IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 13th, 2013
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Modi ignored appeal to stop riots: Yechury
- Wherever Narendra Modi campaigned in Karnataka, BJP lost: Congress
- HC slams Gujarat govt for shielding cop in Ishrat case
- 3 arrests in Latur bus blast case
- 7/11 accused exposes police’s ‘serial witness’
- Gujarat high court comes to the rescue of a Muslim businessman
- How the Centre and police have shielded Sajjan Kumar since 1984
- CBI a ‘caged parrot’, ‘heart’ of Coalgate report changed: Supreme Court
- Sub-inspector caught taking Rs 10K bribe
- RPF constable held for raping son’s wife
Opinions & Editorials
- US: No Entry For Mr. Modi – By Ram Puniyani
- How Many Skeletons Can He Fit In His Closet? – By Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
- How The Southern Portal Crashed – By Imran Qureshi
- Will The Biases About Terrorists Remain Permanent? – By Ram Puniyani
- A community does some soul-searching on 1984 cases – By Chander Suta Dogra
- The unravelling – Editorial
CPM leader and Rajya Sabha member Sitaram Yechury has alleged that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had ignored his call for action to stop the 2002 riots. Recalling his visit to Ahmedabad along with MPs Amar Singh, Shabana Azmi and Raj Babbar on March 1, 2002, when riots erupted in several locations in the city and the state, Yechury said the group had made a telephone call to Modi after witnessing the tense situation.
“I had conveyed our concern and appealed to Modi to put an end to the riots. But that appeal did not fall on receptive ears,” Yechury said on Tuesday speaking at a discussion on ‘Dangers of communal mobilisation and targeted violence’ organised by Communalism Combat and Sahmat.
“The full gravity of the situation in Gujarat during the riots is still not known,” Yechury added. The meet discussed the protest petition against a SpecialInvestigation Team’s clean chit to Modifiled before a local court in Ahmedabad on April 15 by Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsaan Jafri who was killed in the Gulberg Society massacre.
- SC steps in, HC revokes transfer of magistrate hearing Zakia plea (May 12, 2013, Indian Express)
- Go to high court, SC tells SIT in Gulberg Society carnage (May 11, 2013, Business Standard)
- SC declines to stay Centre’s minority scholarship scheme in Gujarat (May 7, 2013, The Hindu)
- National Commission for Minorities seeking meet with Gujarat CM for over a year (May 7, 2013, Times of India)
Gujarat Congress claimed that wherever Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressed public meetings during Karnataka election campaign, BJP lost those seats. “Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressed three public meetings in Bangalore, Mangalore and Belgaum which include 37 assembly seats in Karnataka and in all these seats, BJP lost miserably,” Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modhwadia said in a press statement issued here.
In his statement, he gave full credit to the leadership of party chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi for the absolute victory in Karnataka assembly polls. “As per constitutional provisions, if the Lokayukta had been appointed in Gujarat also, then the fate of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would have been the same as that of B S Yeddyurappa since the BJP government in Gujarat also has resorted to corruption amounting to Rs 1 lakh crore,” he alleged.
Citing poll results of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat assembly elections of the recent past, he claimed that in all these states, BJP has been losing its voter base. “BJP is in serious need of introspection and it needs to shed its negative politics before it is too late for the party.”
- Modi magic fails in Mangalore; voters reject BJP (May 8, 2013, Rediff)
- Karnataka polls: Hindutva lab blows up (May 10, 2013, Deccan Chronicle)
- BJP sees red over Shiv Sena’s ‘happiness’ over Karnataka defeat (May 9, 2013, Indian Express)
- Muslims indifferent, but BJP will try to woo them again (May 9, 2013, Hindustan Times)
The Gujarat High Court on Friday came down heavily on the Narendra Modi government for “shielding, siding with and protecting” a police officer accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. A two-judge bench comprising Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari said that based on a report by the CBI, it was clear that the state government was shielding the accused policeman.
The court said that even the special investigation team (SIT), which was probing the case earlier, had complained of government interference. The investigative agency had highlighted the “disappearance” of senior IPS officer and ADGP rank officer P P Pande even after an arrest warrant was issued against him by the CBI court. The CBI had complained that despite repeated summons, the officer had evaded the CBI. It said the government did not show any interest in bringing the officer under lens.
The court also took strong objection to the state government’s stand on extending the services of senior Gujarat IPS officer Satish Verma for continued investigations in the case. While the court has asked the CBI to seek Verma’s help, the state government has insisted that the officer was required by the state services.The High court further ordered that the state government allow Verma to work with the CBI team for assisting the agency in its investigations. It directed the CBI to submit a status report in the case by June 13.
- Ishrat Jahan case: No clue of PP Pandey, CBI teams continue hunt (May 10, 2013, DNA India)
- NHRC recommends Rs 5 lakh compensation in alleged fake encounter case in Assam (May 10, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Ishrat Jahan case: Will PP Pandey be declared an absconder? (May 13, 2013, DNA India)
- Ishrat Jahan case: CBI moves for attachment of ADGP Pande’s property (May 13, 2013, IBN)
Three people were arrested Sunday in connection with the low intensity blast in a state transport bus in Nalegaon Friday. Nanded resident Narayan Dhale, who had allegedly purchased firecrackers was arrested along with the father-son duo of Siwrad and Kailash Awadke, who allegedly sold Dhale the firecrackers in Mukramabad village in Nanded district.
Police said Dhale was travelling with his family in the bus and had concealed the firecrackers in his bag. “Dhale’s wife was carrying the bag containing the firecrackers. Dhale and his mother were about to alight from the bus when the explosion took place. We suspect there was some rod-like mechanism in the firecrackers that burst after the bag hit one of the seats,” said Srikirshna Kokate, ASP, Latur, adding Dhale’s wife and son were injured in the blast while he and his mother sustained minor injuries.
“ATS traced Dhale and verified the events with him. During interrogation he couldn’t provide clear answers and was arrested. He was taken to Murkramabad where he led investigators to Awadkes. They were arrested from their homes,” he said.
They have been charged under Sections 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage) and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of the IPC and the Explosive Substances Act. The trio was remanded in police custody till May 16.
- NIA to nail Hindu radicals in Malegaon chargesheet (May 13, 2013, Times of India)
- SIM used in Malleswaram blast in Bangalore belonged to RSS leader (May 11, 2013, The Hindu)
- Those behind Ajmer Dargah blasts prime suspects in Modasa bombings: NIA sources (May 7, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)
- Rehab policy demanded for those implicated in terror cases: Delhi CM (May 11, 2013, The Hindu)
Ehtesham Siddique, accused in the July 11, 2006 serial train bombings, on Tuesday continued to use official information obtained via the Right to Information Act to pick holes in the prosecution’s case. Siddique has been deposing as a defense witness in the case, which is now in its last stages at the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court. On Tuesday, Siddique produced records from the Byculla police station to show that the panch witness who positively identified him was a history-sheeter with three cases against him.
The information also showed that this person was frequently produced by the police as a panch witness. Another RTI revealed that the witness was often used as a witness by the DCB CID Unit II. The witness had earlier deposed that he saw Siddique working with some circuitry in a Govandi house days before the blasts. While the witness had deposed that he had picked out Siddique during an identification parade that lasted 35 minutes, the station records for the day showed that the inmates were brought out of their cell 12.35 pm and put back at 12.40 pm.
Siddique also produced documents to show that the then Deputy Commissioner of Police Gyaneshwar Phadtare, who had said that he recorded the confessional statement of a co-accused Muzzamil Rehman on October 5, 2006, joined the zone only on October 10. Siddique, whose deposition will continue on Wednesday, had earlier submitted information that discredited the key eyewitness in the case.
The information showed that the person the witness claimed to have met just before bumping into Siddique at the Churchgate station did not exist and the person the witness said he met at a Dadar office was on leave that day.
- 07/11 Mumbai blast: Info sought under RTI contradicts witness statements (May 7, 2013, Ummid.com)
- 10 years on, no charges filed against blast accused (May 8, 2013, Times of India)
- Fahad is innocent, says mother: DNA exclusive report (May 13, 2013, DNA India)
- Son victim of mistaken identity, claim blasts accused’s parents (May 13, 2013, Times of India)
Mustufa Patel had to resort to Gujarat high court for protection to run his restaurant at Ahmedabad-Viramgam highway after cops refused to intervene despite local court’s orders. Patel moved the HC after petitioning unsuccessfully before local court, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Commission for Minorities(NCM). In Febraury, Patel lodged complaint against BPCL petrol pump owner Dashrath Gohil and others of coercing him to evacuate the place by resorting to inciting people on communal lines. Since cops did not even register his complaint first, he had to close his restaurant for nearly a month.
The cops finally registered his complaint, but section 153 of the IPC was not mentioned in the FIR. Patel moved the magisterial court in Viramgam, the court ordered police protection. But the policemen flatly refused to protect him, when Gohil came to his hotel threatening. Patel made a representation before the NHRC and then to NCM, which inquired into the matter. But situation did not change for Patel. When he moved the high court demanding protection against the neighbour, Justice S R Brahmbhatt on Thursday ordered the DySP of the area to remain present before the court the next day.
When DySP N D Solanki appeared before the court, he had ensure protection and promised that police would see to it that no untoward incident happens and Patel would run his hotel peacefully. If Patel has any problem, police will take immediate steps. Patel runs a hotel on the highway since 1986. The property was destructed during the 2002 riots, but Patel managed to resume the business within months. In 2005, Gohil bought the land and since then he allegedly has been harassing the hotelier. He was not allowed to open his restaurant since February 9. He said that when he approached cops first, they advised him not to enter the premise.
- Reputed Muslim Educational Groups Not Selected For Model School Scheme (May 12, 2013, Mumbai Mirror)
- Gujarat’s Muslims most backward: Mohammed Fazlurrahim (May 13, 2013, Times of India)
- NAC tells govt: Give job scheme minority focus (May 13, 2013, Asian Age)
- Charminar, Golconda may become history, thanks to govt apathy (May 13, 2013, New Indian Express)
H.S. Phoolka, advocate for the 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims, has contradicted the recent statement of Sajjan Kumar that his name as an accused in the atrocities against Sikhs figured for the first time only during the Nanavati Commission —15 years after the riots. In a statement that lists instances in which Mr. Kumar’s name was mentioned for alleged involvement in the massacre and mentions how he was let off, Mr. Phoolka said: “There is ample evidence to show how the police and the government have been shielding him from the beginning.”
The statement said that a large number of victims had named Mr. Kumar in 1984 itself and many of these witnesses told volunteers working in relief camps of his “involvement” as the police were not registering their complaints. Based on these allegations, a delegation of Opposition leaders met the Prime Minister on November 6, 1984 and apprised him of alleged involvement of Mr. Kumar. This news appeared in many newspapers on November 7, 1984, said Mr Phoolka. As the police were not registering complaints, human rights groups started their own enquiry and later the Misra Commission agreed with the victims that the police did not register cases wherever the victims named political leaders.
Mr. Kumar’s alleged role prominently figured in the report ‘Who are the Guilty’ published by the PUCL and PUDR in the last week of November 1984 as also in other reports published by rights groups in December 1984 and January 1985. Ambassador Gurbachan Singh (retd.) and former Governor Gobind Narain also informed the Nanavati Commission that while they were holding enquiries as part of Justice Sikri’s Citizens Commission in December 1984, a number of victims named Mr. Kumar.
Twelve affidavits were filed against Mr. Kumar from July to September 1985 before the Misra Commission of Inquiry, the statement added. The Misra Commission, in its report in February 1987, also found that the police did not register cases wherever political leaders were named. However, Justice Misra recommended the formation of another committee for that purpose as he said that it was not a part of his terms of reference to recommend registration of criminal cases. In August 1987, the Jain-Banerjee Committee, consisting of Justice M.L. Jain and A.K. Banerjee-IG (retd.), recommended registration of cases against Mr. Kumar but no case was registered by the police.
In 1990, during the tenure of the V.P. Singh government, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against Mr. Kumar. When CBI officials arrested him at his house, a mob gathered and burnt the jeeps of the CBI. In 1991, the Delhi Police sent a report to the prosecution branch to close the case against him in FIR No. 67/87 of P.S. Nangloi, but the prosecution branch rejected the recommendation and maintained that sufficient evidence against him existed to file a chargesheet. Faced with this on April 8, 1992, the Delhi Police prepared a chargesheet against Mr. Kumar for the murder of four Sikhs and the same was signed by the Inspector and the ACP. The charge sheet also recorded that he was not arrested due to a law and order problem and the court may summon him. This chargesheet had not been filed in the court till date, said Mr. Phoolka.…
- 1984 Anti-Sikh riots verdict: The pen was mighty but the hands were trembling (May 7, 2013, IBN)
- Akali Dal leaders meet PM, demand SIT probe into 1984 anti-Sikh riot cases (May 8, 2013, Indian Express)
- 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Life imprisonment for three, 2 escape with 3-year jail term (May 9, 2013, Times of India)
- ’84 riots: CBI to appeal against Sajjan’s acquittal (May 7, 2013, The Tribune)
CBI a ‘caged parrot’, ‘heart’ of Coalgate report changed: Supreme Court (May 8, 2013, Times of India)
The Supreme Court has questioned the credibility of CBI probe into the coal scam and has asked for a thorough and qualitative investigation. Expressing strong displeasure at govt’s interference in the Coalgate probe report, the apex court said, “the heart of the report was changed on the suggestions of the govt officials.” “The heart of the report was changed on suggestions of government officials,” the court said in an apparent reference to the raging controversy over the sharing of the draft status report with political executive and joint secretaries in the coal ministry and the PMO.
Raising questions on the independence of CBI, the apex court called it a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”. The court making a scathing comment on the functioning of the investigating agency said, “It’s a sordid saga that there are many masters and one parrot.” Asking the govt to make CBI impartial, the apex court said it needs to be ensured that the CBI functions free of all external pressures. If the CBI is not made independent, we will step in, the SC observed.
“Job of CBI is not to interact with government officials but to interrogate to find the truth,” the SC said. The judges remarked that the CBI must know how to stand up against all pulls and pressures by government and its officials. Commenting on law minister Ashwani Kumar’s role, the apex court said that a minister can ask for a report but can’t interfere with the CBI probe. The court questioned how the CBI could have regular interactions with the ministry officials.
Slamming the action of joint secretaries who saw the probe report, the SC said, What business does the two joint secretaries have in visiting the CBI office? Defending his role, attorney general GE Vahanvati said, “My meeting with CBI officials took place only on suggestions of the law minister.” I have neither asked nor got CBI’s probe report in coal scam,the attorney general said. The apex court observations came on CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s second affidavit filed on Monday, stating that law minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials of the PMO and coal ministry had made changes in the Colagate probe report.
Ranjit Sinha in his nine-page affidavit to SC had given details of series of meetings with Ashwani Kumar, Vahanvati, additional solicitor general Haren Raval and Shatrughna Singh and A K Bhalla, joint secretaries of the PMO and the coal ministry during which changes in the probe reports were suggested and made by them.
- Bring law to make CBI independent, says court (May 9, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- SC’s caged parrot remark is correct: CBI chief (May 9, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- SC comes down heavily on CBI (May 9, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Central administrative tribunal calls IB ‘chicken’ after SC dubs CBI as ‘caged parrot’ (May 12, 2013, Times of India)
A police sub-inspector posted in Odhav police station was arrested by Anti Corruption Bureau officials on Monday evening. The PSI was caught taking a bribe of Rs 10,000. A complaint in this regard was registered at Odhav police station against Bahadursinh Parmar, a resident of Odhav. Parmar was accused by his wife of physical and mental torture. He subsequently was arrested under the Anti Dowry Act.
After getting bail, Parmar was faced new trouble. The investigating officer PSI M K Chauhan started threatening him. Chauhan called him to the police station often and demanding hefty bribes. Chauhan threatened to file stricter IPC sections against him in a new complaint on the same matter. Chauhan had demanded Rs 20,000 to stop the harassment.
Parmar agreed and secretly contacted ACB officials. With help of the anti-corruption bureau officials Parmar on Monday evening reached the police station with the first installment – Rs 10,000. Parmar took the bribe and was arrested immediately by ACB plainclothesmen. The trap was sprung in the presence of government witnesses.
- Bribery scandal: CBI likely to quiz Railway Board Chairman next week (May 11, 2013, Indian Express)
- Former BJP MLA named in multi-crore breach of trust in Satellite (May 8, 2013, Times of India)
- Coal scam: Ashwani Kumar made two ‘significant’ deletions, says CBI (May 6, 2013, Indian Express)
- 2G scam: Prosecutor A K Singh was just bragging, concludes CBI (May 13, 2013, Times of India)
The Kolsewadi police on Thursday arrested a Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable for allegedly raping his daughter-in-law when his son was away to Pune on Wednesday. He was produced before court which sent him to police custody till May 14. According to the police, accused Rakesh Sharma (53) is a former military man who joined the RPF as a constable after retirement and is presently posted with the Kasara RPF.
Sharma, the victim and her husband live in the railway quarters in Kalyan (E). On Wednesday, Sharma had dinner with his daughter-in-law after which he went to his room. He returned later on the pretext of asking her when his son was returning. He locked her room and increased the volume of the television before allegedly raping her.
Senior inspector Jagdish Lohankar said, “After the accused left, the victim approached told her neighbour everything. She then lodged a complaint.” “We are surprised as Sharma was known for his sincerity,” said an RPF constable from Kasara.
- Woman claims BJP leader raped her for 20 yrs promising marriage (May 9, 2013, Indian Express)
- Rape victim identifies scene of crime (May 9, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- 6 Haryana villages decide not to send girls to school to avoid harassment (May 12, 2013, Indian Express)
- Pregnant woman sold in Bihar for Rs. 11,000, rescued (May 13, 2013, Hindustan Times)
Opinions and Editorials
Mr. Narendra Modi, for whom some countries are warming up to relate to him in Europe and in the East; the latest report from US must be very disheartening. Despite a strong lobby for pressurizing to grant him Visa, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), has called on the Obama administration to maintain a visa ban on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his role in the pogrom of 2002 that claimed over 2,000 lives and displaced over 150,000 people, many of whom are still in makeshift houses. The commission chairwoman Katrina Lantos Swett, of the US commission for international religious freedom (USCIRF) said that “There is significant evidence linking him (Modi, added) to the violence and the terrible events that took place in Gujarat and for this reason, a visa would not be appropriate,” In recent times Modi seems to be the only person so disgraced by the Human rights watch body. John Kerry, the present Secretary of the state of United States, had similar position about Modi, when he was the senator. He had written to the State department to the effect that Visa should be denied to Modi on the grounds of his possible role in 2002 anti Muslim pogrom. The US Intentional Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) bars entry of aliens ‘responsible for directly carried out, particularly severe violations of religious freedom’.
The US panel points out that there is a significant evidence linking Modi to the carnage. It is on this ground that Modi is on the Visa ban list from 2005 of US, and the recent efforts of pro-Modi lobbyists is not cutting any ice, in the face of the evidence against Modi. The report also takes cognizance of Muslim community’s suspicion that Maya Kodnani, who has been jailed, is a ‘fall guy’ for Modi, a ‘sacrificial lamb’ so to say. The Commission has also put India in tier two, as for as religious freedom is concerned. It also points out that the bringing in of ‘Freedom of religion’ bills in different states of India has increased the intimidation and atrocities against religious minorities in India. This trend of bringing in such bills is more in BJP ruled states, while few other states have fallen into this unconstitutional trap.
In India last three decades in particular have seen the rise of sectarian tendencies and intimidation of religious minorities. Sikhs in 1984 (Delhi), Christians in Dangs, Kandhamal and in various scattered acts of violence in Adivasi areas in particular, and Muslims in an ongoing manner in Meerath, Malyana, Bhagalpur, Mumbai, Gujarat, various places in UP etc. The intimidation is being orchestrated at social level as well. One example of this is the religious congregations like Shabri Kumbh, the ones’ held in Dangs and many other places, through which Hindus particularly the Adivasis are frightened. The sectarian violence against Muslims is leading to a situation where the whole community is being relegated to the status of second class citizenship. Various states have brought in ‘Freedom of Religion Bill’ which in an Orwellian manner prevents the free choice of religions by the people, a right granted by the Indian Constitution. These laws cannot stand the test of the values of Indian Constitution. But they give a big handle to the communal forces in collusion with the section of communalized state apparatus to intimidate the hapless religious minorities. The underlying reason of these tactics is to polarize the communities along religious lines, to prepare the ground for the ascendance of Religious nationalism, the communal fascism.
The acts of violence against the minorities are changing their pattern. On one hand instead of big massive violence, a scattered sustained violence is being organized in different parts of the country. The target is the non BJP ruled states like UP and Maharashtra in particular. In these states in particular local city based communal violence is taking place and communalizing the society. This trend will inherently strengthen the diehard communal party, which is the electoral wing of the agenda of religious nationalism. While Modi has been too clever and has changed the paradigm of his speeches from the communal one’s to the one’s revolving around the development, which as such should rather be termed as ‘pseudo development’. Modi he has already consolidated his communal-social base, so now to win the electoral battle he has to lure other layers of Hindus and communities, so the total projection around development. Somehow, though law has not fully caught up with him, the blood on his hands is refusing to get washed off despite his shrewd attempts in that direction. The US commission report gives the hope at deeper ethical and moral grounds. Our laws and legal mechanisms are such that the guilty of communal violence are getting away while the innocent are getting killed during the communal carnages. The demand for a law which can punish the guilty for their acts of omission and commission during the violence is very much overdue. One hopes that we don’t have to depend on International agencies to nab guilty of those people who let it happen under their nose, either in a proactive way or by looking the other way around.
The test of democracy lies in assessing as to how secure the minorities are, what the level of their dignity is. On that scale India is gradually sliding down, it’s a blemish on our democratic norms. It’s time that irrespective of our religion, caste and creed we come forward to press for protection of innocents, and for this the we must come forward with suitable legislation so that those in authority cannot get away after presiding over such inhuman acts and couch them in deceptive statements to escape the noose. The supplementary observation is about the rising trend of restriction of religious freedoms in South Asia as a whole. In recent times we have painfully seen the persecution of Christians and Hindus in Pakistan, of Buddhists and Hindus in Bangle Desh, of Muslims in Burma and Srilanka. The health of democracy in South Asia is a worrying matter. We know that regions grow together. India has been a strong pillar of democracy while other South Asian countries are in a different stage of evolution towards democracy. Somewhere military Generals are hovering over the elected leaders; at other the fundamentalist outfits are having a lion’s share in shaping the course of the events of the country. Tragically India is witnessing the downward slope on the scale of democratic ethos. Need for us to revisit the values of Freedom movement and the norms of Indian Constitution.
- SIT Concealed Evidence of Modi Govt’s Complicity in Pogrom – By Amol Saghar (May 12, 2013, Peoples Democracy)
- Voice of victims – By Anupama Katakam (May 17, 2013, Frontline)
- Are legal wars Narendra Modi government’s Achilles’ heel? – By Nikunj Soni (May 8, 2013, DNA India)
- Trending Modi – By Sagnik Dutta (May 17, 2013, Frontline)
With a substantial section of the Indian media choosing to hype the upcoming 16th General Election as an American presidential style contest between Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it is not surprising that popular interest in the controversial leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has grown exponentially in recent months. Predictably, two journalist-authors and their publishers have sought to ride the crest of this wave of interest about a person who is arguably the most divisive and deeply contentious political personality in India at present.
It is, of course, a separate matter altogether that Modi’s attempts to project himself as a potential prime minister of the world’s largest democracy may well come to nought and his endeavours at playing a wider role in national politics outside Gujarat may prove to be more bluff and bluster than hard realpolitik. It is also very likely that if he is indeed sought to be projected as the tallest leader of the BJP, he will run into considerable opposition from not just within his own party, but, more importantly, from within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition headed by the BJP. There is a real and present danger that the NDA may implode if Modi acquires the stature that he apparently seeks, an outcome that would likely result in the coalition’s next largest constituent, the Janata Dal (United) led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, breaking ranks with the BJP.
Even more significant is the fact that it will be extremely difficult – rather impossible – for a so-called national political party and one of its important leaders to aspire to lead a heterogeneous country like India on a Hindu nationalist agenda after alienating one out of seven of the country’s citizens who believe in some variant or the other of the Islamic faith. Despite his best efforts at wooing them in his state, Muslims in India have a visceral hatred for Modi and this is hardly a secret inside and outside the BJP. In fact, as many political analysts have argued, the best bet for the Congress is to have a strong Modi in Gujarat, for this automatically ensures that Muslims and a section of ‘liberal’ Hindus remain distant from the BJP.
As Kingshuk Nag points out right in the beginning of The NaMo Story – much shorter and more tightly written than Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay’s Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times – there is perhaps no one in the country who is indifferent to Modi: you either love him or you hate him. His personality is not amenable to dissection in nuanced shades of grey. There are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ as far as the Gujarat chief minister is concerned. Nag is clear where he stands. He is certain (as is this reviewer, who has been quoted in The NaMo Story) that Modi will never ever be able to live down the fact that he presided over an administration that oversaw the genocide of at least 700 Muslims, most of them in Gujarat’s capital Ahmedabad, in a three-month period between late- February and early-May 2002.
The ghosts of the not-too-distant past will invariably return to haunt Modi over and over again, no matter how hard he tries to change his public image to that of a go-getting, pro-business leader, the chief executive officer of an industrialised and commerce-friendly state. Some of his overtures have borne fruit: it is hardly surprising that he is the only leader who has been showered with so many accolades by corporate captains, who otherwise prefer to play coy about disclosing their preferences about political leaders.
- Modi myth – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (May 17, 2013, Frontline)
In the circular logic of politics, it’s apt that the election results in Karnataka generate a meaning that goes beyond immediate victors and losers, and has a relevance not limited to the state’s borders or political culture. The grizzled players of the state Congress, instead of losing themselves in celebrations, are eking out a moral from the story and holding it up for the big bosses in New Delhi to see. It’s a nervous message: corruption is bad politics. What’s behind this curious note of caution tempering the elation and relief at returning to power in Karnataka after a gap of seven years? The survival instinct, pure and simple – and an honest appraisal of events as they evolved over the last few years. What lost the BJP its precious ‘gateway to the south’? There may be no answer as grand as the question. Yes, maybe a ‘correction’ to a rightward lurch in the polity, a bit of saffron fatigue. But equally, an accumulated frustration with the simple, everyday facts of massive institutional corruption. Dovetailed with visible misgovernance.
The way Congressmen tie the narrative to the present situation at the Centre – with the UPA unwilling to let go of two ‘tainted’ ministers for even form’s sake – has a lot to do with how things unfolded in Karnataka. For, whatever gains the Congress secured in this election owes to what the BJP did during its five-year rule. More than the scams, it’s in being totally impervious to public opinion that the real damage came. A feeling had set in at some point that the party cared little about public perception. Which hopefully will not be the mistake the Karnataka Congress will make. Or will it? Things have started off with the usual sounds of tug and pull, with over half a dozen candidates announcing they had a hat in the ring for the top job. Opposition leader in the outgoing assembly and padayatra man Siddaramaiah and Union labour minister M. Mallikarjuna Kharge headed the list of pro-spective CMs as we went to press; other major names in the air included Union oil minister Veerappa Moily and ex-KPCC chief R.V. Deshpande. That said, matters are unlikely to come to a head, all players agreeing amicably that “everybody will abide by the high command decision”.
The same cannot be said for the BJP’s innings that just came to an end: it had started by changing its very outlook to power. Its innovative ‘Operation Kamala’, to wean away Congress and Janata Dal legislators who later got elected as BJP men, was a classic example of how democracy can be subverted. It was as if, with opportunity knocking by way of its 100 seats – two short of the halfway mark of 112 in the assembly – it would brook no obstacle in the bid to grab and hold on to power. The lack of trust was obvious – it neither trusted the independents (whose support gave it a simple majority) nor its own partymen. Unlike the late Janata leader Ramakrishna Hegde, who was caught in a similar situation in 1983 but went on to provide a good government, the state BJP was just not prepared to make good on its first chance. To be sure, there was a dichotomy from the beginning between the principles enunciated by the party’s tallest leader then, L.K. Advani, at the time of the 2008 campaign (“Give us a chance to provide a clean government”) and the mechanisms the BJP found handy to gain power. The Bellary iron ore mines had pretty much financed the whole campaign, and Operation Kamala to boot. There was going to be a payback time. B.S. Yediyurappa finally lost his hold on the sceptre by trying to manage the tensions inherent in the BJP’s deal with the Reddys.
And then there was also the humbler corruption of those who were tasting power for the first time. Take the land deals, well exposed by H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S). At one point, the ex-CM was pulling out one scam a day for almost a fortnight. Each of the deals were violative of all norms, including high court verdicts, and related to acquisition of land for BSY’s family members, or whoever found favour with the CM. By then, it was obvious that Yediyurappa considered himself a law unto his own. For, after all, hadn’t he led the BJP to power almost single-handedly, as he claimed to a senior party leader trying to reason with him on behalf of his colleagues. Indeed, the BJP’s rise to power was entirely due to his caste base: the large, dominant community of Lingayats who had stood by him. But then hubris struck. He became so brazen that even standard practices his predecessors followed-like not ignoring a bureaucrat’s written note quoting high court rulings-was given the go-by. The man even denotified land on a site lawfully allotted to his law minister!
The situation had clearly changed dramatically for the man who grew up in the RSS shakhas of Mandya. The time had come to unlearn the moral and cultural codes that had been drilled into him in the shakhas. The new mantra was RoI (return on investment). It’s what the Reddy brothers wanted. Yeddy went the whole hog: from land deals to mining; to backing the transfer of an honest forest official probing the theft of eight lakh tonnes of illegally mined ore the department had seized and retained at Belekere port; to the family’s Prerana Education Trust getting Rs 20 crore donations from the South West Mining Co and getting exposed by an active Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde. And when the mining scam hit the ceiling, Yediyurappa punctured the party’s high command balloon further by walking in a procession to the Raj Bhavan to submit his resignation. It was also to send a message: that he alone mattered in the BJP and if it didn’t care, he would teach it a lesson. The high command, bent on protecting its ‘gateway to the south’, boosted his stature by caving in yet again. Why didn’t the party sack him then? Was it the fear of losing Lingayat support, as had happened to the Congress when community strongman Veerendra Patil was removed by Rajiv Gandhi in 1990? (It’s said that they never forgave the Congress – until now.) Whatever it was, BSY successfully converted every single crisis – even his three weeks’ stint in jail in the mining scam, the first ex-CM to do time – into an opportunity. …
- Karnataka as Bellwether – Editorial (May 18, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)
- The Sene Patis Lose Their Marbles – By Gauri Lankesh (May 20, 2013, Outlook)
- Karnataka Elections: Spoils of Fragmentation – By Srikrishna Ayyangar and Suraj Jacob (May 11, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Soot In The Soul – By Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi (May 20, 2013, Outlook)
We have witnessed number of acts of terror in India, during last two decades. While those involved in the acts of terror have been coming from individuals of different religions, the net outcome of the actions of investigation agencies and police has been to arrest Muslim youth, to put charges against them and in most cases to release them after the charges are not proved on any ground. This pattern had a ‘mini-break’ for sometime after the Malegaon blast of 2008. The professional, unbiased and meticulous investigation of the Malegaon blast by the then chief of Maharashtra ATS, Hemant Karkare came as a big step in getting to the terrorists. Due to this; starting from Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, Swami Aseemanand and many others belonging to the ideology of Hindutva nationalism are currently cooling their heels in the jails. Investigations into Malegaon and many other blasts are showing the imprint of these Hindutva groups and people. One thought that this major breakthrough into acts of investigation will change the mind set of police authorities and they will overcome their biases and do a more professional job in investigation into the acts of terror.
Alas that was not to be and guided by Pavlovian reflex, in a knee jerk fashion, police continues to repeat its pattern of giving statements immediately after the acts of terror in which the organizations like Indian Mujahedeen. Lashkar and others continue to be being named without a thorough probe. This is followed by the usual arrests and framing them. Recently first in the case of Hyderabad twin blasts on 21 February 2013 in which 17 people died and over hindered were injured. These bombs were kept on a bicycle and Indian Mujahideen were blamed for this dastardly act. Later in Bangalore on 17th April a bomb exploded 300 meters from the BJP office. For this blast a motorcycle was used. In this blast around 16 people were injured. It was propagated that the blast took place near BJP office! As usual Indian Mujahedeen were blamed. In this blast again there was an additional factor about propaganda that blast took place near BJP office, when in reality the blast was 300 meters away from the spot. Congress spokesperson Shakil Ahmad said that this blast and the propaganda of its being near BJP office will benefit BJP in the forthcoming elections, while another Congress spokesperson and BJP countered the statement of Shakil Ahmad.
In Bangalore blast, the preceding incidents are very disturbing and revealing. Just ten days before the Bangalore blast, on sixth April in Kannur (Kerala) a blast took place from the motorcycle and RSS swayamsevak A. V. Dileep Kumar who was carrying four kilograms of explosives died. One recalls that the RSS associates also got killed in blasts in Nanded, Kanpur and many other places. This Kannur incident was underplayed and not much is known about the investigation so far as such. It is interesting that police authorities who immediately named Indian Mujahidin have been totally silent on the Hindutva connection of probable terrorists, as by now the nation knows the involvement of Hindutva groups in many acts of terror. The real loser of these biases held by authorities and common people is the country as a whole. The real reason being that if we don’t nab the real culprits and remain trapped in the usual prejudices and biases, the real culprits will continue to carry on their nefarious work over and over again.
As such apart from other things on this trend of Muslim youth being arrested a good amount of documentation and people’s investigation has been done by various human rights groups. ANHAD held a people’s tribunal and published it report, ‘Scapegoats and Holy Cows’. Lately a significant report by Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association led by Manisha Sethi has published ‘Framed, Damned, and Acquitted’. This report in a analytic way tells us the stereotypical manner of police investigation and actions and the plight of those who were arrested particularly by the Delhi Police Special Cell on charges of these youth being part of terrorist outfits. In most of these cases they were acquitted by courts. This report as such should have created awareness about the police methods and a pressure on police to mend its ways. The report also points that the biased atmosphere has been created as media is publishing the police version uncritically. This is in contrast to the journalistic ethics where the official versions have to be checked, cross checked and examined critically before publishing them. The human rights groups also have been struggling for getting compensation to these victims in good measure but to no avail so far. And then the question comes up as to what about the police officers who are guilty of these acts of wrongful investigation and implicating innocent youth, ruining their life in a serious way? Should they not be punished? The pattern of police reporting is also very stereotypical and needs to be seriously criticized.
The question is what the senior leadership is doing in the face of findings of these reports. Is it not important for the policy makers to take cognizance of such important reports and respond to them in the form of policy change for the investigation authorities? Amongst others another human rights group, Rihai Manch from Uttar Pradesh is also campaigning on this issue and trying to get the innocent youth released. UP Government had appointed a Nimesh Commission to investigate these cases, but for reasons known to itself the government is not releasing the report and is doing some patch work here and there. While UP Government is dodging over the issue of implicating the Muslim youth, one of its ministers is having the taste of these biases in United States, where he was detained at Boston. While he is blaming Indian External Affairs Minister for this, he is forgetting that these biases against Muslims are equally widespread and before him, people of the stature of ex President Abdul Kalam and the celebrity like Shah Rukh Khan have faced similar situations. Is it not an indication enough for the UP minister to set his own house in order as for as the implication of Muslim youth in acts of terror are concerned. The real worrying point of all these incidents is the way biases against Muslims are becoming rooted more and more. What efforts are needed to counter this stereotypical nature of understanding security agencies and perceptions at popular level needs a serious course correction on urgent basis.
- Cashing in on prejudice: Police torture of Muslims in UP – By Lenin Raghuvanshi (Apr 29, 2013, Merinews)
With the recent acquittal of Sajjan Kumar by a Delhi court which sent a wave of dismay among Sikhs in Punjab and across the world, the realisation has started to grow that the Sikh community as a whole, barring a few exceptions, has done little to lend a helping hand to those seeking justice for the 1984 riots. The anger and frustration at repeated setbacks in courts is no less than the sense of collective shame that is beginning to pervade sections of the community at not being able to bring the key perpetrators to book. This is partly why the demand to reopen and investigate afresh the hundreds of cases that were closed due to lack of evidence is gaining resonance.
Until 2007, when the Central Bureau of Investigation filed the first closure report in a case against Jagdish Tytler stating that it could not contact any of the witnesses, the complainants were mostly fighting the cases on their own with very little resources or support. It is well known that many key witnesses were either purchased or coerced into giving contrived testimonies, often changing what they said, contributing to the perception in the courts that their statements were unreliable. On Tuesday, when District and Sessions judge J.R. Aryan acquitted Sajjan Kumar, he did so on the ground that the prosecution’s star witness, Jagdish Kaur, had not named him in her statement before the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission in 1985.
The 2007 setback in Tytler’s case however proved to be a watershed in the legal battles of the 1984 riot victims. For the first time it drew the attention of a group of U.S.-based Sikh lawyers to what was happening here. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a New York-based attorney, who later formed the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), helped trace Jasbir Singh in the U.S, one of the witnesses who the CBI said could not be traced. Another witness, Surinder Singh, who had resiled from his previous statement before the Nanavati Commission, was also located and persuaded to depose again. The CBI sent a team to the U.S. to record their statements, but later told the court that they could not be relied upon because of inconsistencies. Similarly, 17 other witnesses were located by the combined efforts of the SFJ, H.S. Phoolka, the Delhi-based lawyer who has taken up the cases of the riot victims, and Navkiran Singh, a Chandigarh-based human rights lawyer.
It took an appeal by the SFJ for the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to offer protection for these witnesses. Surinder Singh who had served as a granthi in several Delhi gurdwaras(he died a couple of years ago), told this correspondent in 2008 that for years, he had lived in fear of goons who used to harass him for implicating Tytler. In 2008, after the CBI recorded his statement afresh on the killing of three Sikhs outside Gurudwara Pul Bangash on November 1, 1984, he was a terrified man, unwilling to return to Delhi and take up his old job. Today, the overwhelming sentiment in Punjab is that in the face of a hostile Congress, it was the responsibility of the Sikh political and religious leadership to motivate and help the victims firm up the cases. “This was never done. They always played politics with the issue. If it was the pro-Congress Sarna brothers heading the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Committee who sided with the Congress and openly intimidated the witnesses, in Punjab, the Akalis only paid lip service because the Delhi Sikhs who suffered the most were not its vote bank,” says Gurpreet Singh of the International Sikh Confederation, an umbrella organisation of Sikh religious and social groups.
It was the small group of Mr. Phoolka, Navkiran Singh and the SFJ that brought to light as late as 2011 the deaths of 51 Sikhs in Haryana during the riots, including the destruction of the village of Hondh Chillar. A fact finding committee of the SFJ found that an FIR registered by the sarpanch after 23 Sikhs of the village were killed and their houses burnt down was never investigated properly. Through an RTI query, they also discovered that there was violence in nine out of Haryana’s 19 districts. Trials were being conducted in only 36 of the 65 cases registered while 29 cases had been cancelled. The activists then moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court and have succeeded in getting a commission of inquiry appointed into the killings in Haryana. Says Navkiran Singh: “It is unfortunate that the biggest setback to the victims has been the apathy of the Sikh community itself. The well-off Sikhs in Delhi joined hands with the Congress to feather their nests and left the poorer victims to fend for themselves.” He quotes the example of Badal Singh, who died in the rioting for which Jagdish Tytler was booked. “Badal Singh had run into the house of a rich Sikh to seek shelter, from where he was seized by the mob. That Sikh refused to become a witness.” …
- Blood trail in Assam – By Rahul Karmakar (May 13, 2013, Hindustan Times)
The UPA government’s reputation is being battered in a perfect storm of its own making. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, as expected, took a stern view of the Union law minister and other government officials vetting the CBI’s status report on the investigation into coal block allocations — this highly unusual oversight was first reported in this paper, and subsequently confirmed by CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to the court. Even more damningly, the court blew a big hole in the government’s attempt to pass off its recommended changes to the status report as mere proofreading. The Supreme Court bench says the changes went to the heart of the report. This is crucial. The UPA has so far been resolute in brazening it out, parsing the court’s observations to improvise excuses and troubleshoot on a day-to-day basis. It must now pause to consider the juncture to which this brazenness has brought not just the government, but also the delicate relationship between the political executive and the premier investigating agency.
In fact, were the government to glance beyond the immediate repercussions of its defence of the law minister, it would find that the court has, once again, left many exit routes for all concerned to recover institutional equilibrium for the CBI and the posts of the law minister and the law officers. But for that, the UPA needs to see the crisis for what it is, a deeply political one that had to be managed politically, not fought as a legal brief in the public domain. Ashwani Kumar may or may not have had particular beneficiaries in mind while running his blue pencil through the CBI draft — though the dynamic of the intervention has to be probed too – but excising a line of inquiry in the case reinforces the galling breach of propriety overseen by him as the incumbent Union law minister.
Taking moral responsibility, and immediately so, by having him step down was vital for the Congress party, and especially the government, to demonstrate an acceptance of institutional dignity, of the CBI and also of the Union council of ministers. Now, no matter what measures the government takes, they will be seen to be under duress, and not born of moral conviction. At this late stage, a strong demonstration of political humility by the government is in order. It is the bare minimum needed under these appalling circumstances.
- A New-Found Agency? – By Uttam Sengupta (May 20, 2013, Outlook)
- Phantom democracy – By Pratap Bhanu Mehta (May 9, 2013, Indian Express)
- CBI & Coal Scam: Stop Such Crass Interference – Editorial (May 5, 2013, Peoples Democracy)
- Bread Lines – By Saba Naqvi (May 20, 2013, Outlook)