IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 20th, 2013
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Another extra-judicial murder? Khalid Mujahid dies
- After Khalid’s death, Muslim leaders want govt to make Nimesh panel report public
- SIT too a ‘caged parrot’ in case againt Guajrat CM
- Gulab Chand Kataria, Amit Shah colluded to stage-manage killing: CBI
- Five cops held in custodial death case
- Chhattisgarh ‘encounter’ leaves 8 villagers dead, no Maoist link yet
- Bangalore blast: Suspects’ kin accuse police of planting evidence
- UP govt helped Varun go scott free, alleges Beni
- Hours after going to cops, dowry victim ends life
- Police failed to prevent attack on Dalits by Rors, says report
Opinions & Editorials
- Dubious Role Of Police Exposed In Custodial Death Of Terror Accused In Uttar Pradesh – By Ajit Sahi
- The Importance of Zakia Jafri’s Protest Petition – By Teesta Setalvad
- How Varun Gandhi Silenced The System – By Rahul Kotiyal and Atul Chaurasia
- The Defeat of Saffron in Karnataka – By Shivasundar
- There Is Little Argument Over The Need To Free The CBI From Manipulation
- When development triggers caste violence – By Hugo Gorringe
Tuesday May 21st, 2013
Indian American Muslim Council (https://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos today denounced and strongly condemned the custodial death of Khalid Mujahid, at the hands of the Uttar Pradesh state police. IAMC also condemned the brutal attack on Mr. Mujahid’s counsel, Advocate Mohammed Salim, and the ransacking of the chambers of other advocates related to the case .
Mr. Mujahid had been arrested on dubious grounds in a terror case in 2007. The case against him was falling apart and he was expected to testify against the police personnel that had conspired to frame him as well as Mr. Tariq Qasmi on trumped up charges. His killing is widely seen as an attempt by the police to silence a witness whose exposé of police subterfuge was imminent .
Mr. Mujahid’s custodial killing comes on the heels of the killing of Qateel Siddiqui in police custody as well as several other fake encounters and hundreds of cases of Muslim youth subject to illegal detentions .
In a letter to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, IAMC President Ahsan Khan called Khalid Mujahid’s death a “case of custodial murder that has pushed atrocities by law enforcement against minorities beyond a dangerous threshold.”
The letter urged the Home Minister to fulfill the UP government’s request for a CBI enquiry while expanding its scope to cover the entire case including Khalid’s original arrest on terror charges. This would establish the motive behind his custodial killing.
In a separate letter to UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, IAMC urged the state government to take the following steps:
1) In addition to the nine policemen already suspended, order the immediate suspension of all the police personnel, implicated in Khalid’s arrest, detention and subsequent death until the CBI investigation is completed.
2) Table the full report of the Nimesh Commission that was instituted to investigate the arrest of Tariq Qasmi and Khalid Mujahid by a Special Task Force of the UP Police . According to media reports, leaked portions of the Nimesh Commission Report had clearly recommended legal action against the officers that had conspired to arrest the duo on dubious charges .
3) Provide adequate compensation for the family and next of kin of the victim
4) Suspend the lawyers that engaged in brutal violence against Advocate Mohammed Salim and others, merely for providing legal services to Khalid Mujahid, which is the constitutional right of every citizen.
The letter also pointed out to the Chief Minister that the security of Mr. Tariq Qasmi, the surviving member of the duo that was arrested in this case is paramount. The state government needs to protect Mr. Qasmi from vested interests in the police force.
The case of Khalid Mujahid has galvanized human rights activists, organizations and people of conscience across India as well as the Indian diaspora, to speak out against the repressive tactics of law enforcement authorities against minorities.
Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.
Indian American Muslim Council
Phone: (800) 839-7270
6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
1.Attack on Khalid Muhajid’s advocate
2.Dubious role of police exposed in custodial death of terror accused in Uttar Pradesh
3. What it Means To Be a Muslim in India Today
4. Tariq-Mujahid arrest: Nimesh Commission Report leaked, uploaded on Internet
5. Picture of Khalid Mujahid’s tortured body
6. APCR condemns suspicious custodial killing of Khalid Mujahid
7. UP government calls CBI to probe Khalid Mujahid’s death in custody
8. UP government says it is clueless on Nimesh commission report
9. After Khalid’s death, Muslim leaders want govt to make Nimesh panel report public
Friday May 17, 2013
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has expressed a deep sense of loss over the demise of noted activist Asghar Ali Engineer.
Mr Engineer was the founding chairman of several organizations promoting peace, tolerance and mutual understanding between various faiths, and was a leading figure in the Dawoodi Bohra progressive movement. He was the recipient of several awards, including the Dalmia Award for communal harmony in 1990, an honorary D.Litt. by the University of Calcutta in 1993, the ‘Communal Harmony Award’ in 1997 and the Right Livelihood Award in 2004 (with Swami Agnivesh) for his ‘strong commitment to promote values of co-existence and tolerance.’ Mr. Engineer was a prolific writer who wrote on a variety of topics related to social change, interfaith relations, secularism and democracy, and was a speaker at one of IAMC’s annual conventions.
“Known for his passionate espousal of peace and interfaith understanding, Mr. Engineer’s life was an example of perseverance towards the realization of a greater good,” said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. “IAMC commemorates his contribution to democracy and interfaith relations as well as his courage in speaking up for the rights of the oppressed and the dispossessed,” added Mr. Khan.
Indian-American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.
For more information please visit our new website at: https://www.iamc.com
Indian American Muslim Council
Phone: (800) 839-7270
6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
1. Activist Asghar Ali Engineer no more
2.Pioneer of Bohra Reform Movement, Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer passes away
Khalid Mujahid who was arrested on charges of serial blasts in 2007 died while he was returning from Faizabad to Lucknow jail on Saturday. Khalid fainted on way at Barabanki, according to police. He was taken to District Hospital, Barabanki where he was declared brought dead by the doctors. Khalid was under police custody when he died. Khalid’s death has been confirmed by Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Arun Kumar at Lucknow on Saturday. He also informed that District Jail administration of Lucknow where Khalid Mujahid was kept had requested for a magisterial probe in the whole incident.
Khalid along with Tariq Qasmi was arrested by Special Task Force (STF) on 20 December 2007 from Barabanki. Huge explosives were also shown as recovered from his possession. STF claimed that he was involved in the serial blasts which occurred in Gorakhpur, Faizabad and Lucknow. Later, Nimesh Commission was constituted headed by Justice R D Nimesh who in its report raised fingers over STF’s claim about the place of arrest. Later, Samajwadi Party government headed by CM Akhilesh Yadav as per their poll promise had moved a plea to revoke the terror charges but they were turned down by local court in Barabanki. Process was however going on for withdrawing his case from other districts.
Chairman of the Rihai Manch (Forum for the Release of Innocent Muslims imprisoned in the name of Terrorism), Mohamamd Shoaib told TwoCircles.net, that he met Khalid in court today and was with him till 3.15 pm. He added that Khalid was normal at that time. Unofficial reports stated that Khalid was not suffering from any disease still he fainted. He was taken to Faizabad under police custody for attending court proceedings in the district. After attending it, he was being escorted back and the police party had reached Barabanki while on their way to Lucknow jail, when he fainted. No official cause of the death has been given by the state government as he was brought dead by the policemen at the hospital.
Rajeev Yadav of PUCL, who is a member of the Rihai Manch has alleged foul play on the part of the government. He told TCN that in their meeting with the jail minister they had warned how Muslim youths arrested on dubious grounds in terror cases have been attacked in jail and hence steps should be taken for their security. Rihai Manch has demanded a CBI enquiry in the mysterious death of Khalid, and urged actions against public prosecutors, ATS, police officials, etc involved.
Meanwhile CM Akhilesh Yadav has ordered enquiry in the death of Khalid Mujahid. The probe will be done by a committee comprising Secretary, Home Department and ADG or IG rank offcer. As per official press communique, Khalid Mujahid was accused in the bomb blast which occurred on 23 November 2007 at District Court, Faizabad. He was being taken for court hearing along with his other associates. They were returning to Lucknow and his condition deteriorated near Ram Sanehi Ghat in Barabanki. He died while he was being taken to hospital.
- Post-Mortem Records Marks of Torture on Khalid’s body: Adv. Shoaib (May 19, 2013, Muslim Mirror)
- 42 policemen booked for alleged murder of terror suspect, UP government orders probe (May 19, 2013, IBN)
- Demand for arrests of 42 cops booked as photos show torture marks on Khalid Mujahid’s body (May 20, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Police Escort Team Had Several Times Threatened Khalid Mujahid of Encounter (May 19, 2013, Muslim Mirror)
After Khalid’s death, Muslim leaders want govt to make Nimesh panel report public (May 20, 2013, Indian Express)
The ruling SP’s plan to woo the Muslim community seems to have gone awry with the death of Khalid Mujahid, an accused in the 2007 serial blasts, on Saturday. Muslim clerics are now mounting pressure on Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to make the Nimesh Commission report public. Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari met SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh on Sunday and demanded compensation and a government job for Khalid’s family. “The Nimesh Commission report should be tabled. Effective steps should be taken for the release of other Muslim youths from jail. CBI enquiry is not sufficient as the agency is under political pressure. The probe should be by some independent agency,” Bukhari said.
The country’s largest Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, condemned the incident. “Khalid’s death is a stigma on Akhilesh’s government. Not only the Muslim community but all secular people want to know under what circumstances did he die,” Mufti Abul Qasmi Nomani, Rector, Darul Uloom Deoband, stated. Ashraf Usmani, a faculty and official spokesperson of the seminary, said, “There were reports, as per the Nimesh Commission, that 42 policemen were accused of falsely implicating Khalid and Tariq Qasmi. We cannot deny that this incident happened to save those policemen.” “It is a cold blooded and well planned murder,” alleged Amir Rashadi, chief of Rashtriya Ulema Council.
Rihai Manch, an organisation spearheading campaign for the release of innocent Muslim youths, condemned the incident. Shahnawaz Alam, Manch’s spokesperson, claimed that Cabinet minister Rajendra Choudhary was apprised about the life threat to these youths. “Choudhary should be held responsible for the lapse and resign,” Shahnawaz stated. Rihai Manch leader Shoib Ahmed claimed Mulayam was fooling Muslims. “We had demanded that Nimesh Commission report be made public. Withdrawing cases against Muslims was a gimmick by the state government,” Shoib stated. Mahmood Madani, president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, doubted the police’s version of the story. “The state government should immediately table Nimesh Commission report. Such conspiracy can be extended to other Muslim youths in jail. FIR on 42 police persons is insufficient. They should be immediately arrested and questioned,” Madani stated. Zafrul Islam Khan, who heads All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, also blamed the state government.
Riyaz Ahmed, Minister of State for Khadi and Village Industries, however, defended the state government. “It is too early to arrive at any conclusion. It may be a natural death. Let the real cause of death come out in open. If there is any lapse, I will be first one to question the government,” he said. Several other Muslim clerics based at Lucknow including Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli, Kalbe Jawwad and others too expressed concern over the incident demanding punishment for those who showed dereliction of duties. Lately the Muslim vote bank of SP is looking shaky due to several recent incidents in the state. Mulayam, understanding that any erosion in the minority community votes will cost him dearly in Lok Sabha elections, had made all efforts to keep them intact. But perhaps luck is not on the side of Samajwadi Party.
On March 2, a massive sammelan of Muslims was organised by the minority wing of the party for the first time in Lucknow. Mulayam was present and appeared jubiliant. But the same day DSP Ziaul Haque was murdered in Kunda. Again, Mulayam and Akhilesh made efforts to withdraw cases against “innocent Muslims” accused in terror cases, including Khalid Mujahid and Tariq Qasmi. But the efforts were overshadowed by the acquittal of Varun Gandhi in hate speech took center stage. Finally, when the state government declared holiday on Ajmer Urs, death of Khalid Mujahid grabbed limelight. For the last three days, Mulayam has been busy meeting Muslim clerics at his party office telling them about the efforts of the SP government towards the Muslim community. But the recent series of events in the state has made his job difficult.
- It was not arrest, Khalid was captured: Commission (May 20, 2013, The Hindu)
- Jamaat demands Rs. 1 crore as compensation for Khalid Mujahid’s family (May 20, 2013, Muslim Mirror)
- Mushawarat condemns the custodial murder of Khalid Mujahid (May 19, 2013, Milli Gazette)
- Jamiat condemns death of Khalid Mujahid (May 19, 2013, Twocircles.net)
The Supreme Court has dubbed the CBI as “caged parrot” for showing its report to a minister and compromising on its independence. But the SC-appointed special investigation team (SIT) to probe the 2002 riots had acted in a similar fashion and this was brought to the apex court’s notice in 2011. In one of his earlier affidavits filed before the SC, suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt had furnished documents to prove how the SIT selectively supplied reports to those who have actually been named as accused in complaints.
Bhatt has termed it “unholy nexus and illegal complicity” between high functionaries of the Gujarat state and other extraneous political entities. He claimed that the entire exercise to leak information and accommodate opinions of the accused by the SIT in its reports and submissions before the courts during criminal proceedings was part of “the on-going cover-up operations and machinations aimed at shielding the powerful”. By citing e-mails sent and received in early 2010 by Gujarat government’s additional advocate general Tushar Mehta, Bhatt claimed that the reports submitted by the SIT to the apex court in nine major riots cases were sent from Gujarat government’s e-mail ID to Mehta and then to secretary to CM G C Murmu and under secretary of state home department Vijay Badheka.
Bhatt supplied mails circulated among Mehta, state officials and lawyer-politician Gurumurthy Swaminathan between February 6 and March 15, 2010, in which it is clearly established that the reports were diluted by “outsiders” who were also helping the accused to prepare their defence. Bhatt also cited an example of Bipin Patel, an accused in the Gulbarg Society massacre case, whose affidavit was prepared by Mehta, while the prosecution’s affidavit was also prepared by him.
- Congress says no change in Modi’s mindset (May 14, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Naroda Patiya case: SIT to seek SC guidance on Kodnani death penalty (May 18, 2013, IBN)
- Hearing on Zakia protest plea to resume on June 3 (May 16, 2013, Indian Express)
- Gulbarg accused’s bail plea held Ganatra back (May 16, 2013, DNA India)
CBI has alleged that former Rajasthan home minister, BJP’s Gulab Chand Kataria, colluded with his Gujarat counterpart Amit Shah to stage-manage gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s fake encounter in 2005 after he demanded Rs 24 crore as extortion money from a leading marble trader. In its 500-page supplementary charge sheet, the agency has said the extortion demand from the Rajasmand-based RK Marble Pvt Ltd became the trigger for the encounter. “Rajasthan and Gujarat police acted in connivance in the abduction and killing of Sheikh. The motive for the accused persons from Rajasthan Police to participate in the conspiracy of elimination of Sheikh was his activities in terrorising the Rajasthan marble lobby,” said the agency’s charge sheet filed on Tuesday.
Along with Kataria, CBI, which had earlier accused Shah of orchestrating the encounter, also booked the company’s executive director Vimal Patni on charges of conspiracy, murder and kidnapping. A court in Mumbai, where the charge sheet has been filed, has summoned Kataria and Patni on June 4. Kataria on Wednesday denied the allegations, saying the Congress was misusing the CBI against BJP leaders in this case. “I will quit as the leader of opposition if the CBI arrests me. My name will ultimately be cleared,” he told ET. A representative of RK Marble also rejected the charges. “We have nothing to do with this case,” the company said, adding that it was shocked at CBI’s allegations. Shah has consistently rubbished all of CBI’s charges.
In its fresh charge sheet, the investigating agency has alleged that Kataria acted as the link between the company, owned by the Patni brothers, and the then Gujarat home minister. “It is revealed that owners of RK Marble approached political leaders and police officers of Rajasthan,” the charge sheet says, adding that Sheikh’s associate, Mustaque Ahmed, had warned him against extortion in this case because of the political links of the company’s owners. CBI has recorded the statement of Ahmed and a few marble traders of Rajasthan in a bid to establish that Patni had approached Kataria for help and was referred to Shah. According to the charge sheet, three officials of the Special Task Force of Rajasthan, including the then superintendent of police of Udaipur, MN Dinesh, went to Ahmedabad to participate in the fake encounter.
CBI has said the Rajasthan Police officials reached Ahmedabad on November 24, 2005 claiming to possess secret information that Sheikh was in Gujarat on the instructions of a person from Karachi to kill a prominent political leader. In its earlier charge sheet against Shah, CBI had accused him of running an extortion racket with the help of Sheikh and said Shah got Sheikh eliminated to make political gains as well as to ensure more money could be exhorted from Gujarat’s businessmen by driving terror into their minds.
- Sohrab case twist stumps AP government (May 16, 2013, Times of India)
- Fake encounter case: Sharad Pawar slams Modi over Ishrat’s killing (May 20, 2013, Economic Times)
- Sohrab murder case accused cop gets key post (May 19, 2013, Times of India)
- Delhi cops tried to kill me in fake encounter: Liyaqat (May 20, 2013, Indian Express)
Five cops accused in a recent custodial death case were arrested on Friday by the Sardarnagar police. Among those arrested one sub-inspector and three constables were posted in Sardarnagar police station, while the other was at Naroda police station. All of them have been charged with murder. More arrests are likely as the list of accused in this case names four other policemen.
On the night of May 8, Raju Thakkar, 35, was picked up by a team of Sardarnagar policemen for questioning in theft cases. However, his body was found from the Sabarmati river bed on the next day. Police sub-inspector B R Patel, who had picked up Raju from a gambling den, had then filed a report which said that the historysheeter was in police custody when last seen alive.
Later, complaint of murder was filed against nine policemen of which five – constables Bhadreshsinh Ajitsinh, Dharmendrasinh Daulatsinh, Mukesh Mangabhai and Jagdish Chaudhary along with Patel – were placed under arrest on Friday. “The other four cops who had interrogated Raju at the Ajit Mill police chowky and who last had custody of the historysheeter are also likely to be arrested soon,” said a cop.
According to police, the four who had questioned Raju were the ones who had found him dead in the chowky the May 9 morning. Then they had decided to dump Raju’s body on the dry bed of Sabarmati and pass him off as an unknown victim.
- Custodial death: Kin collect body, case transferred to Crime Branch (May 14, 2013, Indian Express)
- Widow of Nasiruddin hopeful for justice after Calcutta HC transfers case to CBI (May 14, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Deadline over, Teesta yet to get info on custodial deaths, atrocities against women (May 18, 2013, Indian Express)
- Guj police yet to provide encounter killing details: Setalvad (May 17, 2013, Business Standard)
At least eight villagers were killed and several are missing after an “encounter” between a joint team of the CRPF and district police and alleged Maoists in Ehadsameta village of Bijapur district in Chhattisgarh late Friday night. Three of the dead were minors, villagers said. A member of the CoBRA unit of the CRPF, Deva Prakash, was also killed in the firing. While security forces admitted that the dead were villagers, police are not claiming any of them was a Maoist. The forces, however, said they had destroyed a Naxal hideout.
The dead have been identified as Guddu Karam, Pandu Karam, Joga Karam, Chomu Karam, Punem Sonu, Punem Lakham and Karam Masa. Villagers claimed that Guddu and Punem and another deceased who was not immediately identified were minors, aged between 10 and 15 years. Incidentally, it was in the same district that 17 villagers had been killed in an encounter a year ago. While the forces had called it the “biggest Maoist encounter”, almost all the dead later turned out to be innocent villagers.
Friday”s night operation involved 1,000 men from the CRPF and state police, who fanned out in five groups reportedly to bust a training hub of the Maoists. Police sources said that one of these groups came under fire at Ehadsameta village. Some villagers were killed in retaliatory fire, police said. “There was an encounter, and an exchange of fire from both sides. Some villagers have died. A probe is on,” R K Vij, Additional Director General (Naxal Operations), Chhattisgarh Police, said.
“We have also received information that some villagers died,” Bijapur DSP Ashok Singh said. “We have begun a probe and are going to the spot again.” A CRPF officer confirmed the presence of minors among the dead, adding: “I cannot say whether they were killed by our bullets or those of the Maoists, or whether they were being used by Maoists as human shields.” ‘ CRPF sources in Delhi said the operation had led to the discovery of a training barrack. They claimed the men had come under fire several times. “The CoBRA personnel who died took a bullet in his forehead,” an officer said. Villagers, however, denied any links with Maoists and claimed that the forces started firing while they had gathered to celebrate the local Beej Pondum festival. This is the same festival which the villagers had been celebrating last year as well when they were fired upon.
- No Maoists were present when forces opened fire, say villagers (May 19, 2013, The Hindu)
- Carrying bodies, tribal women lead protests against cops (May 20, 2013, Indian Express)
- Judicial probe ordered in Chhattisgarh naxal encounter (May 20, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Rohtak clashes: Stand-off ends as police evacuate ashram (May 15, 2013, IBN)
Family members of the suspects in the April 17 Malleswaram blasts in Bangalore have lodged a complaint with senior police officers in Coimbatore and Bangalore alleging attempts by a team of policemen to plant explosive substances in their houses under the pretext of a search and seizure procedure. However, Bangalore City Police Commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar rubbished it saying due procedure was followed.
Abdul Kalam Bagadur Sha, counsel for the terror suspects, told The Hindu in Bangalore over the phone from Coimbatore on Tuesday that a team of Bangalore police, led by Joint Commissioner S. Murugan and Deputy Commissioner D. Devaraj, took the suspects to Coimbatore and, with the assistance of local police, searched the house of prime suspect Kitchen Buhari’s father-in-law in Bilal Estate II Street in the early hours of Tuesday.
Buhari’s in-laws, Abdul Nassar and Basiriya, alleged that the police ohad tried to stash a plastic cover inside the house. The family, who objected to this, were soon joined by local residents who vociferously protested against the police action, prompting the latter to beat a hasty retreat with Buhari. Mr. Sha said Ms. Basiriya’s complaint in this regard had been wired to the Bangalore police.
A little later, the same police team turned up at the house belonging to the in-laws of another suspect, Tenkasi Suleiman, situated in the Punga Nagar police station limits in Coimbatore and allegedly tried to do a repeat. Here too, the family and neighbours intervened stridently, but the police took Suleiman’s father-in-law, Asghar Ali, to the police station, only to return a little later and resume the search. Mr. Sha alleged the police team then placed a box and a few plastic pipes in the house and took photographs of the same along with Suleiman.
“The police later tried to force Suleiman’s wife, Asma, to sign on some paper but she refused,” said Mr. Sha. Ms. Asma later filed a complaint with senior officers of the Coimbatore police and a wired a copy to the Bangalore police. Meanwhile, Bangalore Police Commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar refuted the allegation. “We have taken utmost care in this case and followed every procedure to carry out the investigations,” he said. The police had made some seizures, which would be disclosed in the due course. He said he had no knowledge of any complaint in this regard.
- Bogus proof to frame innocent Muslims: Journalist (May 19, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Framing of minorities in terror probe condemned (May 19, 2013, The Hindu)
- Minorities being branded as terrorists: SAR Geelani at Kerala SIO MEET (May 15, 2013, New Indian Express)
- Mecca Masjid blast cases continue to haunt Muslims (May 18, 2013, Times of India)
Union minister Beni Prasad Verma today sparked a fresh row alleging that BJP leader Varun Gandhi was cleared by a court in hate speech case due to tacit understanding with SP government in Uttar Pradesh. “Due to the pressure of the state government, witnesses did not turn up in the court to depose,” the Union steel minister claimed.
Besides this, the government did not challenge the order given in favour of Varun by a court in Pilibhit. He termed the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav as “communal” and alleged that he was involved in the conspiracy to demolish Babri Mosque. “Mulayam had always been an associate of communal forces. He was also involved in the conspiracy to demolish Babri Mosque,” Beni told reporters here.
The minister also alleged that the SP supremo helped Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to return to the power after Godhara riots in 2002. “After communal riots in Gujarat, there was an anti-Modi atmosphere and he might have lost the polls… but he (Mulayam) fielded his candidates and campaigned for them which led to division of Muslim votes and Modi won,” Verma alleged.
He alleged there was a conspiracy to demolish the Mosque on October 30, 1990 itself during the regime of Mulayam and also there was an agreement between the SP supremo and BJP leader L K Advani. He also alleged that even the ‘rath yatra’ of Advani, which flared communal passion in the country, started after an understanding with Mulayam.
In reply to another question, Verma said there was no difference between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the decision to call for resignation of railway minister Pawan Bansal and law minister Ashwani Kumar “was taken with consensus”.
- With government officials turning hostile, Varun Gandhi acquitted in hate speech (May 14, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- U.P. to challenge Varun’s acquittal in hate speech case (May 15, 2013, The Hindu)
- Did Varun Gandhi order division of BJP votes to let SP candidate win from Pilibhit? (May 15, 2013, India Today)
- ‘Pressure’ on witnesses in Varun hate speech case (May 16, 2013, Business Standard)
A Vashi resident, Pratiksha Pisal (30) allegedly committed suicide, hours after she had complained to the police of dowry harassment by her husband, Sandeep Pisal (31), and in-laws. Sandeep, his father, mother and sister have been were arrested for abetment to suicide and dowry harassment.
On Tuesday, Pratiksha approached the Vasai police and complained of dowry harassment by her husband and in-laws. The police then summoned the accused and counselled them. The family was told not to harass Pratiksha and demand dowry. Later in the evening, Pratiksha hanged herself inside her house at Sector 15.
“After Pratiksha went home from the police station, she called me and another relative. But, the call got disconnected and the conversation could not be completed. Late on Tuesday, we got to know that she had died,” said Pratiksha’s father, Bhagwat Badhe, who has filed a complaint against the arrested.
Badhe said that he suspected a foul play in his daughter’s death. “Pratiksha and Sandeep got married in January this year. Soon after, the Pisal family started demanding over Rs 15 lakh to buy a new house,” said Badhe.
Sandeep, his father Jyotiram Pisal (65), mother (57) and sister Devyani (35) have been booked for abetment to suicide and dowry harassment under Indian Penal Code sections 304B, 306, 498A and 34.
- Female magistrate files dowry case against her own husband (May 18, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- Young woman roughed up in police station (May 15, 2013, Times of India)
- Using art to oppose violence against women (May 17, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Woman burnt to death over dowry (May 18, 2013, Times of India)
Despite having prior information, police failed to prevent an attack on Dalits of Pabnawa village in Haryana’s Kaithal district by members of the Ror community (caste Hindus) on April 13, says a report by the Caste Annihilation Movement (CAM). Some 200 Dalit families fled the village after their homes were attacked by Rors enraged by a Dalit boy from the village secretly marrying a Ror girl, according to a team of the Movement that visited the village. The report says that the decision to ‘teach a lesson’ to the Dalits was taken at a meeting attended by around 500 Rors.
A Dalit boy, Darshanpal, told the team that he informed the police station and the Deputy Superintendent of Police of the impending attack at 2.30 p.m. the same day and again reminded them at 6 p.m. and at 8.30 p.m. Fifteen policemen were sent to the area but kept away from the village and it was in their presence that the attack took place, according to the report. The houses of Dalits were looted and destroyed and three persons were seriously injured in the attack. After this incident, the police arrested 22 persons under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, though 52 have been named in the preliminary report. Thirty persons are still at large.
The incident was triggered by the marriage of Meena, a Ror girl, with Suryakant from the Dalit community on April 8. The two sought protection from the Punjab and Haryana High Court as the girl’s parents had lodged a kidnap complaint against Suryakant. CAM coordinator J.P. Narela, general secretary of the New Democratic Party of India Arun Manjhi and trade union leader K.K. Niyogi were the members of the team. The report says the Dalits and the boy are under pressure to break the marriage and hand over the girl to her family. But the Dalits have refused to do so. Haryana Education Minister Gita Bhukkal has been publicly saying that marriages within the same village are not good for society and they should be annulled.
After the incident, 15-20 unarmed police personnel were deployed at the village entrance. Dalit families told the team that in Haryana the dominant communities have no fear of the law for they occupy key positions in the government. Quoting Darshan Singh, a Dalit from the village, the report states that the attack will affect the livelihood of 150 Dalit families because now they cannot work in the farms of the Rors. The CAM has demanded that all those implicated in the Pabnawa attack be arrested immediately and the police personnel who did not prevent it be dismissed. It has also demanded that all attempts to dissolve such marriages be stopped.
- Dalits denied Narmada water: Plaint reaches NHRC (May 16, 2013, Times of India)
- Dalits seek police protection in Haryana (May 16, 2013, The Hindu)
- Caste Hindus torturing us: Dalit couple (May 14, 2013, New Indian Express)
- Dalit woman attacked for drawing water from handpump (May 13, 2013, Times of India)
Opinions and Editorials
Dubious Role Of Police Exposed In Custodial Death Of Terror Accused In Uttar Pradesh – By Ajit Sahi (May 21, 2013, Tehelka)
If we accept the official explanation for the death on 18 May of Khalid Mujahid, an under-trial prisoner in Uttar Pradesh accused of terrorism, then India may have just lost a superman. More likely, the police have made up facts and may soon be exposed. According to the official explanation, Mujahid, 32, was taken ill at 3.40 pm in the eastern district of Barabanki and admitted to a government hospital where he was pronounced dead. This claim was made by none other than the district magistrate of Barabanki, S Minisati, when she visited the hospital. But Mujahid’s lawyer says he had minutes earlier been in another city 65 km away to attend the hearing in one of the terror cases in which he is an accused. “Mujahid left that courtroom at 3.30 pm,” says Randhir Singh Suman, his lawyer. “How did he cover 65 km in 10 minutes?” Good question. But then, Mujahid’s tragic story is a litany of such irreconcilable facts right from the day he was arrested by the anti-terrorism Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh Police in December 2007. Indeed, the police have been thoroughly exposed as lying about him right from the beginning. Yet, it confounds common sense and offends judicial propriety that successive judges not only did not throw out the case against Mujahid as wholly spurious but also refused to grant him bail that he deserved.
Worse, a trial judge ignored his repeated pleas, including written, that the policemen that ferried him between the prison and the court had explicitly threatened to kill him in an “encounter”, a euphemism for extrajudicial killings by the police. Two months ago, a second lawyer who represented Mujahid in another terror case being prosecuted in Lucknow, Mohammad Shoib, told the state’s jail minister that the several Muslim youths, including Mujahid, being tried for terrorism faced threats to their lives. Shoib was also among the last to see Mujahid alive. “We were together in the court until 3.20 pm,” he says. “Ten minutes later, I saw the police van carrying him leave the court premises.” And now Mujahid is dead. Here is how the state, its police and the judiciary combined to first frame him and then deny him justice. On 22 December 2007 police announced the arrest of two “terrorists” from a location 20 km east of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. They were apprehended, police said, from a railway station in the town of Barabanki that is a satellite of the capital. One of the two arrested men was Mujahid, a madrassa teacher in Jaunpur district, 250 km east of Lucknow. The other was Tariq Kasmi, a practitioner of the Unani medicine system in the district of Azamgarh, which is adjacent to Jaunpur. The police claimed that Mujahid and Kasmi were responsible for simultaneous bombings in the district courts of Lucknow and Faizabad, which is 120 km east of the capital, on 22 November 2007. They said the two men had been arrested with explosives. Subsequently, the two were implicated in three different cases: one each in Lucknow and Faizabad for the bombings, and one in Barabanki for carrying explosives. They were charged with sedition and waging war against the state, both colonial era constructs, as also under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Explosives Act.
Instantly, Mujahid’s family members and well-wishers as well as human rights activists jumped in and demolished the police story. They claimed Mujahid was arrested in broad daylight from a crowded market six days previously, on 16 December 2007. His arrest had sparked protests in his town, Madiyahu, in Jaunpur district. Newspapers had reported both. Local police, civil officials and even the courts were given representations against his arrest. Yet, a judicial magistrate bought the police version that it arrested Mujahid and Kasmi from Barabanki railway station on 22 December 2007. Could this be dismissed as partisan bickering? If yes, then consider this. In response to a plea filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the police station in Mujahid’s township, too, acknowledged that he had been arrested from the market near his house on 16 December 2007. This evidence directly contradicted what the police had told the Barabanki magistrate, before whom the two men had been presented and who had remanded them to a police custody. Mujahid quickly sought to file the RTI reply with various trial courts in Barabanki, Lucknow and Faizabad and press for justice. But the courts told him that they can’t accept the RTI document until the prosecution had finished its arguments. That was in 2009. It is 2013 now and the prosecution hasn’t yet finished its arguments. So the defence lawyers decided to try their luck with the high court to at least get him bail. They believed that the discordance in the two versions of police should make it an open-and-shut case in their favour. But the High Court said he was accused of a “heinous crime” and could not be bailed. In fact, eyebrows are also raised at the role of the then Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Barabanki, Anupama Gopal Nigam, who first remanded Mujahid (and Kasmi) in police custody. As per the procedure, the police needed to file an application before the CJM informing of the arrests of the two men and then asking the magistrate to come down to the prison to hear Mujahid and Kasmi’s remand plea because they did not want to bring them to the court for security reasons. “But no such document exists in the court records,” Mujahid’s lawyer, Suman, told TEHELKA from Barabanki. “Did the CJM go to the jail on her own?”
There is more. Suman cross-examined a police officer named Dayaram Saroj when the prosecution called him to depose. As the investigating officer in the case, Saroj should have made that formal request before the CJM. On being cross-examined, Saroj claimed that he himself had handed such an application to the CJM when she visited the prison after the arrests. But in response to an RTI application, prison authorities told Mujahid’s family that Saroj did not visit the prison that day. “This is a serious lapse,” Suman said. On 19 May, Mujahid’s uncle, Zahir Alam Falahi, filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the Barabanki police alleging that Mujahid had been murdered as a result of a conspiracy. The FIR directly named a total of 42 officers, including a former director-general of police, the highest-ranking police officer in the state, as responsible for it. The question is: why would these police officers want to eliminate Mujahid? The answer ironically lies in the first real spark of hope for Mujahid. After sustained pressure from human rights groups and various organisations of the Muslims, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s government moved the local court in Barabanki on 3 May 2013 seeking to withdraw its charges against Mujahid and Kasmi. A week later, Additional Sessions Judge Kalpana Mishra of Barabanki rejected the state’s request on a plea from some local lawyers. “These lawyers are from the RSS,” says Suman, referring to the Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. “She heard them in her chamber and passed the order without the defence being present.” But the battle may already be tilting in favour of the accused. For three years, a rights platform named Rihaee Manch has vigorously exposed police falsehoods in cases of terrorism in UP and campaigned to seek the release of the accused. The issue picked up steam last year when leading political figures such as Prakash Karat of the CPM, AB Bardhan of the CPI, Bihar politicians Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar came together and demanded an end to what they called the politics of terror against Muslims.
In 2008, then UP Chief Minister Mayawati had asked retired district judge RD Nimesh to probe the allegation that the police had illegally arrested the two men. He finally submitted his report last August. Although Chief Minister Yadav’s government has stonewalled the demands to release that report, it is widely believed that the commission has damned the police for arresting Mujahid and Kasmi and ruled their arrest as illegal. “The police officers involved in Mujahid’s illegal arrest are obviously worried,” Shahnawaz Hussain, an activist with Rihaee Manch, told TEHELKA over phone from Jaunpur where he had gone to attend Mujahid’s funeral. “Had Mujahid lived, he would have been a prime witness in the case against them and they couldn’t afford that.” The defence lawyers and rights activists are now worried for the safety of the remaining accused, who include Kasmi and two Kashmiri men, Sajjadur Rahman and Akhtar who were arrested from Jammu and Kashmir on 22 December 2007 and handed over to UP Police a week later. Strangely, the Jammu and Kashmir Police dropped the original charges on which it had arrested the two men before turning them over to UP Police. The next hearing in the original case in Barabanki will be held on 31 May 2013. The defence lawyers say they would move the court to ensure that the lives of the other accused are not endangered. “Ironically though, greater security would mean a greater threat to their lives as it is the police who want them eliminated,” Suman said.
- Ignoring Custodial Deaths in India – By Rebecca Gonsalvez and Vijay Hiremath (May 11, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Huge gap between words and actions of SP Govt: Rihai Manch President – By M. Reyaz (May 16, 2013, TwoCircles.net)
- The Sheriff Is Secular? – By Panini Anand (May 27, 2013, Outlook)
- ‘Perhaps The Police Wanted To Kill Me On The Eve Of Holi And Claim They Had Saved Delhi From A Terrorist Attack’ – By Riyaz Wani (May 20, 2013, Tehelka)
The Importance of Zakia Jafri’s Protest Petition – By Teesta Setalvad (May 25, 2013, Economic& Political Weekly)
It is not often that the battle against aggressive communalism gets sustained and validated through courts of law. This communalism is not just visible in instances of violence but encompasses the sustained mobilisation that precedes the violence, it includes hate speech and writing, as well as the deliberate debilitation of preventive measures of law and order to prevent such violence and protect the lives and properties of citizens. In the south Asian context, majoritarian communalism, fed in an insidious manner by its minority prototype, has the proclivity to deteriorate into authoritarianism, even fascism. Events, past and present, in Sri Lanka, Pakistan or India are testimony to this. In the cases of all countries of the region, communalists of the majority find ready partners with their mirror-images among the minority. For over four decades now, aggressive communalism has made deep inroads into the pillars of the Indian republic, executive, legislature and even the judiciary. The calculated, and bloody mobilisation of an ostensibly religious kind by India’s main opposition party from the late 1980s was purely political; it consolidated a vote bank of middle- and upper-class Hindus while demonising the “minority vote bank” as the raison d’être for its existence. This section of Indians, fortuitously a numerical minority yet substantial in numbers at 27 to 30% of the overall vote, has aggressively celebrated the bloody attacks on minorities and on its opposition. Writers and commentators have analysed this phenomenon as the republic’s descent into proto-fascism, with forces of the Hindu right (the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the parliamentary wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – and its other avatars, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (BD)) manipulating institutions of democratic governance. Our administration, our police, even our courts of justice barely withstood this systemic onslaught.
It is in this unique context that the battle for acknowledgement, justice and accountability for the well-orchestrated state directed and executed crimes of 2002 in Gujarat, needs to be understood. For over 11 years now, a steely band of survivors, backed by groups of civil and legal rights groups and activists have extracted for the first time a degree of acknowledgement, transparency and accountability from an indifferent system. One hundred and sixteen life imprisonments pronounced to, among others, policemen, powerful politicians (one former minister) and strongmen of outfits of the VHP and BD, is a success story in its own right. What the Zakia Jafri protest petition filed on 15 April 2013 attempts is to take this battle for accountability several steps further, and deeper. In carving out a substantial case of criminal conspiracy planned and executed by the state’s chief minister, who is also its home minister, this unique and historic legal intervention raises serious questions about the systemic build-up of communal mobilisation and inaction by state agencies and actors, the state and government’s specific response to a tragedy like Godhra on 27 February 2002 and their lack of intent to contain the impact and spread of violence. This protest petition also brings focus on the lacunae in checking hate speech and propaganda, asks for facts about summoning assistance from the military and paramilitary forces, and does a comparative analysis of districts and police commissionerates worst affected by violence (which were 15 in number) and those where the police and civilian officials refused to bow down to political masters. It also highlights the role of whistleblowers, of survivors/activists/legal and civil rights groups, and of the media in pinning down accountability on the political leadership for these mass crimes.
Gujarat in early 2002 was sitting on a communal cauldron, carefully stoked since October-November of 2001. Records of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) that are well-documented parts of the protest petition (annexures to the affidavit of former SIB Gujarat chief, R B Sreekumar) as well as responses received from the office of the chief minister during the course of the investigation, clearly establish that sustained efforts to keep districts and cities of Gujarat on the boil were afoot (reference p 178, paras 426-42 of the protest petition). What these indicate is that the then newly sworn in chief minister, Narendra Modi who had been brought in by the party’s national leadership after a series of bye-election losses in September 2001, was at the helm of the law and order machinery as the state’s home minister but did little to act against this communal mobilisation. SIB warnings include detailed notings of the aggressive anti-minority speeches being made by BJP leaders as also of the VHP and BD. One such comment, by one Prahlad Patel on his way to Faizabad-Ayodhya, recorded by the SIB would prove to be prescient, “Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamaare saath hai” February 2002, Gujarat was already sitting on a communal tinderbox. (The inside information is that the police is working with us). Despite this climate and the warnings, Godhra – with a poor record of communal violence – was left unguarded and unprepared. Despite platoons of the military and paramilitary being not far away (at Vadodara), they are not galvanised. When the Sabarmati Express arrived five hours late at the Godhra station on the fateful day of 27 February 2002, Gujarat was already sitting on a communal tinderbox.
It is how the Godhra tragedy has been deliberately manipulated that requires a careful and dispassionate study for all those concerned with non-partisan governance. The first information on Godhra received by the chief minister from the district magistrate, Jayanti Ravi, details the sequence of events – aggressive and provocative sloganeering by kar sevaks that caused a mob of Muslims to gather and pelt stones. The reasoning that explains partially, at least how and why a crowd gathered when the train stopped after it had left and the chain was pulled, is thereafter deliberately and consciously obliterated by the government in official statements and releases. The chief minister in the assembly around 1 pm hints at a sinister and Machiavellian conspiracy (paras 50-54 at pp 37-39 of the protest petition and paras 127-74, pp 71-92 of the protest petition). It is other jigsaws in the puzzle that have fallen into place during the analysis of investigation papers and preparation of the protest petition that point to the chilling manoeuvres by men and women in positions of governance to abdicate their oath to the Indian Constitution and consciously allow a chain of criminal actions to spiral out of control. Between 9 am, when news of the tragedy at Godhra had been received, and 10.30 am, when an official meeting of home department officials was called by the chief minister, phone call records (that were deliberately ignored by the Special Investigation Team (SIT)) show that the chief minister was in close touch with Jaideep Patel (accused in the criminal complaint). Jaideep Patel, far from being a man from officialdom, was actually a strong man of the VHP, general secretary of their state unit. Despatched to Godhra soon after these telephone conversations it was the same Jaideep Patel who thereafter attended an official meeting at the Collectorate at Godhra (para 69, p 45 of the protest petition) and to whom the chief minister ordered the 54 dead bodies of Godhra victims to be handed over to. It was this VHP man who was given the responsibility of transporting these bodies to Ahmedabad in a motor cavalcade that caused violence in its wake (paras 73-81 at pp 47-50 of the protest petition) and it was Jaideep Patel who handed them over to the authorities at Sola Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad.
Jaideep Patel thereafter was also charged with being an instigator of mobs to commit violence at Naroda Gaam, the next day, 28 February 2002. This close contact between the chief minister and Jaideep Patel, both accused in Zakia Jafri’s criminal complaint dated 8 June 2006 continued right through till 28 February 2002 when the massacres at Naroda and Gulberg were being executed. At 15: 26:06 hours, Jaideep Patel called the chief minister at his official number and had a conversation lasting 141 seconds. Jaideep Patel’s was one of just three calls on this number. Incidentally, all the office and residential numbers of the chief minister for both days show a shockingly low number of calls, raising more questions than they answer. The mobile number of the chief minister has been left deliberately uninvestigated by the SIT (para 106, p 61 of the protest petition). After these surreptitious indications of the criminal conspiracy that was to unfold, the chief minister, then health minister, Ashok Bhatt, minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya and Jaideep Patel were in touch and a controversial decision to conduct post-mortems on the bodies of the unfortunate Godhra victims, in the open at the railway yard in full public view of an aggressive crowd of VHP members baying for blood, was taken. The chief minister, who is accused number 1 in this protest petition, was present at Godhra at the railway yard while these illegal post-mortems were allowed (paras 473-77, pp 211-12 of the protest petition). Law and procedure are exacting about whom the dead bodies are to be given; they require that the bodies remain in the safe-keeping of the police authorities (in this case the Godhra police where the case was registered) until claimed by relatives to whom they need to be handed over with due procedure. Photographs of gruesome and gory remains are strictly prohibited from being displayed or published (para 480, p 214 of the protest petition). Not only were the gory charred remains of the burnt passengers displayed but they were widely publicised in violation of Section 233, 4 (vi), Volume III of the Gujarat Police Manual. …
- Right decision, wrong reason – Editorial (May 16, 2013, The Hindu)
This is a story about a terrible travesty. Varun Gandhi, 33, has recently been in the news for two reasons. First, he has been exonerated of all charges in the hate speeches he allegedly made in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Second, he has been made the national general secretary of the BJP, the youngest politician ever to be elevated to this post. Now, an explosive TEHELKA sting investigation shows he is not entitled to either. TEHELKA’s investigation proves that not only did Varun make the venomous speeches he is accused of, he has compounded the original wrong by brazenly subverting the entire judicial process to get his name cleared. He has also indulged in anti-party activities, deliberately making his own party candidate lose an Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in 2012 so that a Samajwadi Party (SP) leader sympathetic to him could win and help him fix the cases against him. The subversion of justice has been so blatant that all 88 witnesses in the cases have turned hostile. This is perhaps unprecedented in any criminal case in the world. Many of these witnesses have been caught on TEHELKA’s hidden cameras admitting they were coerced or bribed into changing their testimonies. They speak of how Pilibhit Superintendent of Police Amit Verma and other police officers threatened witnesses. In one instance, a witness claims he received a call directly from Varun’s office. The witnesses also speak of how the judicial process was turned completely on its head; how their testimonies were taken in the absence of the judge; how their statements were crafted by the lawyers and their thumb impressions or signatures taken; of how they were not cross-examined, often not even summoned to present their testimonies.
Startlingly, these accounts are strongly corroborated by key BJP and SP leaders caught on TEHELKA’s cameras. (In fact, BJP leader Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar – district vice-president of Pilibhit – gives the most devastating account of Varun’s actions.) The investigation also found that Public Prosecutor MP Verma – tasked with upholding the law of the land and bringing the guilty to justice – and the court itself were suspiciously negligent in following due process in bringing the high-profile leader to justice. For instance, 18 witnesses were examined in a span of just two days. They all turned hostile, but neither the public prosecutor nor the court raised any flags. They failed to object even when other witnesses gave blatantly contradictory statements. Further, when Varun refused to give a voice sample – crucial evidence for the prosecution’s case – the public prosecutor agreed to it without any objection. Several important witnesses were not even produced in the court because the public prosecutor himself filed an application saying there was no need for them to do so. As an example of cynical political expediency – a willingness to bend every institution of democracy – the story could not get starker. Or darker. What also makes this story particularly significant is that it lays bare how easily systems are subverted by the powerful in this country. Before the evidence, the backdrop: Varun Gandhi’s controversial political journey began in 2009 when he decided to stand for his first Lok Sabha election from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh on a BJP ticket. As a Nehru-Gandhi scion, Varun should have been one of the natural inheritors of what is perhaps the world’s most illustrious political legacy. But his mother Maneka Gandhi’s famous spat with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had meant political anonymity for him.
In March 2009, that anonymity was rudely broken when visual footage of Varun spewing venom at Muslims in his election rallies erupted on national television. The country was astounded. Here was Jawaharlal Nehru’s great-grandson in a role absolutely antithetical to the idea of India his great grandfather had played such a pivotal role in establishing. Millions watched as these hate speeches – captured by several people on their phones and cameras – were played on loop on television channels. At the Election Commission’s insistence, two cases were filed against Varun for inciting hatred and creating communal disharmony. He was arrested on 28 March 2009 and stayed behind bars for 20 days. Another case was registered against him for the violence that took place during his surrender at the Pilibhit court. He was charged for rioting, damaging public property and attempt to murder. Yet, though thousands had heard his speeches at the rallies and millions had watched it on television, on 4 May 2013, the Sessions Court of Pilibhit acquitted him of all the charges in these three cases, on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The illegal and immoral lengths Varun went to, to get these exonerations, have all been caught in TEHELKA’s sting investigation. But this was not Varun’s first brush with the law. He had picked the Pilibhit parliamentary seat for his first election because his mother Maneka had won several Lok Sabha elections from there. On 1 August 2008, on a tour through his constituency, Varun and his associates were headed towards Barkhera, a town 22 km from Pilibhit. On the way, Varun’s car got stalled in a pothole in a village called Jyorah Kalyanpur. While the problem was being sorted, Varun and his supporters got down and tried talking to people around. Most huts in the village were sporting flags of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (RKMS) and the Congress party. This displeased Varun and he enquired why this was the case. A local shopkeeper, Bharatveer Gangwar, replied that the flags were there because the RKMS was working for the people of the area.
Phool Chand ‘Acharya Ji’, a resident of the village and an eyewitness to the incident, recounts what happened after this. “Varun got angry with Bharatveer and said whatever had been done for the village had been done by his mother Maneka. Bharatveer replied that people supported RKMS leader VM Singh because he had fought for the welfare of the local sugarcane farmers. Varun did not like this and slapped Bharatveer. Varun’s supporters also started beating him. The villagers tried to stop them but Varun’s supporters had weapons and no one had to courage to stop Varun.” At 6.30 pm on 1 August, Bharatveer lodged an FIR against Varun and his associates at Barkhera Police Station. On the other hand, an FIR was also lodged from Varun’s side by Yogendra Gangwar, the then BJP district president, at 9.10 pm. While the first FIR said exactly what Phool Chand told us, the second FIR said that Bharatveer had fired at Varun from a country-made pistol, looted 10,000 from him and fled with his associates while brandishing the pistol. The police investigated both the cases, found the case lodged against Bharatveer as false and filed a closure report. In the case lodged against Varun, however, the police filed a chargesheet on 24 December 2008. This was the first criminal case filed against Varun in Pilibhit district. By this time, Varun had understood that the Gandhi name alone was not sufficient to ensure his victory in the constituency. There were several reasons for this. In the delimitation exercise, many areas that voted exclusively for Maneka had gone out of the constituency. To exacerbate the challenge, Bahedi, which had a mixed population of both Hindus and Muslims, had come into Pilibhit constituency. Three of the five Assembly seats of Pilibhit had Muslim MLAs whereas the population of Muslims in the region was only 35 percent. Mindful of this, Varun seems to have decided the best way to ensure a victory was to polarise the election on communal lines.
This became evident in early 2009 as the campaign picked up pace. According to the locals, on 22 February, Varun declared himself as the only saviour of Hindus in the country at Ram Manohar Lohia Balika Inter College of Lalori Khera village in Pilibhit and started speaking against Muslims. This hate speech at Lalori Khera was mentioned in the election petition filed against him in the Allahabad High Court. Throughout the course of its investigation, TEHELKA was repeatedly told that before the 2009 General Election, wherever Varun held a poll meeting, he swore on the Gita that he would “cut off the hands and necks of Muslims”. On 6 March 2009, Varun was supposed to address an election meeting at the Deshnagar locality of Pilibhit. He reached the venue at around 9 pm. Shariq Parvez, a local reporter, tried to record the speech but was forced by Varun’s supporters to turn off his camera. He could only record a few minutes. Varun told those gathered at the Deshnagar rally, “If you want to save the Hindu religion, vote for me. If a Hindu doesn’t vote for me, he would be betraying his religion.” He also warned, “See! These Muslims may say anything… every vote of theirs would go for that katua (a derogatory term for Muslims…) understand? Therefore, every vote of yours should go for Hindustan…” In the meantime, Shailendra Singh, a local youth, recorded Varun’s entire speech on his cell phone. Shailendra says, “I had heard from several people that Varun was regularly giving speeches to inflame communal passions. Therefore I decided to record his speech. No one was allowed to make a video so I switched on the record button on my cell phone and kept it in my pocket.” (TEHELKA is in possession of this audio clip of around 28 minutes.) The next day, on 7 March, Varun gave the same anti-Muslim speech at a locality known as Dalchand. He told the people that 13 Hindu women had been raped by Muslims over the past few days, yet the offenders were roaming scot-free. He also warned the public that the area had three Muslim MLAs, and if the trend continued, the area would turn into Pakistan. People needed to vote for him, he said, so he could establish a Hindu nation. (TEHELKA enquired about these rapes, but found no complaints or FIRs had been registered. This rumour about the rapes though had spread like wildfire and become a huge point of tension before the election.) …
- In Mumbai, a quiet blow against hate speech – By Jyoti Punwani (May 10, 2013, The Hindu)
- Cut from the same cloth – By Sujata Anandan (May 15, 2013, Hindustan Times)
The 2013 assembly elections in Karnataka have arrested the southern expedition of the saffron brigade by giving a verdict against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The electorate of Karnataka has punished the vulgar display of corrupt and communal practices indulged in by the party after it came to power in 2008. Even though the verdict cannot be construed as a decisive rejection of either the Hindutva politics and corruption or the BJP as a party, considering the other equations at play, it is nevertheless a clear reflection of the resentment of the common man. The results prove, unambiguously, that Karnataka is not Gujarat, contrary to many Delhi-centric theories floated by the national media. There are as many fundamental differences between the two as there are superficial similarities. Though the defeat of the BJP was a foregone conclusion even before the election results were declared, the nature of the electoral performance of the party and a closer study of the nature of its defeat unveils how comprehensive and convincing the rejection of the party has been. While the 2008 victory was considered by the BJP as the opening of the gateway to south India, one can safely say that the gate is shut for some time to come.
First, let us take a look at the numbers. Elections were held in 223 out of 224 assembly constituencies. The Congress won 121 seats establishing a simple, but comfortable majority and gained 41 seats over 2008. But the BJP’s performance was so abysmal that it 110 seats of the 2008 elections came down to a mere 40 in these present elections. Though the Janata Dal (Secular) [(JD(S)] also got 40 seats – an improvement of 12 seats over the previous election – its vote share was marginally higher than that of the BJP. Even though the election for the Piriyapatna constituency in Mysore District has been rescheduled for 29 May, it has never been a stronghold of the BJP, and the victory of the JD(S) or the Congress there is a foregone conclusion. There are of course moves and counter moves to attain the status of the prinicipal opposition party in the Legislative Assembly. While Ashok Kheny, a first time MLA and a staunch opponent of Deve Gowda has offered to merge with the BJP to make it the principal opposition party, the JD(S) and the Badavara Shrakikara Raithara Congress (BSR) party of B Sriramulu, which got 4 seats, have sent signals of a merger to check this move. It is obvious that electorally the BJP has been set back by at least 20 years. If we recall, in the 1994 elections the Janata Dal had emerged victorious, and the BJP emerged as the principal opposition party having won 40 seats. The Congress stood third with 35 seats under its belt. An analysis of the vote shares in various constituencies reveals not just the magnitude of BJP’s defeat but how compelled the voters felt to choose an alternative to the BJP.
The 2013 assembly elections witnessed a record voter turnout of 71.29%, the second highest since 1978 when almost 71.9% people voted. Out of the 3.12 crore votes polled, the Congress won 1.14 crore, or 36.55% of the valid votes polled; an improvement of 1.96% over its tally in the 2008 assembly elections. The JD(S) and the BJP both got got 62.32 lakh votes (though the former got a few more than the BJP). While JD(S) increased its vote share by a minor 0.65 %, the BJP saw a loss of 13.96 % of the vote share. To decipher what this vote share means, one has to look at the voter support. In the 2008 assembly elections the BJP was endorsed by 88.57 lakh voters. This time more than 26.25 lakh voters (30% of voters who voted for the BJP in 2008) did not vote for the party. There are multiple reasons for this rejection, and these vary from region to region. B S Yeddyurappa, who broke away from the BJP to form his own Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), clearly affected the BJP’s prospects in a few regions. The BSR Congress party of B Sriramulu, another breakaway faction of the BJP, also severely hurt the BJP in the central Karnataka region. But it is also true that the BJP vote base suffered a huge setback in many areas which were impervious to the Yeddyurappa factor.
The major gains for the BJP in the 2008 elections came from the Mumbai Karnataka region where the dominant Lingayat community is numerically strong. When the BJP got 40 seats in 1994, a mere four seats came from this region. But by 2004, with Yeddyurappa heading the BJP, the tally in this region rose to 24 and then to 34 seats in 2008. The single biggest factor that helped the victory of the BJP in 2008 was the “betrayal” by H D Kumarasvamy (a Vokkaliga) in 2007 when he refused to vacate the chief minister’s post for Yeddyurappa, a powerful Lingayat leader, as a part of the power-sharing agreement between the BJP and JD(S). Yeddyurappa used this to polarise the Lingayat votes in favour of the BJP in the 2008 elections. Even this time Yeddyurappa, after quitting the BJP and forming his own party, concentrated his campaign in this region with the singular agenda of teaching a lesson to “the party which stabbed him in the back”.1 The result was disastrous for the BJP. It could capture only 13 seats in the region, a loss of 23 seats as compared to its tally in 2008. Even its vote share decreased by 8.5%. While Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) could win only two seats here, it gained 10.3% of the total votes polled. The Congress also improved its vote share by a considerable 3.5% in this region. This suggests that the Lingayats did not support the KJP en masse and saw the Congress as a viable alternative to the BJP. …
The most interesting aspect of the 2013 results is the dynamics of Hindutva politics in Karnataka. Is the apparent defeat of the Hindutva forces a temporary phenomenon? Can this be construed as an anti-Hindutva vote? A preliminary analysis of the voting behavior suggests that after the BJP came to power in 2008, there emerged a conflict of interest within the Sangh Parivar. The authoritarian attitude of the Parivar and its inability to accommodate conflicting interests resulted in the moving away of substantial groups like the Bunts and Mogaveera communities. Hence it can be said that, at least in the short term, the Hindutva agenda has got a beating. … This election also highlighted the negligible impact of Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi’s appeal in Karnataka. Interestingly, the BJP lost heavily, instead of gaining, in all the places that Modi campaigned in. This may be due to the greater polarisation of minority votes against the party after his visit. So what use will Modi be to the BJP in states like Karnataka, and what impact would it have on his prospects of becoming the prime minister? Karnataka had sent 19 BJP members of Parliament (MPs) to the Lok Sabha in the 2009 general elections. If the current vote patterns are replicated in the coming general elections, the BJP will get only two MPs from this state. This underlines the fact that these elections have not only hurt the BJP in Karnataka, they perhaps will also grievously dent its national ambitions. …
- The right choice – Editorial (May 13, 2013, The Hindu)
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court, as part of its criticism of the UPA government’s interference in the coal scandal inquiry, sought to institutionalise autonomy for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It asked the government to come back to it by 10 July with concrete proposals for a legal and permanent insulating of the CBI from the political executive. Consequently, the government has set up a Group of Ministers (GoM), under Finance Minister P Chidambaram. If it is serious about its task, the GoM will find it has a vast body of literature and several reports and suggestions, all of them in the public domain, to draw from. Indeed, it would make sense for the UPA government to consult the Opposition before submitting its proposals to the Supreme Court. If India is at the cusp of an enormous change in the manner in which the CBI functions – presuming the apex court is committed to its resolve – then it is only appropriate for a government in its fourth year in office to work towards the largest possible consensus.
The quest to win the CBI operative freedom and separate its investigation and prosecution wings is a well-considered one. In taking the initiative, the court has delinked this entirely valid proposition from the larger issue of the Lokpal and legislation related to setting up an anti-corruption ombudsman. Several people, not all of them partisans of corrupt and compromised politicians, have deep misgivings about the need for a Lokpal, at least in the manner in which it has been envisaged. They fear it will become a gigantic, self-serving bureaucracy and simply add a layer to the rent-seeking apparatus of the Indian State. However, there is little argument over the need to liberate the CBI from blatant political manipulation.
The CBI needs breathing space, and its director and other officers need security of tenure. They need far greater say in their budgets. It has been pointed out, for instance, that even in the purchase of vehicles, the CBI has to go running to its superintending minister to seek additional money and clearance. This gives the political executive, and the individual politician, enormous leeway over the CBI. The promise of a post-retirement job – such as membership of a commission or a governor’s post – is another allurement that can be used to immobilise a potentially difficult CBI director. The UPA government has done this fairly successfully in recent years. Two months ago, it sent a former director of the CBI, who retired in November 2010, to the Raj Bhavan in Kohima.
Having said that, it cannot be anybody’s case that the CBI director must be a law unto himself or should have the authority to initiate investigations without due diligence, or that the agency does not require oversight. The question is: who carries out this oversight? Who appoints the CBI director and monitors him from a safe distance, without calling him and his officers for private chats in the middle of a case investigation? It is fairly clear that the executive cannot be trusted with this task. When it gives the CBI permission to buy vehicles – to cite the trivial example from the previous paragraph – it ends up retaining the right to tell the CBI where to and where not to drive those vehicles. The course of corruption cases against the senior leadership of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party is there for all to see.
The only feasible solution is to give a parliamentary committee oversight of the CBI. A four-member committee, comprising the prime minister and one other minister and the leaders of the opposition in Parliament, would be ideal. The even-numbered configuration would ensure a natural bias does not exist in favour of the government. If this model is successful, it can perhaps be extended to other key national security and crime-fighting agencies, but for the moment, it is the CBI that is being discussed. There are those who will argue this eats into executive privilege and resembles the American tradition of legislative vetting of key appointments. True, it does. A mangled CBI has left India no choice.
- A State Of Stasis – By N. Ram (May 27, 2013, Outlook)
- IPL: Glorious Uncertainties Or Bookies’ Delight? – By TS Sudhir (May 16, 2013, Tehelka)
- Cricket’s A Sonofapitch! – By Prachi Pinglay-Plumber (May 27, 2013, Outlook)
On the evening of November 7, 2012, a crowd numbering over 1000 people burst into three Dalit settlements in Dharmapuri, north-western Tamil Nadu, and laid them waste. Over a period of several hours, they looted, smashed and burned. Trees had been felled on all approach routes to prevent police and fire-tenders from reaching the scene and those officers who were present decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Over 260 houses were razed to the ground, valuables worth millions of rupees stolen, and goods from televisions to motorbikes smashed and set on fire. The immediate motive for this sustained attack was said to be an inter-caste marriage between a Dalit man and a backward caste woman. Tamil Nadu, however, has a long history of anti-caste activism which encouraged cross-caste marriages. Even today, couples marrying across caste are entitled to various state benefits. This region, furthermore, has a history of communist inspired mobilisation that saw the poor of all castes uniting against landlords and industrialists. In the past 20 years, however, caste identities have been increasingly politicised and polarised by politicians seeking to make political capital out of community identities. It is caste politics and status competition that underpin such violence rather than domestic politics; a point emphasised in May 2013 when violence erupted once more around a Vanniyar (Most Backward Caste) caste conference.
Those at the forefront of the current upsurge in violence are those called the ‘backward’ or the ‘most backward’ castes. These are formal categorisations that entitle groups to affirmative action in recognition of the fact that they have historically lacked the privileges of education and social status. These castes are located just above Dalits in the caste hierarchy but tend to own land. These castes have increasingly mobilised politically to demand special provisions for their group. In so doing they have reinforced the boundaries of caste and mobilised against perceived threats and injustices. One recurrent assertion of such groups is that Dalits receive favourable treatment from the state and misuse anti-caste legislation to get back at higher castes. Attempts by Dalits to assert themselves in the late 1990s, thus, were met by violent repression from backward castes anxious to defend their status and dominance. The tragedy of the situation is that there have been systematic efforts to reduce caste tensions in this millennium. Thol. Thirumavalavan, Member of Parliament, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK-Liberation Panther Party) – the largest Dalit party in Tamil Nadu – came to prominence for his fiery rhetoric that promised to hit back against caste aggression and spoke of a counter-violence of the oppressed. Since gaining office, however, he joined hands with Dr. S. Ramadoss – leader of the Most Backward Caste Vanniyar party, Pattali Makkal Katchi – and campaigned on Tamil issues in the interests of social harmony. Indeed, as Gowthama Sannah – Dalit intellectual and VCK leader – put it in 2012:
“Back then when we spoke of hitting back, Mukkulathors and Vanniyars were vehemently and violently anti-Dalit. After Dalits started to counter-attack, their predatory instincts diminished. Now they do not engage in major riots, they do not tend to set light to cheris [Dalit settlements], they do not tend to muster people to attack Dalits. Though small-scale violence persists in many places, the will to engage in major clashes has declined. Then why should we stick to the same ‘hit back’ slogan and strategy? You can only say that when there is a need. Now, when they are being quiet – after the war, peace is the only way.” Barely a month after this statement, caste ‘wars’ erupted again. Following on from the arson in Dharmapuri there have been similar incidents elsewhere. One question that has been raised is whether this violence can be understood as a form of untouchability or whether it reflects the more recent politicisation of identity. Certainly Dalits have been hitting back across India, but to equate this to the eradication of hierarchy would be premature. Dalits – or Scheduled Castes as they are known in official documents – are still disproportionately represented amongst the poor and landless and still struggle to realise the promises of the Constitution.
While activists are fond of insisting that nothing changes, caste is clearly changing across India and Dalits are developing economically and educationally just as others are. Indeed, it is arguably because of this development that the current conflicts arise. Quietly and gradually, Dalits are escaping forms of dependence and, in so doing, are posing a challenge to the caste order that those just above them in the caste hierarchy find hard to stomach. In Dharmapuri in 2012 and Marakkanam in 2013, mobs deliberately targeted the economic assets of their victims. One factor fuelling their animosity is that Dalits no longer act as submissive agricultural labourers in the fields of the dominant castes. This resentment feeds into a sense of insecurity that is captured in backward caste slogans that say: “first our jobs and now our women.” Women’s bodies, here, serve as the embodied markers of caste purity and so it is when Dalit men marry Vanniyar women that issues arise. The voices and choices of the women concerned are lost in the claims and counter-claims of male politicians. For all Sannah’s talk of peace, the violence in Dharmapuri was not completely unexpected. Earlier in the year, a Vanniyar Member of the Legislative Assembly had threatened violence against any non-Vanniyar who dared to marry a Vanniyar girl. Though this hate speech was made on an open stage, no action was taken against him for inciting violence. Such speeches are extremely popular within the party because they counter-pose valorous sons-of-the-soil against uppity Dalits who ought to know their place. This construction of an exclusive identity helps create internal solidarity that may help the party in elections, but commentators are increasingly questioning the social costs of such a strategy. Finally, in May 2013, senior members of the PMK were arrested and charged with inciting violence; a move which prompted widespread disruption across the State and party members smashed and burned vehicles, blocked roads and took to the streets.
It is tempting to dismiss this violence as indicating the continuing significance of age-old caste identities and relations. To do so, however, ignores the fact that the caste system is clearly changing and the structures underpinning it are starting to shift. Old certainties are being eroded and caste identities are assuming new – often more vociferous – forms. Aspects of caste and untouchability, however, continue to be embedded in the make-up of Indian society. Much as institutions in the U.K. had to confront issues of institutionalised racism, those in India need to recognise and address institutionalised casteism throughout society. The road towards a casteless and egalitarian society will be long and tortuous, and the divisions between Dalits and ‘caste Hindus’ will prove hardest of all to bridge. Standing by while politicians spew casteist venom renders the authorities partly culpable for caste polarisation and any ensuing violence. If the belated arrest of politicians responsible for ‘hate-speech’ signals a new and more proactive approach to caste politics, then perhaps some good may arise from the ashes of Dalit homes in Dharmapuri.
- Evicting The Gandhians – Justin Podur Interviews Himanshu Kumar (May 3, 2013, Countercurrents)
- The Democracy Deficit – By Jasmine Shah (May 18, 2013, Tehelka)