical organisation of clerics. Five months after Modi became chief minister, more than 2,000 Muslims died in February-March 2002 in violence by Hindu zealots of the BJP-RSS after a train fire killed 57 Hindu passengers. “Muslims know that if the BJP comes to power, their troubles will worsen.”

Indeed, the chant of Modi-as-PM that shot up in decibels at an all-India meet of the BJP in New Delhi in early March set the cat among the pigeons. Until then, the Muslim electorate across India was widely disenchanted with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for unkept promises in its nine-year-rule. They were miffed as the UPA has failed to introduce reservations for them in jobs and educational institutions, a pre-election promise. They were also angered by the sudden hanging in February of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri who had been on death row for years after being convicted as a conspirator in the 2001 Parliament attack. Muslim leaders have long slammed the Congress for what they see as its failure to improve the Muslims’ lot after a panel led by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar reported in 2006 that Muslims were one of India’s most neglected social groups in terms of education, employment, poverty and health.

Disappointment has also been rife among the Muslims at the refusal of the Congress-led UPA to declare the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the premier Muslim educational institution set up in the 19th century, a minority institution as the Muslims have long demanded. “AMU had hoped Congress President Sonia Gandhi would make the announcement in her telephonic address at the university’s last convocation,” says political commentator Hafiz Nomani. “But she referred to such a major issue only in passing.” But with Modi’s name to the fore, the foremost concern among Muslims now is to stop the BJP from returning to power in New Delhi at any cost. …



[Back to Top]

Our Keystone Cops – By Sagarika Ghose (Mar 12, 2013, Hindustan Times)

When in doubt about a terror investigation, blame the most readily available Muslims. Within days of the Dilsukh Nagar blasts in Hyderabad on February 21, the police announced the suspects were the Indian Mujahideen (IM), that its founder Riyaz Bhatkal was the possible “mastermind”, and that ‘Imran’ and ‘Maqbool’ had recced the area. In the same week as the names ‘Bhatkal’, ‘Maqbool’ and ‘Imran’ swirled around in the media, two youths, journalist Muthi-ur Rahman Siddiqui, also once dubbed “mastermind” in a terror conspiracy by the media and DRDO scientist Aijaz Mirza were released after six months in jail. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) admitted it could find no evidence against them. Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde was made to apologise by the BJP for his remarks on saffron terror. But the Opposition did not ask the home minister to apologise for the wrongful arrest of two young men.

Why? Because they are Muslims? Why one set of standards for “saffron” terror and another for “Islamist” terror, when repeated pious declarations are made that terror has no religion? Across the country scores of young Muslim men are being jailed and tortured for their alleged links to terror. The police are invariably unable to muster clear evidence except vague theories, the cases are thrown out by the courts and the security agencies are forced to let the youths go. Imran Syed, a Hyderabad student arrested for the Mecca Masjid blasts in 2007, given third degree torture and electric shocks, was accused of spending 10 years training as a terrorist in Pakistan. Since Imran was 22 at the time of his arrest, it would mean that he had run away to Pakistan to become a terrorist at the age of 12! After 18 months in jail, Imran was acquitted.

A caricature narrative is born from a paranoid imagination. Sheer communal prejudice and a copycat “war on terror” mentality on the part of keystone cops busily chasing bearded look-alikes of Osama bin Laden in India’s galis and mohallas, is leading to the bizarre phenomenon of hundreds of arrests yet no stoppage to the low intensity blasts in tiffin boxes or on bicycles. Why have the Andhra Pradesh Police not been able to successfully investigate, bring to trial and secure a conviction in the many blast cases that have taken place in Hyderabad? Social prejudice and religious discrimination must be separated from terror investigations. The police must resist the temptation to jump the gun, arrest Muslims and announce names of suspected groups within hours of a blast to satisfy the ‘patriotic’ media.

So far, with the exception of additional sessions judge Vijendar Bhat’s scathing denunciation of police conduct in terror cases in February 2011, the courts have not reprimanded investigative agencies strongly enough. It is a positive sign that the NIA has developed a culture of admitting it was wrong. But generally, there is an inability on the part of the police to be patient about collecting evidence carefully and painstakingly over a period of time. Who are these ‘terrorists’ who bomb India’s marketplaces without any stated objectives or demands? The Irish Republican Army had a stated objective to throw out English occupation of Ireland. …

When terrorists are anonymous and refuse to indicate why exactly they are repeatedly bombing markets, the police must proceed only on the evidence they are able to collect from the site and through patiently gathered intelligence about other such blasts. Unless there is a clear separation of community from terrorist, unless a community-specific line of investigation is given up in favour of a hard-headed evidence-specific line of investigation, India’s mysterious urban bombers will never be caught. …



[Back to Top]

Mini Scams Dot The Cauvery – By Imran Khan (Mar 30, 2013, Tehelka)

Not many Bengaluru citizens are aware of the damage that mini hydel projects are causing to the city’s water supply. A string of projects cleared by the Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd (KREDL) has not only ruined the ecology of some of the most sensitive areas in the state, but also threatens to undermine the water supply from the Cauvery river to the city. Now, armed with the recent Karnataka High Court judgment on the ban of mini hydel projects in the Western Ghats, activists want to challenge KREDL’s decision to allot 74 such projects in the Cauvery basin. It was recently reported that “following the drastic fall in the water level in the Shiva Balancing Reservoir, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board has asked the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd (KPTCL) and Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd (KPCL) to stop power generation from four mini hydel projects in the Cauvery basin at least till May”. These are located at Madhavamantri, Satyagala, Shiva Anicut and Shimsha.

However, KREDL has allotted 74 mini hydel projects in the Cauvery basin, apart from the 24 projects that have already been commissioned, most of them downstream Krishnaraja Sagar Dam. Some of them are downstream from the Shiva Anicut from where water supply is routed to the capital city. “Besides the decrease in water availability, water stored by several mini hydel projects also increases the evapo-transpiration rate of water, particularly in the summer,” says Parineeta Deshpande-Dandekar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, an informal collective of organisations and individuals working on water-related issues. “These projects also hold back water, critically affecting water supply cycles to Bengaluru and other towns and villages. Last year, similar conditions had occurred in Mangalore where water levels in the Thumbe Dam fell to alarming levels due to mini hydel projects hoarding up water in the upstream.”

Apart from the issue of drinking water, several of these projects are located close to the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. In fact, the 24.75 MW Pioneer Genco project shares a border with the sanctuary. Many of the mini hydel projects are inside reserve forests, and some of them, such as Satyagala and Limbavalli, are known to be impeding the movement of elephants; leading to more human-elephant conflicts. Activists are a puzzled lot, wondering how the Forest Department gave the nod for the projects. Due to their cumulative impact on ecology, the HC has halted construction of any such projects in the Western Ghats. Responding to a PIL filed by Prashant Yavagal and Western Ghats Environment Forums on 27 February, the HC cancelled 12 such projects, as they were located in the ecologically sensitive zones. And the HC has asked the state not to allot any more projects in the Western Ghats.

Under the law, private players are allowed to build and operate mini hydel projects that have a capacity of less than 25 MW. In order to circumvent the stringent law, private firms split one big project into different mini ones. By doing this, they also escape the mandatory Environmental Clearance, Environment Impact Assessment or Public Hearing, which are compulsory for large power projects. There is also an added economic benefit for the private players in splitting the projects. Under the subsidies granted to mini hydel projects, the government purchases power at the rate of Rs 3.40; however, if it is a mega project, then it is bought at just Rs 2.30. Many mini hydel projects have been purposefully split to show them as below 25 MW to get a higher power tariff.

“The difference is causing a loss of Rs 300-400 crore to the state government every year,” says Sanjay Gubbi, a wildlife scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation. “Consumers also end up paying higher tariffs due to this scam.” “While permitting mini hydel projects in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats, officials hid the fact that there are rare and endangered species in the area,” he adds. Many of the officers TEHELKA spoke to refused to speak on this subject. After initially avoiding our calls, KREDL Managing Director MB Dyaberi said, he doesn’t want to comment on the issue.



[Back to Top]

Aadhaar For Birth, Marriage And Death – By S.G.Vombatkere (Mar 25, 2013, Countercurrents)

Extant law makes it mandatory for every citizen to formally register births, marriages and deaths in the family. A birth certificate is proof of age and a death certificate is proof that a person has died and, for example, his/her name is to be deleted from a Voter’s List. A marriage certificate shows that a man and a woman are legally married, their living together is socially acceptable and their progeny are legitimate. The civic body recording these events issues birth, marriage and death certificates, which are legal, primary civic documents concerning biological persons for identity, legal liability and inheritance, besides other legal, social and welfare purposes.

Government of Delhi (GoD) has very recently announced [http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/uid-number-aadhar-scheme-identification-crisis/1/259075.html “With 95 per cent registrations in order, Delhi to soon switch to UID numbers for utility services”] that “[f]rom paying bills to getting a driving licence, Delhiites will soon have to depend on a unique identification (UID) number to avail a host of utility services”. The Chandigarh UT administration had made the UID-Aadhaar number mandatory for registration of motor vehicles and for obtaining driving licences. The order was challenged in the Punjab & Haryana High Court, and was withdrawn. GoD now passing a similar order in ignorance of the Chandigarh case, will result in coercing citizens to enroll for the Aadhaar number or to engage in unnecessary litigation. Demanding an Aadhaar number for transactions (paying bills, driving licence, etc) where the citizen is paying for the service rendered with no loss to the state, is without logical or legal strength – it appears to be a crude ploy to force people into enrolling for UID-Aadhaar.

Administrations appear to be ignorant of the basis of civic documentation, because they are even making the UID-Aadhaar number mandatory for citizens to obtain basic civic documents like birth, marriage and death certificates, as GoD has done. How would a birth certificate be issued in respect of an infant whose parents do not have Aadhaar numbers? How would the death certificate be issued in respect of a person whose death is reported by his progeny if the deceased or his progeny do not have an Aadhaar number? There are other questions, but suffice it to say that birth, marriage and death are the most fundamental events for biological persons, and when responsibly reported to civic authorities as mandated by law, the civic authorities are duty bound to unconditionally register these events. Possession of certificates recording these events are the right of every citizen.

If issue of birth and death certificates are made subject to UID-Aadhaar, it is entirely possible that numbers of people may be demographically excluded because they were not able to obtain those certificates for want of the Aadhaar number. To carry the argument a bit further, if a man and a woman without Aadhaar numbers marry, they will not be able to get a marriage certificate, without which their children will be technically illegitimate. Also, their children will not be able to get birth certificates. Thus, the whole family will become non-persons. In fact, such a couple without a UID number would be well advised to use an IUD or other contraceptive device, and produce no children!

Civic authorities demanding a UID-Aadhaar number (which is not covered by any extant law) as a pre-condition for issue of a primary civic document which is mandated by law, puts bureaucratic ignorance and callousness on display. The political executive which is finally responsible cannot plead ignorance. The coercive mission of UIDAI is being pushed to ridiculous lengths by political-bureaucratic incompetence.



[Back to Top]

Still Faceless in Despair – By Nupur Sonar (Mar 30, 2013, Tehelka)

What do I live for?” asks 14-year old Tuba Tabassum. It’s a muffled utterance but the rage in her voice is palpable. Six months after acid devoured much of her face, every breath is an effort in vengeance. A man threw acid on her face after she rejected his advances. She still vividly remembers the morning she was attacked on her way to school, in her native village in Bihar. Her refusal left her face burning, as the acid ripped through her flesh, eating away her nose and welding her lips together. It dissolved her facial bones, blinding her partially. Six months after the attack, Tabassum now has trouble breathing and swallowing solid food. Once a bright class IX student, the promise of a future now eludes her. Although the accused and his accomplices are behind bars, it is day-to-day survival that is wearing out Tabassum and her family. Due to lack of medical facilities in her village, Tabassum and her father were forced to move to New Delhi, where they have been running pillar-to-post, in an attempt to finance her treatment that costs Rs 30 lakh. Her father now works as a contract labourer in the city, earning Rs 5000- 6000 a month, depending on the amount of work he manages to complete. “Although I don’t have the financial capacity to survive in this city or have my daughter treated, I am here because right now, her treatment is the priority,” he says.

According to a study conducted by Cornell Law School in 2002, India, Bangladesh and Cambodia have the highest incidence of acid attacks in the world. In 2009, the 226th Law Commission report suggested an increasing trend in acid related violence across India. At present, statistics available on acid attacks in India are scattered and inaccurate. It wasn’t until this year that acid attacks were recognised as a specific criminal offence. According to Bengaluru-based NGO Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women 53 cases were reported in 2006. “The numbers that have been reported in the media and cited by studies are skewed and hence fail to draw attention to the gravity of the situation. But what should prompt the State to take action beyond recognising acid attacks as a specific offence in the absence of accurate statistics is the amount of physical, psychological and economical reconstruction that is required for an acid attack victim to survive,” says Madhu Mehra, a Delhi-based lawyer and executive director of Partners in Law and Development, a legal resource group. Another such survivor is Anu Mukherjee, 30. Orphaned at the age of nine, she went on to become a dancer at a prominent hotel in Delhi, managing to build a life for herself and her brother, who was still in school then. A colleague threw acid on her her. Following a lengthy trial, Anu received compensation from the guilty but it did not cover her medical costs, nor did it compensate for the loss of livelihood. For the past 9 years, Anu has been confined to her house in a New Delhi slum and depends on her brother for survival.

Even in the case of Sonali Mukherjee, who was attacked in 2003, and received much media attention, a compensation of Rs 50,000 came in from the government six years after the gruesome attack. Nine years and 26 surgeries later, which cost close to Rs 30 lakh, she still has another 5-6 surgeries lined up this year. Even as the recent amendments to the anti-rape Bill introduces acid attacks as a separate offence with a minimum punishment of 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment and increases the amount of government compensation to Rs 10 lakh, the State needs to devise a plan for medical treatment, counseling and rehabilitation of acid attack victims. The 2009 Law Commission report on acid attacks had proposed the setting up of a Criminal Injuries Compensation and Rehabilitation Board to issue directions to appropriate authorities that would ensure proper medical, psychological and legal assistance to the victims and issue directions for their rehabilitation in consultation with the Centre and the states. The commission’s report was followed by a National Commission for Women (NCW) scheme for relief and rehabilitation of acid attacks victims. The NCW also proposed constituting a Criminal Injuries Compensation and Rehabilitation Board. Four years later, the board is yet to be formed, confirms NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma.

Although there is a scheme for compensation of victims under section 357 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it is only disbursed at the end of trial. “Under the existing government rules, the procedure for obtaining compensation is so onerous that by the time the victim gets the money, it is too little and too late,” says Kirti Singh, former member of the Law Commission. Taking this into account, the Law Commission had recommended that the Criminal Injuries Compensation and Rehabilitation Board should provide compensation immediately without procedural complications. “The government should focus on making amendments and should stop taking suggestions made by welfare bodies so lightly. In most cases, amendments take too long and when they are made, they are inadequate, half hearted and fail to do substantial justice to victims,” she says. So far the Goa and West Bengal governments have cleared compensation packages for acid-attack victims, yet the budgetary allocations of upto Rs 10 lakh and Rs 2 lakh per victim respectively are petty compared to the medical costs incurred by the victims. Other states are yet to follow suit. In the absence of a legislation that guarantees immediate compensation, most victims and their families are left to fend for themselves.

“The definition of justice needs to go beyond the narrow prism of penalty. Justice for acid attack victims should be reparative and compensative,” says Rebecca John, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court. She adds that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for victims of violence, with acid attack victims as the priority, should have been set up with specific budgetary allocations from the Centre. In Bangladesh, when the instance of acid attacks peaked in 2002, laws that controlled the sale of acid were put in place. Since then, the incidence of acid attacks has gone down by 15-20 percent. The Supreme Court of India has directed all states to devise a policy on the regulation of sale of acid due to its easy availability. So far, only the Tamil Nadu government has introduced a bill to regulate the sale of acid.



[Back to Top]

Social Justice: Atrocities in focus – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Mar 23, 2013, Frontline)

TO help strengthen the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (or PoA Act), the National Advisory Council (NAC) has included several long-standing recommendations to amend the Act in its new policy paper released in mid-February. The proposed amendments are now subject to public discussions. Among the recommendations are the setting up of special courts and exclusive public prosecutors for speedy trials, inclusion of offences such as tonsuring, garlanding with chappals, and social and economic boycott as also the inclusion of a chapter on the rights of victims and witnesses. The NAC has also recommended enhancing compensation commensurate with inflation and expanding the scope of presumption in the crimes.

Considering the varied nature of crimes against the S.Cs and the S.Ts in the last decade and a poor conviction rate, the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), a coalition of Dalit civil rights group, felt that apart from canvassing aggressively for the better implementation of the Act, it was necessary to point out gaps in the Act.

Sirivella Prasad, general secretary of the NCDHR, said: “The emerging trend shows that there is an increase in the quantum of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis even after the existence of the PoA Act. During the last 15 years (1995 to 2010), a total of 5,58,103 cases of atrocities (4,71,717 against the S.Cs and 86,386 against the S.Ts) were registered in police stations. A rough estimate reveals that around 1.5 crore Dalits and Adivasis were affected by the atrocities in the last 15 years and that the number is increasing at the annual rate of 2.9 per cent. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat cumulatively account for 93.3 per cent of atrocities against the S.Cs.”

He said discriminatory practices against Dalits and Adivasis did not figure in the list of atrocities. “I am glad that the NAC has put such offences up for further public discussion,” he said. He added that some of their recommendations, which would have been important deterrents, were not included by the NAC. “The elements of negligence by government officials, which are not mentioned in the Act now, need to be clearly defined. How do we ensure that a police official registers the case under the PoA and not under ordinary criminal laws?”



[Back to Top]