IAMC Weekly News Roundup - May 28th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 28th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Muslims perform ‘Kanyadan’ of Hindu girl in riot-hit village (May 24, 2012, Times of India)

In a heart-warming tale of communal amity, a Muslim youth performed ‘Kanyadan’ of a tribal Hindu girl at a village ravaged during the 2002 post-Godhra riots even as her own relatives stayed away. The members of the Muslim community living in Soni locality of Panwad village in Kawant taluka extended a helping hand to Madhuben Rathwa, a tribal widow, making arrangements and playing the host at the wedding of her daughter earlier this week.

“We decided to help Alpa (Madhuben’s daughter) as she has no brother and her widowed mother is an ‘anganwadi’ worker. Theirs is the only Hindu tribal family in Muslim-dominated Soni locality of the village,” a villager Farid Soni said. With fellow villagers Vallibhai Patel, Rehman Soni, Rasul Tailor and others, Farid shouldered the responsibility of taking care of the ‘Baraatis’ who came from Vav village for Alpa’s marriage with Rajesh Rathwa.

“We also presented her jewellery and other household items. The entire expenditure for these was borne by members of our community,” he said. Acknowledging their generosity, Madhuben said “the marriage ceremony of my daughter could not have taken place without the help from the members of the Muslim community as my own relatives stayed away. This may be due to my staying in this locality of the village,” she said.

“It was a most enjoyable event and we were very excited about Alpa getting married. Members of our community wholeheartedly participated in it,” said Rehman delighted at the ceremony passing off smoothly. The village was torn by communal strife in 2002 after the Godhra train carnage and several Muslim families had to flee the frenzy when tribals caused heavy damage to their properties. Though no one died in the communal flare-up in Panwad, the wounds took years to heal.


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Modi has terrorised high command: Keshubhai (May 26, 2012, The Hindu)

A disenchanted former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel feels that his successor, Narendra Modi, has successfully “terrorised” the entire BJP high command. Saddened by BJP national executive meeting in Mumbai demonstrating the party’s dependence on Mr. Modi, Mr. Patel confided in some of his confidants that the high command itself was scared of the Chief Minister.

Charging that from the “Patels” to “the people of Gujarat” all have been terrorised by Mr. Modi, he has now stepped up his anti-Modi campaign. Sidelined in Gujarat, he see little role for himself in the party but believes that he could become the rallying point for the anti-Modi forces before the Assembly elections due later this year.

State Congress president Arjun Modhvadia, and his Mahagujarat Janata Party counterpart, Gordhan Jhadafiya, a former Minister in the Modi Cabinet, also criticised the BJP brass for “bending their knees” before Mr. Modi. Mr. Modhvadia said this showed that the party gave primacy to fund-raisers rather than those who helped build the party in the State. No wonder that Mr. Patel, another former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta, and the former Union Minister Kashiram Rana who stood for the party ideology, were now virtually out of the party because the high command was ‘weak-kneed,’ Mr. Modhvadia and Mr. Jhadafiya said.

Meanwhile, after its grand success in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the Samajwadi Party is planning to jump into the Gujarat election arena in a big way. State president Surendra Yadav said the SP would initiate its election campaign with a meeting of the party workers on June 7 to be addressed by national president Mulayam Singh.

The SP contested some seats in the previous Assembly elections but without much success, but is hopeful of making its presence felt in 2012, counting on ‘disenchantment’ with the Congress and the anti-incumbency factor against the BJP. Both the BJP and the Congress claim that in Gujarat, where the two-party system has come to stay, the SP or any other party would have no role to play. However, BJP sources said the ruling party would be happy if the SP joined the fray as it was likely to take away a sizeable chunk of the minority votes from the Congress, making things easier for the BJP.



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Terror footsteps in Indore (May 21, 2012, Times of India)

As the nation and world gets together to celebrate “Anti-Terrorism Day” on Monday, the commercial capital of the state Indore and Malwa region is fast gaining notoriety for the involvement of several people in terror related acts. Some of the accused in the Samjhauta express blast, Malegaon blast and Mecca blast in Hyderabad have their roots in Malwa. The presence of alleged SIMI activists and their training programme in the region had brought Indore into national limelight. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing some of the blast cases are convinced about the involvement of some of the accused who acted or provided key support to the terror acts, even as some of them led relatively obscure life here. Moreover, no incident of terror has been reported from the region in the recent past.

The city, NIA believes played a crucial role in some of the high profile blasts in the country and has emerged as a centre that planned and executed some of the terror acts associated with saffron terror. These terror acts had killed more than 100 people while left about 300 critically injured, were allegedly planned in the city. The name of Indore city came to fore following the missing of Ramji Kalsangra and Sunil Joshi alleged to be associated with the Samjhauta express blasts. The NIA team had arrested Kamal Chauhan, a close aide of Kalsangra from his residence earlier in February this year. It was followed by several visits by the NIA sleuths as part of the blast probe. One of the accused Lokesh Sharma has reportedly confessed to the investigation agencies that all the bombs used allegedly by the saffron outfits were assembled and stored at a rented house in Bengali Chauraha locality in the city. The house was rented to one Amit Chauhan.

The NIA also claimed that the bombs were manufactured in the city and were taken to Delhi by Indore Intercity Express. This was about the bombs which were planted in the Samjhauta Express. NIA chargesheet has named many people, who either belong to Indore or have stayed in the city, including Sandeep Dange, Ramji and Lokesh Sharma and others under the leadership of Sunil Joshi were instrumental in not only procuring raw materials for improvised explosive devise (IED), but also getting them assembled and planted in the target. Above all, a not so known place Bagli in Dewas district, came under scanner as the accused were allegedly imparted training in arms.

Bagli, a small sleepy town, about 70 km away from Indore, came to the limelight after the arrest of Kamal Chauhan in connection with the Samjhauta Express bomb blast. Chauhan reportedly had informed NIA officials that he was trained there. Following his revelation, the ToI visited the place in February this year and met the uncle of the late Sunil Joshi, Madanlal Joshi, who owns a house in Bagli. According to Madanlal, Sunil was a frequent visitor to the town and that too with many unidentified persons. Madanlal said that investigation agencies visited the place many times and also interrogated his family members. Madanlal later refused to divulge anything more fearing problem for his family.



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Land scam: Chargesheet filed against Yeddyurappa (May 21, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The lokayukta police on Monday filed a chargesheet against former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa for allegedly de-notifying 20 acres to favour a media house. The de-notified land, situated in north Bangalore, was meant for setting up a hardware technology park and the de-notification meant a loss of Rs 8.64 crore for the exchequer, which was denied development and service charges, the report submitted by the lokayukta said.

Denotification in legal terms means the withdrawal of the government from the process of land acquisition. Apart from Yeddyurappa, the Lokayukta officials have filed a chargesheet against industries minister Murugesh Nirani and former industries minister Katta Subrahmanya Naidu for “criminal misconduct as public servants in arbitrarily denotifying the land”.

Detailing the report, superintendent of police PK Shivashankar said the land was in the control of the owners of a group publishing local leading English and Kannada dailies. The government acquired the land in December 2006 for the proposed technology park.

The lokayukta found Yeddyurappa, after he became CM in 2008, had recommended the de-notification despite notes from the secretaries concerned against such a move. Nirani too approved of it. Though the lokayukta probe could not establish Yeddyurappa made a financial gain, the “illegal de-notification” showed he “misused his official power”, the report added.



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Osho disciple Prashant Yogi held for making nude videos of women (May 27, 2012, Siasat)

The Dharamshala police has arrested Prashant Yogi, who claims to be a disciple of Osho Rajneesh and runs a meditation centre here, on charge of secretly filming women bathing in the nude inside the washrooms. He was released on bail on Friday. Prashant Yogi runs a website for his meditation centre. He installed secret spycams inside the washrooms in order to make nude videos of women who used to come and say in his ashram.

The self-styled yogi married four women one after another in Dharamshala, out of which three sought divorce and the fourth has abandoned him. He used to entice women with flowery words and used to gain their confidence. Women from as faraway places as Mumbai and Karnataka used to come and stay in his ashram.

Prashant Yogi alias Ramkumar Sharma is a subdivisional engineer in BSNL. His sordid acts came out in the open when the wife of a disciple suddenly noticed a spycam inside the washroom and informed her husband. The spycam linked directly to the yogi’s bedroom. Police said, so far the yogi has made 25 such obscene videos using spycam.



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Family shocked at Bihar engineer’s arrest on terror charges (May 21, 2012, Deccan Herald)

A week after a 35-year-old engineer, who hails from a village in Bihar’s Darbhanga district, was arrested in Saudi Arabia for alleged terror links in India, his family members and villagers are shocked and still cannot believe it. Fasih Mehmood, an engineer working in Saudi Arabia for the last last five years, was arrested from Jubail in Dammam May 14 by Saudi police following a request from Indian authorities and reportedly deported to India.

“We have no information till date about his whereabouts after he was arrested in Saudi Arabia. The Indian government is yet to officially inform us,” said Fasih’s father, Dr. Firoz Ahmad, who is in charge of the Benipatti primary health centre in Madhubani district. Fasih’s mother is a school teacher in Darbhanga. Fasih’s wife Nikhat Parween said she had sent an email to the external affairs ministry to know about her husband. “I had requested the ministry to inform me about my husband,” she said.

Parween, who returned to Patna from Saudi Arabia after her husband’s arrest, is currently staying with her parents here. Ahmad said that neither Saudi Arabia nor the Indian government had informed them about Fasih’s arrest. “We are at God’s mercy as the family is yet to get a word from the concerned authorities,” he said. Fasih, a resident of Barh Saaila village in Darbhanga, about 200 km from here, is seen as a simple family man with no record of any suspected activities.

“Fasih was a good student, a simple and gentle man. It is difficult to suspect his involvement in any other thing,” Zafar Ahmad, a villager, said. He said that there was no record that Fasih was ever involved in anything wrong till date. Mohammed Iqbal, another villager, said that Fasih was never involved in any radical activities. “He used to visit the village and spend time with family and friends. Fasih was also a good human being,” he said.

Fasih was working with Eram Engineering Corporation in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, after obtaining his B.Tech. from an engineering college at Bhatkal in Karnataka. Villagers in Barh Saaila are angry over Fasih’s arrest in Saudi Arabia as he is the fourth person hailing from the village to be arrested for suspected terror links. Early this month, Kafil Akhtar was arrested by Karnataka Police without informing Bihar Police. The move prompted Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to describe it as a violation of the rule of law.



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Two Kashmiri students of Azamgarh madrasa picked up at Aligarh (May 27, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Two young Kashmiri students of Jamiatul Falah, a reputed madrasa in Azamgarh, were picked up reportedly by Uttar Pradesh ATS from Kaifiyat Express on Thursday morning (24th May) at Aligarh Railway Station. Three days have passed, neither their parents, nor the madrasa have been informed by the UP ATS. The boys haven’t been presented in any court either. The police have not yet announced their detention or arrest.

Confirming the incident, Maulana Tahir Madani, Director, Jamiatul Falah, told TCN over phone that the two Kashmir students who were cousin brothers boarded Kaifiyat Express on Wednesday. They were going to Delhi to meet their elder brother who had come there for treatment. When the boys did not reach Delhi on Thursday their family informed the madrasa. Next day (on Friday) local media reported about the arrest of two Kashmiri youths from Kaifiyat Express.

“Sajjad Ahmed Batt was student of Arabi Awwal (First year of 5-year Arabic course) and Wasim Ahmed Batt was studying in the second year of the same course. They were cousin brothers. Wasim’s elder brother had come to Delhi for treatment and they were going to see him,” said Maulana Madani. Both are from Sopore in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Dainik Jagran Hindi daily published a news report on Friday (25th May) regarding the arrest of two Kashmiri youths from Kaifiyat Express. The report said “ATS picked two Kashmiri youths suspected for anti-national activities from Kaifiyat Express on Thursday morning. They are being interrogated. ATS had got input that two suspects are going to Delhi from Azamgarh through Kaifiyat Express. The ATS took this info seriously and took positions at Platform No. 3 and 4. As soon as the train reached platform no. 3 at 6:30 am, the ATS team armed with sophisticated weapons entered the general coach and took out two persons. They are under intensive interrogation now.”

The authorities of Jamiatul Falah have filed a written complaint in the local police station about the abduction of their students. They are today meeting Superintendent of Police, Azamgarh in this regard. Reacting to the incident, Maulana Madani said the students are innocent and they are falsely implicated. “This incident is the part of the nationwide continuous campaign to harass and implicate innocent Muslim youths in terror cases. They are being implicated in false cases,” he said.



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Despite court decree, Muslims denied access to mosques in Punjab (May 22, 2012, Twocircles.net)

After Partition of India in 1947 Muslims of Punjab state migrated to Pakistan or were killed. Their properties including madrasas and mosques were captured by the local Hindus and Sikhs. Many mosques were converted into gurudwaras. In last five decades, the Punjab Wakf Board has won several such cases of captured mosques, but it hasn’t been able to take possession of them from the illegal occupants. One such mosque is in Aapo Aap locality in Nabha subdivision of Patiala district. The 200-year-old mosque of Aapo Aap was captured after the Partition. But the Punjab Wakf Board won the case against the illegal occupant Jatinder Kumar Bansal s/o Late Ch. Ved Parkash in the Civil Court of Nabha in 1968. The illegal occupant challenged the order in Addl District Judge, Patiala but again lost there in 1969. As the locality has very few Muslim houses and due to little support from the district administration of Patiala, the wakf board could not take control of the mosque till today.

Meanwhile, due to heavy rain in 2004 a wall of the mosque fell and then the illegal occupant demolished the entire mosque and the debris has remained there since then. Whenever local Muslims tried to rebuild the mosque and take control of it, the illegal occupant along with some members of the majority community prevented them from doing so. “The local Muslims decided to reconstruct the mosque and got No Objection Certificate from Punjab Wakf Board vide no.31ESD/Pb/4072-74 dated 18/10/2011 to rebuild the demolished mosque on own cost, but the Muslims of Nabha were stopped and forced to quit the site with threats of dire consequences by the illegal occupant,” Adv. Javed Afzal, a resident of the area, told TCN over phone. He further said the police did not help them and did not provide any protection.

“The Muslims of Nabha complained to Police but their demand for police protection is lying unheard up till now due to the influence of the illegal occupant. So the minority community members had to abandon the construction work to avoid tension created at the site,” Adv. Afzal informed. He said there are around 200 houses of Muslims in the Nabha subdivision which has about a population of two lakh. The Aapo Aap locality, however, has just 25-30 houses of Muslims – they are from Malerkotla district of Punjab besides Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. He alleged that “the wakf board has been weak, rather corrupt and could not repossess the mosques which they won in court.” “In Nabha alone there were five such mosques won by the wakf board. But they could not take control of them. After change of some hands they were ultimately converted into gurudwaras,” said Adv. Afzal.

The Punjab Wakf Board admits they could not take control of some mosques even after winning the case. Talking to TCN, Izhar Alam, IPS (Retd. DGP), confirmed the case of Aapo Aap mosque. He admitted the board won the case but could not repossess it. He, however, added that the mosque was not taken control of because only a few houses of Muslims are there and a situation like communal riot had been created. “Local Muslims wanted to rebuild it after it fell down in 2004 but members of the majority community did not allow them. In fact within no time communal tension spread in entire Nabha. The majority community even threatened to throw out the Muslim population from Nabha. SP and DSP called me to say the entire area is on the verge of fire. What should I protect – mosque or the town? I ask them protect the town as you cannot protect the mosque any way,” said Alam. He said areas of Jaats and those who have come from Pakistan do not allow to build new mosque or take control of old mosques.

However, he said he will again make efforts to rebuild the Aapo Aap mosque. Meanwhile, Adv. Javed Afzal has already sent letter to National Commission for Minorities and Ministry of Minority Affairs informing them about the case. He has urged them to “save minority community members from the illegal intruders spreading communalism and encroaching upon the Wakf area of Mosque building illegal drain on the pretext of widening the street,” reads his letter to minority minister. “Since it is a genuine case of harassment and act of suppression of minority community, kindly use your good offices to help in the matter to build two century old mosque under police protection,” Adv. Afzal wrote.



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Aarushi-Hemraj case: Nupur, Rajesh Talwar charged with murder (May 25, 2012, IBN)

Murdered teenager Aarushi Talwar’s parents, Nupur and Rajesh, have been charged with murder, destruction of evidence and conspiracy in the sensational double murder case in which their domestic help was also found dead. Rajesh Talwar has also been charged with misleading the investigation in the double murder case.

During the arguments on the framing of charges, the CBI had asked for Sections 302, 201, 203, 34 of the Indian Penal Code to be applied. These include charges of murder, false FIR, destruction of evidence and misleading the court and the probe.

The CBI had claimed the Talwars’ maid, the guard and driver corroborate their ‘last scene theory’ according to which there were four people living in the house and there was no sign of a fifth person’s entry at the time of the murders. The CBI counsel had said, “Four people were there, two died and two were left. When a murder takes place in a closed house and two are dead, then the onus shifts on those who are alive.”

The CBI had also claimed that Aarushi and Hemraj’s injuries were identical. “The golf stick recovered from the house matches the injury. The Talwars refused to identify Hemraj’s body and gave false information regarding the crime scene,” the CBI counsel said. The Talwars’ counsel had, however, claimed there was no direct evidence to prove the charges that the CBI claimed against the Talwars.

The CBI had also told the court in Ghaziabad that Rajesh and Nupur killed Aarushi and Hemraj in a fit of rage after finding them in a compromising position, a claim strongly refuted by the dentist couple. Talwars had contested CBI’s claim, saying sex is no big deal in elite society and does not entail murders. Aarushi was found dead with her throat slit at her Noida residence in Jalvayu Vihar on May 16, 2008 and the body of Hemraj was recovered from the terrace a day later.



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Salwa Judum added to Naxal ranks: Sukma collector (May 27, 2012, Hindustan Times)

A stark truth has hit the Chhattisgarh government after the release of Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon, who spent 13 days in Naxal captivity. In extended debriefing sessions with senior officials in Raipur, he has revealed that close to 70% of his abductors took up the gun in response to the Salwa Judum movement. Menon, 32, interacted with over 100 Naxals during his captivity. Officials revealed the collector was not allowed to “acclimatise” with his captors and his guards kept changing. While five to 10 Naxals kept guard by day, an additional five were put on sentry duty at night. He managed to have extended conversations with most of them to gain an insight into the Red movement in the state.

Menon kept a diary for the 13 days he spent with the Naxals, moving from one place to another, blindfolded, deep inside dense jungles. He wrote that the Salwa Judum – which means peace march in the Gondi language – had driven most of the rebels to take up violence. While one of his captors told Menon he was angered over houses being burnt by the so-called peace marchers in his village, another revealed that he volunteered to train as a Naxal after his parents were killed by Salwa Judum members.

According to the officials, 30% of the Naxals Menon met said they were fighting for the poor and 70% reacted in anger to what is now well-documented violence by the Salwa Judum. Eighty per cent of the rebels were illiterate and all were in the 16-22 age group. Each man carried either an INSAS automatic rifle, an SLR or a 303 rifle. All of them drew a great sense of power from wielding the weapons and gave Menon lectures on how they represented the rights of adivasis.

The Salwa Judum, which initially claimed to be a spontaneous uprising of villagers, was in effect a state-sponsored anti-insurgency campaign that uprooted lakhs of villagers. Scores of youth were armed by the state and made to fight alongside the police and paramilitary from 2005 to mid-2011, when the Supreme Court declared the movement unconstitutional.

Soon after Menon’s release on May 3, CM Raman Singh said words like Salwa Judum did not exist in the government’s dictionary. But officials dealing with the heightened Naxal activity are reviewing Menon’s analysis. His diary was taken away by his captors but his message has reached the CM and chief secretary and it is grim: the move to arm civilians in the fight against Naxals has only added to the ranks of the rebels.



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UP: Six-month-old baby dies after being raped, police station in-charge suspended ()

A six-month-old baby died after she was allegedly raped by her neighbour in Kukhthala village in the district, police said. The baby girl was taken out on Monday night by a 26-year-old youth named Lohare, who used to visit the house frequently, police said.

After the accused did not return with the baby, the family went in search of the child and later filed a police complaint against him. The baby’s body was on Tuesday found in a neighbouring village. She had apparently died due to excessive bleeding, police said, adding that the accused youth is still at large.

Agitated over the incident, the villagers blocked a highway and held a protest alleging inaction by police. The blockade was lifted after an order was issued for the suspension of Kukhthala police station in-charge.



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Opinions and Editorials

The superior is equally liable for his subordinate’s acts – By Justice (Retired) Judge H Suresh (May 19, 2012, Tehelka)

In a recent debate on a national TV channel, the question was raised as to which of the two reports – the report made by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), or the report made by the amicus curiae – should be legally considered. The argument was that while the former was made by a police officer, the latter was by a non-official. The debate was fundamentally flawed. Both had been authorised by the Supreme Court. In fact, the SIT report which was presented earlier to the Supreme Court was not satisfactory, and hence the Supreme Court appointed Raju Ramachandran, amicus curiae, to have a re-look at the SIT report and make his own report after due inquiry. Hence the answer to the debate should be that both the reports should be considered in juxtaposition with each other. And, if so analysed, one would find several glaring infirmities in the SIT report. Raju Ramachandran has said that Narendra Modi could be prosecuted under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), Section 153 B (appealing publishing or asserting or propagating to cause disharmony or feelings of enmity or hatred or ill-will amongst different religious groups), Section 166 (being a public servant, causing injury to people by not obeying legal provisions), and Section 505 (making statements which are likely to incite one class of persons as against any other class). All these offences are matters of record and can easily be secured as the whole world has seen and heard what Modi, or persons like Togadia, said and did.

But more importantly, Modi can as well be charged u/S. 120 B of the IPC for criminal conspiracy for causing death of a large number of innocent men, women and children, and for arson and destruction of properties, being all crimes against humanity. In fact, he is the chief conspirator of all that has happened in Gujarat in 2002. To come to that conclusion, one has to go back to Godhra, on 27 February 2002. In fact, no investigation about Modi’s role would be proper without taking into account its genesis at Godhra, which must be understood in its sequence. The full capacity of the train was 1100, but at the time of the incident the train had about 2000 passengers, of which 1700 were Karsevaks. The reservation capacity of S-6 (the coach which got burnt) was 72. There is no evidence to show that all those found dead were Karsevaks. One such person, was definitely the local Station Master’s wife, who had boarded the train at Godhra. In all, 58 bodies were found in coach S-6, which were all charred beyond recognition. The first to arrive at the scene was Jayanthi Ravi, the District Collector, who arranged to have the bodies removed from the train. From 8:30 am until 7:00 pm that evening, repeated statement(s) of the District Collector was relayed on Doordarshan (TV) and Akashwani (radio) saying: “the incident was not pre-planned, it was an accident.” In fact, till date, there is no evidence as to who set the fire. The then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, made a statement in the Parliament on that very day, in the forenoon, asking the people to remain calm and that the Gujarat government would order an inquiry.

Modi along with Ashok Bhatt and other cabinet colleagues arrived in Godhra at about 2:00 pm. After meeting the Collector, he decided to take the charred bodies to Ahmedabad, against the advice of the District Administration. He wanted to take the bodies in the same train but the District Administration strongly opposed this for law and order reasons. Just as the bodies were leaving Godhra, Modi, without any material whatsoever, made a public broadcast stating that “the ISI hand was behind the Godhra incident”. The bodies were taken in a five-truck motor cavalcade to Ahmedabad, stopping at every town on the way, with slogans to incite people to wreak vengeance on the Muslims. The bodies reached Sola Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad at 3:35 am on 28 February, in a very surcharged atmosphere. At about 5:30 pm on 27 February, during the curfew hours, about 40 shops belonging to the Muslims, situated at Signal Falia at Godhra, were destroyed. The Rapid Action Force was present, but was not allowed to intervene. After returning from Godhra, Modi announced that there would be a State bandh the next day. This was after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal (BD) had already called for a bandh.

He then called a meeting of senior police officers in the presence of his cabinet colleagues and instructed them that they should not do anything to contain the ‘Hindu reaction’. (The media, today, has been dilly-dallying on the question whether Haren Pandya or Sanjeev Bhatt were present or not in this meeting. What is important is that there is no denial that this meeting had taken place. Modi does not say what he said in the meeting. Having declared a State bandh, are we to imagine that he still instructed them to stop ‘Hindu reaction’?) On the same day, senior ministers of his cabinet organised a meeting, late in the evening, in Lunavada village, in which 50 leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), VHP and BD also took part, to work out the method and manner in which the next 72-hour-long carnage was to be carried out. Thus, it was Modi who should be considered responsible for spreading the holocaust to the rest of Gujarat, while it could have been controlled and confined to Godhra and Godhra alone. Undoubtedly, Modi was responsible for the spread of violence, post-Godhra, in the rest of Gujarat. All the points stated above are matters of record, and the SIT should have had no difficulty in finding them, unless the SIT had a different agenda.

What do these facts show if not a conspiracy to commit mass crime, as has taken place? Conspiracy is a tacit understanding as between two or more persons, to do, or cause to be done, illegal acts. The series of events as mentioned above, clearly show that Modi, and all those who perpetrated the crime, had an understanding that they would indulge in acts of violence and other heinous crimes, and Modi, despite his constitutional mandate, would not exercise his powers to stop them. This has to be understood in the light of the fact that Modi came to the state mainly as a RSS pracharak and succeeded in becoming the Chief Minister. As a part of his agenda, he permitted wide-spread preparation for months together, by the Sangh Parivar, only to wait for an event like the one at Godhra to unleash violence and hatred against Muslims. The SIT seems to have found fault with some of the officers, while exonerating the Chief Minister. It is now well settled that no officer, having committed a crime, can take shelter under the orders of his superior. Does that mean that the superior can get away with it? The answer is in the negative. He is equally liable for all the acts his subordinate does. As Justice VR Krishna Iyer says: “The Chief Minister, oath-bound to defend law and order, vicariously connived at the inhuman violence”, and as such, he cannot plead that he is not liable for any criminal action.



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BJP factions dividing the Parivar? – By Rana Ayyub (May 25, 2012, Tehelka)

If the ongoing drama at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) executive has brought the bitter infighting in the BJP out in the open, a parallel meeting of the Sangh Parivar members in Nagpur and in a hotel room in Mumbai could further fuel the discontent, making it one of the most disastrous executives, the party has seen. Senior leaders in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) present in the Mumbai sabha have made a statement to the effect that “Ahankaar (pride) can rule Gujarat, not the country”. Those present in the meeting have also gone to the extent of asking the sangh high command to contain the arrogance of a star politician, created by the party itself. On the other end, for the BJP which is now running for cover trying to explain LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj’s absence from the sabha, the war had begun three weeks ago. The stage for the drama that would unfold in Mumbai on Thursday had been set at the press conference taken in Bangalore by ex-Chief Minister Yedurappa who had held the party hostage, threatening to resign over the CBI inquiry against him. As Tehelka had reported that out of the entire presser the only significant statement was his endorsement of Arun Jaitley as the only leader of national stature in the party. “Arun Jaitleyji is the only dynamic and leader of national stature the BJP has right now. He was the one who called me and asked me to not quit,”Yeddyurappa had said. The sub text was clear for those who had been keeping a tab on the politics within the BJP. Sources in the BJP say that the agenda behind the attack on Anant Kumar, known to be Advani’s closest aide (who stood by his side through the yatra last year) was to attack Advani.

In fact, Yedyurappa’s relationship with RSS leaders had strained last year as he held it against the parivar for deceiving him and backing Sadanand Gowda, a devout RSS ideologue. The presser was the first time that Yedyurappa officially attacked his own party men. But this was done with the able support of his ‘friends’ in the BJP who gave him the green signal. Sources close to Yedyurappa suggest that in his telephonic conversations with Jaitley, which lasted an hour the morning he took the press conference he was communicated to not resign but, at the same time, ‘let out his anger’. Three weeks after that press conference Yedyurappa, who had initially suggested that he would abstain from the BJP executive in Mumbai, took the first flight from Bangalore on Friday morning announcing his desire to strengthen the BJP and improve its position in Karnataka. It was also not surprising then that Yedyurappa who till three weeks ago was singing praises of Jaitley switched to calling his political friend Narendra Modi, the contender for the top position in the party. Simultaneously, while Yedyurappa was making statements that made headlines, a section in Gujarat too was making noises.

Keshubhai Patel, ex CM of Gujarat and senior BJP and RSS leader celebrated his birthday last week. The birthday party preceded his headline-making statement that Gujarat was living in fear under Modi. It was the first time any senior leader in the party had gone against Modi in public. Patel’s birthday party was attended by two senior RSS leaders from Gujarat and a state cabinet minister who hailed from the Koli community. The agenda was to consolidate forces and put pressure on the RSS to act against Modi and his clout. Modi, who was aware of Gadkari getting a second extension as the BJP President, knew it was time to act. His opposition was not to Gadkari, but on Gadkari’s reliance on Sanjay Joshi on whose behest he had been taking political decisions. It was then that Modi sent reports to newspapers through his efficient PR machinery that he would abstain from the party executive in Mumbai. Coincidentally, the report was leaked right after Tehelka published a report confirming Gadkari’s second term as BJP president and suggestions about making Modi’s arch rival Murli Manohar Joshi as the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the BJP.

While efforts were made by a section of the RSS to placate Modi and get him to attend the parliamentary executive in Mumbai, in a meeting on Wednesday night in Mumbai, it was decided that Joshi would be asked to resign. Sources who were a part of the meeting said the opposition to Joshi’s resignation came from only three national leaders – Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh. Advani and Jaitley sat silent when the decision was being taken. As a senior leader in the BJP speaking to Tehelka added, “Those people who are today skipping party meetings have no moral right. They are not peeved at Gadkari or Modi, they are peeved at their own agenda which is being sabotaged. Advani has his own grudge against Sanjay Joshi so he won’t speak for him, although Joshi is the strongest force against Modi. So he will show his anger but not speak out.”

Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman, braved the embarrassment and told the press that Advani had informed the party leaders about his absence from the Sabha to be held in the evening, but those in the know believe it was Advani’s resentment against Modi and Yedyurappa, which led him to walk out. At this point of time, the party is not factionalised in two groups but various splinter groups and there lies the problem. When Gadkari leaves the party executive from Mumbai, he will be a much troubled man as opposed to his beaming appearance before the press in 2009 when he was appointed the BJP president. His job will now be to cater to the egos of Advani and Modi, the prime ministerial ambitions of Advani and Jaitley, which if viewed from a microscopic level, have been the trigger for the discontent in the party.



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Whitewashing black money – By Bharat Jhunjhunwala (May 28, 2012, Tehelka)

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has described many ways in which black money is generated in the White Paper on black money recently tabled in Parliament. These include running of a parallel economy by factories covering purchase, production and sales; under-invoicing of imports; undervaluation of real estate and conducting the trade in jewellery and bullion in cash. These facts are true. The question, however, is why the government is not able to contain these practices? The objective of the businessman is to make money. It is his natural tendency to evade taxes. It falls upon the government to control the evasion. The government has failed in discharging this duty. This has been admitted by the finance minister in as many words in the White Paper: ‘All these activities are illegal per se and a result of human greed combined with declining societal values and inability of the state to prevent them.’ The question is: What lies behind the government’s inability? On this, the finance minister is, unfortunately, entirely silent.

The truth is that the ministers do not want to stop these illegal activities because they themselves are deeply involved in them. Officials are unwilling to take action because that steps on the toes of the ministers. There is a saying: Yatha raja tatha praja (As the king, so the people). I was visiting Kolkata when the Harshad Mehta matter was in the news. The taxi driver tried to overcharge me. When I protested, he replied: If the prime minister is making money, then why not me? The complicity of ministers in corruption is an open secret, though difficult to prove. The story seems to get going during Indira Gandhi’s tenure. Till that time, the politicians used to depend on people’s contribution for meeting their electoral expenses. I was running a small paper factory in UP. MLAs and ministers would visit regularly and accept contributions as small as Rs 1,000. This changed dramatically when Indira Gandhi found that she could get the money from public sector undertakings (PSUs). Contracts were given by PSUs only when the grease money was paid to the ministers. This was easy and it no longer was necessary to seek money from the people for contesting elections.

The power and corruption of the ministers continued to grow such that in the Voluntary Disclosure Scheme announced by the Vajpayee government the maximum amount disclosed, as per my memory, was Rs 274 crore by a politician from Andhra Pradesh. It was established in the Bofors case that grease money had been paid. The alleged culprits, however, were let off on grounds that there was no solid evidence. The hawala case implicated many politicians. Again they were let off on grounds of lack of evidence. The Reddy brothers in Karnataka bled the government and small businessmen alike. A chief minister of UP would have a notification issued raising sales tax on a particular commodity. The notification was withdrawn promptly within a few days as soon as grease money was paid. The officials simply cannot take action against black money in the economy because that would imply acting against their politician bosses. The problem has become worse because, additionally, the politicians have built an unholy alliance with select business houses. Hamish McDonald gives many instances of this in his book The Polyester Prince, which is not available in India for fear of a lawsuit being brought against it. A polyester fibre yarn (PFY) plant of a business house came onstream in 1982.

The government imposed an additional anti-dumping import duty of Rs 15,000 per ton on PFY within three weeks of this. As a result, domestic prices went up and the business house made a windfall profit on production. McDonald, who was the Delhi bureau chief for the Far Eastern Economic Review for several years, reports that the ‘All-India Crimpers Association, representing about 150 small processors… took out a series of anguished newspaper advertisements headlined: Should the country’s texturising industry be allowed to die? The crimpers said that the case of anti-dumping duty was misleading, distorted and untruthful. The domestic output… still fell short of demand.’ The pleas were ignored by the government. At whose behest, if not the business house? It came to the knowledge of Mumbai Stock Exchange during the Harshad Mehta scandal that a business house was issuing more than one scrip with the same share number. The business house admitted to its mistake and promptly issued fresh shares in lieu of the disputed ones. Owners of the business house were not punished for this serious offence, however. The government allowed the matter to be ‘compounded.’ The company paid a small fine and was let off.

An international scandal in oil-for-food programme of Iraq under the aegis of the United Nations broke out in 2005. A business house was the biggest purchaser of oil from Saddam Hussein. But ‘speaker after speaker from both the Congress-led government and the BJP opposition, including former adversaries of a business house, avoided even mentioning the name of the business house as the largest Indian recipient of oil allocations from the Saddam Hussein regime, let alone trying to probe the political circumstances in which the oil concessions were won.’ Obviously, huge amounts of black money would have been paid to the ministers to secure their complicity in these shady deals. That is how generation of black money starts, Pranabda! Instead of focussing on the main cause of complicity of Ministers, the finance minister has highlighted the petty corruption by ordinary people. And the solutions proposed are entirely cosmetic. It is said, for example, that use of debit cards should be encouraged. It fails to dawn on the finance minister that a person buying goods with black money will have the wisdom not to charge it to his bank account. In any event, debit cards are used by ordinary people for ordinary transactions. Another solution suggested is to have tax deducted at source (TDS) on property registration. Indeed, this may help bring some of the benami deals into the open. But the major problem is that of undervaluation. Deduction of TDS will not track the huge amount of money making the rounds in the property markets. The White Paper has nothing to say about the few thousands of crores of rupees of black money that is generated by the politicians by milking PSUs and government contracts, issuing notifications that are designed to bring black money to the ministers; and making policies that provide special benefits to specific business houses.



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Lessons from the hostage crisis – By Mukul Sanwal (May 24, 2012, The Hindu)

The call for a national hostage policy after the recent hostage crisis in Chhattisgarh seems to have ignored that the government has formed a review committee to look into the pending cases against tribals. The media describe this move as a “concession” without understanding its import. While development work and policing are important, the defining feature of this low intensity conflict is that it is a response to the changes taking place in an area where the local people are dependent on the forests – their habitat – and it is the Central laws and the criminal justice system that are turning them against the State in desperation. Observing that thousands of tribals had been put behind bars on various charges, Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development, recently said that the cases should be reviewed to ensure that no one was languishing in jail without a strong case against him, and the forest officials of different States should be directed not to register cases against tribals for entering the forests. Kishore Chandra Deo, Minister for Tribal Affairs, has also recently directed the Governor of Andhra Pradesh to cancel mining leases as they constitute alienation of land to non-tribals, and cancelling them would “strike at the basic premise on which the Maoists have gained sympathy”. This would be the first time special powers of the Governor in Scheduled Areas are being exercised.

Does this recognition of governance failure amount to a new well thought out strategy? If it does, the shift in political will from only using development packages to win the “hearts and minds” of the local population to the centrality of the habitat – land and the forests on it – is long overdue, because the distinctiveness of these communities does not arise from “backwardness” but from reliance on their habitat and its natural resources. A few years ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rightly identified the expanding and deepening footprint of the Maoists as the most serious threat currently facing India. The response has so far been of a bureaucratic nature. The Tribal Sub-Plan soon morphed into enhanced budgetary allocations for police forces, including automatic weapons and drones, and development packages with decision making decentralised to the district level, without much impact on the ground. National attention on the continuing crisis is also shaped by the perception that it is a law and order problem, and largely limited to periodic analyses of crises situations where the focus has been on the dynamics of the hostage negotiation process. Somewhere in all this are references to the good work done by District Collectors and the significant public support for them.

It is easy for the intelligence wing of the police to say that they had warned Alex Paul Menon that he was in danger, and he should not have gone to inaccessible villages. But then he was a target precisely because he was pushing development work in the remote areas, where the Maoists had established themselves. A new district, Sukma, of which Mr. Menon was the first Collector, was set up because the Chhattisgarh government wanted to reach inaccessible areas, and the district head was expected to push development into remote areas. The debate should really be on the priorities and policies the District Collectors should be pushing in the particular circumstances of these districts. The Maoist problem is a case of governance failure, and has historical roots. When the British extended their administration into the inaccessible hilly and forest tracts of central India in the early 19th Century, they found that these areas were inhabited by socially and culturally distinct groups that had been living in relative geographical isolation, and called these groups “tribes”, on the analogy of similar groups in the American and African continents, and recognised them as a special category for administration. The first Census in 1872 categorised these communities as “Primitive Tribes”, while they were designated as “Backward Tribes” in the 1874 Scheduled Districts Act, and the Constitution in 1950 re-designated them as “Scheduled Tribes” while continuing to characterise these communities as socially, educationally, economically and historically backward, carrying forward the anomaly because these are really communities not tribes, internationally defined as units with an independent territory, and their distinctiveness is shaped by their habitat. With the spread of colonial administration, a series of violent rebellions took place in this region between 1856 and 1910 against tree cutting by contractors, and were put down by the British army. As a partial response, the British enacted special protective laws implemented by the Collectors to safeguard the interests of this vulnerable section from commercial interests, who at that time were land grabbers, forest contractors and moneylenders from outside.

Currently, the habitat is being reshaped by designation of wildlife sanctuaries, timber contractors and, more recently, large mining and hydro electricity projects covering thousands of acres, under the Central Forest, Mining and Land Acquisition Acts with no special provisions to protect the interests of these communities over local resources. Simultaneously, a long period of corruption has weakened the regulatory structure leading to State ‘capture’ by commercial interests. For example, Pravir Chandra Bhanj Deo got killed in a “police action” in 1966 when he virtually revolted against the government for the rights of tribals in his erstwhile principality of Bastar. Even the Forest Rights Act, of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, meant specifically for these areas has not been implemented. For example, in Chhattisgarh, where Scheduled Areas cover nearly half the State, almost no action has been taken to settle community rights, cases related to national parks summarily rejected and minor forest produce not defined. The situation in the other States is no better. On top of that, criminal cases under the Forest Act of 1927 are being instituted against entire villages, including women and children, for theft of government property, whereas they are only using the produce of community forests for domestic use. Those thus jailed are not able to find sureties to get bail. It is not surprising that a committee to review all these cases was the major demand of the Maoists.

So, what should be done, now that we are prepared to consider the habitat rather than backwardness and ideology as the defining factor of the so-called Maoist problem? First, in the Scheduled Areas the priority task of the Collectors should be to implement the Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit, in the form of a fresh Settlement by deputing officers of the rank of Sub Divisional Officer to camp in the villages rather than rely on the forest department and field reports, and any implementation issues related to community rights should be resolved by the Governor issuing necessary notifications. The implementation of the Forest and Mining Act would then have to take account of this new reality, which would act as a safeguard of community interests, including provision of alternative land in cases of compulsory acquisition for industry. Second, in these areas the District Magistrates and Sub Divisional Magistrates should be given judicial powers under the Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes, with appeals to the Sessions Courts, as had been the earlier practice, as the issues and disputes relate to tribal rights and lands vis-à-vis forest contractors and big projects, where the tribals are at a distinct disadvantage in litigation foisted on them by outsiders with the sole objective of browbeating them. Third, a special purpose vehicle should be set up under each Governor for pushing all development works in a district through a single tender and through direct sanctions, so that selected infrastructure companies can take up works throughout the district, under police protection. The SPV will become the sponsor of the project and be responsible for securing all clearances before the project is put up for bidding and be a major change in the public systems mindset; it must include independent evaluation arrangements. Only such a multi-pronged strategy that takes a holistic view of governance – the habitat, outside influences, administration and development – will undercut the popular base of the Maoists depriving them of the local support they need to survive and build capacity sufficient to challenge the State. It should be possible for normalcy to return within a period of three to five years, when the special arrangements would be discontinued. Extraordinary situations require extraordinary solutions.



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Parliament’s say extends to the classroom – By Prabhat Patnaik (May 22, 2012, The Hindu)

Too many red herrings have entered into the debate over the removal of the cartoon from the class XI Political Science textbook of the NCERT. Let us, to start with, get these out of the way. First, the removal of the cartoon can scarcely be held to constitute a violation of “freedom of expression”. No censorship has been exercised on a genuinely creative work giving expression to an author’s views and persona; only a cartoon has been removed from a textbook which some authors were commissioned to write by the state. Even though the authors assented to the commission voluntarily, a textbook, meant for public educational use and commissioned by the state cannot really be described as the site of its author’s creative and “free expression”. So, the claim that “free expression” is being thwarted is untenable. Second, the issue has nothing to do with whether those objecting to the cartoon have a sense of humour or not. A cartoon in a textbook is not merely a source of hilarity. Like the text, it expresses something and even a person with the most highly developed sense of humour can quite legitimately object to what a cartoon depicts. In fact, saying that the objections to the cartoon betray the lack of a sense of humour, and hence, by inference, that the cartoon is there only for purposes of levity, goes against the argument of the defenders of the textbook that introducing cartoons is part of a new pedagogy that combines different forms of expression to convey ideas to students. One may argue that objecting to this particular cartoon is uncalled for, but that is a matter relating to the interpretation of the cartoon, which is the real bone of contention and has nothing to do with sense of humour. The third red herring is the antiquity of the cartoon. Sensitivities change over time, as does audibility. Sixty years ago, the Dalit voice was far less audible than it is today. The fact that a cartoon insensitive – if it is insensitive that is – to Dalit feelings raised no protests 60 years ago is no reason for expecting it to raise no protests today, or even for any surprise that it is raising protests today.

Finally the academic distinction of the two Chief Advisers who were responsible for the textbooks and who have both resigned, is also not relevant to the issue of whether the cartoon is objectionable or not. It is of course highly relevant if mala fide intentions are attributed to the Chief Advisers, which indeed is being done by some and has led to the most reprehensible perpetration of vandalism in the office of one of them. Any such attribution, needless to say, has to be fought relentlessly and the fact that the authors are very distinguished academics is a point to be made in that fight. But the distinction of the academics does not per se justify the cartoons. Judgment about what may or may not hurt feelings can differ, and even the most distinguished academics may have a view that others may disagree with. Precisely for that reason, protests of this kind are bound to arise from time to time. What is required is a procedure in place for handling them, and not ex cathedra pronouncements of Ministers on the spur of the moment under political pressures of various kinds. For instance a committee of academics can be set up in each case to give an opinion and recommendation, not just a verdict but, if need be, an informed interpretation that helps to assuage feelings. While I believe that the state should proceed this way, I must register serious disquiet at the suggestion, which is being frequently made in the media and even in academic circles, that the state, especially Parliament, should keep aloof from such matters altogether.

The argument is being advanced that school textbooks, or curricula, are matters which should be left to academics and that “politicians” or “the political class” should not be allowed to interfere in them. This is quite different from saying that academics must be normally entrusted with these tasks, that the state must leave these tasks to the academics as far as possible; it amounts to saying something more, namely that Parliament should have no jurisdiction in these matters, that classrooms must be insulated from the “political class”. The problem with this argument is that if we wish to build an egalitarian society, free of caste and gender discrimination or discrimination against minorities, then classrooms are where we must begin; and leaving what is taught in classrooms exclusively to academics, among whom dominant social groups are far better represented, is precisely what must be avoided. We cannot pretend that academics are free of biases and prejudices, and are the sheer embodiments of pure reason. To say this is not to cast personal aspersions on those who hold the view that transactions in classrooms must be left exclusively to the judgment of academics; it is to suggest that they are wrong in their estimation of the consequences of what they are proposing. This is quite apart from the fact that academics are accountable to nobody, and which ones among them get entrusted with the task of deciding what happens in the classrooms will in any case have to be determined by the state. Giving them exclusive control over such decisions therefore would amount to eliminating the accountability of the state itself, while introducing no compensating accountability of the academics, and hence in effect giving carte blanche to the so-called “political class” to act as it likes behind the façade of favoured and pliable academics.

Members of Parliament by contrast are accountable to the people, and the representation of the deprived social groups is far better among them than among the academics. Any attenuation of the jurisdiction of Parliament and its appropriation by any group of “experts” undermines the drive towards an egalitarian society. Parliament must consult “experts” but must not cede its jurisdiction to “experts”. The point is not just an empirical one: even if the composition of Parliament happened to be no different from that of the world of “experts”, the former, elected on the basis of one-person-one-vote and hence an embodiment of one aspect of the principle of equality, must not cede jurisdiction to the latter. Indeed the blanket use of the term “political class” amounts to an implicit denigration of Parliament and hence by implication, of the centrality of the role of one-person-one-vote. Those elected on the basis of “one-person-one-vote” are seen merely as belonging to a particular group, the so-called “political class” which is no different from any other group, and if anything even worse: it has less “expertise” than the “experts”, it is on average less educated than the academics, it is shown on TV as being noisy and boorish, and allegedly has crooks, criminals and corrupt persons among its midst. What all this glosses over is the fundamental fact that those constituting Parliament are there because of a system, “one-person-one-vote”, which constitutes the negation of millennia of institutionalised inequality. Any denigration of Parliament, any curtailment of its powers and jurisdiction in favour of “experts”, amounts to a negation of this negation, a rolling back of this negation of institutionalised inequality.

Of course, a question may arise: if Parliament’s jurisdiction is wide, then a fascist or authoritarian formation’s acquisition of majority in it, hands over to such a formation control over social life on a platter. That certainly is true, which is why every action of Parliament must be scrutinised and contested, on the streets if necessary, even as its jurisdiction remains wide. An argument against restricting its jurisdiction does not amount to an argument for accepting passively the actions of Parliament. But restricting this jurisdiction for fear of fascism is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. No doubt, if Parliament is to claim its dignity, it must itself respect others, including in particular scholars, and rein in any propensity towards peremptoriness, and set its house in order in other ways too. But that, though important, is a separate issue. The urban middle class in the country has for some time been displaying a disturbing degree of arrogance towards Parliament. This came to the fore inter alia during the Anna Hazare agitation. There were moments during that agitation when it claimed to represent “the people” and hence a status superior to Parliament. Such moments, when this or that group claims a status superior to that of Parliament in deciding on public matters, are alas appearing with greater frequency in our national life. It will be a pity if academics fall prey to this temptation to demand a curtailment of the jurisdiction of the only institution in the country which constitutes an expression of the principle of equality.



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Dalits In Hindurashtra – By Subhash Gatade (May 23, 2012, Countercurrents)

Justice Balakrishnan, retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, and at present Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), – who has remained in news since his retirement altogether for wrong reasons – provided further ammunition to his critics with his recent visit to Gujarat. The manner in which he lauded the state government for its ‘innovative schemes for the upliftment of dalits’ and claims that ‘..[f]uture of the SC community seems to be fairly good in Gujarat as compared to many other states’ is being seen as an attempt to clean chit and whitewash acts of ommission and commission.of a government which is still mired in the controversies surrounding the carnage in 2002. The said two day visit (14-15 th March) was part of the plan envisaged by the Commission to hold “open hearing” sessions on issues related to dalit atrocities in different parts of the country. According to media inputs, this was one of the important recommendattion by the K.B. Saxena committee which had done a painstaking job and brought out a report on dalit atrocities in the country few years back.for the commission itself. Not some time ago the commission had held its first such hearing in the state of Orissa. Contrary to Justice Balakrishnan’s initial remarks while inaugurating the programme – wherein he was all praise for the state government – the life worlds of the dalits presented a completely different picture. Complaints of non-cooperation of police in filing complaints, apathy of the government officials, lack of rehabilitation, were shared by the dalits who had converged from different parts of Gujarat. A village official, Suresh Jadav resident of Kundla village near Sanand, a dalit himself, narrated how he faced social boycott after a temple was built in his village in 2009. According to him like everyone else from the village they had contributed for the temple which was built on common land, but when the temple started functioning he was not allowed to offer puja and when he protested, his family faced social boycott.

In April a dalit family of Tajpur village of Sabarkantha district, 100 km from Ahmedabad, was targeted by other communities when it tried to take out a marriage procession. Despite police protection, the procession was attacked and stoned. “When it came to filing complaints, the local police sided with the upper castes,” said dalit activist Sanjay Parmar. A representative of Navsarjan, a voluntary organisation shared their survey of 1,589 villages wherein they found that of these 98 per cent of the villages still practise untouchability. Acording to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, a state-level committee to supervise issues concerning the communities should meet twice every year. Forget two meetings a year the committee has met merely six times since last seventeen years. While the said act, mandates a special court and a special public prosecutor to deal with atrocity cases, but the state government says that it does not have any money for this. A suspended deputy superintendent of police, SK Makwan, told the judges how he was hounded by his seniors when he conducted inquiries into more that 1,000 cases of atrocities against dalits when he was posted as Deputy Superintendent of Police (atrocity) in Banaskantha district in 2006 and he was prevented from doing his duty or catch the accused.

Lalji Makwana from Bhavnagar narrated his tale to the NHRC panel of how he was unnecessarily harassed by cops only because he had filed an RTI seeking information against local authorities. Meenaben Makwana from Rajula taluka complained of indifference of police officials towards murder of her husband at the hands of people of the higher castes. Cops of Ahmedabad rural also came under fire after dalits from Sanand complained of forced migration and social boycott in Goraj and Rethal villages. Dalit community leader from Sanand, Babu Vaniya, said that he was wrongly accused in a criminal case because he had led dalits in his village to raise their voice against murder of a community member. Another activist Purshottam Vaghela, who is fighting for the rights of safai kamdars in Gujarat, said that the state has seen death of 167 sewage workers in last 10 years. “Yet the practice of forcing men into manholes to clean clogged drains continue,” said Vaghela As expected dalits had poured in from different parts of the state to share their grievances and stories of exclusion, discrimination and deprivation. It was evident that in its hurry to hold this open hearing, the commission had not even done its homework properly. A cursory glance at its own 2009 report would have made it clear to it that it had declared that Gujarat accounted for 3,813 complaints of human rights violation of the total of 94,559 cases from across the country, which was less than only Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. (Indian Express, 20 th March 2009).

A 23-page confidential report submitted by the state Social Justice Department to the State Chief Secretary and legal departments provides glaring examples of ‘mishandling of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act against SC/ST. (Express, Sep 15, 2006). The rate of of conviction of cases under the Prevention of Atrocity Act against SC/ST in Gujarat is mere 2.5 per cent while rate of acquittal is 97.5 per cent. The report provides details of how cases are not investigated properly by the police and the hostile role played by public prosecutors during time of trials. Act clearly stipulates that offence which are registered under this act cannot be investigated by an officer below the rank of DySP but more than 4,000 such cases have been investigated by Police Inspector or Police Sub Inspector. Acquittal of the perpetrator because victim not identified as member of SC or ST community. Reason, not attaching caste certificate of the victim with the case papers. Public prosecutors false claims before the courts that act has been modified by the state government although it is known that it is a central act. Granting of anticipatory bails although there is no such provision in the act. Interestingly the Parliamentary Committee on SC and ST affairs had also expressed concern over such anticipatory bails granted ‘in atrocity cases in the state of Gujarat’.

In fact a detailed and systematic study of 400 judgements done by Vajibhai Patel, Secretary of Council for Social Justice (March 2005, Year 11, No.106, www.sabrang.com) had compelled the government to work on this 23 page report. It tells us that utterly negligent police investigation at both the higher and lower levels coupled with a distinctly hostile role played by the public prosecutors is the main reason for the collapse of cases filed under the atrocities act. It is worth noting that he has meticulously documented these judgements delivered under this act since April 1, 1995 in the Special Atrocity Courts set up in 16 districts of the state. The study also blasts the common perception is that the inefficacy of this law is due to false complaints being lodged or compromises between the parties, in actuality it is a complicit State that has rendered the Act toothless. … According to media reports all was “when the meeting began with powerpoint presentations by the government which higlighted the state government’s “pro-Dalit approach”. When the presentations were over commission members addressed the gathering. However, as soon as the commission started asking quesitons which were earlier raised in the public hearing held previous day Chief Secretary A K Joti promptly intervened, and instructed the mediapersons to leave the hall since it was a “closed-door meeting”. Perhaps it is time for ‘Prime Minister aspirant’ Narendra Modi to take another round of Sadbhavana fasts, this time focussing on the dalits to brush up his image.



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