IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 21st, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Reinvestigate Narendra Modi’s Role
- Keshubhai says Modi rule a terror
- FIR against Yeddyurappa, sons and in-law
- Brutal Khaki – Bilal Sheikh sent to jail two days after he came out of ICU
- Masjid blast probe leaves acquitted ‘accused’ for life
- Mayawati’s parks, elephants and a Rs 40,000-crore scam
- MPs’ protest against cartoon is vote-bank politics: Dalit activists
- Scarred, ‘Maoist’ student pens open letter to Mamata
- Senior Gujarat cop in dock for dirty talk
- ‘Social boycott made Dalits in 77 Gujarat villages migrate’
Opinions & Editorials
- SIT Report: Illogical and Biased – By Nagen Das
- Yeddyurappa’s last stand – Editorial
- 5 yrs of Mecca Masjid blast: Saga of saffron terror, khaki torture and state apathy – By Mohd. Ismail Khan
- The Sacred Profane – By Saba Naqvi
- Kazmi’s ordeal – By T.K. Rajalakshmi
- Of mines, minerals and tribal rights – By Brinda Karat
Reinvestigate Narendra Modi’s Role (May 20, 2012, Peoples Democracy)
The report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on the communal violence and killings in Gujarat in 2002 is flawed and seeks to cover-up the heinous role played by the Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The SIT report concludes that Narendra Modi saying that the Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger does not constitute an offence because it was said “within the four walls of a room.” According to the SIT’s strange logic, a chief minister instructing senior police officers not to intervene and act against the violence is not a culpable action nor dereliction of duty.
Further, the report shockingly provides a justification for the mob violence which led to the ghastly killing of Ehsan Jafri and others in the Gulberg society housing attack, by giving credence to the report that Jafri provoked the mob by firing at them. This again is stated by citing Narendra Modi’s statement that “action” had led to “reaction.”
The SIT investigation and report has been vitiated by the lack of application of mind and by the inability to comprehend the premeditated actions of the executive in Gujarat. The SIT findings exonerating Narendra Modi have been questioned by the report submitted to the Supreme Court by the Amicus Curiae. A fresh investigation into the role and actions of Narendra Modi should be conducted, so that the truth comes out and accountability is fixed.
- SIT extended probe to shield Modi, Bhatt writes to Raghavan (May 17, 2012, Indian Express)
- SIT tried to undermine credibility of fax message: Sanjiv Bhatt (May 16, 2012, DNA India)
- Since its birth in 2008, SIT saw many shake-ups (May 15, 2012, Indian Express)
- Gujarat riots: Delay in Dipda Darwaja verdict? (May 15, 2012, DNA India)
Keshubhai says Modi rule a terror (May 16, 2012, The Hindu)
The former Gujarat Chief Minister, Keshubhai Patel, sharing a platform with Mahagujarat Janata Party (MJP) president Gordhan Jhadafiya has unnerved the ruling BJP in the State. Mr. Patel said the Modi administration had become a “terror” for the people. “It is not the Patels alone, every section of the Gujaratis are living in a state of fear all the time under the present dispensation,” he told the convention organised here by the MJP. Mr. Patel, who surrendered power to Mr. Modi 11 years ago after the party’s central leadership felt he was not doing enough for the relief and rehabilitation of the killer earthquake-hit people in 2001, had always been critical of his successor, but so far preferred to stay behind the scene.
He started criticising Mr. Modi before the 2007 Assembly elections also, but confined himself to addressing gatherings of the Patels only and as the situation started warming up, he withdrew and during the run-up to the elections, he did not address any meeting, including the BJP election meetings. Sources in the party said the BJP high command, particularly veteran leader L. K. Advani, managed to bring Mr. Patel round before the 2007 elections and his staying away from the electioneering helped the party to woo back the Patel voters. But with Mr. Modi’s relations with the party high command, including Mr. Advani, strained, the pro-Keshubhai lobby is hoping that the central leadership would not intervene this time to tame the former Chief Minister. The increasing warmth between Mr. Patel and Mr. Advani was witnessed at a meeting of the Somnath temple trust, of which Mr. Patel was the chairman and both Mr. Advani and Mr. Modi its members, held in Gandhinagar last month.
If Mr. Patel goes all out against Mr. Modi, he is certain to get support from a number of other veteran leaders of the party in the State who have been finding themselves totally isolated and ignored. Besides Mr. Shankarsinh Waghela, “second pillar” of the BJP after Keshubhai Patel, who has since joined the Congress, several other senior party leaders like another former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta, the former Union Minister, Kashiram Rana, are waiting in the wings to join the fray against Mr. Modi. Mr. Jhadafiya, who is also a Patel, was a Minister in the Keshubhai Patel Cabinet and was known to be close to the former Chief Minister. But publicly they parted ways after Mr. Jhadafiya quit the BJP and formed the MJP following differences with Mr. Modi before the last elections.
However, the two leaders again appearing on one platform is certain to cause concern to Mr. Modi, particularly because of growing dissatisfaction against his administration among the “Patels.” Besides that the Patels feel that the Modi administration was focusing attention on the industrial sector than the agricultural sector, the bread and butter for the Patels. The members of the community are also agitated that the Patels were bearing the brunt of the outcome of the court cases of the 2002 communal riots in the State. The State unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which at least was showing lip sympathy for the Patel convicts of the riot cases, was also totally opposed to Mr. Modi and could help the Patel leaders to mobilise Patel votes against the Chief Minister.
- Gujarat refuses to give info on SIT expenses (May 16, 2012, Indian Express)
- Manch opposes Zakia plea for its document before SIT (May 20, 2012, The Hindu)
- Sharma now faces inquiry for ‘irregularities’ in travel bills (May 17, 2012, Indian Express)
- Muslims poorer than most in Gujarat, says economist (May 17, 2012, Times of India)
FIR against Yeddyurappa, sons and in-law (May 16, 2012, Central Chronicle)
Beginning its probe into allegations of corruption levelled against BS Yeddyurappa in connection with the Karnataka illegal mining scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday registered an FIR against the former state chief minister and three others. Among the others booked include Yeddyurappa’s sons BY Vijayendra and BY Raghavendra, and son-in-law RN Sohan Kumar. A special nine-member team of the CBI will probe the charges against Yeddyurappa and others.
The development comes three days after the Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe against the BJP leader for “serious illegalities” in mining activities in which he allegedly “misused his public office” for monetary benefits by extending favours to mining barons and corporates. The apex court noted there was “an unfortunate state of affairs” prevailing for a “considerable time” during which the forest and minerals were illegally exploited involving politicians and corporate entities which require probe by a competent and independent agency uninfluenced by the stature of the persons.
“The CBI shall undertake investigation in a most fair, proper and unbiased manner uninfluenced by the stature of the persons and the political or corporate clout, involved in the present case. It will be open to the CBI to examine and inspect the records of any connected matter pending before any investigating agency or any court,” a special Forest bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia said while passing the order. The bench, also comprising justices Aftab Alam and Swatanter Kumar, stayed all pending proceedings before all judicial forums in connection with the case.
“The CBI shall complete its investigation and submit a report to the court of competent jurisdiction with a copy of the report to be placed on the file of this court within three months,” the bench said posting the matter for perusal of CBI report on August 3. The report of the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) had pointed out “undue favour” in respect of a land purchased by close relatives of Yeddyuruppa for 40 lakh in 2006 and subsequently sold to South West Mining Ltd, an alleged “front company of JSW Steels Ltd” in the year 2010 for Rs 20 crores.
The CEC report said Yeddyurappa’s family members had received Rs 6 crore in kickbacks from a mining firm. Vijayendra had said that the amount was not a kickback but a loan taken through cheques. The allegation is that Praveen Chandra, a mine operator, had given Rs 2.5 crore to a firm run by Sohan Kumar and Rs 3.5 crore to another firm owned by Vijayendra and his brother Raghavendra as a favour for facilitating license.
- Yeddyurappa relatives’ NGO took money for favours: CBI (May 16, 2012, IBN)
- BS Yeddyurappa, sons, son-in-law file anticipatory bail applications (May 16, 2012, Asian Age)
- CBI court defers decision on Yeddy’s bail plea (May 17, 2012, Rediff)
- Assaulted for exposing graft, whistleblower dies (May 20, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Brutal Khaki – Bilal Sheikh sent to jail two days after he came out of ICU (May 16, 2012, Twocircles.net)
The brutal face of Maharashtra police was exposed Wednesday afternoon when they sent to jail Bilal Abdul Qadir Sheikh just two days after he came out of ICU. Bilal was brutally beaten by Thane police on May 2 just for breaking a traffic signal. He suffered serious fractures and injuries that he had to be admitted to ICU at Rajmukhi Hospital in Mulund West where he was operated upon. Bilal was discharged from the hospital on 14th May with direction of complete rest for at least four weeks.
As after beating him on May 2 police had lodged a case against Bilal under section 353, his family members today took him to court for bail in the case, but a big shocker was waiting for them there. The police added a new charge under section 333 which is non-bailable. “Before we could understand, the court sent him on judicial custody of 14 days. This all happened within minutes as everything was prepared and planned. We were shocked to see it,” said Dr. Salim Sheikh, younger brother of Bilal Sheikh.
Only on Monday noted civil rights activist Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad and Dr. Salim had met Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan seeking justice for Bilal. They had demanded action against the guilty policemen who brutally beaten Bilal for a minor offence two weeks back. “The CM gave us assurance. He said he would talk to Commissioner of Police for proper action. See, what we got today. It seems the police have taken revenge for highlighting the case and approaching the CM,” said Dr. Salim.
Bilal’s arrest has shocked Shabnam Hashmi also. She told TCN: “I am absolutely shocked at the arrest of Bilal who was brutally beaten up by the Police in Mumbai on May 2. I am shocked at the total non-action of the Chief Minister whom I met day before.” Expressing sorrow she said it seems to have Muslim name or to be born in a Muslim family has become a crime in the country.
“This is the reality of Modern India. It is a crime to have a Muslim name. It is crime to be born in a Muslim family. While highly communal Police officers are roaming freely. Bilal who came out of ICU 2 days ago is being sent to jail,” she said. Dr. Salim said Bilal was advised complete rest for four weeks. He would take about six months to fully recover. “He has been sent to jail while he does not have even necessary medicines which are must after major operations,” said sad Salim.
- UP cops had found nothing against ‘IM man’ nabbed by Delhi Police (May 16, 2012, Indian Express)
- ‘There’s NO need of NCTC if laws are implemented’ (May 17, 2012, Rediff)
- SC lays guidelines for preventive detention in custody (May 20, 2012, Indian Express)
- Unfair terror probe will be destructive for society: Jamiat Ulama (May 19, 2012, Twocircles.net)
Masjid blast probe leaves acquitted ‘accused’ for life (May 17, 2012, Times of India)
It is five years since a powerful blast rocked Mecca Masjid claiming the lives of 14 persons. Tardy investigations followed, several youth were taken into custody, and let off following court intervention. Life for many of these youth falsely implicated has been a perennial struggle. Looking over their shoulders time and again out of fear has become a force of habit and social acceptance and dignity still remain a distant dream. Scarred for life, victims say that the certificates and compensation issued in January this year by the government absolving them of all charges have come too late and have done little to alleviate their suffering. The damage, they add, cannot be undone.
Sources say there were 98 people arrested in connection with the blast, while the number of those who were picked up was much more. Of the 30 people who were tried in courts, 22 were acquitted. Shaik Abdul Kaleem from Saleem Nagar Colony was 19 when he was picked up by the cops. He as named accused number three. “I was on my way to a wedding when they came for me. I was ambitious and was pursuing medicine. But when I returned after bearing third degree torture for 18 months in jail, I found my dreams shattered as the college had rusticated me. That’s when I resolved to practice law to help others like myself. Such things should never happen to innocent people,” he says. Others were given a compensation of Rs 3 lakh but not Kaleem.
Victims say that although the government has given them a clean chit, the harassment continues. It was this fear which kept victim Abdul Raheem from Bandalaguda in a self-imposed house arrest when Saidabad and Madannapet were hit by communal violence recently. “The fear of police harassment kept me indoors when the incident of the desecration of a place of worship was reported on April 8. I was afraid when I found out that innocent youth were being picked up for questioning. I was among the 11 people who were given a compensation of Rs 3 lakh. But there can be no compensation for human suffering ,” he says.
Victims say that the police make enquires about them at least once in a couple of months. Also, police informers keep tabs on their whereabouts . “There have been instances when informers have come to me posing as patients ,” says Dr Ibrahim Ali Junaid who was implicated for spreading hatred between communities by distributing incendiary content by means of CDs and literature. Justice delayed is justice denied, say these victims and demand action against police officers who had picked them up.
Politicians and social activists note that innocent youth are still being picked up by the authorities and demand an end to this. MP Asaduddin Owiasi says, “The biggest suffering is the loss of respect. Justice will not be done unless erring police officials are suspended . Also the Intelligence Bureau cannot be treated as a holy cow and must be made accountable to Parliament. There are no cells to monitor saffron terror whereas Muslims are being monitored.” Social activists say that all culprits need to be been caught and that investigation is slow. They note that May 18 as the day of the blast isn’t as significant as the unjust treatment meted out to the youth.
- Five years on, Masjid blast probe continues (May 17, 2012, The Hindu)
- Two bomb implanters of Makkah Masjid identified (May 16, 2012, Siasat)
- High Court allows NIA to question sadhvi in murder case (May 19, 2012, The Hindu)
- Riot ‘conspirators’ in SIT custody (May 16, 2012, Times of India)
Mayawati’s parks, elephants and a Rs 40,000-crore scam (May 16, 2012, Rediff)
Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati’s fad for building memorials and parks with umpteen statues of Dalit icons and elephants, the party symbol, has a dark side too. Clearly, there appears to be a huge scam behind every dream project of the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister. Her whopping expenditure of about Rs 7,000 crore on memorials, parks and statues has now come under the scanner of the new government headed by Akhilesh Yadav.
Be it the purchase of sandstone or granite or payments to sculptors for carving out elephants or the statues of various Dalit icons, including herself, Mayawati is accused of taking huge kickbacks, which took the costs sky high. Close on the heels of the allegations of large-scale pilferage of funds in construction works, the Mayawati regime was now being charged of heavy over-invoicing of trees purchased for being planted in each of the monuments.
Akhilesh might have made a public declaration not to indulge in witch-hunting. However, large scale suspected pilferage of funds officially earmarked for Mayawati’s dream projects have prompted the new chief minister to expose his predecessor to the hilt. “After taking a closer look, we could see a huge can of worms; preliminary estimates suggest a scam of nearly Rs 40,000 crore,” observed Akhilesh Yadav on being confronted with queries in this regard at the sidelines of an official function in Lucknow.
Asked how the estimation of the scam had suddenly shot up to such a whopping figure, when the funds officially released for these parks, memorials and statues were of the order of Rs 7000 crore, he shot back, “Well, you have to also take into account the cost of land acquired to build these memorials and parks; besides you cannot ignore the cost that has gone into the demolition of buildings that existed on those plots of land.” Among the buildings erased to provide place for Mayawati’s projects were a huge prison, a sports stadium and as many as 153 residential apartments forming a colony for state irrigation department officials.
- Financial fraud in statues could be Rs 40,000 crore: Akhilesh Yadav (May 15, 2012, Indian Express)
- Maya’s jumbo troubles: Statues expose Rs 60-crore scam! (May 15, 2012, Rediff)
- CBI quizzes Lt Gen Tejinder Singh in Adarsh case (May 17, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Adarsh Society had no CRZ clearance: BMC commissioner (May 16, 2012, IBN)
MPs’ protest against cartoon is vote-bank politics: Dalit activists (May 17, 2012, The Hindu)
Activists and Dalit intellectuals have expressed concern over the move to carry out changes in NCERT textbooks, in the wake of the recent controversy over an Ambedkar cartoon. What happened in Parliament, where a section of members raised the issue of the 1949 cartoon by Shankar Pillai published in a Standard XI Political Science textbook, was a brazen attempt at wooing the Dalit vote bank, they charged at a meeting here. The NCERT books were well-produced and of high quality, they asserted. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan; the Centre for Dalit Rights, the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, the Bharatiya Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) and Idara termed the controversy “uncalled for.” The groups have decided to organise meetings to read out contents from all banned textbooks, including “300 Ramayanas,” and hold exhibitions of the banned cartoons.
“What is extremely disturbing is the manner in which Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal apologised in Parliament, and conceded the demands for removal of the cartoons and stopping of distribution of books,” said a statement issued by the groups. “We are certain that there’s nothing objectionable in the Nehru-Ambedkar cartoon by itself, and the text accompanying it. In fact, it is highly appreciative of the hard work by the Constituent Assembly under the leadership of Dr. B. R Ambedkar.” Leading Dalit activist and Centre for Dalit Rights chairman P. L. Mimrot said, “In fact, it appeared to me, that it was for the first time, Baba Saheb received this kind of prominence in an NCERT book.”
Describing as “cowardly” the attack on Suhas Palsikar, who has since submitted his resignation as Chief Adviser to the NCERT (Political Science), Dalit activist and editor of Diamond India Bhanwar Meghwanshi, said: “If the caption is read with the cartoon, no one can find fault with it.” Rajeev Gupta, Professor of Sociology in Rajasthan University, termed the whole episode an affront to freedom of expression and attack on Ambedkar himself. “The whole attitude reeks of fascist tendencies. The Minister ordered the removal of the cartoons, even without referring the matter to an academic committee.” It was pointed out that out of the 32 cartoons in NCERT books, 16 pertained to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
“In the past also, texts have been deleted, and books have been tampered with, and people have had cases filed against them, merely in the name of upsetting public opinion. “It is important to know that the endeavour of education isn’t to indoctrinate the minds of the young, or teach them any one ideologyâ€¦ Education essentially implies having openness towards all points of view. “The young must know that there are many dimensions to any issue,” said the statement signed by Prem Krishna Sharma, Kavita Srivastava and Radha Kant Saxena of the PUCL, Rajasthan; M. Hasan of Idara; Komal Srivastava of the BGVS; and academicians and activists Prakash Chaturvedi, Vishwambhar, Rajeev Gupta, Rajendra Saiwal, Govind Beniwal and Shiv Singh.
- Panel set up to examine political science textbooks in schools (May 16, 2012, IBN)
- Activists vandalise scholar’s office (May 12, 2012, The Hindu)
- Two NCERT Text Book advisors resign (May 11, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Save the classroom from the political class (May 16, 2012, The Hindu)
Scarred, ‘Maoist’ student pens open letter to Mamata (May 20, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Hours after being branded a “Maoist” by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for asking uncomfortable questions, Taniya Bhardwaj, student of Presidency University, retaliated with an open letter to the CM in The Telegraph. But the young woman who wrote with such gusto – “In Bengal today, asking a question can be equivalent to a Maoist act” – said the chain of events had left her scarred. “I do want to be dragged into any further controversy,” Bharadwaj said on Sunday.
On Friday, during an interactive programme in Kolkata, Banerjee had hurled the Maoist tag and walked off in a huff when Bhardwaj questioned the behaviour of Trinamool ministers. Later, the police had asked CNN-IBN, which organised the programme, to furnish phone numbers of the students involved.
In her letter, Bhardwaj, a topper and master debater, questioned whether the essence of democracy, freedom of expression, still prevails in Bengal. Countering Banerjee’s epithet, she wrote, “Just like I won’t become a Maoist simply because you called me one, the state too won’t epitomise democracy unless it is truly democratic in all spheres.
Bhardwaj said she had felt glad when the chief minister spurned the dais and sat with the students. “But what happened later was really disappointing,” she said. “I did not instigate her, I did not behave rudely. But she was in a position where she could walk out and she did exactly that”. Asked if the fear factor would prompt her to leave Kolkata for good, Bhardwaj said, “I am yet to decide on that. I have offers from London, but I really love Kolkata,” she said.
In her letter, referring to Banerjee’s frequent regrets at being unable to stop the brain drain from Bengal, Bhardwaj had written, “I too will probably leave and now you know the reason why.” Banerjee’s remarks had left a mark on the rest of the audience too, who were heard muttering that though the government has changed, the system has not. The harbinger of “Poriborton”, is open to praise but not to criticism, said others.
- Maoists strike in Sukma again, kidnap BJP leader (May 15, 2012, Indian Express)
- 7 jawans walked into Maoist trap? (May 15, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Anti-Naxal ops: CRPF seeks AFSPA cover for troops (May 16, 2012, Indian Express)
- Maoists go on poster campaign against NCTC (May 15, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Senior Gujarat cop in dock for dirty talk (May 19, 2012, Times of India)
Here is a case of sexual harassment at workplace which is being written in khaki. The victim and the harasser are senior cops. A woman police officer has recently complained against her superior – a senior IPS officer – for making numerous lewd calls to her everyday around midnight. She has reported the matter to the office of Gujarat’s director general of police (DGP) in Gandhinagar.
The senior IPS officer, who is posted at the DGP’s office, is now in the dock owing to his nocturnal calls. “In the past several months, he has been targeting the woman cop who is of DSP rank. The modus operandi of the senior IPS officer was he first dug out all departmental complaints and inquiries against the woman officer who does not work under his jurisdiction. For this, the IPS officer took advantage of his post since his portfolio is such that he can collect information on all cops in the state,” said a senior Gujarat police official.
After this, the IPS officer made the first call to the woman officer. “The complainant says that at first it was about official business, but soon the calls took a different overtone. One night at 12.30 am the woman officer got a missed call from the IPS officer. As a protocol the junior officer called back thinking it could be an emergency. When she called up, she realized that the senior IPS officer was drunk. He was slurring. The first question posed by the IPS officer was why she was not coming to the gymnasium regularly. Both go to the same gym in Ahmedabad.
She then disconnected the phone. But, from then on, this became a daily routine. This was supposedly to avoid any chances of his mobile phone call details revealing his mischief,” said a senior Gujarat police official. Finally, the woman officer stopped responding to the calls, but the missed calls continued. She got apprehensive of the consequences and decided to take up the matter with the top cops of Gujarat. She put her point across at the DGP’s office with the threat that if punitive action is not initiated soon, she will have to file a police complaint.
- Kicked by policeman, woman suffers miscarriage (May 15, 2012, The Hindu)
- Get ND Tiwari’s blood sample with police help: Delhi High Court (May 16, 2012, IBN)
- ‘We want justice for Arushi, we’ll be here every May 15’ (May 16, 2012, Indian Express)
- Satyamev Jayate effect? Madhya Pradesh acts against 65 Medical Termination of Pregnancy centres (May 9, 2012, IBN)
‘Social boycott made Dalits in 77 Gujarat villages migrate’ (May 16, 2012, The Hindu)
Dalits in at least 77 villages in Gujarat have been forced to migrate due to social boycotts, according to chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Justice K.G. Balakrishnan. A team of the NHRC, headed by Justice Balakrishnan, on Tuesday completed a two-day visit to Gujarat for an Open House to hear the complaints of the backward classes. He rounded it up with a meeting with Chief Secretary A.K. Joti and some other government officials to discuss steps being taken by the government to attend to the complaints.
Talking to journalists at the conclusion of the visit, Justice Balakrishnan said nearly 100 complaints were also received by the NHRC on alleged police atrocities, particularly the police refusing to register their complaints, or showing total inaction in pursuing the cases after registering the complaints. Some of the specific cases, however, were promptly refuted by the government. It pointed out that the complainants might be unaware of it, but the police had filed FIRs on the basis of their complaints, and investigations were on.
Expressing concern at the low conviction rates – just 5 per cent – in atrocity cases in the State, Justice Balakrishnan said this usually happened because of improper investigation by the police, or due to the failure of the public prosecutors to present the cases properly. He said the attention of the State government had been drawn to the situation, and it had promised to take necessary remedial measures. The government had also agreed that henceforth the meeting of the vigilance committee for the backward classes would be held twice a year as required.
Justice Balakrishnan said the NHRC was satisfied with the past performances of almost all State governments, as most of the suggestions and recommendations of the commission had been implemented by all States. As far as social boycott of the Dalits by the upper castes was concerned, it was the outcome of the “mindset” of the people for centuries, which would take time to be removed.
Justice Balakrishnan was all praise for the Gujarat government, for formulating “innovative schemes” for the betterment of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Describing Gujarat as a “model State” in this sphere, he said: “Many innovative schemes are being implemented, which are all working well. This is the State where the penetration of education among the SC and ST communities has reached 70 per cent,” he said in his opening remarks.
- In ‘open’ NHRC meet, edgy govt orders media out (May 16, 2012, Indian Express)
- 6 hurt in attack on Dalits in Shanubhoganahalli (May 14, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Bihar: No arrest in gangrape witness burning case (May 17, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Where converts do not find a place at Dalit graveyard (May 6, 2012, The Hindu)
Opinions and Editorials
SIT Report: Illogical and Biased – By Nagen Das (May 20, 2012, Peoples Democracy)
The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has confirmed the worst fears of its detractors by its highly unconvincing and biased conclusions allowing the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, exemption from facing trial for having perpetrated the worst genocide of 21st century. The closure report filed by the SIT, headed by former CBI chief R K Raghavan, has left the country aghast and wondering whether such investigation teams serve any purpose despite having been set up by the top court of the country. A simple reading of the report leaves no doubt that the entire thrust of the exercise seems to be on how to whitewash Modi’s and the BJP’s taint. Apart from insisting that no official present at the February 27, 2002 meeting has supported the allegation that the chief minister gave an instruction to top police and administrative officials to allow the Hindus to vent their anger following the train burning incident at Godhra in which 59 Hindus were burnt alive, the SIT, on the contrary, said there is evidence in the form of the chief minister’s public statements made on February 27 and 28, 2002, which establish his commitment to punish the guilty and uphold the law. However, far from proving that Modi could not have given the alleged instruction, the speeches the SIT produced are only likely to fuel suspicions about what might have happened at the February 27, 2002 meeting. The SIT cites five speeches in defence of Modi, only to come to this conclusion: “At least on five occasions, which are fully documented, during 27.02.2002 and 28.02.2002, chief minister addressed media, assembly and general public and everywhere the genesis and intention was the same, i.e., to punish the culprits responsible for the Godhra incident in an exemplary manner so that such incident did not recur ever again.”
The SIT is unable to cite a single speech – or statement – where Modi warns against retaliatory violence and threatens punishment to anti-Muslim rioters. Admittedly, there was a valid context to Modi’s sense of outrage immediately following the Godhra carnage. Any administrator would vow to bring to justice the perpetrators of a crime so horrendous. However, by all accounts, reprisals had started within hours of the incident, and by the afternoon of February 28, 2002, the violence had turned into a full-blown anti-Muslim pogrom. The SIT should have been able to show some evidence that at least after February 28, 2002 – by which time Muslims had been killed and rendered homeless – Modi sent out a strong message to communal hotheads taking the law into their own hands. But there is no speech where Modi warns against revenge attacks and threatens exemplary punishment to the rioters. There are glaring contradictions between the preliminary and final findings of the SIT. In the final report, submitted in an Ahmedabad court earlier this month, Raghavan concluded that the state government had taken “all possible” measures to prevent the massacre that followed the Godhra train carnage and no “offences can be made out” against Modi. The 2010 report by SIT member A K Malhotra, who grilled Modi in March 2010 and other witnesses in the course of the probe, had, however, questioned several actions of the chief minister during the riots. Commenting on Modi’s speeches obliquely justifying the riots, Malhotra had stated, “In spite of the fact that ghastly violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulbarg society and elsewhere, the reaction of Gujarat government was not the type which would have been expected by anyone.” He went on to say, “The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” However, the final report now states that the SIT could not obtain the CD of the TV interview in which Modi reportedly made the “action and reaction” comment. There are also serious differences in the two findings on Modi visiting the riot hit areas of Ahmedabad after a week, though he rushed to Godhra, which was 300 km away, within hours of the incident, and also on why two ministers who had nothing to do with the law and order, were stationed in the police control room.
Can anything be more bizarre? The SIT has endorsed the ‘action and reaction’ theory of Narendra Modi in the Gulbarg society massacre case, saying that firing by former MP, Ehsan Jafri, led to killing of 69 people in 2002. The final report says Jafri was killed because he provoked a “violent mob” that had assembled “to take revenge of Godhra incident from the Muslims.” Ehsan Jafri fired at the mob and “the provoked mob stormed the society and set it on fire.” Around 70 Muslims perished in the massacre at the Gulberg Society compound along with the ex-MP on February 28, 2002. Ironically, the SIT makes this assertion even as it clears Narendra Modi of the charge that he had invoked the Newtonian theory of ‘action and reaction’ to justify the post-Godhra anti-Muslim violence. Yet, in trying to absolve Mr Modi, the SIT fully implicates the chief minister and itself. Not once but twice. The SIT first insists that Modi saw the firing by Ehsan Jafri as “action” and the “massacre that followed as ‘reaction’.” It follows this up by quoting the chief minister as saying the Sabarmati Express carnage at Godhra was a “heinous crime, for which ‘reactions’ were being felt.” In 1984, former prime minister late Rajiv Gandhi gave a macabre twist to the anti-Sikh pogrom that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination, saying “when a big tree falls, the ground shakes.” Eighteen years later, the Gujarat chief minister would propound his own action-reaction theory only to furiously deny he ever said it. Now the SIT not only confirms that Modi used the words “action” and “reaction” but endorses his statements even while holding that the “alleged statements” have been “quoted out of context.â€¦ and therefore no case is made against him.” The SIT’s controversial observations are recorded in a chapter dealing with a specific allegation made by Zakia Jafri, the widow of Ehsan Jafri, that Modi had given media statements, including an interview to Zee TV on March 1, 2002, where he justified the anti-Muslim pogrom as a reaction to the Godhra violence by Muslims.
Strongly defending the chief minister against the charge, the SIT cites its own March 2010 interrogation of Modi: “As regards the Zee TV interview of 01-03-2002 is concerned, Shri Modi told SIT that after a period of eight years, he did not recollect the exact words but he had always appealed only and only for peace.â€¦ He also said that if his words cited in this question are considered in the correct perspective, then it would be evident that there is a very earnest appeal for people refraining from any kind of violence.â€¦” The Zee TV interview was reproduced in a report, Rights and Wrongs, brought out in the aftermath of the 2002 violence by an Editors Guild team of B G Verghese, Aakar Patel and Dileep Padgaonkar. In the reproduced excerpts, Modi had termed the firing by Ehsan Jafri as “action” and the massacre as “reaction.” He also described the Godhra carnage as a product of the “criminal tendencies” of the residents of Godhra. He said, “Earlier, these people killed female teachers. And now they have committed a heinous crime jiski pratikria ho rahi hai (reaction to the crime is happening now). The SIT also justifies Modi’s description of Godhra residents as people with “criminal tendencies” and his statement that the heinous crime (burning of Sabarmati train) had led to reactions. “Again with regard to the Godhra incident, [Modi] clearly stated that the day before yesterday 40 ladies and children were burnt alive at Godhra and the incident had shocked the nation as well as people abroad, and that the people belonging to this area had a criminal tendency and these people had earlier killed lady teachers and now they had committed heinous crime for which the reactions were being felt.” That said, the SIT concludes that “no case is made [out] against the chief minister.”
Curiously, in a background note to Zakia Jafri’s complaint, the SIT had earlier stated that Ehsan Jafri fired in “self-defence” – in contrast to how it now portrays the same incident later in the report, when it invokes the actionï¿½â€œreaction words of Modi. This is what the SIT’s background note says about the Gulberg incident: “On the day of the bandh, i.e. 28.02.2002, a huge mob comprising about 20,000 Hindus gathered, armed with deadly arm weapons, in furtherance of their common intention and indulged in attack on the properties, shops and houses of Muslims as well as a madrasa/mosque of Gulbarg Society located in Meghaninagar, Ahmedabad city, resulting in the death of 39 Muslims, including Ehsan Jafri, ex-MP, injuries to 15 Muslims and 31 Muslims went missing. Late Ehsan Jafri fired from his private, licensed weapon, in self-defence causing injuries to 15 persons in the mob. One of the victims of the said private firing succumbed to injuries later.” Within the space of a few pages, however, what the SIT saw as “self-defence” in one context had become a “provocation.” Ehsan Jafri’s widow went to the Supreme Court to ask for an investigation into the wider circumstances in which her husband lost his life. The SIT’s conclusion seems to be that his murder was his own fault.
- Fiction and fact – By Javed Anand (May 14, 2012, Asian Age)
- Speak, Refute, Recant, Assert – By Outlook (May 28, 2012, Outlook)
- In absolving Modi, SIT mixes up Godhra, post-Godhra perpetrators – By Vidya Subrahmaniam (May 14, 2012, The Hindu)
- Hourglass Sands – By R.K. Misra (May 28, 2012, Outlook)
Yeddyurappa’s last stand – Editorial (May 16, 2012, The Hindu)
With the Central Bureau of Investigation registering a First Information Report against B.S. Yeddyurappa, his two sons and son-in-law, a mining company and a businessman in the CBI Special Court in Bangalore following an order of the Supreme Court on May 11, the crisis in the turbulent Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has intensified even further. Forced by his party’s central leadership to step down as Chief Minister nine months ago on account of allegations of corruption in mining deals by the Lokayukta Report on Illegal Mining, a restive Mr. Yeddyurappa has been agitating for his reinstatement, especially after a division bench of the Karnataka High Court this March quashed both a portion of the Lokayukta report, and the Governor’s sanction to prosecute him based on the report.
The legal intervention by the Dharwad-based NGO, Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, added force and mass to the allegations against Mr. Yeddyurappa, resulting in the appointment of the Central Empowered Committee by the Supreme Court. Now facing a special CBI team, Mr. Yeddyurappa’s position in the party and government is at its weakest, notwithstanding his defiance, and the sound and fury that his uncertain support base of loyal legislators, religious seers and “elders” have drummed up in recent days. His response to the Supreme Court order has been one of injured innocence, and he has rallied his supporters against the three top leaders of the state BJP – Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, BJP State president K.S. Eswarappa and national general secretary Ananth Kumar, accusing them of having written to the central party leadership in March this year charging six of his supporters of “anti-party activities.”
For all his bluster, the former Chief Minister is acutely aware of the ground slipping from under his feet. The BJP central leadership has not extended him support even as the Congress has spurned his overtures, prompting him to quickly withdraw his threat to quit from the party and legislature. The CBI inquiry marks a stage in the long period of factional turmoil in the party and government caused by Mr. Yeddyurappa’s actions both during his controversial innings as Chief Minister, and after he stepped down.
The central party leadership for its own reasons did not intervene to course-correct the government in the initial years of its tenure when the mining mafia was consolidating its political clout. If the BJP has suffered irreparable damage, it is the State that has had to pay the price for the callous disregard of day-to-day governance by its squabbling leaders. Karnataka deserves better.
- Yeddy Keeps BJP on Edge – By Imran Khan (May 26, 2012, Tehelka)
- A real sting – By V. Venkatesan (May 19, 2012, Frontline)
5 yrs of Mecca Masjid blast: Saga of saffron terror, khaki torture and state apathy – By Mohd. Ismail Khan (May 17, 2012, Twocircles.net)
It was 18th may 2007 which changed the description of Mecca Masjid as a monument of Qutub Shahi era to a standing example of saffron terror, khaki torture and state apathy. Tomorrow will be fifth anniversary of the terror bombing that took place inside the historic mosque during Friday prayers, claiming nine lives and the police firing on the Muslim protestors soon after claimed five more. Coincidentally, tomorrow is Friday. It was not in the imagination of average Hyderabadi that this grand old mosque of Hyderabad ostentation of Muslim power in the city could come under attack. The events unfolded after the blast exposed how vulnerable Muslims are to the state actors. Soon after the blast, when unarmed Muslims were on the roads of old city, protesting against the government, police used water cannons, lathi charge to disperse the mob. That led angry crowd to pelt stones on the police. Hyderabad Police took an extreme step, called grey hounds (anti-naxal) force to control the mob. Grey hounds opened indiscriminate firing killing five persons and injuring nine, according to disputed government records. Police claimed firing was necessary as protesting mob was about to set blaze a petrol pump and a wine shop. But the fact was grey hounds opened firing on even those Muslims who were carrying injured people from the road.
After protest from Muslim leaders government appointed Justice V. Bhaskar Rao commission to probe the necessity of police firing. The commission submitted its report in 2011 accepting the police theory that firing was necessary to save a wine shop and a petrol pump, but it also accepted that police showed high handiness in controlling the mob. Like police officers could have used rubber bullets or they should have fired on the legs but in fact they shot to kill the protestors, not to disburse them, according to the report. Government has not yet acted on the high handiness of police officials. Within a few days of the blast the whole regional and national media solved the blast case even before the F.I.Rs were registered in the respective police stations. Every major news channel and paper claimed that blast was carried out by foreign Islamic extremist group with the help of local youths. Media declared the hand of Muslims in blasting their own mosque. Media even named the masterminds and photos of local Muslim youths started popping up in the national and regional newspapers declaring them as terrorists and bomb planters. Media even declared that blast was the result of sectarian differences among Muslims. And Ahle Haddis youths were behind the bombings. An atmosphere to implicate local Muslim youths was created by the mainstream media. This made the work of local task force Police easier as media already solved the case and â€˜accused’ were on the front pages of newspapers.
One week after the blast more than 200 Muslim youths from Hyderabad and other districts were arrested. 50 among them were kept in 24 hours of illegal detention. 100 among them were released after 3 days of illegal detention and 5o more youngsters were kept in 7 days of illegal detention in police farm houses in the city suburbs. According to the youths who were kept in illegal detention for 7 continuous days top officials of Hyderabad police tortured them and used third degree, and forced them to accept their role in the blast. Out of them 39 were presented in the court for trial. As there was no evidence against them in the blast case, the Hyderabad police put charges on them of waging war against the nation and instigating violence. They spent 2 years in jail for no fault of theirs, 10 among them were even taken to Bangalore for Narco analysis test. Police and media declared them terrorists and case was solved for the police. But finally Andhra Pradesh high court quashed the police case on the Muslim youths and acquitted them all. When the voices against the city police action towards Muslims after the blast became louder, state minorities commission under the chairmanship of Yousuf Qureshi appointed Advocate Ravichandar to probe the allegation of illegal detention and torture of Muslims youths. Mr. Ravichander did an extensive work, he met each and every victim of police torture accompanying a doctor from forensic laboratory. He clearly implicated Hyderabad police for torture and illegal detention in the report. His report was presented to the A.P chief minister, which recommended suspension of police officials involved in police torture. But as expected the report was neither tabled in assembly nor was made public, a clear attempt by A.P Congress government to save the face of its police force.
TCN spoke to Mr. Ravichander he said, “It is disappointing to see that a government which claims to be secular and promoter for the welfare of minorities is indulging in such partisan and biased policies. This government pleads that they are committed for 4% reservation to minorities but not committed for justice to them. This government is just using Muslims as their vote bank. They are trying to protect guilty police officers involved in harsh crimes. I am very disappointed on governments flip flop attitude, if this state wants to uphold the secular and democratic values then it has to table that report in assembly or at least make it pubic officially.” Yousuf Qureshi, former chairman of A.P state minorities’ commission told TCN, “we tried our best at that time to provide justice to the Muslim youths who were tortured and implicated in false cases. That report was an extensive piece of work. But government failed to present the facts before the public, that report should have been tabled in assembly, may be government is having some other plans.” When the local police case fell down in court the state government in damage control mode handed the case to CBI. It was in 2009 when huge shock waves came down to mainstream media and local police, when CBI arrested six persons having directly or indirectly links with Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh(RSS). Later in 2010 Swami Assemanand confessed his involvement in hatching conspiracy of bomb blast in Mecca masjid. The reason given was in 1947 Nizam of Hyderabad opted to go with Pakistan, so they wanted to teach a lesson to Muslims of Hyderabad. He named Sunil Joshi as the key conspirator, who was killed by his own gang members.
The probe is now handed over to National Investigation Agency. Five years have passed but no new developments have been made in bringing the perpetrators of this grave crime and their bosses to justice. Ramachandran Kalsangra and Sndeep Dange, RSS activists named in the CBI charge sheet are still absconding and are believed to be sent to Nepal by their masters to save their face. Finally when it became an open fact that bomb blast was carried out by right wing Hindu groups, Congress government in fear of losing Muslim votes gave halfhearted apology to scores of youngsters whose lives were destroyed by their police force. Even compensation and character certificate was provided to some Muslim youths but the major portion of those victims of police torture were left out, the reason given by the government is that some cases are pending against them. The fact is some of the cases framed by Hyderabad police after the masjid blast against those innocent youths are still continuing in the local criminal courts, even after government accepted its blunder. After five years the enquiry seems to be on the starting point. Blooper and tumble enquiry, false implication of innocent Muslim youths, and absconding real accused will be the hallmark of five years of blast. Time is believed by many as great healer, but scars of Mecca masjid bomb blast and its subsequent terror, will always remain on the minds of Muslims of Hyderabad.
- Memories of their dear ones still haunt them – By J.S. Ifthekhar (May 17, 2012, The Hindu)
The Sacred Profane – By Saba Naqvi (May 28, 2012, Outlook)
Political correctness, identity-based discourse and pursuit of competitive victimhood kills humour when it takes on sectarian overtones. To laugh at oneself in the face of irreverence, cheek and iconoclasm requires a certain confidence. Self-deprecation, perhaps, doesn’t come easily to those fully engaged in asserting themselves. There are some who argue that fine humour is the product of an evolved and culturally homogeneous intellectual elite, but this can be countered by great examples of street humour and poetry from the little mofussil towns of India. Still, the Ambedkar debate takes the discourse to a new low, a nadir that demands another gag order on wit and openness. It’s happened with Shivaji in the past, but the history he was part of is more distant. Its memory less raw. What has happened with Ambedkar is a sort of self-censorship being demanded by a section of the Dalit community. We are being told by some strident voices that the individual who oversaw the drafting of the Indian Constitution can’t be critiqued, must be handled carefully as he is a “prophet” and certainly can’t be lampooned in any manner. Equally worrying is the manner in which our elected representatives capitulated to the view that a particular cartoon is offensive and hence all the cartoons in some excellently produced NCERT books must be deemed suspect.
Off the record, some MPs admit that it’s embarrassing to have had to take such positions. “But on Dalit issues we’ve to be very careful,” goes the refrain. On the record, the House is indignant over the perceived or real offence, depending on the viewpoint. But the divisions cut across caste lines; most non-Dalit MPs simply shake their heads, throw up their hands, say it’s a “touchy” subject and they won’t risk being called “anti-Dalit”. Academics are naturally worried. There has been a spate of commentary defending the books. But as historian Mushirul Hasan says, it’s the idea of “exceptionalism” that is dangerous. “The principle must be established that in the galaxy of national leaders, there were many outstanding men and women. We should not be treating any one of them by special standards or we will land in trouble. It would also not be consistent with the spirit of the national movement since they all took collective decisions.” Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash says, “This playing of caste and religion has paralysed Parliament. I don’t find the cartoon offensive. I don’t think Babasaheb would have found it offensive either.”
But that was a different age, when humour had not fallen victim to historical grievances and politics crafted on the sense of deprivation and injustice. Gandhiji never minded being made fun of and had said, “I would have died if I didn’t have a sense of humour.” Jawaharlal Nehru once wrote an anonymous editorial in the Hindustan Times suggesting that the prime minister should not be an object of too much adulation. Sarojini Naidu, sharp of tongue, made all manner of comments about the personal and private matters of the big leaders. She made quips about Gandhi’s attempts at brahmacharya, Jinnah’s choice of a wife, among others. None was ever offended. After independence, Nehru was lampooned week after week in Shankar’s Weekly. Ambedkar and Sardar Patel weren’t especially known for their humour, but they weren’t known to take offence either. Maulana Azad was not a figure who made for great cartoons, but is said to have had a very sophisticated sense of the absurd. Not that Ambedkar is the first figure about whom a social group, community or the State has developed a painfully thin skin. It happened to Jinnah in Pakistan, where the establishment, engaged in crafting a new state, was only ever comfortable with his depiction as the Quaid-e-Azam. In India, it’s been little parochialisms and identity politics that are at the heart of bans and gags. First, the sense of victimhood certainly kills humour as political correctness goes to absurd lengths. Then there’s the fear of the mob that can, apparently, be organised for any slight or sense of injury by any groupâ€”at short notice.
Most prominently, there is the Hindu-Muslim cleavage; no laughing matter and around which bans are sought and “feelings” often have to be assauged. There are many Muslim groups that have repeatedly expressed offence over Salman Rushdie’s books as also his comings and goings in India over a quarter century. Rushdie is a red flag to Muslims who wish to protest across the world as his case involves an apparent insult to the Prophet. Then there are the repeated assaults on books, scholars and libraries in Maharashtra over any work that is perceived as slighting Shivaji. Now, a new fundamentalism is evolving around the altar of Ambedkar. Against this, even the case of Mamata Banerjee’s supporters arresting a professor over a cartoon pales in significance, because they could never produce a coherent enough ideological spin to justify their actions. After Emergency’s imposition, Shankar Pillai shut Shankar’s Weekly with a powerful editorial in an issue dated August 31, 1975. “Our function was to make readers laugh at the world, at pompous leaders, humbugs, at foibles, at ourselves. From this point, the world and sadly enough India have become grimmer. But Shankar’s Weekly is an incurable optimist. We are certain that despite the present situation the world will become a happier and more relaxed place.” Circa 2012, he’d be surprised.
- The hullabaloo over a cartoon – By Ashutosh (May 15, 2012, IBN)
- Drawing a dangerous line – By Shoma Chaudhury (May 26, 2012, Tehelka)
- The Ethereal Realist – By Kancha Ilaiah (May 28, 2012, Outlook)
Kazmi’s ordeal – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (May 19, 2012, Frontline)
It has been more than two months since the journalist Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi was arrested by the Special Branch of the Delhi Police under the non-bailable Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He was remanded in police custody for 20 days and then in judicial custody for more than 40 days. Under the Act, an accused can be held without any charge being brought against him for as long as 180 days. Kazmi was picked up on March 6 as he emerged from the India Islamic Centre at Lodi Road in central Delhi and detained for over nine hours before his family even got to know about his whereabouts. His alleged crime was that he had provided reconnaissance support to the attackers of an Israeli diplomat. The arrest memo mentions his time of arrest as 11-30 p.m., 12 hours after he was actually picked up by the police. Also, he was apparently interrogated by unidentified persons, for which the Special Branch was reprimanded by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Vinod Yadav.
No charges have been made against Kazmi yet. Also, the police are still quite clueless about the identity of the sticky bomb attackers. “The Delhi Police behaves very peculiarly. We only get to know of my father from the media. The police produce Kazmi Saheb at a time not notified to us and in a court that is different from the one mentioned to us. The last hearing was on May 5, and we were told that he would be produced at 2 p.m. The police produced him two hours earlier in a different court. We have demanded that at least when he is produced in court, there should be either his lawyer or his family members there. We are being misguided by the police,” Shauzab Kazmi, elder son of the journalist, told Frontline. “These things are very upsetting. Sometimes the police say that they have video-conferenced the hearing and that is why our family or the lawyer could not be contacted. My father has told us that he is only interested in the truth to come out and is unperturbed about the length of his stay in judicial custody. We do not even know what the specific charges against our father are.”
Kazmi was initially remanded in police custody for 20 days. But four days before the remand expired, he was remanded in judicial custody without any notice being given to his family or lawyers. His bail application came up on March 30, but the hearing was adjourned as the prosecution lawyers were not present. On April 3, when the bail application came up for hearing, the Magistrate, Vinod Yadav, held that global inquiries into the bombing might get compromised by his release. He also acceded to the prosecution request not to discuss the evidence in open court. But this has not deterred the Delhi Police from leaking information time and again selectively to the media. It is the phone records of Kazmi that are now being used as evidence of his being in touch with the assailants. Those who are defending him believe that these records pertain to his professional work.
Meanwhile, his family had to explain why Kazmi’s wife, Jahanara Kazmi, had some Rs.19 lakh in her account. Suspicions about the sum, which by no means can be said to be a large figure, were flagged in a section of the media as being part of payoffs made to Kazmi. It is equally baffling that just as the Scooty allegedly used for the reconnaissance was lying in the Kazmi porch waiting to be picked up by the police, the suspicious “transfers” were lying in Jahanara Kazmi’s account waiting to be scrutinised and analysed by the Enforcement Directorate. For someone to have taken part in an international conspiracy to be so foolish as to keep evidence handy is improbable. The family explained that the money in the account were remittances from Jahanara Kazmi’s son from an earlier marriage. She had been previously married to Kazmi’s long-deceased elder brother.
It is clear that the momentum of support for Kazmi may peter out if the case drags on and his incarceration continues. There is little doubt that the strategic and political relationship that India has developed with Israel may have an impact on Kazmi’s incarceration. This is the opinion gaining ground not only in India but in international circles too.
- ‘Encounters’ and the Telling Silence of Children – By Farah Farooqui (May 19, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
Of mines, minerals and tribal rights – By Brinda Karat (May 15, 2012, The Hindu)
Tribal and indigenous communities across the world have been asserting their rights to the mineral wealth often found under the land they own or possess or have traditional rights to. They have been historically denied even a share of that huge wealth, leave alone legal rights of ownership. Under the contemporary deregulated neo-liberal policy framework, the exploitation and plunder of natural resources, including minerals, by domestic corporates and multinational mining companies has intensified. But the resistance by affected communities across the world has also grown and is reflected, over the years, in the establishment of an international framework through ILO and U.N. Conventions, which recognise in varying degrees the rights of indigenous and tribal communities to ownership, control and management of land and resources traditionally held by them either individually or as a community; the right to a decisive role in decision making for development needs in their areas; and the right to prior, free and informed consent to any projects in their areas. While these are encouraging advances won by the struggles and immense sacrifices of tribal communities, what is important is their translation into legal instruments in member countries. The issue has immediate relevance for India, as the UPA government has introduced a Mining and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2011 (MMDRA), which is presently before the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
In India, ownership of minerals lies with the State. However, the Central government which has control over all major minerals like iron ore, bauxite, copper, coal and most State governments which have control over minor minerals like sand, stone, granite, etc., have promoted privatisation through leasing mines to private companies apart from handing over captive mines of iron ore and bauxite to steel and aluminium corporates like the Tatas and Birlas. According to a recent report compiled for the industry by Ernst and Young, of the 4.9 lakh hectares of land given out in mining leases in 23 States by the end of 2009, 95 per cent of the leases comprising 70 per cent of the land were given to private companies. The MMRDA Bill aims to further deregularise and liberalise the mining sector and encourage privatisation based on the recommendations of the Hoda Committee. It introduces the concept of high technology reconnaissance, prospecting and exploration licences, and easy terms of conversion to mining leases to encourage the entry of FDI and foreign companies. It also gives weightage, in the allocation of leases, to a set of criteria which favour such companies and also allows them activity on much larger tracts of land than previously. This has adverse implications for equity, the environment and growth.
While these aspects need comprehensive analysis, here we focus on those provisions, which claim to address the rights of tribal communities. There is a provision that makes it mandatory for coal mining companies to give funds amounting to 26 per cent of the profits. For other major minerals, an annual amount, which is the equivalent of the royalty paid in the financial year, must be given. While the principle of mandatory payment by companies is necessary, the problem in the MMRDA is that these funds are to be under the control of a district mineral foundation dominated by mine owners and the bureaucracy with a nominal representation of local communities. Interestingly, in the U.S. where the Federal Government had set up trusts to manage funds paid by companies using the land on reserves owned by Native Indians, the government was recently forced to pay a compensation of $1.2 billion to 41 Native American communities for “mismanagement of the assets” of the trust and is expected to have to pay another $3.4 billion in a similar case. When the affected people do not have a decisive say in the management of such funds, as in the case of the proposed district mineral foundation in the MMRDA Bill, “mismanagement” is inevitable. Also, rates of royalties in India are notoriously low. Until recently, for example, the royalty for one tonne of iron ore fixed by the Central government for Orissa was just Rs. 26. With a low extraction cost of only Rs. 250 to 300 per tonne and a high market price around Rs. 7,000 a tonne, mining companies made huge profits. While royalty rates have been recently increased, it is still a pittance compared to the profits companies make.
The very premise of the scheme replicates the patron-client relationship, which has reduced tribal communities into recipients of charity, instead of recognition as owners of the land and its resources. The related provisions of the Bill constitute an outright assault on the constitutional rights given to the tribal communities, in particular in Fifth Schedule areas. The Bill gives legal sanction to the arbitrary rights of governments, both at the Centre and the States, to give different types of licences and leases from reconnaissance to exploration, prospecting and finally extraction without any procedure for even consulting, leave alone taking the consent of tribal communities. The only reference to “consultation” (not consent), is for the grant of licences for minor minerals (but not major) in Fifth and Sixth Schedule areas where “the gram sabha or the District council, as the case may be shall be consulted.” Thus even the provisions under other laws such as the Panchayat Extension (to Schedule Areas) Act (PESAA), which mandates consultation with the gram sabhas, are violated by the complete absence of any consultative process prior to the granting of lease for major minerals, which are the main sites of tribal deprivation. In another provision for notification of giving leases in forest areas and wildlife areas, the State government has to “take all necessary permissions from the owners of the land and those having occupation rights.” Thus an unwarranted differentiation is made between the rights of tribal communities in Fifth Schedule non-forest areas and forest areas. However even in the case of forest areas there is no provision for what would happen in case the owner does not give permission.
In Fifth Schedule areas, the law prohibits transfer of tribal held land to non-tribals. Different States have also enacted such laws like 70/1 in Andhra Pradesh, the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act in Jharkhand. None of the mining companies that gets leases is owned by adivasis. Presumably this was the reason why in the Samata case, the Supreme Court held that sale, transfers and even leases of tribal land to non-tribals are illegal. It directed that governments should consider a mechanism to include cooperative societies of tribal communities for mining operations. The Bill overrides the Samata judgment. Tribal cooperatives have been disqualified in the list of those eligible to get a lease for mining of major minerals, which can only be companies registered under the relevant laws. It is only for minor minerals and small deposits in the Fifth and Sixth Schedule areas that the State government “may” (not “shall”) consider tribal cooperatives for getting the lease. An earlier draft of the Bill in 2010 had included a provision for a guaranteed stake of tribal communities in mining companies. The provision had said “the company”… “will allot free shares equal to 26 per cent through the promoters quota.” South African law under the Broadbased Black Economic Empowerment Act has a provision of mandatory sale of 26 per cent shares in all mining companies to “historically socially disadvantaged sections.” But in India, caving in to pressure from mining lobbies, the earlier provision has been replaced with a token allotment of “one share per member of the affected family.” There are other issues such as compensation and compensatory jobs in lieu of lost livelihood which are inadequate and also ambiguous. With cuts in permanent jobs and widespread contractual and casual work in the mining sector, the promise of employment to land losers cannot be taken at its face value. Seen together with the pending Land Acquisition Bill which specifically excludes the issue of leasing tribal land, this Bill not only buries the ownership rights of tribal communities but facilitates the easy entry of international and domestic corporates to Fifth Schedule and tribal-dominated mineral-rich areas to plunder the natural resources of our country. India, which is a signatory to many international conventions on the protection of tribal rights, is violating these conventions and adding to the burden of historical injustice. The Bill, in its present form, should and must be opposed and resisted. Concerned movements should work together for an alternative model which will recognise the ownership and other rights of tribal communities in mining in Fifth Schedule and tribal areas through effective legal mechanisms.
- Land and caste – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (May 19, 2012, Frontline)