IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 26th, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- US Congressional Hearing highlights the plight of Indian Minorities, Gujarat victims
- Gujarat Pogrom of 2002 condemned by City of Harvey, IL Resolution
- ’02 riot victims, activists testify, in-camera before UN body
- Modi’s role falls within Nanavati probe ambit, argues Manch
- In face-off with Modi, top cop moves SC
- After Karnataka, Gujarat MLAs allegedly watch porn in House
- Prajapati Case: Supreme Court has not held police’s chargesheet as invalid, says high court
- Communal clashes erupt in Junagarh of Gujarat
- Shehla Masood case; BJP MLA to undergo polygraph test again
- Maoists abduct Odisha MLA
- Delhi court dismisses godman’s plea to drop MCOCA charges
- Dalits stage stir against cops
Opinions & Editorials
- An Aarti From Time, A Brookings Chalisa – By Anil Dharker, Cyrus Guzder, Nandan Maluste, Teesta Setalvad
- Kafkaesque ordeal? – By T.K. Rajalakshmi
- When leaders play game of thrones – By Rana Ayyub
- Student, Activist, Naxalite? Framed! – By Imran Khan
- Koodankulam: Police Forces Withdrawn But PMANE Vows To Fight On – By Jeemon Jacob
- The anatomy of a Rape – By Nishita Jha and Others
US Congressional Hearing highlights the plight of Indian Minorities, Gujarat victims
Narendra Modi to remain persona non-grata with no change to visa status
Thursday March 22, 2012
Indian American Muslim Council (https://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has thanked Dr. Najid Hussain (son-in-law of slain Indian Parliamentarian Ahsan Jafri) and Dr. Angana Chatterji for their Congressional testimonies at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission today. The Commission held a hearing on Wednesday (March 21, 2012) on the plight of religious minorities in South Asia, at which Dr. Najid Hussain represented IAMC, in response to an invitation by Commission Co-Chair Congressman Frank Wolf.
Congressman Joseph Pitts’s pointed questions about Modi’s visa status made it clear that Modi remains a persona non-grata in the US. In 2005, the US State Department had revoked Narendra Modi’s US visa under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, for egregious violations of religious freedom.
“The testimonies of both Dr. Hussain and Dr. Chatterji gave the Commission a starkly different picture of Gujarat than the one painted by the recent TIME Asia cover story and a Brookings Institution blog article,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. Both stories were largely seen as promotional articles aimed at rehabilitating the tainted Narendra Modi for higher office even as the judicial process is tightening around him.
Dr. Hussain noted with regret that despite the killing of over 2,000 Muslims during the carnage, glaringly low number of arrests have been made to date with even fewer convictions. “An inclusive India would also be a stronger India, that could provide power for our mutual progress, economic development, and growth,” Dr. Hussain said in his testimony. “That goal cannot be realized without ensuring justice to the minorities of Gujarat,” the testimony added.
Dr. Hussain urged the Commission to deny any recognition to Mr. Modi and to use the United States’ influence and friendship with India to ensure freedom, justice and security for the minorities in Gujarat as well as other Indian states. Dr. Hussain also deplored the continued suffering of more than 16,000 people still living in squalid refugee camps. Most people displaced during the pogrom have to date not been allowed to return to their homes as the state government has turned a blind eye to their boycott and ghettoization.
Dr. Angana Chatterji testified before the Commission on similar targeting of Christians by right wing Hindu extremists organizations. Violence against Christians resulted in the murder, rape and massive displacement of thousands of people in the state of Orissa.
Dr. Chatterji’s testimony covered the vast number of disappearances in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the unearthing of unmarked mass graves based on her report. This highlighted the impunity enjoyed by the Army despite gross violations of human rights. She also referred to the denial of independent religious identity to Sikhs.
Dr. Chatterji further called attention to the various Indian diaspora charitable organizations affiliated with the Hindutva ideology operating in the West and their efforts at influencing public discourse and policy in the United States in relation to India.
IAMC has also noted with regret the rising discrimination and violence against religious and disadvantaged minorities. “The harassment of minorities and the lack of due process in the arrest of Muslim youth after every terror attack have eroded the people’s confidence in the impartiality of the nation’s law enforcement agencies.” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb. Several terror attacks for which Muslim youth were arrested were later found to be the handiwork of right wing Hindu extremists, In addition to extrajudicial killings and the denial of constitutional rights to large sections of the Muslim population, their increasing marginalization in education, essential services and employment have reached alarming proportions.
IAMC hopes the awareness created by the testimonies of Dr. Najid Hussain and Dr. Angana Chatterji will lead to concrete steps by the Government of India to redress the grievous injustices committed against minorities in Gujarat and other parts of India.
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.
Testimony of Dr. Najid Hussain at the US Congressional Hearing – March 21, 2012
Testimony of Dr. Angana Chatterji at the US Congressional Hearing – March 21, 2012
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on Challenges Facing Minorities in South Asia
Congressional Resolution H.Re.569 – Recognizing the 10th Anniversary of the tragic communal violence in Gujarat, India
Ahsan Jafri Foundation
6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
Gujarat Pogrom of 2002 condemned by City of Harvey, IL Resolution
Wednesday March 28, 2012
The Indian American Muslim Council (https://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has welcomed the passing of a resolution in the City Council of Harvey, Illinois, on the solemn occasion of the tenth anniversary of the horrific mass killings in the state of Gujarat, India. The waves of massacres that engulfed Gujarat starting in February 2002 claimed the lives of over 2,000 people, were accompanied by brutal sexual violence against hundreds of women and displaced over 150,000 people from their homes. Human rights organizations have found that the pogrom was planned in advance and could only have been executed with the active support of the state government.
Council members passed Resolution 2629 unanimously, commemorating the victims of the Gujarat pogrom, during the City Council Meeting on March 26, 2012. The resolution also expressed solidarity with the victims, including those who died in the Godhra train fire on February 27, 2002. Mayor Eric Kellogg presided over the meeting, attended by four other voting council members, as well as members of the public.
The city’s resolution comes in the wake of resolution HRES 569 introduced in the House by Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) calling on the government of Gujarat to restore religious freedom and expressing concern over the state government’s alleged complicity in the mass killings. Indian Americans across the US held nationwide candlelight vigils in March to commemorate the Gujarat pogrom and demand justice and reparation for the victims.
“The Harvey City Council condemns the Gujarat Pogrom of 2002 as a gross violation of human rights and a failure of the law and order machinery in the State of Gujarat,” states the resolution. The Council also expressed concern that “despite worldwide horror and condemnation, the surviving victims have been denied justice and due process.” There have been very few arrests and even fewer convictions arising out of the cases registered during and after the mass killings.
“There are times when events in far-flung parts of the world not only move our hearts, but strengthen our resolve to always stand up for truth and justice. The horrific massacres that took place in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 is one such event,” said Harvey City Mayor Eric Kellogg in a historic speech after the passing of the resolution. “The fact that such horrific violence took place in the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, who was the ambassador of peace and harmony, is especially shameful,” Mayor Kellogg added. He also praised the Indian American community in Harvey for their contributions in the field of relief, charity and social services, and resolved to raise funds for the victims of the Gujarat pogrom.
“The citizens of Harvey have demonstrated their commitment to the values instilled by the great leaders of this nation such as Dr. King and Rosa Parks,” said Jawad Khan, Executive Committee member of IAMC, in his speech at the City Council.
“The resolution passed by the City of Harvey demonstrates that the upholding of human rights and the defense of human dignity are universal concerns that transcend national boundaries and geographic location,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. “The Gujarat Pogrom of 2002 was an attack on our common human values, and the struggle for justice and reparation for the victims is thus an international issue,” added Mr. Khateeb.
The Tom Lantos Commission for Human Rights heard testimonies on March 21, 2012 from two Indian Americans on human rights violations in different parts of India including Gujarat. The testimonies presented a starkly different picture of Gujarat than the one painted by the recent TIME cover story and the Brookings Institution blog article on Narendra Modi.
IAMC has urged the Government of India to address concerns raised by the City of Harvey resolution. The resolution explicitly urges the government “to demonstrate its commitment to the Constitution of India as well to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by safeguarding the human rights of all its citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliations.”
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.
Resolution 2629 passed by City of Harvey
Video of Harvey City Council Meeting that passed resolution 2629
Mayor Eric J Kellogg’s historic speech expressing solidarity with Gujarat victims
Indian American Group welcomes Congressional Resolution on Gujarat Violence of 2002
“We have no orders to save you” – Report by Human Rights Watch
US Congressional Hearing highlights the plight of Indian Minorities, Gujarat victims
Congressional Resolution H.Re.569 – Recognizing the 10th Anniversary of the tragic communal violence in Gujarat, India
Indian Americans across US hold candle-light vigils for Gujarat victims
6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
’02 riot victims, activists testify, in-camera before UN body (Mar 23, 2012, Indian Express)
A clutch of riot victims including Bilkis Bano, activists and lawyers from Gujarat and elsewhere testified in-camera before the United Nations Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Christof Heyns, the rapporteur, was also given various documents and other material which includes four books, a set of eight DVDs including five discs containing the “Tehelka Tapes” and the documentary film Final Solution, a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court, two High Court judgments and “papers and documents on extra-judicial killings and fake encounter murders in Gujarat state submitted by R B Sreekumar”.
Heyns’ mandate “covers all killings that are in violation of international human rights or humanitarian law” and his goal as rapporteur is to “propose specific and constructive reforms to reduce killings and to promote transparency and accountability”. The rapporteur submits a final report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Friday’s consultation included incidents such as the Ishrat Jahan encounter, Samir Khan Pathan’s encounter, 2002 cases, Baroda 2005 cases, Baroda 2008 Ganesh Vsarjan case, killings of particular groups such as Dalits, tribals, human rights defenders and RTI activists.
Besides Bano, those who were scheduled to testify included advocates Mukul Sinha and Anand Yagnik, activists Teesta Setalvad and Manjula Pradeep (from Navsarjan) and Bhikhubhai Jethva, among others.
- Experts concerned over alleged human rights abuses in India (Mar 23, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- US consul general skirts question on visa to Modi (Mar 20, 2012, Rediff)
- Muslims groups express dismay at Time cover story on Narendra Modi (Mar 20, 2012, Economic Times)
- Gujarat riots: SC refuses to interfere on Nanavati summoning Narendra Modi (Mar 26, 2012, Indian Express)
Modi’s role falls within Nanavati probe ambit, argues Manch (Mar 20, 2012, The Hindu)
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Nanavati Commission and the Gujarat government on a petition for summoning Chief Minister Narendra Modi to question him in connection with the 2002 communal riots. A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain and A.K. Dave sought their response in four weeks, on the special leave petition by the Jan Sangharsh Manch against a Gujarat High Court order declining to entertain its plea.
Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the Manch, said Mr. Modi’s role as Chief Minister fell within the ambit of the Commission’s enquiry. The Manch had filed an application before the Commission requesting it to issue summons to seven persons, including Mr. Modi, for inquiring into the role and conduct of the Chief Minister and/or any other Minister in his Council of Ministers, police officers and political and non-political organisations in the Godhra and post-Godhra incidents, which took place between February 27 and May 31, 2002.
The Commission, in its September 18, 2009 order, rejected the plea and this was upheld by the High Court. In its SLP against this order, the Manch said that as the government itself had amended the terms of reference for inquiring into the role and conduct of the Chief Minister and/or any other Minister, police officers and political and non-political organisations, it was absolutely necessary to summon and examine the Chief Minister and other Ministers. Otherwise, the entire amended terms of reference would get nullified.
- Modi turned “Vikas Purush” at the expense of victims, say activists (Mar 18, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Congress rubbishes Gujarat claim (Mar 26, 2012, Indian Express)
- Parties register protest against Narendra Modi’s Pune visit (Mar 19, 2012, DNA India)
- Blow to Modi, Cong wrests Mansa (Mar 22, 2012, Indian Express)
In face-off with Modi, top cop moves SC (Mar 23, 2012, Indian Express)
Senior Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Kuldip Sharma has approached the Supreme Court (SC) demanding that all matters relating his conduct as a civil servant, including his annual confidential ratings (ACRs), be placed before the Governor of Gujarat, or before any other constitutional authority the court may deem fit, because Chief Minister Narendra Modi is acting against him with biased and malafide intentions.
In his petition, Sharma has also urged the the apex court to create an in-built grievance redressal mechanism for civil servants of all-India Services who have fallen foul of the government of the day because of their discharge of lawful duties. Sharma, one of the many Gujarat-cadre IPS officers who are pitted against the Modi government, is presently on central deputation as the additional director general of Bureau of Police Research and Development in New Delhi.
The petition, filed recently, is to come up for hearing at the SC soon. Highlighting instances to support his case, the 1976-batch IPS officer has named Modi as one of the respondents to the petition along with the Union of India and the Gujarat government. In his petition, Sharma has alleged witch-hunt since he performed his duties lawfully, against the whims and diktats of Modi and his “henchman” Amit Shah, who is one of the accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
Sharma has cited instances where he did not follow instructions given by Modi. Some of these are related to the discovery of human skeletons during 2002 riots and the preliminary report in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. Sharma has argued that since his actions in these cases did not go down well with the state government led by Modi, the latter had downgraded his ACR for four years from 2002 to 2007 from “Outstanding” to “Very Good”.
The state government, Sharma has alleged, had always been creating hurdles by holding up vigilance clearance for his central deputation. He had also been issued various showcause notices and a criminal case of murder was registered against him, which was subsequently quashed by the Gujarat High Court. Sharma has also alleged that the state machinery working under Modi made sure he remained under the weight of various litigations. Singh also alleged he was even given a punishment posting as Managing Director of Gujarat Sheep and Wool Development Corporation and there too, he was issued a show-cause notice.
- Hear Sanjiv Bhatt before framing charges, Guj HC tells lower court (Mar 23, 2012, DNA India)
- In this riot case, victims too are standing trial (Mar 20, 2012, Indian Express)
- Sardarpura case acquittals challenged in high court (Mar 21, 2012, DNA India)
- Rajasthan High Court clean chit to Narendra Modi over remarks against Nehru (Mar 20, 2012, Times of India)
After Karnataka, Gujarat MLAs allegedly watch porn in House (Mar 21, 2012, Times of India)
The Gujarat assembly was rocked by its version of the Karnataka-like ‘porngate’ on Wednesday when the Congress party accused two BJP MLAs of watching objectionable material on a tablet yesterday in the house.The two MLAs, Shankar Choudhary of Radhanpur and Jetha Bharwad of Sehera in Panchmahal, have denied the allegations.
A journalist has submitted a video clip which shows the two legislators watching something on a tablet, but it was not clear exactly what. “The claim is baseless and without any truth,” Choudhary later told TOI. “I often draft letters and other official documents in the House just to get some office work done. That is all I was doing when the clip was made.”
The tablet has been handed over to the secretary of the assembly and the speaker has ordered an inquiry to find out exactly what the gadget contained. Forensic experts may be roped in just in case the objectionable material may have been deleted. Choudhary, one of the younger leaders of the BJP in the legislative, also made a statement in the house on the issue on Wednesday afternoon but by then all Congress MLAs had been suspended for the day for protesting loudly and not allowing the house to function.
A Karnataka legislature committee, set up to probe the porngate episode earlier, had given a clean chit to two former ministers who were allegedly caught watching objectionable material in the state assembly. The committee headed by Srishailappa Bidarur absolved CC Patil and Krishna Palemar in its report submitted to the assembly speaker KG Bopaiah in a sealed cover.
- MLAs caught â€˜watching porn’, Speaker sees conspiracy (Mar 22, 2012, Indian Express)
- Now, porngate hits Gujarat Assembly (Mar 22, 2012, The Hindu)
- Gujarat Assembly adjourned after ruckus over BJP porngate (Mar 23, 2012, Indian Express)
- Gujarat porn scandal: BJP MLAs get clean chit (Mar 23, 2012, Rediff)
Prajapati Case: Supreme Court has not held police’s chargesheet as invalid, says high court (Mar 25, 2012, Times of India)
In connection with the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case, Gujarat high court has observed that though the Supreme Court has not accepted the investigation carried out by Gujarat police, it has not held the chargesheet filed by CID (crime) to be invalid at the same time.
Like it did in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, the apex court also transferred the Tulsiram encounter case to CBI after CID (crime) filed a couple of chargesheets against cops from Gujarat and Rajasthan. SC transferred the probe with observation that the investigation carried out by Gujarat police could not be accepted as satisfactory.
In seeking default bail, suspended IPS and then SP of Banaskantha Vipul Agrawal contended that CBI has not filed any chargesheet within stipulated time of six months as granted by the SC. Moreover, SC has refused to accept the investigation and that it means the chargesheets filed by CID (crime) were also not accepted by the SC, he submitted.
In refusing bail to Agrawal, Justice M D Shah observed that the SC has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the matter and that the SC has not quashed the chargesheet filed by the Gujarat state and the cognizance taken by the magistrate. “It is clear that though the SC has not accepted the investigation carried out by the Gujarat Police, it has not held the chargesheet filed in the Court to be invalid,” HC order reads.
CBI has been granted extension to probe this case by the SC till March 28. Meanwhile, another accused in this case, suspended SP Rajkumar Pandian, has dubbed CBI probe as a poor copy of CID (crime). Pandian has been shown as an absconder by CID (crime) in this case despite the fact that he has been lodged in jail for the last five years in connection with the Sohrabuddin encounter case.
- Gujarat HC turns down IPS officer’s bail plea (Mar 21, 2012, DNA India)
- Chargesheet in Prajapati case within a week (Mar 21, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Encounters investigator seeks larger team (Mar 26, 2012, Times of India)
- Soldiers killed 5 in cold blood in J&K: CBI to SC (Mar 19, 2012, IBN)
Communal clashes erupt in Junagarh of Gujarat (Mar 22, 2012, Twocircles.net)
Four persons were wounded in stone pelting and clashes between two communities in Navabander area of Junagarh district in Gujarat on Tuesday. The injured included three elderly persons from the minority community and a police constable – all have been taken to hospital. Additional police force has been deployed in the affected area.
The clash had erupted on a minor issue three days ago but it was sorted out by the intervention of police and elders of both communities but the peace did not last long and on Tuesday following a scuffle between children, two groups again engaged in pitch battle. They pelted stone on each other leaving four persons wounded.
It is reported that the crowd did not even spare ambulance van called by some concerned locals as people were falling wounded. The van was attacked and its panes were broken. The driver of the van fled to safety. However, no new incident was reported on Wednesday. Security has been tightened in and around the area.
- Anger over Gopalgarh probe by CBI (Mar 25, 2012, The Hindu)
- Nude image in English daily leads to communal violence in Kolkata (Mar 20, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Tension in Mumbra over Quran (Mar 24, 2012, Indian Express)
- Tense Tuesday for Kolkata; CM, Muslim leaders call for peace (Mar 21, 2012, Twocircles.net)
Shehla Masood case; BJP MLA to undergo polygraph test again (Mar 23, 2012, The Hindu)
BJP MLA Druv Narayan Singh is likely to undergo lie-detection test again tomorrow in connection with the RTI activist Shehla Masood murder case as the previous attempt by the CBI to carry out the procedure on him did not prove conclusive. Sources in the agency said Singh’s physical parameters did not remain normal during the test on March 14 and, hence, it could not be completed.
They said the agency is likely to carry out the polygraph test on him tomorrow subject to his consent and his medical condition including blood pressure and body temperature remaining normal. The CBI sources said the MLA is “not completely off-radar” in the case. However, the agency has not received any evidence so far which points to his role in the murder of the 38-year old activist.
Mr. Singh had given consent to undergo lie-detection test before a special court in Indore. During the probe, the CBI has found that accused Zahida Parvez had “very close relations” with the MLA, to the extent of obsession, and resented his closeness with Masood, they said. Parvez is currently in judicial custody. From her diary, the sleuths had come to know of several instances where Parvez had noted down her sentiments for Singh and growing resentment towards Masood, the sources said.
While analysing call details of Parvez and her friend and another accused Saba Farooqui, sleuths came across some calls made purportedly to a close aide of Singh soon after Masood was murdered on August 16 outside her house in Koh-e-Fiza locality in Bhopal. Farooqui is also in judicial custody.
- Pathribal killing were murders: CBI to SC (Mar 19, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Trio held for killing woman, burning and chopping body (Mar 23, 2012, Indian Express)
- NHRC probe sought in the killing of 4 boys in Murshidabad (Mar 22, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- IPS officer’s killing: CBI gets driver’s custody (Mar 20, 2012, IBN)
Maoists abduct Odisha MLA (Mar 24, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Even as the Odisha government and the Maoist-backed negotiators are making some progress in their talks for the release of two Italian hostages, the red brigade on Saturday delivered a blow to the discussion process by allegedly abducting a ruling party MLA from Koraput district in Odisha. A tribal MLA of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha was abducted by Maoists in Koraput district in the early hours on Saturday, Koraput Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said. Jhina Hikaka (37) was abducted by more than a hundred armed cadres of Communist Party of India (Maoist) from Tayaput forest areas, about 600 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, when he was returning to Laxmipur at about 3 am from Semiliguda after attending some party works, police said.
While the personal security officer (PSO) and driver of the MLA were allowed to leave, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby forest, about 40 km from here by the ultras at gunpoint, the Koraput Superintendent of Police said. The PSO and driver informed the Laxmipur police station about the incident, Kumar said, adding steps have been initiated to ascertain the whereabouts of the legislator. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik who held a meeting of top police and administrative officials said his government is urgently handling the latest kidnapping. “The suspected Maosists have kidnapped BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka. I have sent two ministers to secure MLA’s release,” said Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik.
“This is a worrisome development(on abduction of Orissa MLA). Negotiations were on to get the release of Italians,” said Jay Panda. The incident happened on a day the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has called shutdown in India protesting against anti-naxal operations and fake cases against people by the police and security forces. “The ultras left some leaflets which said all the 13 demands for Italian hostages’ release should be fulfilled,” said Laxmipur police inspector in charge Suryamani Pradhan. The area where Hikaka was abducted borders Parbatipuram in Andhra Pradesh. The Koraput-Srikakulam divisional committee of the CPI (Maoist) is alleged to be behind the abduction of Hikaka.
The abduction of Hikaka has delivered a blow to the ongoing negotiation process for the release of two Italian nationals, Basusco Paolo (55) and Claudio Colangelo (60), who were abducted by Maoists from Kandhamal district, about 300 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, on March 14. The Italians are in Maoists’ captivity for the last 11 days. It is not yet known if the latest kidnapping will jeopardize the talk process. The rebels have committed the latest crime even if they had declared unilateral ceasefire before the start of negotiation. The rebels had earlier shot dead a police sub inspector in the district of Malkangiri, a Maoists strong hold, late Thursday even as the talks were on.
The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members on Saturday created an uproar in Odisha assembly over the abduction of a tribal member by Maoists. The members shouted slogans against the government and trooped towards the speaker as soon as the question hour started. They were noisy even when chief minister Naveen Patnaik tried to read out a statement. Patnaik said state police officials had been sent to the area. He added that two senior ministers would also go to the region to assess the situation.
- Odisha hostage crisis: Maoists free one Italian tourist (Mar 25, 2012, Times of India)
- Maoist kill sub-inspector in Odisha’s Malkangiri district (Mar 22, 2012, Rediff)
- Kishanji’s letters recovered with IEDs and explosives (Mar 20, 2012, Times of India)
- Naxals expand reach to Punjab, Delhi, Northeast (Mar 25, 2012, Asian Age)
Delhi court dismisses godman’s plea to drop MCOCA charges (Mar 26, 2012, Twocircles.net)
The Delhi High Court Monday dismissed a plea by ‘godman’ Shiv Murat Dwivedi, accused of running a prostitution ring in south Delhi, seeking to drop the case under MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) against him. Dwivedi alias Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj Chitrakoot Wale, was arrested Feb 26, 2010 along with seven others, including six women, from Saket in south Delhi.
Justice Suresh Kait, noting that Dwivedi was involved in as many as five cases under various offences, said: “In my considered opinion, the case in hand qualifies as required under the MCOCA, therefore, the charges framed by the trial court against Shiv Murat Dwivedi are proper.”
“He has invested in various insurance policies, purchased property in various places including Delhi, constructed a four and a half storied home, living in lavish lifestyle and has properties worth crores without any known sources of income,” the court said while pointing out the lavish lifestyle of Dwivedi and refused to drop MCOCA charges against him.
The self-styled godman is being tried under the stringent provisions of MCOCA. The police had also chargesheeted him under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act. Dwivedi is alleged to have made crores of rupees through his prostitution racket and he also ran a website to invite new customers, as his business had spread to all parts of the country. Dwivedi allegedly had 50 to 60 girls working directly under him and had access to nearly 500 others through his contacts.
- Sexual harassment case against cop takes a turn (Mar 25, 2012, The Hindu)
- 2 get death sentence in Pune girl’s rape and murder (Mar 20, 2012, Indian Express)
- 10-year-old girl gangraped in Meerut (Mar 25, 2012, Times of India)
- Pipili rape victim critical, on ventilator (Mar 20, 2012, IBN)
Dalits stage stir against cops (Mar 25, 2012, Deccan Herald)
The members of Dalit community came down heavily against the city police commissionerate for cancelling the monthly Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe grievance meet which was scheduled to be held on Sunday, without giving prior intimation. A verbal tiff took place between the Dalits who had assembled at Commissionerate premises and the police officers for the cancellation of the meeting. Dalit Sangharsh Samiti President S P Anand alleged that the police have not solved several cases of Dalits. “The Commissionerate has not organised the meeting as they have not followed up the issues that were discussed in the previous meeting. You can not organise the meeting when ever you wish, but it should be held on last Sunday of every month,” he said.
Responding to their allegation, ACP T R Jagannath said the meeting was cancelled as the commissionerate has decided to hold station-level meetings in Dalit colonies. Dalita Hakkugala Horata Samiti Secretary Lingappa Nanthoor said that supplementing the monthly grievance meet with the colony meetings was not justifiable. “Let the colony meeting be organised separately and the monthly grievance meet should be held as usual.” He also questioned the police for not fulfilling the assurances made in the last meeting. “We were promised that we would be informed about the follow up of all the cases within 15 days of the last meeting. It has been a month now but we have not been informed about the proceedings. You have cancelled the meeting now and how do we know the status of the cases,” he questioned.
Though ACP and Pandeshwar Inspector K Tilakchandra tried to convince the group, the community leaders strongly urged that the meeting should be held on the same day. At one point, ACP warned of arresting the crowd, for which the community leaders said they would not mind if they are arrested. Later, the Dalit leaders agreed to meet the DCP and discuss the matter with him. In the meeting, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Mutthuraya decided to hold the monthly grievance meet on April 1.
- Uthapuram judgment, a milestone in Dalit struggle (Mar 24, 2012, The Hindu)
- Two dalit girls in Madhya Pradesh stripped in examination hall (Mar 24, 2012, Times of India)
- Dalits to protest against â€˜diversion’ of funds (Mar 24, 2012, The Hindu)
- Woman killed for marrying lower caste man (Mar 14, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Opinions and Editorials
An Aarti From Time, A Brookings Chalisa – By Anil Dharker, Cyrus Guzder, Nandan Maluste, Teesta Setalvad (Apr 2, 2012, Outlook)
Narendra Modi is no doubt a successful politician. There is almost a special kind of luck that accompanies him in the public domain, luck that can be explained in two decisive electoral victories and the attraction that follows such success. He is constantly in the news and a set of those who fear and adulate the man suggest that the more the institutions of justice berate him, the more his TRP soars. News constantly props up the picture of a decisive chief minister. Last week, Time had him on the cover and Brookings Institution had a favourable report on him. There is a curious timing behind these reports. They hint that he is prime ministerial material and that a realistic sense of politics demands that one engage with the emerging Indian future. One can match statistics with statistics to show that Modi’s achievement is exaggerated, that other states have done well or that GNP and GDP could take contrary turns in Gujarat. One can say, for instance, that in the five years between 2004-05 and 2009-10, Gujarat’s per capita income nearly doubled from Rs 32,021 to Rs 63,961. In the same period, neighbouring Maharashtra, the perceived laggard, saw its per capita income grow from Rs 35,915 to Rs 74,027. Several states besides Gujarat have shown double digit growth in their GDP in recent years, and Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have bigger economies. Gujarat now runs a revenue deficit – it spends more than it earns – and its surplus has disappeared. Several other states have improved their fiscal positions meanwhile. Reforms? Five states passed the Fiscal Responsibility Bill before Gujarat did in 2005, and 20 states preceded Gujarat in implementing VAT. Surplus power? Facts on the ground and increasing protests show this to be an exaggerated claim. Human development indicators?
Gujarat lags behind in access to primary and higher education, is high on the percentage of population prone to hunger and starvation, access to fiscal credit among the marginalised is low, girl child schooling shows poor figures. State and central government figures support all this. We think there is also a different way of responding – by asking what is the criteria for decency and well-being? One has to go to the structural roots of the argument, move beyond a gasping portrait of Modi already basking in a future at Lutyens’ Delhi. Time magazine’s two-page picture of Modi on the lawns is suggestive of that. It is as if the props are there, the script is also there, the players are waiting, and all one needs is an auspicious time. The Brookings essay on Modi goes one better and writes him a certificate of good conduct that would help revoke the ban on his US visa. For Brookings, banning a future prime minister would be bad politics. Time cites a social scientist in a preemptive act, a jumping of the gun proclaiming a once and future king before the democratic and legal process is over. Indian courts are yet to assess whether the evidence collected by investigators and assessed by the amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court can make out a case to prosecute Modi, his cabinet colleagues, ideologues, administrators and policemen. The charges are criminal culpability to conspire to commit mass murder, subvert the justice process and destroy critical evidence and records.
Why then, we may ask, the unholy haste by Time magazine and the Brookings Institution when courts are seized of the matter, Modi could (or may not) be charge-sheeted for criminal offences, when general elections are nearly two years away? The analysis presented states that Muslims are voting for Modi as the Congress is too weak to do anything for them. The question one has to ask is: Is such a lazy social science enough? Which section of Muslims is voting for Modi? Two, is a vote for Modi a legitimation of Modi or is it a shotgun wedding of a community that is desperate to survive and see that its people still wrongfully locked in jail are released? Anyone who watched the Sadbhavna festival would realise that the Muslims who came were paying court to a king. There was no rapprochement, no forgiveness. If anything, the ritual expressed its distance from Muslim life. The Sadbhavna yatra was more a power game like ancient times where people swore fealty to the lord. The state government, in the ultimate display of control, has refused activists access to accounts of the public monies spent on an autocratic chief minister’s personal agenda. One has to read the metaphors of the Time report. Modi is presented as wearing the white of a penitent embarking on fasts. The writer, Jyoti Thottam, suggests it’s an act of purification, humility and bridge-building. To read Modi’s Sadbhavna fasts in this way insults the idea of fast as a moral weapon and confuses it for a strategic tool. White, anyway, is the most hypocritical colour of politicians. The question one has to ask before one uses words like humility and purity is: What is the moral nature of the act? But Modi should not be seen only a personality. He is a Rorschach inkblot set before society, provoking basic questions. Modi, in terms of civic indicators like investment, rule of law and governance is scoring high. These statistics have been rigorously contested in the public domain, by the Gujarati media, by the opposition, even the state government’s own figures. And what about the CAG reports on Sufalam Sujalam project, the Kutch melas and the public disinvestment scams? A dispassionate assessment exposes the Modi makeover for the brazen public relations job it was meant to be.
And then how does one look at and talk about his institution-building? He has refused to allow the Lokayukta to function freely. He has silenced the bureaucracy with threats, incentives of plum posts, juicy extensions that let senior bureaucrats retain power and visibility. His privatisation of medicine has to be independently assessed in terms of ethics, care, cost and well-being. Ahmedabad, home to at least four universities and some of the finest institutes, still cannot produce a critical debate on him, as many institutes have quietly imposed a gag order on dissenting intellectuals. The Congress, though weak as an opposition, has highlighted a major issue. Land is being bequeathed to major corporations like Tatas and Adanis on easy terms, transforming public lands into private goods. At the Gujarati taxpayer’s expense. The Brookings narrative adds a second halo to Modi. It converts him tacitly from a politician to a statesman receiving courses on climate change and even writing a book on it. Behind both essays is an even more tacit semiotics. It is what we must call the Americanisation of Modi. It creates a political palatability to his reception abroad. Leave aside the American’s love of the Asian dictator with a keen and ready investment plan, there is first the Horatio Alger syndrome, portraying him as a self-made man, as a protestant ascetic, a journey Time portrays in the from-smalltown-boy-to-CEO-of-Gujarat, succeeding without family connections or fancy education. He seems very different from the young Congress elite, with their pampered backgrounds. Unlike other Indians, he keeps his family at a distance.
There is no family coterie hanging around him, unlike around Laloo Prasad Yadav or Karunanidhi or Yediyurappa. The Brookings report then steps in by showing Modi to be a keen student of American politics, wondering whether Indian states can have the sort of freedom states in the United States do. He is entrepreneurly, eco-friendly, and all in all, a global man awaiting his time, open to World Bank reforms and yet a home-grown nationalist. Modi is also presented not just as prime ministerial material but as the Indian answer to China, a note that will play deep into the American and Indian psyche, presenting them a streamlined politician for the future. The question one is asking is not whether Modi is a future prime minister. The logic of Indian electoral politics will answer that. The question is: Where does Modi fit into a vision of decent society in which the minorities and those in the margins have a place, in which dissent has a place? Is Modi’s future a participative future and a pluralistic one? His technocratic credentials are not in doubt, but his vision of democracy needs to be examined. Oddly, Modi might fail by the norms set by his own hero, Swami Vivekananda. Modi has failed to provide a civilisational answer to the crisis of Gujarat. Investment and development, even with the distorted statistics bandied around, are poor substitutes for such a vision. In Americanising him, the reports reveal the modernist flaw deep within his programme.
- Method in madness – By R.B Sreekumar (Feb 28, 2012, Deccan Chronicle)
- Low Morale of Gujarat Police Needs Remedial Action – By R.B Sreekumar (Mar 19, 2012, Countercurrents)
Kafkaesque ordeal? – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Mar 24, 2012, Frontline)
An uneasy silence fills the streets of B.K. Dutt Colony near the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Named after the revolutionary freedom fighter Batukeshwar Dutt, who, along with Bhagat Singh, threw bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929, the nondescript colony has been in the news with the arrest of one of its residents, who has lived here for the past 11 years. At 11-30 a.m. on March 7, the day after the results of the elections to five State Assemblies were announced, the Special Cell of the Delhi Police whisked away Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, 50, a journalist with more than 25 years of standing, as he emerged out of the India Islamic Centre in New Delhi. Kazmi coordinated personality development and communication skills activities of the Noble Education Foundation there. An accredited journalist and a former Urdu newsreader with the government broadcaster Doordarshan, he was arrested for his alleged role in the “sticky car bomb” incident at Aurangazeb Road in New Delhi on February 13, wherein the wife of the Israeli Defence Attachï¿½ in India and two others were injured. Preliminary investigations had shown that the blast was caused by a magnetic device stuck to a car. Kazmi was tagged a conspirator in international terrorism, booked in a case of non-bailable offence under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and remanded in police custody for 20 days. The arrest of a senior and respected journalist like Kazmi under a stringent law drew widespread reaction from within and outside the journalist fraternity. He wrote regular columns in leading Urdu newspapers such as Al-Ahmeen, Sahafat, Milli Gazette and the Rashtriya Sahara Urdu. He is proficient in Arabic, Urdu and Persian. He also has a Master’s in geography and Persian and has studied mass communication. His first foray into journalism was as an operator with All India Radio in 1988. His multilingual skills landed him a job later with a popular news programme on Doordarshan, where he worked with veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi.
In 1990, Kazmi joined Media Star News and Features. Three years later, he was reading Urdu news on Doordarshan. In 1999, he travelled to the United States along with other senior journalists. In 2002-03, the then Director General of Doordarshan was keen that Indian journalists should cover world affairs. As a result of this, some of them, including Kazmi, got postings in West Asia. In this period he interviewed Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress and former Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. In 2002, the Iraqi government invited him along with several journalists to that country. Those who travelled with him recall that in Amman, where the team, which included a Congress Member of Parliament, was to travel by road to Baghdad, the Jordanian intelligence, Mukbarat, interrogated Kazmi, after it mistook him for an Iraqi agent. He was thoroughly rattled by that incident. He covered the Gulf war for Worldview India, a programme that Saeed Naqvi had started on Doordarshan. While he was covering the war, the Iraqis once mistook him to be an American agent. Kazmi also had brief stints with the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA, the state news agency of Iran. “He was friendly with everybody and his Iranian connections were well known. He used to attend press conferences at the Israeli embassy too,” said a journalist. “He had contacts in Najaf and Teheran, and recently he was invited, along with several other journalists, to Syria,” Saeed Naqvi told Frontline. He said Kazmi should have been considered an asset by the Indian government as he would have put them across to several people in Iran.
Kazmi visited Syria twice in the recent past. He was able to dig out information that did not fit in with the image of Syria that had been created by reports in the Western media, said a journalist. “International wars are being fought today in the media. The Indian media were not there and Kazmi, because of his contacts and his language skills, was able to penetrate areas and uncover issues that were not easily visible,” said a journalist who knew Kazmi closely. One of his visits to Syria was a week after the “sticky bomb” incident. He went there along with a team of reputed journalists on an invitation from the Syrian government. Like several other individuals, including Muslim and non-Muslim journalists, he held passionate views on the Palestinian issue and was critical of the imperialist interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and, more recently, Libya and Syria. Upon his return from Syria recently, he was singled out and detained by immigration officials. He was very upset, a journalist recalled. As was his normal practice, Kazmi was returning home for lunch and to offer namaz when he was arrested. A devout Muslim, he was not apologetic about his religious beliefs. In fact, on the day of the car bomb blast on Aurangazeb Road, he was on Akbar Road, protesting against an alleged land-grabbing incident involving the Shah-e-Mardaan shrine located near his home. The shrine was revered by Shia Muslims; it was not unnatural for Kazmi to take part in such a protest. “My father asked us not to do anything that would put oneself or the family to shame. Do you think he is the kind of a person who would do something like this?” asked his 18-year-old son, who was appearing for his 12th Class board examinations. The youngster was distraught at the manner in which the authorities treated his father.
Meanwhile, reports were being planted in sections of the media that Kazmi had “admitted” to his guilt. This was after the spokesperson for the police clarified that Kazmi was not directly involved in the attack. He was instead accused of providing logistical support to the main suspect, apparently a motorcyclist who attached the magnetic “sticky bomb” to the car of the Israeli embassy staffer. The man’s whereabouts have remained mysteriously unknown. The police told a local court where Kazmi was produced that the attack was a case of international terrorism and that the conspiracy was hatched outside India. Interestingly, for an attack in which there were no fatalities, the Delhi Police were seen working very hard. That there was immense international pressure to make arrests and produce results was not lost on anyone. Only last month had Israel accused Iran and the Hizbollah of having engineered two bomb attacks targeting Israeli embassy staff in Georgia and Israel. Serial explosions in Bangkok around the same time, in which an Iranian was killed, were also linked to Iranian terrorism. The Delhi Police have maintained that the Delhi and Bangkok blasts are unrelated. Born in a family of poor farmers in Dholri village in Meerut district, Uttar Pradesh, Kazmi was the only one among his 10 siblings to have made it big in life. “He struggled a lot, but he was determined to give us a good education,” his son told Frontline. Both his sons were born in Delhi. The family had earlier stayed at Welcome Colony in Shahdara, East Delhi, an area not known for being upmarket. The unassuming dwelling in a narrow lane in B.K. Dutt Colony too speaks volumes about a family that came up the hard way.
His elder son broke down like a child while addressing a press conference in Delhi. In normal circumstances, the 23-year-old, who has completed a Master’s course in Business Administration, would have been looking for a job rather than addressing press conferences or signing arrest memos. “My brother had not got the kind of exposure to a relatively better environment as I did. I studied in Shahdara for only a few years before our family shifted to B.K. Dutt Colony,” said the younger son, who is studying in a well-known public school in the locality. The question was why Kazmi would jeopardise all of this, especially his future and that of his children. Uncertainty looms large in the Kazmi residence. The family is yet to get over the shock at the manner of his arrest. The family members told Frontline that they panicked when there was no news from him until 9-30 p.m. on March 7. His phone was switched off. Soon, a posse of plainclothes policemen came to the house with Kazmi. “I was studying for my examinations in the room on the ground floor when I heard some voices. I thought my father had returned. I went upstairs. I saw my father along with some people. I initially thought they were my father’s friends. They were looking for something. My brother was out. I asked them, ‘Uncle, what are you doing?’ My father then said that they were policemen and that they were making inquiries relating to issues involving Israel and Iran and that he would be back soon. The policemen who were seven or eight in number began randomly searching the house. They took away all his original documents, including his PIB [Press Information Bureau] card, passport, two laptops, a CPU and two cellphones, including one belonging to my mother,” he said. â€¦ When contacted by Frontline, Rajan Bhagat, spokesperson for the Delhi Police, declined to say anything relating to the Kazmi case.
- Why no CBI probe into murder of family in Madhya Pradesh? – By S. Viswanathan (Mar 26, 2012, The Hindu)
- Lawyers’ strike – By Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed (Mar 24, 2012, Frontline)
When leaders play game of thrones – By Rana Ayyub (Mar 31, 2012, Tehelka)
Former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa’s rebellion and the ongoing face-off is symptom of a much deeper crisis within the BJP and the RSS. And the man feeling the most heat on this is party chief Nitin Gadkari. In itself, the Yeddyurappa decision is tricky enough for the party. BSY – as he is referred to – is not a quintessential RSS man and is not very rooted in its Hindutva ideology. However, as is commonly known, the former chief minister is a powerful Lingayat leader and was highly instrumental in the BJP coming to power for the first time in a southern state. He also has the support of several influential mutts. Further, though the Lokayukta’s corruption charges against him proved to be a huge embarrassment, his capacity to generate money for the party’s coffers had many pragmatic uses. With the high court quashing the FIR against him, his demand to be reinstated as chief minister is very difficult to ignore. His show of strength – 70 MLAs stacked in a hotel room – add greater urgency to that demand. However, the decision whether Yeddyurappa is to be reinstated is not entirely contingent on the dynamics of Karnataka alone. The incumbent Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda is deemed to be a financially honest but a highly ideological man. He flaunts his RSS moorings unabashedly and, in an unprecedented move for a sitting chief minister, he recently attended a public meeting in the RSS signifier of white shirt tucked into khaki shorts (Read Hindutva 2.0 by Rana Ayyub, 25 February.)
Who the RSS eventually chooses to bet on will reflect the answer they pick to a bigger riddle the Sangh Parivar is grappling with: what is the correct strategy in the run-up to the crucial Assembly elections in Gujarat this year, Karnataka next year and the 2014 Lok Sabha polls? Is it to be “development” or the old Hindutva line? Which is likely to pay better dividends? This was the core discussion in the three-day Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS held over 15-17 March in Nagpur, under the aegis of RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat and his second-incommand Bhaiyyaji Joshi. Sources say Gadkari, who was summoned to brief the chiefs, came out none the wiser. No one in the party or indeed the RSS brass, is clear about what line to take. (The new mantra, if there is one at all, is “corporate Hindutva”.) A concept that has played well in Gujarat, a state that too has had its glaring share of contradictions. While the RSS tried to send in a strong signal to Narendra Modi over his defiance in not campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, the Sangh mouthpiece didn’t waste time in lauding him recently for his model of governance in Gujarat after the UP election. Gujarat and Karnataka (both states where Hindutva has been the core of governance) will be the litmus not just for the BJP, but more for the Sangh. In Gujarat, the Sangh, for now seems to have taken its call, by giving Modi a free hand.
In Karnataka, Gadkari has been given a juggler’s task. He has to placate BSY with the promise of making him election in-charge of the state and bringing in a deputy chief minister or in the worst situation for the RSS, make him or let him have a say in the CM’s position. At the same time, Gadkari has to keep Gowda in his seat and also open lines to the opposition JD(S), so that, in the event that Yeddyurappa breaks away from the BJP, the JD(S) can help maintain the numbers to keep the party in power. People close to Gadkari say neither he nor the RSS know what their own larger agenda is. Apparently, Gadkari even offered to wash his hands of the issue and step down out of sheer frustration but the RSS declined. In a sense, the older guard in the BJP is enjoying Gadkari’s consternation. The decision to make 54-year-old Gadkari the chargï¿½ d’affaires of the party in December 2009 was met with stunned silence by senior party functionaries. But an adamant RSS had cracked the whip on senior leaders LK Advani and Jaswant Singh and put to rest all speculation. The man at the top had to be their boy. There were rumblings in the party ranks. How could a man, who was himself chieftain of a warring faction in Maharashtra, glue together an already fissured party? But the RSS believed Gadkari had the answers. He was low-key, rooted, and spoke the correct mix of development and corporate wooing, while retaining his Hindutva core.
CIRCA 2012, however, much of that has changed. The election results in four states have not been encouraging for the party. In UP, particularly, its number of seats has come down. Gadkari is being forced to take the rap for all of this. It was under his instruction, prompted of course by the RSS brass, that Sanjay Joshi, Modi’s bete noire, had been made election in-charge of UP. Clearly that had worked no magic. Now in Karnataka, he has the unenviable task of facing down BSY, who was once his friend. He had invited BSY to Nagpur for an interaction with senior leaders but the Karnataka strongman did not show up. Three weeks ago, while Gadkari was visiting the state, he had to face a rather defiant BSY. An embarrassed Gadkari sent a strong warning to Yeddyurappa when he said at a meeting, “Those who wish to do business with the Reddy brothers can take a sabbatical from politics. Right now, we need people to work for the party.” However, as soon as he walked out of the meeting, he told the media that all is well with BSY. “Yeddyurappaji is a popular leader and will be given a suitable position,” he said. “Sadananda Gowda will continue to be the CM.”
This has, of course, not stopped BSY’s friends and followers in the state, including Energy Minister Shobha Karandlaje, indirectly referring to Gowda as ‘Mir Sadiq’ (Mir Sadiq had betrayed Tipu Sultan by siding with the British). However, the Karnataka crisis is only the face of another larger gameplay in the party. The RSS seems keen to clip the wings of the warring senior guard. The recent nominations for the Rajya Sabha are a case in point. Kirit Somaiyya and Ram Naik from Maharashtra, who are known to be close to Advani, were not nominated. Neither was SS Ahluwalia, who is close to Sushma Swaraj, given another term. Instead, Gadkari, alias the RSS, picked Ajay Sancheti, even though he is implicated in the Adarsh Housing Society scam, where it appeared his driver had owned a flat. “What’s the point of holding Gadkari responsible for all this?” asks a senior party leader. “He’s the goongi gudiya (dumb puppet) of the BJP. He’s just following the orders of the Sangh.” What’s hanging in the balance this week, therefore, is not just the fate of Gowda and Yeddyurappa, but Gadkari himself, the BJP and the RSS’ comeback.
- Election shocks – By Kanchan Chandra (Mar 24, 2012, Frontline)
- The Citrus Blight – By Saba Naqvi, Sugata Srinivasaraju (Apr 2, 2012, Outlook)
- Whither identity politics? – By Kanchan Chandra (Mar 24, 2012, Frontline)
Student, Activist, Naxalite? Framed! – By Imran Khan (Mar 31, 2012, Tehelka)
The story of Vittala is uncannily similar to Lingaram Kodopi. On 10 September 2011, Kodopi, a tribal journalist from Chhattisgarh, was arrested and falsely accused of being a Maoist. Vittala’s story is no different. The 22-year-old tribal, a first-year student of Mass Communication and Journalism from Mangalore University and his father were arrested from their house by the elite anti-Naxal force (ANF) of the Karnataka Police on charges of aiding Maoists. Son of a farmer and a Malekudiya, a Scheduled Tribe community in the Western Ghats, Vittala is the only member from his community to have carved a name for himself in the world outside the jungles. How a young educated Adivasi could become a threat to Indian democracy is an intriguing account of presumptions and half-truths. Vittala’s present predicament dates back to 2009, when DYFI leader Muneer Katipalla and a group of mediapersons from Mangalore had visited the Kuthloor hamlet, 60 km from Mangalore, to do a series of stories on the plight of the Malekudiyas. The young tribal had then assisted the group, helping them trek through thick foliage. Impressed by his earnestness to study, Muneer and a few journalists decided to fund his education and help him go to college – a dream that came crashing down on 3 March when Vittala and his father were booked by the ANF for allegedly helping the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). His brother Purushottam, 19, is absconding. All three were charged with waging a war against the State; an offence that carries a maximum punishment of death. “The case against Vittala is completely fabricated,” says DYFI leader Muneer. “He was working for the empowerment of the Malekudiyas, making them aware of the administration’s misleading packages for eviction. This led to his arrest.”
The Malekudiyas inhabit part of the Kudremukh Wildlife Sanctuary. As part of Project Tiger, the tribals are being relocated from the sanctuary land to avoid human-animal conflict. While 20 families have accepted the relocation package of Rs 10 lakh and moved out of Kuthloor, the remaining 40 are resisting relocation. According to Vittala’s mother Honnama, 45, on 2 March around 6.30 pm, the ANF barged into their house and started beating up her husband Linganna, 50, who fractured his ankle. Vittala was visiting his relatives during that time. When he was informed of what had happened, he immediately rushed home. “Since it takes two hours of trekking through the jungle, he could reach home only the next morning,” says one of Vittala’s journalist friends on condition of anonymity. “We didn’t expect him to get arrested.” Vittala and his father have been booked under Sections 10 and 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and under Sections 34 and 121 of the Indian Penal Code. During the search of the house, the police claims to have found handbills, paper cuttings on Naxal issues, binoculars and other related materials. “The binoculars recovered from him were purchased four years ago during the Laksha Deepotsava festival in Dharmasthala,” says Vittala’s friends. “The handbills were of DYFI programmes and other than that, the police recovered 250 gm of tea and sugar from his house.”
Earlier in 2005, a study by the Samajawadi Adhyayana Kendra (Centre for Socialist Studies), Bengaluru, on the socio-economic problems in the Naxal-affected Malnad area, had concluded that feudalism and economic disparity, which gave rise to Naxalism in other states, are not found in the Malnad area. The area covers the western and eastern slopes of the Western Ghats mountain range and portions of Shimoga, Chikkamaguluru, Uttara Kannada, Hassan and Kodagu districts. The study cautioned about the apprehension among forest dwellers, especially the Malekudiyas, about not being allowed to collect forest produce and getting evicted from wildlife sanctuaries. Naxalism grew in Malnad on the issue of eviction. The Maoist party (then People’s War Group) under Saketh Rajan conducted a survey in 2000 to assess whether conditions in the Western Ghats were conducive to Naxals. SOCOMA (Social Conditions in Malnad, Karnataka), as it came to be known, found that forest coverage allowed the group easy access to the region. But over the years, the movement has declined to the point of almost disappearing, especially after the death of Rajan in 2005. “The actual number of Naxals in this area is not much,” says IGP Alok Kumar, head of the anti-Naxal force in Karnataka. “There are no real issues in Karnataka for them to take a strong ground.” Echoing similar sentiments, Muneer says, “Naxals have lost steam. There are no takers for the movement among the Adivasis. Then, why is the ANF unnecessarily creating problems by harassing innocent people?”
As a student with Mangalore University, Vittala had joined the SFI and later became the state committee member of the Budakattu Adivasi Samavesha Samithi, a tribal wing of the CPM that fights for the rights of Dalits and Adivasis in this region. The government and the police are wary of the possibility of a movement against Project Tiger under the banner of the samithi. But, does that justify Vittala’s arrest? In what can only be described as a shocking violation of the landmark Supreme Court judgment of 2011, in which the apex court had ruled that membership of a banned organisation by itself is not a crime, the FIR against Vittala seems to rest on flimsy evidence. “The news came as a shock to me,” says Wahida Sultana, Chairman of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Mangalore University. “During the time he studied here, we found nothing to suggest that he had any sympathy for the Maoist cause.”
However, Mangalore IGP CH Pratap Reddy says that even though the movement has lost its popular support, the area has strategic value for the Maoists to conduct training programmes and to ease mobilisation of troops from other states. “We arrested Vittala based on the inputs we received from the intelligence wing and the ANF,” says Reddy. “The local police is investigating the case. We are not denying he is a journalism student, but we are acting based on credible intelligence.” Vittala’s friends in the media and civil rights activists say that he has been framed. A friend working for an English daily laments that even if he is given a clean chit by the police, the stigma of being a suspected Maoist will ruin Vittala’s future. “He didn’t want to be just another farmer or hunter. Even if he comes clean, who is going to give him a job now?” As Vittala finds the needle of suspicion pointed towards him, a strong case could be made for the manufactured truth of the charges against him. Meanwhile, the ambitious Adivasi waits for justice.
- Maoist in the net – By Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay (Mar 24, 2012, Frontline)
- Why is this woman still in jail? – By Tehelka (Mar 31, 2012, Tehelka)
Koodankulam: Police Forces Withdrawn But PMANE Vows To Fight On – By Jeemon Jacob (Mar 24, 2012, Countercurrents)
The Tirunelveli district administration has decided to withdraw police forces from Koodankulam after the Madras high court ordered officials to reinstate supply of milk, water and power to Idinthakarai. However, leaders of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) insist that the struggle will continue. “We welcome the government’s decision to withdraw the police forces. But they were forced to do it after the high court order. We will continue our struggle till they shut down the plant,” says PMANE leader Pushparayan Victoria, who is among those observing a hunger strike.
Earlier, the state government informed the high court that there were no oppressive measures or government-sponsored sanctions against those living in Idinthakarai, the epicentre of the anti-nuke struggle. After the high court order, Tirunelveli District Collector R Selvaraj directed the police to withdraw its personnel. “We have scaled down the forces after reviewing the situation. We can position the forces within short notice in case of emergency,” Selvaraj told TEHELKA.
A government official told TEHELKA that the district administration was left with no choice after the high court order was issued. “We don’t want any negative publicity. If the high court strikes down Section 144 imposed in Radhapuram taluk, we will lose face,” said the official, on the condition of anonymity, adding that the media overplayed the issue and the court took serious note.
Meanwhile, PMANE leaders welcomed the decision of withdrawing the police forces. “We are not waging war against the government. It was the Tamil Nadu government which declared war on the people of Idinthakarai,” said PMANE convener SP Udayakumar. “If they have realised their mistake, we are happy. However, police offensive or repressive measures won’t kill our movement.” Even though the police withdrew forces from strategic locations such as Vairavikinaru and Tsunami Colony, a small force is still stationed in front of the nuke plant.
- The Koodankulam Conundrum – Editorial (Mar 31, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- The tide rises against Amma – By Jeemon Jacob (Mar 31, 2012, Tehelka)
The anatomy of a Rape – By Nishita Jha and Others (Mar 31, 2012, Tehelka)
Like last week, each time a woman is raped, there is a peculiar kind of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that stories around it take on. As if the 23-year-old girl who worked for a pub in Gurgaon inhabited another universe. In which these things happen. The precise way in which news of the rape is received by a society and the way it is discussed are often a fairly accurate and disturbing gauge of its people and how they think. Why are the conversations around a rape focussed on the victim rather than the perpetrators? Do we care to know anything about the seven men from Rohtak in Haryana? Why is the way a woman dresses important to this discussion? Or questions raised about women being out at night?
These are the conversations that do come up. The ones that do not are far more disturbing. For those, turn to Nishita Jha’s conversation with a rape victim who was asked repeatedly in court to describe the number of times she was penetrated and the size of the rapist’s erection. Turn also to Brijesh Pandey’s candid conversations with a policeman, and with a village elder of a hamlet in Noida who believes that if a couple is dating, then the girl is asking for trouble.
Or Revati Laul’s conversations with the chairperson of the National Commission for Women who believes what a woman wears is not the primary, but definitely an issue in a rape. All of these conversations dovetail into one large question underlying this special report – when will we change the way we talk about rape? The woman in Gurgaon and thousands of others who have been raped know something we don’t. If we continue to talk the way we do, we are all part of the ugly anatomy of rape and changing our conversations around it is the only way it can actually begin to change.
- Dignity is her birthright – By Prabha Sridevan (Mar 24, 2012, The Hindu)