IAMC Weekly News Roundup - November 12th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 12th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Some riots papers destroyed before time: Bhatt to Nanavati panel (Nov 8, 2012, Indian Express)

The state government has put it on oath that at least nine of the 47 riots-related intelligence documents sought by suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt were destroyed in 2006 and 2010 in “routine course”. Deputy Inspector General of Police (Intelligence), J K Bhatt, filed an affidavit in this regard on Wednesday pursuant to the recent order of the Nanavati Commission over the issue.

On November 2, the government had told the Commission that nine of the documents had been destroyed, following which, the Commission ordered the government to put the said statement on record. The stand taken by the government on these destroyed documents is in stark contrast to its stand taken before the Gujarat High Court. The Advocate General representing the government had told the court that the documents had not been destroyed.

Bhatt told The Indian Express that in the affidavit the government has stated that the nine documents have been destroyed as per routine practice. All these were intelligence documents falling under various categories under which they were to be destroyed after a particular period. Against this affidavit, Bhatt has filed his clarification and stated that the categorisation of documents by the intelligence department was not in conformity with the circulars issued by the General Administration Department.

He has claimed that some of the documents were destroyed even before their stipulated time period, as per the circulars in that regard by the General Administrative Department. Bhatt has sought clarification from the government on these points. The Commission has asked the government to file a reply to the same and kept further hearing on Friday.



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Narendra Modi behind Nitin Gadkari row: RSS’ MG Vaidya (Nov 12, 2012, Indian Express)

Senior RSS ideologue M G Vaidya has stoked a major controversy by suggesting that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was behind Ram Jethmalani’s demand for BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s resignation, a statement from which RSS distanced itself. BJP also sought to distance itself from Vaidya’s remark, saying that no such information has been given to the party. In his blog, Vaidya has said the “Needle of suspicion in the campaign against BJP president Nitin Gadkari points to Gujarat BJP and Chief Minister Narendra Modi.”

He also noted that “Ram Jethmalani had in one breath said he is seeking the resignation of Gadkari and that he also wanted to see Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister in 2014.” While both L K Advani and Gadkari have publicly stated that they don’t have Prime Ministerial ambitions, Vaidya, a former spokesman of RSS, said he “hasn’t read anywhere that Narendra Modi has denied reports of his ambition to become the Prime Minister”.

Vaidya today stood by his remark, saying, “It is my opinion and because Jethmalani has combined two things demanding Gadkari’s resignation and making Narendra Modi as PM, I think that the needle of suspicion goes to Gujarat. “I did not say that, I just said needle of suspicion goes to Modi and that raises suspicion if Jethmalani is entitled to his own point of view, I am also entitled to my point of view and RSS has nothing to do with it.” However, RSS official spokesperson Ram Madhav said the views expressed in the blog by Vaidya are personal and this is “not the official RSS line”.

Reacting to Vaidya’s remarks, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said, “No such information has been given to us. We are not reacting at all. Let the inquiry be over, let there be no trial outside, it is not fair. I don’t know from where this information came. I don’t think that this is view of RSS. I can also tell you. “I am also a RSS swayamsevak, with my own experience of 40 years RSS has not expressed such views, it is not an authorised opinion of RSS. Let me make it very clear. To my knowledge and understanding as a swayamsevak, I also know how RSS functions and as a BJP functionary I don’t agree with reported things,” Naidu said. Earlier, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani and his son Mahesh had said Gadkari should immediately step down from his post as charges against him with regard to funding of his Purti group were damaging the party.

Jethmalani had claimed to have the support of other senior party leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha. Talking to reporters at his residence here, Vaidya today said, “There seems to be unrest in the BJP and the lack of solidarity is evident in the party with members openly expressing their resentment”. He said even if there were differences of opinion in the RSS, the Sangh parivar comes out with only one statement or takes one stand in public. He also said it was too early to talk about Lok Sabha elections and the Prime Ministerial candidate. “PM candidate and talk of elections will commence only in 2013 when Assembly elections of other states are over and not after the Gujarat Assembly elections are held,” he said.



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Post-Godhra violence: 10-year jail for 12 who attacked cops in Kodinar (Nov 7, 2012, DNA India)

A local court in Una (Junagadh district) has sentenced 12 people to 10 years rigorous imprisonment on charges of rioting and attacking police personnel on November 13, 2003. “We argued before the court that the accused should be punished as they had indulged in attacks on policemen and this is a serious offence,” said Mohan Gohil, additional public prosecutor.

The case is related to the communal clash in the coastal town of Kodinar where a mob of 500 to 600 people belonging to two different communities had attacked policemen on duty on November 13, 2003. On that day a group of Hindus had given a bandh call demanding the arrest of the accused of the Muslim community who had set fire the previous day to a shop of one Purshottambhai.

The incident happened when a mob of Hindus went to close the shops of Muslims in the town. When the situation threatened to go out of control, the police reached the spot to stop any untoward incident. However, the mob which consisted of members of both communities, attacked the policemen and pelted them with stones and glass bottles. During the attack, two policemen, PV Basia and Suleman Ganibhai, were injured. The police had opened fire to disperse the mob. Ten of the accused were caught from the spot.



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CBI probes Amit Shah link in Sadiq encounter (Nov 8, 2012, Times of India)

Trouble is brewing in another quarter for former minister of state for home,Amit Shah, who is accused in fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati. The Central Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the Sadiq Jamal Mehtar case, is chasing links which possibly show Shah’s involvement in the encounter which took place on January 13, 2003. However, legal eagles associated with encounter cases of Sohrabuddin and Prajapati say the CBI, often accused of toeing political line, may not proceed further until the Gujarat elections are over in mid-December.

Even though Narendra Modi is in a ‘Sadbhavana’ mode vis-a-vis Muslims, the Congress apparently fears that naming Shah in the encounter of a Muslim at this juncture may again give political ammunition to the Gujarat chief minister who had exploited the Sohrabuddin case in the 2007 elections. The CBI has to file a chargesheet in the Sadiq case before December 31. Out on bail, Shah is the right-hand man of Modi in preparations for the crucial assembly polls on December 13 and 17.

The CBI sources said that investigation has revealed that Shah had made calls to D G Vanzara, who is currently in jail for his role in Sohrabuddin and Prajapati encounters, on the day of Sadiq’s encounter by the city crime branch near Galaxy Cinema in Naroda, Ahmedabad. Earlier, DySP Tarun Barot was also arrested in this case. CBI has obtained call details from telecom companies for the said period only to expectedly discover that frequency of communication between the former minister and Vanzara was very high during early January of 2003, say CBI sources.

The CBI probed this aspect on basis of claims made by former Mumbai journalist Ketan Tirodkar, who was arrested in this case in July this year and was released last month on default bail. In his affidavit filed before Maharashtra Organised Crime Control Act (MCOCA) court, Tirodkar claimed that it was he who introduced Sadiq, a petty criminal from Bhavnagar who was passed off as an LeT operative, to Mumbai’s encounter specialist Daya Nayak. Tirodkar claims Nayak handed him over to the Gujarat police as a gesture to appease a senior Gujarat politician.



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Speedy trial of terror cases demanded (Nov 5, 2012, The Hindu)

Political leaders from across the spectrum came together on Sunday to demand prosecution of police officers who have been indicted by the judiciary for their “prejudiced” attitude and speedy trial of terror cases among a series of measures to ensure that human rights of any specific community or group was not violated. Speaking at a convention on “Politics of Terror: Targeting Muslim Youths”, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Prakash Karat demanded that the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 be repealed as it was being “misused by the police agencies to brutalise citizens by way of punishing them for defending their homeland, farms and communities, or for belonging to a certain community that is labelled as a whole as being involved in terrorism.”

Talking about the cases of Muslim youths being “harassed and tortured” in the name of terrorism, Mr. Karat said he does not see it as attack on rights of only a particular community but as an attack on the very idea of fundamental rights. Later, softening his stand on the UAPA, Mr. Karat said if the Government does not agree to repeal the UAPA then at least they must withdraw the amendments in the law which were done in 2008. Communist Party of India leader D. Raja said the fact that hundreds of innocents citizen in this country are being implicated under fabricated cases of sedition and terrorism is an issue which the Government and the larger polity cannot afford to ignore. He said the CPI will raise the issue in the winter session of Parliament. “We already had prepared to raise this issue, which I find as a very disturbing pattern, in the Parliament in the monsoon session but we could not because the Parliament could not function.”

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav slammed the investigating agencies for arresting Muslim youths without sufficient evidence in complete violation of their human rights. Suggesting the civil society groups to unify themselves, he said now the time has come for all the like-minded political parties to do the same. “The civil society needs to identify the Government which controls the agencies because if the government wants it would not allow even a single case of human rights violation.” Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyyar said what is needed is a mass movement for not just specific individuals but for all those people who have been implicated in fabricated cases. If this issue is not tackled soon it will breed dissatisfaction among the marginalised masses.

Rajya Sabha member Mohammad Adeeb argued that the civil society has no idea how many lives have been destroyed because of what has now become almost the habit of the investigative agencies to arrest Muslim youths in fabricated cases. “There is extreme amount of anger and anguish taking over the community which won’t do well for the future of this country.” Highlighting several instances of acquittals in terror cases, Mr. Adeeb demanded that the Government must have provisions for the rehabilitation and monetary compensation of all those innocents who are later acquitted in terror cases. All India Muslim Personal Law Board president Maulana Mohammad Rabe Hassan Nadvi posed a question. “Constitutionally, how is it possible that a person is condemned as a terrorist or anti-national before even his crime has been proven in a court of law? The duty of compensation/apology for this falls on the shoulders of the State.”



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Faizabad riots: Video footage puts PAC, police roles under scanner (Nov 12, 2012, Indian Express)

Videos, CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts of the violence that spread across four towns in Faizabad district last month bring out the questionable role of the Uttar Pradesh police, not only during the incidents but in the days that followed as well. If the video footage of the Faizabad violence shows the city police force “just standing and watching” the rioters instead of taking action, many victims of the violence in nearby Bhadarsa alleged that the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) not only “gave” the mobs a free hand, but actively engaged in looting and arson also. In some cases, people reportedly returned to their gutted houses only to be arrested on charges of rioting, attempt to murder and even murder. When contacted, newly-appointed Faizabad district magistrate Ajay Shukla said they had also recovered several hours of footage from privately-shot videos and CCTVs. Asked about charges of police involvement in the violence in Bhadarsa, he said: “We are looking into that aspect as well. It is part of the overall investigation.”

Following the violence on October 24, the Faizabad police had recovered videos from citizens and CCTV footage in a bid to identify rioters. While police officials maintained that at least 30 rioters have been identified, some of the footage implicates the security personnel as well. For instance, in one such video footage, police officials outfitted in riot gear are clearly seen on one side of the road – some even sitting – while a mob grows larger by the minute on the opposite side. A senior police official said the videos played an important role in the first round of suspensions and transfers of officers and personnel from the district. Stating that the standard procedure would have been to either order a lathicharge or at least remove the trouble-makers from the spot, he said: “But instead, some were trying to argue with the crowd and others were standing there watching… nobody seemed to be in charge.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a district administration official said: “The footage shows police personnel of the rank of inspector and above just standing there watching the rioters screaming. Moreover, after analysing hours of footage, we believe the mob in Faizabad included not more than 30 or 40 people, and we know there were at least the same number of police personnel deployed at the time.” Eyewitnesses confirmed what the cameras recorded. A shopkeeper said rioters had set fire to at least five shops before the fire tenders arrived. “When the fire tenders were a few hundred metres away, a group of vandals stopped them even as the police watched. The rioters did not set fire to all the shops, but the fire spread since each building is located so close to the next,” he said. It was worse in Bhadarsa, where violence was not limited to October 24, but recurred on October 26, after police forces had been deployed. While in the main town of Bhadarsa, rioters set ablaze a row of shops and pelted stones at places of worship, the outer villages of Fatehpur, Takewa and Islamabad saw at least 100 shops and houses being gutted.

Additional District Magistrate Rajesh Kumar said the administration has given Rs 20 lakh as interim compensation to at least 144 people so far. Of these, only nine are for shops, while the remaining are for houses. Kasirunissa, who was at her home in Takewa with her four-year-old daughter when the violence started, said a mob entered her house, took away everything and torched the thatched roof. “I could do nothing. I just sat there crying, begging them not to hurt my daughter or me. After they left I went outside and saw policemen standing just a few hundred metres away,” she claimed. In nearby Islamabad, Aquil Ahmed said: “We had an animal shelter with buffaloes, goats and chicken. When we heard the men coming we hid behind the trees and watched as the mob, which included some policemen, looted all the utensils, clothes and food and set fire to the house. They took away the buffaloes, but threw the chicken and goats into the burning house,” he said.

“We heard them coming and ran away to a relative’s house. When we returned, our house had been burnt. We were rebuilding the roof last week, when policemen arrested my father Abdul Khalique. He has been charged with rioting,” said Ahmed’s neighbour Sadaam. He added that when they returned to their house, the rubble had been cleared and the metal scrap had been piled in a corner. “An official said the scrap was kept there so I could sell it and earn some money,” said Saddam. Mohammed Haneef, a resident of Bhadarsa whose house was also torched, said the mob comprised people from surrounding villages. “None of them were from here because they all came from across the fields, from the neighbouring gram panchayat. But I did see several men in khaki uniforms with lathis and helmets entering houses and robbing valuables. The police robbed the houses and the mob torched them,” he said. “Though the Muslims in the area were targeted, we were always a peaceful town. But after this incident I have lost hope. My two sons were arrested for rioting, when they were actually helping to put out the fires. When I went to the police station, an officer took Rs 10,000 for the release of my younger son but asked for more for the older one,” said a local shopkeeper, who insisted on being identified only as Kumar.



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Rs 5 crore demand notice on Ramdev trusts for alleged tax evasion (Nov 11, 2012, Indian Express)

The Government has slapped a notice of Rs five crore demand on trusts run by Ramdev in connection with alleged service tax evasion while organising their yoga camps. Claiming that shivirs (camps) undertaken by Patanjali Yoga Peeth and Divya Yoga Trust in Haridwar were commercial activity, the Revenue department has raised a demand of Rs 5.14 crore payable on fees collected from individuals for learning Yoga, officials said. “The Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence has sent notices for alleged service tax evasion to the tune of Rs 5.14 crore late last month. The demands have been raised for its assessment for period between 2007-08 and 2011-12,” a Finance Ministry official said.

When contacted, Ramdev’s spokesperson S K Tijarawala said the trusts and its activities like conducting yoga shivirs are exempted from service tax net as they are doing charitable activities for medical relief. “Trusts’ activities are barred from service tax as it is for the purpose for providing medical relief to poor. We do not have any thing to hide,” he contended.

According to the Finance Ministry official, the notices were issued late last month after it found substantial documentary evidence that the trusts were avoiding service tax by conducting semi and fully residential yoga camps and calling them charitable in nature and thus claiming exemption. “The trusts were taking donations from participants of yoga shivirs. They were also conducting a residential yoga camps through Swami Shankardev Vanprastha Asharam scheme,” the official said.

The notices, issued to the trusts, also mentioned that the Finance Ministry is in the process of cancelling the Income Tax exemption status given to Ramdev trusts. Thousands of people participate in the yoga camps conducted across the country by Swami Ramdev and trusts managed by him.

Ramdev, who is leading a campaign against black money in the country, also manages trusts which manufactures and sells ayurvedic medicines in India and abroad. The yoga guru has declared capital of Rs 426.19 crore involving four trusts run by him – Divya Yoga Mandir trust (Rs 249.63 crore), Patanjali Yoga Peeth trust (Rs 164.80 crore), Bharat Swabhiman trust (Rs 9.97 crore) and Acharyakul Shiksha Sansthan (Rs 1.79 crore).



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Ladies, Mumbai is no longer safe (Nov 6, 2012, DNA India)

Senior citizens continue to be easy targets in the city. A 78-year-old woman, who was alone at her Malad (West) residence, was murdered with her throat slit on Sunday. The police suspect robbery to be the motive as Rs35,000 and gold ornaments worth Rs2.5 lakh are missing from her house. The deceased, Nirmala Vora, a resident of Nemani chawl at SV Road, had been staying there with her daughter, Chetana, 52, for four decades. Her husband died some years ago. Chetana is unmarried and runs a juice centre near Inorbit Mall. She leaves home by 11.30am and returns around 11.30pm. “The incident came to light after Chetana returned home around 11.30pm and found her mother lying in a pool of blood. There was a deep cut on her neck and the main door was ajar,” said R Prabhu, police inspector at the Malad police station.

“Chetana informed the neighbours about the incident who then alerted the police. The body has been sent for post-mortem,” said another police officer. Preliminary investigations have revealed that Vora was killed between 4pm and 6pm as the dinner prepared by her was left untouched. “She usually ate by 6pm (before sunset),” the officer said. The police have registered a case of murder against unknown people and are questioning several others, including an employee at Chetana’s juice centre. “We found a knife at Vora’s residence which was used to murder her. Our sniffer dogs led us to Chetana’s juice centre. We are questioning Balram Jaiswal, 30, a domestic help who took care of Vora’s house and the juice centre,” Prabhu said. Another officer said two people delivered sugarcane at Vora’s residence on Sunday which was to be transported to the juice centre. “We know who the two people are and we will question them soon,” he said.

A Spanish woman in her late 20s was raped at knifepoint in her Bandra (West) home sometime between four and five on Monday morning. Her attacker fled with her valuables as well. The woman told the police that the man entered her third-floor flat through an open window in the kitchen with the intention of robbery. Other flats in the seven-storey building have window grills. “The victim was alone as her roommate is in Kerala for some work,” Vishwas Nangre-Patil, additional commissioner of police, said. “When the man was trying to flee with the valuables, the woman banged on her neighbour’s door asking for help. But they were not at home.” In her police statement, the woman described the man as dark, in late 20s, of slim build, and a little over 5ft. He spoke in Hindi with a smattering of English. He kept demanding gold in English. The woman, who has been living in the city for the past two years, locked herself in the bathroom and started screaming for help when the man – after raping her – asked her to take a shower.

A neighbour said a fourth floor resident was one of the first to hear her cries for help and rushed downstairs. “By then the man had fled. But we could not convince her to come out of the bathroom… She was so terrified,” he said. Other residents of the building had gathered in her flat by the time the police arrived. And the police had to break the door open to reach the woman. An investigating officer said the crime branch is doing a parallel inquiry into the incident and that a sketch had been prepared based on the woman’s description of the man. Nangre-Patil said eight teams were investigating the matter. A medical test at the Nagpada police hospital has confirmed rape. The police have picked up some criminals for questioning. A nurse staying with writer Dilip D’Souza’s 79-year-old mother Neela woke up to a strange sound around 2am on Monday, but went back to sleep assuming all was well. Little did she know that a robber had barged into the house from the kitchen window who fled with a mobile phone and purse with Rs6,000.

The police suspect the robber to be the same person who raped a Spanish national in Bandra between 4am and 5am the same day. He also unsuccessfully tried to rob a bungalow in the same vicinity before raping the foreign national. The police said Neela was fast asleep when the robber entered her fourth-floor house in Amber building, Bandra (West). The nurse heard the sound of some belongings falling from her cupboard and wondered what was happening. She got up to check if everything was fine, but went back to sleep after failing to spot anyone in the house. “I was supposed to leave for Bhopal in the morning and so, I had packed my bags and kept them ready in the living room. When I got up early in the morning, the bags were missing, but some of the things were lying on the floor. I later found some of the bags in the loft but they were opened as well,” Neela told DNA. “The nurse even heard a loud sound of something heavy falling out of the window which we now assume wasthe robber jumping into the neighbouring bungalow,” said Dilip. The security guard of the bungalow was alerted by the barking dogs of the owner. “In fact, the guard even caught hold of the robber, but he managed to escape,” said another guard.



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Dalit leaders up in arms against police atrocities (Nov 9, 2012, DNA India)

Ahead of the assembly elections, over 500 dalit leaders met in Gandhinagar on Thursday to protest against the increasing incidents of police atrocities on dalits and demand amendments in the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The dalit leaders also announced a huge national campaign in Delhi on November 23 where 60,000 dalits will participate. The protest was organised by Navsarjan Trust – a group addressing dalit issues since 1989. Many victims of atrocities shared their experiences. Executive director, Navsarjan Trust, Manjula Pradeep said firmly fighting with the system with the help of the Act will curb atrocities on dalits.

A woman from Talod taluka of Sabarkantha district alleged that an attempt had been made on Monday to rape her. “I filed a police complaint and the accused were arrested. But they will soon be released on bail and are threatening to kill my brothers,” she said. She urged the leaders to protect her.

Dalit activist, Martin Macwan, said that discrimination among the dalit communities should also come under the purview of the act. “There are many dalit communities who discriminate against other dalit communities,” he said. If an upper class member discriminates against a dalit he is prosecuted. Then why should a dalit not come under the purview of the Act, he asked.



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3 Dalit colonies face mob fury in Dharmapuri (Nov 8, 2012, The Hindu)

Three colonies of Dalits (of the Adi-Dravida community) near Naikkankottai in Dharmapuri district of western Tamil Nadu remained benumbed on Thursday by the fury unleashed on them by a rampaging mob of caste Hindus on Wednesday. As many as 268 dwellings – huts, tiled-roof and one or two-room concrete houses – were torched by the mob after a caste Hindu man, Nagarajan, committed suicide over his daughter marrying a Dalit boy from one of the colonies. Police said there was no casualty as occupants of the houses escaped and took shelter in another village. Ninety persons were arrested by Thursday evening and cases registered against another 500 “unidentified” persons.

The prime target of the attack was Natham Colony, whose resident, Ilavarasan (23) had married N. Divya (20), a caste Hindu. But, the mob’s fury was also directed at the adjoining Anna Nagar Colony and Kondampatti Old and New Colonies. It is said that Ilavarasan and Divya got married in a temple a month ago. Fearing attack by caste Hindus, the couple approached the Deputy Inspector of General of Police, Salem Range, Sanjay Kumar, only a week ago for protection. Though the police assured them safety, a kangaroo court directed Ilavarasan’s family to return the girl on Wednesday. The girl refused to go with her father, who later hanged himself at his house in Sellankottai, just half a km from the Dalit colonies. And then, the mobs went on the rampage.

According to police, one group of incensed members of his community protested on the Dharmapuri-Tiruppattur Road, blocking traffic with the trees they felled as well as with boulders and signboards. At the same time, another group entered the Dalit colonies and set ablaze the dwellings. The Dalits alleged that their houses were looted and the valuables taken away. The attack started around 4.45 p.m. and went on till 7 p.m. Police reinforcements and fire tenders could not reach the spot in time because of the hurdles placed on the road leading to the colonies. Some vehicles of the Dalits too were torched. The mob fled when police reinforcements arrived.

Superintendent of Police, Krishnagiri, M. Ashok Kumar, reached the spot and took control of the situation, as Dharmapuri’s SP Asra Garg was away in Madurai. Mr. Garg, however, reached the spot at night. Police personnel drawn from five districts restored order. Fire tenders put out the blaze in the colonies and recovery vans were deployed to clear the road blocks.

A core police team headed by Mr. Sanjay Kumar worked out strategies to keep the situation under control. Inspector-General of Police (West Zone), visited the colonies on Thursday and supervised the security arrangements and the investigation into the attack. Police said Ilavarasan and Divya were safe and under police protection. After spending the night in shock, fear and without shelter, close to 1,500 Dalits were on Thursday accommodated in Government schools. District Collector R. Lilly visited the affected persons and ordered relief for them.



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Opinions and Editorials

Struggle To Eradicate Caste: Hidden Agenda of Samajik Samrasta – By Ram Puniyani (Nov 8, 2012, Countercurrents)

Caste is a phenomenon deeply entrenched in Indian society and the struggle against it began in the late 19th century. Despite the social movements, initiated around the ideas of Phule, Ambedkar, Periyar and many such legendary figures, it continues to pervade in the Indian society like a malignant cancer, refusing to die easily. There are two set of streams which are addressing the caste, though from opposing angels. One is through the social movements and struggles which revolve around the concept of social justice, which was also an integral part of India’s freedom struggle and has been enshrined in Indian Constitution as a major goal of Indian society and state. The other stream which addressed caste was to retain it in a newer form, in a more subtle form. According to this stream caste, Varna is what has given Hindu society its stability over centuries. The later ideology keeping in tune with times has modified its language and the term ‘social harmony’, has been coined as a new and attractive label to maintain graded hierarchy in Hindu society. The latter efforts began with the streams which were opposing Indian nationalism; the one’s which espoused the cause of Hindu nationalism. From this stream of Hindu Nationalism emerged Hindu Mahasbah in 1915 and later RSS in 1925. These streams aimed to work towards the goal of Hindu Nation. RSS to achieve its goal floated an organization called Samajik Samrasta manch.

Recently Narendra Modi, currently projecting himself as the one devoted to the issue of development, has come out with a book on Samajik Samrasta. In this book he poses himself to be working for the cause of dalits and says, “The shilanyas – on November 9, 1989 – for a grand Ram temple was performed not by some religious head or mahant, but by a Dalit from Bihar. It was not just for the cause of laying the foundation for the Ram temple, but social harmony itself. It was a signal for cultural revolution,” Many dalit scholars had pointed that Babri demolition was planned on 6th December as it happens to be the death anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar. They opined that the politics for Hindu nationalism, wants to co-opt and subjugate dalits at the same time, so such a planning. The concept of Samajik Samrasta stands for a harmony between the castes, and not for its abolition. Ambedkar was for annihilation of caste, the Samrasta program, while sounding for harmony is a subtle program to bring about Hindu unity, retaining its inner caste-varna differences, and to launch its onslaught against the minorities, Muslims and Christians, as a ‘unified’ Hindu community.

It was in the direction of caste annihilation that Ambedkar initiated his agitation of Chavdar Mandir, where he agitated for access to public drinking water for the dalits. It was for this goal that he also asked for the right to temple entry through Kalaram Mandir agitation. Parallel to this when he realized the obstacles to his path that he burnt Mnusmirti and declared that since this holy book has provisions of slavery of dalits and women, and he stands to oppose this. Same Ambedkar as the chief architect of Indian Constitution went on to ensure incorporation of provisions for the dalits and abolition of caste. At social level the movements for land rights, the movement for economic justice was also core to Ambekar’s thought and he went to form Independent Labor Party, to look after their economic rights. Here the caste-class dynamics got proper synthetic expression as Ambedkar was clear that caste is a division of labourers. The RSS politics on the other hand, stood totally opposed to the struggle for rights, for the issues of dalits and workers and so brought up identity issues, Cow protection, Ram Temple, Ram Setu and the like. RSS-Modi agenda is aimed at bringing in dalits to Hindu fold through these identity issues. For these goals, apart from Samajik Samrasta, they also started Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams which again harped around the identity of Adivasis, projecting them to be Hindus and trying to bring them into Hindu fold. While the agenda of Ambedkar and Phule, the struggle around material-social issues of dalits, struggle for dignity and rights, remains incomplete, the opposing agenda of identity has come up in the society in a serious way.

The very rise of this identity politics has been a throw back to the process of social transformation of caste and gender. This identity politics asserted itself mainly from 1980s, to begin with in opposing the reservations for dalits and than of OBCs. Simultaneously the efforts to co-opt dalits, went up leading to strengthening of this Samajik Samrasta manch and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. Through these forums the process of social engineering has gone on and it has operated at multiple levels. Along with this there is also a process of Sanskritzation, where a section of dalit-Adivais, try to emulate the upper caste. The most ghastly part of the process has been the Gujarat violence, where a section of dalits and adivasis was cleverly manipulated to attack the Muslim minority. To think that by giving the privilege of ‘Shilanyas’ to a dalit, the caste problems will be solved is an illusion. Rather it is precisely a move contrary to their interests. Dalit-Adivasi issues are related to hunger, survival, education and employment. All this requires a powerful affirmative action from the state and a mass movement of these sections to ensure that state does it.

The delusions of Samrasta are a mechanism to bypass the core issues of these deprived sections of society, a way to further the agenda of status quo at social and economic level. Dalit Adivasi struggles for land, dignity and rights has to associate it with other deprived sections, whatever be their religion, to achieve their goals. To get trapped in one or other identity is a regressive thing being engineered by the likes of Modi to perpetuate the graded inequality of the society and is supplementary to the anti-minority agenda on which the likes of Modi thrive. The difference between the Ambedkar approach to dalit issues and the one of RSS-Modi are polar opposites. Ambedkar called for annihilation of caste, RSS-Modi talk of caste harmony. Ambedkar went on to burn Hindu holy book: Manu Smriti and became the architect of Indian Constitution. RSS ideologue K.Sudarshan in year 2000 said that Indian constitution is based on western values, meaning the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are western, so it should be replaced by the one based on Hindu holy book. Modi’s attempt is to further what Sudarshan said, reflecting their agenda at social level.



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The Narendra Modi praise and personality cult – By Aakar Patel (Nov 1, 2012, Hindustan Times)

I wrote a few days ago about how his fans viewed Narendra Modi. Today, let’s look at how he sees himself. The question was raised quite recently but went unanswered. A reporter asked him: “Why do you have only your pictures on all the Gujarat government websites? Why do your photographs appear so frequently?” These questions were valid because Modi appropriates all the credit, even for things like Narmada which happened before his time. Modi did not answer the reporter and stayed silent. And what could have he said? Nothing.

Modi has an image of himself that is messianic, and that is coupled with the fact that he has a large ego. I say that with understatement. Actually Modi loves himself. His most devoted fan can only be his number 2 fan, because Narendra Modi’s number 1 fan will always be Narendra Modi. Here’s how he describes himself on his own website: “great dreamer”; “remarkable ability”; “hard taskmaster”; “strict disciplinarian”; “amazing”; “realist”; “idealist”; “clarity of vision, sense of purpose, diligent perseverance”; “excellent organizational ability: “rich insight into human psychology”; “sheer strength of character and courage”.

Should you not let other people say these things about yourself? Not if you are the Lord of Gujarat. The fact is that if there is a man Narendra Modi respects, admires and defers to, it is Narendra Modi. Proof of this adorns the Gujarat government’s official portals, which are embarrassingly obsequious. Think of them as digital versions of Mayawati’s monuments to herself. Of government formation after the last election, the main government site said: “skilfully wading his way through the onslaught of a massive slander campaign… Mr Modi dealt a convincing and crushing defeat… the magnitude of which stunned friends and foes alike.”

Why inflict this on those visiting the portal for work, like foreign investors? The fact is: Modi cannot help himself. When one is so supremely talented, so dazzlingly faceted, what is one to do? As a man, he is “popular and progressive, a poet and author of three books, tech-savvy and a true democrat”, according to the same site. This is untrue. In reality, he trusts few of his colleagues and is easily threatened. He has no enthusiasm for internal democracy, leave alone for sharing power. He still skips functions because the RSS has rehabilitated one of his enemies, Sanjay Joshi. In his mind, he is the Sun in India’s solar system.

His photographs have been taken off from the government’s sites for now, but that is only because of the Election Commission’s code of conduct. They will be back after he wins and those who have visited these websites or visited Gujarat will know why Modi was asked the question by the reporter. There is no escaping hoardings of Modi posing heroically all across the state. And now the latest is his naming the BJP television channel after himself. It is called NaMo TV. The words NaMo are from his initials in Gujarati, but they also mean “to bow before”. That is the sort of thing Modi loves, and so do his fans.



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UP under Akhilesh was on a short communal fuse this Dussehra – By Parvez Iqbal Siddiqui (Nov 5, 2012, Times of India)

What the demolition of the disputed structure at Ram Janmabhoomi could not do in 1992, stray rumours did in Faizabad 20 years later on October 24 this year. It was Dussehra day and the processions carrying Durga idols for immersion were passing through the city at their usual pace. Then suddenly rumours of a stone being thrown at idols spread like wildfire. Within hours, it singed the temple town, and Faizabad, known for religious tolerance and amity, was in the grip of a full-blown riot. One person was killed and property worth crores was gutted. A week down, the temple town is limping back to normal with curfew being relaxed, but people are stunned that the place, which remained peaceful even when the whole country burned after the Babri demolition, should break into riots now. And Faizabad is only the latest episode. Communal riots, unheard of during Mayawati’s five-year rule, have occurred in quick succession at Mathura, Pratapgarh, Bareilly and Ghaziabad too. Lucknow and Kanpur saw minor skirmishes as well. Since May, eight major cases were reported in UP in which at least 15 persons were killed. Clearly these are not stray incidents; instead they point to the ugly politics of polarisation. In Mathura, violence broke out on June 2 following a dispute over using drinking water kept outside a place of worship in the Kosi Kalan area. On June 24, there was large-scale arson in Pratapgarh after a Muslim boy allegedly raped and murdered a minor dalit girl. This was followed by another communal clash in the same district when a person was killed in a dispute over paying richshaw fare.

On July 23, three persons were killed in Bareilly following dispute over removal of loudspeakers from places of worship. On August 12 curfew was imposed in parts of Bareilly following fresh violence over a dispute during a religious procession. Later, Ghaziabad erupted suddenly. On September 16, at least 6 persons were killed in clashes following reports of a sacred book found desecrated. One thing stands out in all the cases. While there was always a trigger – be it a rumour or an act by someone – such large-scale violence along communal lines cannot be attributed to that immediate provocation alone. There is a host of factors combining to make a deadly communal cocktail leading to a tinder-box situation. Take the case of Faizabad.

“It started on July 24 in fact when the two communities came face to face over a place of worship in Mirzapur village of the district. The saffron brigade staged a series of protests accusing the district administration of favouring Muslims,” says Dr Abdullah. A private medical practitioner in Faizabad, Dr Abdullah believes unrest in the two communities had been palpable since the assembly elections. The general perception among Muslims is the saffron brigade has been restless since it lost Faizabad assembly seat to the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2012 assembly polls for the first time since 1991. The theft of three ancient idols at Devkaali temple in Faizabad added to the communal polarisation that had begun after the Mirzapur mosque incident. Miscreants fled with ashtadhatu idols from the temple said to be the first place Lord Rama was brought to by his mother Kaushalya after his birth. “There was growing resentment among the Hindus as they felt that administration was not doing enough to recover the stolen idols,” says a local businessman. Tension between the two communities grew after reports that Yogi Adityanath — the firebrand Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Gorakhpur — reportedly held a series of meetings in Faizabad warning the authorities of serious repercussions if the police failed to recover the idols and arrest the accused soon. During Navratra, the idols were recovered, but this did little to ward off the Dussehra clashes. “What bothers me most is that communal riots have become so frequent in UP ever since Samajwadi Party came to power,” says Jameel Ahmed, a lawyer in Faizabad.

Also, in most cases the trigger for riots was hardly ever an issue to galvanise communal passion on this scale. In Mathura, for example, riots broke out after a Hindu passerby used drinking water kept outside a mosque. “Such reasons are far too frivolous to trigger a communal riot,” said retired IPS officer and former UP director general of police (DGP) K L Gupta. “It appears some people were waiting for an opportunity to destroy peace.” “Every time a communal clash takes place, the government says it will take strict action. Riots continue in places they were never heard of, explains how strict government is in checking them,” says Vipin, a general merchant in Faizabad’s Chowk area. “The chief minister claimed riots were result of a conspiracy to malign the image of his party. Is the government incapable of checking such elements,” he asks.



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Irom Sharmila’s Struggle For Democracy – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Nov 7, 2012, Countercurrents)

India saw a number of protests in last two years. Fast unto death became a household name when Anna Hazare sat on fast against corruption. There was mass upsurge and crowd throng Ramlila ground. Everywhere the Indian tricolor became the symbol of ‘popular’ protests. Anyone who picked up tricolor became ‘purer’ than others. The state of India was helpless seeing so many ‘satyagrahis’ and media had 24 hours dharma to ‘change’ India. All the issues were forgotten to glamorize this ‘nationalism’ of India. The struggles of tribal, Dalits, fishermen and various other states got sidelined because they do not protest with ‘tiranga’ in their hands. There are no 24 hours channel broadcasting everything what they say and there is no ‘Jantar Mantar’ or ‘Ramleela grounds’ where people can sit and protest. The only things these protests is that they challenge ‘Indian nationalism’ whether they are against the ‘mighty’ Indian army or nuclear nationalism, India remain highly intolerant and contemptuous to these struggles. It is not a hidden fact that during the transfer of power to Congress Party in 1947, Manipur was not part of India hence there was a continuous rebellion and protest when it became part of India. It is also a fact that by and large people of the state and other north Eastern States have accepted their merger with India yet the government response to North East was as if they were dealing with a ‘law and order’ problem without taking people into confidence. Though there are political governments in north-east, states like Manipur still are governed under Army protection and Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFPSA) has been widely misused against the people. There have been allegation of wide spread disappearance of people in the custody. In fact, Supreme Court today took the Manipur government to task for its laxity in responding to a case of custodial disappearance about 1500 people.

In this backdrop, a young human rights activist Irom Sharmila chose a very democratic way to highlight the issue to the authorities. Sharmila’s fast has entered into 12th year yesterday. In these times of unrest, she could have easily become a rabble rouser yet she chose the constitutional methods to protest the draconian Arms Forces Special Power Act 1958. There had been allegation of wide ranging misuse of AFSPA in the state of Manipur. It was important for the government to under the psyche of the people and provides a soothing balm to it but instead it treated any one who questions the authority and misuse of power, as anti-national rebel. The government of the day actually functions in the regions according to the advice of our intelligence agencies who are experts in manipulating things. There is another dark reality of this game of power. Assam and Manipur have been two neighbors and many in these two states suffer from deep rooted prejudices against each other. Placing Assam Rifles in Manipur was a sinister game plan by the Centre or the army as it brings the same old prejudices of Assemese against Manipuris. It is similar like the Naga Kuki issues. You cannot use one against other to serve your own purpose. The Assam Rifles was known to be notorious in Brutal and people of the states have protested against its presence. There have been very little attempt by the government to assuage the hurt feelings of Manipuris. In the past few years, the government and its might could do very little to lift the blockade from Manipur. People suffered because of this as prices of essential commodities rose high and there was scarcity of gas and petroleum products and people had to stand on cues for hours.

It is important to understand the pain of people in Manipur and for that you need to be there for a few weeks and see how the army is the major political player there. In the street of Imphal you will find the army vehicles passing through with the soldiers on alert and attention position to fire at you. The very say of army vehicle passing through is frightening because the gun and trigger happy soldier sitting on the top of it. It is not a healthy sign that even after 60 years of our independence we have army deciding many things there. Political situation is worsening as politicians are corrupted by power politics and misuse of power. That is why there is a greater disenchantment towards the political parties. Assam Rifles is often blamed for inflicting brutalities and using the old practices like raping women. It forced women in Imphal to carry out a naked protest once with banner ‘Indian Army Rape us’. This was one of the most painful protest one could have ever witnessed but then realities often bytes. On November 2nd, 2000 the army killed 10 people in firing near Imphal airport which is known as ‘Malom Massacre’. The news of the killing shocked the entire state as in the name of ‘rebel’, it was found that innocent were killed in it. Sharmila’s fast was actually against this massacre.

The irony of the situation in Manipur is that it is the human rights activists who have to bear the brunt of everything. The rebels feel that they are Indian agents while the army and the government look upon them in suspicion and often harass them for their ‘links’ with the undergrounds. The general message of pro-government people is that since the ‘army’ is fighting for the country hence their ‘actions’ must be supported. Now, nobody deny that armed forces are fighting for the country but at the same point of time, we must find out whether any country is bigger than its people. Now, what political purpose an armed action would serve if for saving the country, our army or its action alienates the entire Manipur population. It has happened. Irom Sharmila is that link which can bring even the rebels into talk with the Indian administration. She reminds each one of us to respect International laws and Indian constitution. The Armed Forces Special power Act is a clear onslaught on democracy as it gives immense power to the army to arrest anyone without any warrant and without producing anyone in the court. Such arbitrary powers will always damage the democratic fabric and will never be able to bring people to national mainstream. It is also important to know that a majority of Manipur people have also rejected the violent methods of the rebels and want to enjoy peace and freedom in their state. Manipur has a glorious past and it has a great future with India and therefore it is essential that a just peace is brought in the state where each state holder feels ownership and not defeated and betrayed. And therefore a good will gesture is long overdue which would definitely serve the purpose of bringing peace in the region. Sharmila’s fast has entered in the 12th year. She has served the purpose of compelling us to introspect though the power elite still does not want to respond to it. Today, the nation talks about Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFPSA). It needs to be repealed or reworked in Manipur. Sharmila chose the path of democracy to warn a government which was serving its own interest at the cost of the people. There were other parts available to her and other youths in Manipur. They could be easily lured by the underground as the disappointment level against the Indian system is high because its neglect to the state.

It is distressful and unconstitutional that the authorities field cases against Sharmila under IPC section 309 for ‘attempt to commit suicide’. They must ask this question as why is the person trying to commit suicide. Sharmila is not committing suicide for her own self. It is a big cause which everyone in Manipur wants complete repulsion of AFSPA. We understand the army’s concern and it is that why should a soldier fight in an unknown terrain for the country when he does not have protection. There is nothing wrong in protecting the armed forces but why should there be AFPSA. Why should we have an administration guided by the army top brass? How long shall we allow Manipur and other north East State under such laws? An environment of mutual trust is important. She has laid down her life for the cause of human rights and she need to be respected. A true tribute to her indomitable spirit would be to compel government to see the cries of people in Manipur and withdraw AFSPA at the earliest so that people live happily in the state without any fear or favor. Sharmila’s democratic voice needs a democratic response from the government of India so that the state of Manipur returns to normalcy. The government of India needs serious thought on Manipur and North East and the solution for such issues is pushing more democracy and people friendly development. It is also time for the government to acknowledge Sharmila’s democratic struggle as it will only strengthen democracy and make people believe in democratic struggle.



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State ploy to silence a dissenting voice? – By Soumik Mukherjee (Oct 27, 2012, Tehelka)

The land rights movement by the tribals in Jharkhand suffered a setback on 16 October when eminent tribal activist Dayamani Barla surrendered before a lower court in Ranchi and susequently, was arrested in connection with a case that was filed against her in 2006 for blocking a road and agitating in front of a BDO’s office in Ranchi demanding fair distribution of MGNREGS job cards. Barla was granted bail two days later and the next hearing in the case is slated for 30 November. The arrest should be seen in the backdrop of the Greater Ranchi Development Plan that has invited the ire of people, as it would cause large-scale eviction of tribal population. Barla, the convener of the Adivasi-Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, is believed to have been mobilising support against this project.

As an activist, and a selfmade journalist, who runs a tea stall to make ends meet, Barla is the most popular, non-political mass leader in Jharkhand. She was at the forefront of the agitation against ArcelorMittal’s proposed steel plant in the state. The $8.9 million project spread over 12,000 acres would have displaced almost 70,000 people from 45 villages. The steel plant was proposed in the same block that had seen three decades of agitation against the Koel Karo hydel project since 1973. Barla claims that she is being intimidated by the State for her role in the land rights movement across Jharkhand. “They will not miss a single opportunity to arrest me,” she had said standing in front of the wall that was built around the land earmarked for an IIM and a national law university in Nagri, a tribal village on the outskirts of Ranchi, the state capital. When TEHELKA reported the Nagri movement in June (Nagri’s Last Harvest), Barla was camping with the villagers at the construction site.

“Had it not been for her, the land at Nagri would have been transferred and no one would have said a single word,” says Arun Pradhan, a local journalist. TEHELKA had reported on the fiasco in Nagri where farms with standing crops were bulldozed to make way for the said institutions. Barla, who was leading the villagers of Nagri to save their farmlands, was critical of the State’s actions and had raised questions on its impropriety in the matter. “The government is scared of her, more than any other social activist, because people listen to her. Her ability to mobilise the masses and lead a movement is unmatchable,” says one of Barla’s colleagues.

Locals believe that using an old case is a ploy to damage the Nagri movement. The villagers of Nagri continue to sit on a hunger strike after all their efforts to stop the construction on their farming land went in vain. “The police couldn’t arrest her in a case related to the land movement. It would have resulted in a bigger tribal movement. And they cannot afford to cause a flare up,” says Bandhu Tirkey, a tribal leader. After she was booked in the 2006 case, she was never notified or summoned,” claims Faisal Anurag, a human rights worker and friend of Barla. “She received a notice from the court only 10-15 days ago,” he adds.

Barla’s conscious efforts at maintaining a safe distance from the political class has often irked the politicians who would be only too willing to encash the sense of tribal victimhood. “We wanted a separate state where the tribals will have their equal rights, but the new governments failed to give the tribal population their rights,” says Salkhan Murmu, leader of Jharkhand Disham Party. Activists believe that Barla’s arrest will adversely impact the land rights movements across Jharkhand. “As long as she does not work with a political outfit, her struggle wouldn’t be easy,” says a political leader from Jharkhand. But probably it’s her “lack of political sense” that has turned her into a crusader who the State fears.



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Dharmapuri 2012: Worse Than Kilvenmani – By Dr Anand Teltumbde (Nov 11, 2012, Countercurrents)

My friend Prof C Lakshmanan called me today from the ground zero in Dharmapuri narrating in his choked voice the horrific state of things in three villages – Natham, Anna Nagar and Kondampatti, where nearly 500 houses of Dalits were looted and burnt by the Vanniyar (an OBC caste) mob on 7 November. Lakshmanan was part of a fact finding team that had just reached the site of devastation. I had known of it from a sms I received from an activist on 8 November and subsequently from the scanty reports from newspapers. And still I felt shaken to the bones. The immediate cause for the caste violence was the love marriage between a Parayar boy, Ilavarasan, 23 and a Vanniyar girl, Divya, 20 that took place a month ago. The girl’s family approached the police, and the police counseled both parties that the marriage was valid. Meanwhile the Vanniyars from 30 villages had a meeting and discussed the matter. They held a ‘kangaroo’ court at Nayakkankottai village the previous week and directed the Dalit family to return the woman on Wednesday but Divya refused to obey and made it clear that she would live with Ilavarasan. Dharmapuri SP Asra Garg knew about this all and said that the police were searching for those who took part in it. On 6 November 2012, the girl’s father G Nagarajan (48) suddenly died at his residence in Sellankottai, not far from the Natham Dalit colony. The Vanniyars claimed that he died because he could not digest that his daughter married a Parayar guy. But Dalits felt that he was murdered by Vanniyars to have an alibi for action against them. The memory of the recent shock at the statement of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) MLA J Guru, who heads the Vanniyar Sangam, the first avatar of the PMK, at a community meeting forbidding the inter-caste marriages, had not yet faded. This public meeting inspired the OBCs across Tamil Nadu to decide against the OBC girls marring Dalit boys, whatever the consequences. Also, the Kongu Vellala Goundergal Peravai, which claims to represent the community, issued advertisements in newspapers calling a meeting of community members to oppose inter-caste marriages and launched a campaign against it. All this is well known to the state. Therefore the incident should be seen in the context of such a casteist build up in the recent past.

The autopsy on the body of Nagarajan was delayed reportedly because of frequent power cuts, and the body was handed over to his relatives only on Thursday evening. Around the same time, a mob of over 2,500 people attacked Dalit houses in Natham, Anna Nagar and Kondampatti. The Administration, anticipating trouble, had stationed a 300 strong police posse in the villages but it is simply said they were outnumbered by the mob. This weird logic for police inaction has gone unquestioned so far even though there is no evidence that the police ever resisted the attackers. It could have been plausible if there were some injuries on the police side but there was none. The police proffering this absurd logic perhaps want to say that there should be as many policemen as the population of the country to maintain law and order. The truth was, as the Dalits reported, that the police remained mute spectators as they normally did, when the mob looted valuables and then set the houses on fire. There were only old people, women and children in houses, all young people having gone to work in Begaluru and Thirupur. They fled to fields and forests or nearby villages. It was all well planned, despite the police knowing it. The miscreants had blocked the roads with huge trees felled across, so that the fire tenders did not reach the villages. The orgy went over nearly for five hours and ended by 9.30 pm by which time everything was reduced to ashes. The Police claimed that the situation was brought under control after an additional 1,000 personnel were deployed and more than 90 people arrested. Cases had been registered against 210 others. If there were only 300 culprits to be charged, the question remains how the police were outnumbered. The chief minister announced compensation of Rs 50,000 to each family that lost houses and belongings and issued usual sterile statements that a severe action would be taken against those responsible for the violence. It is notable that this violence has occurred in hamlets which used to have a strong presence of the left movement. Dharmapuri district was once the headquarters of the naxalite movement in Tamil Nadu. It is revealing that as the naxalite movement is on decline, casteism has raised its ugly head in the district. Vanniyars and Dalits economically are not very different but it is the prowess of the poisonous castes that they violently clashed many times notwithstanding the enlightened statements and actions of their leader S. Ramadoss. It may be said to his credit and also of Thol Tirumavalavan, the leader of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, a Dalit party in North Tamil Nadu that there is a bit of communal amity between Dalits and OBCs in North compared to South tamil Nadu. But the upsurge of obscurantist and rank casteist forces from among the Vanniyars amply show that such patch up across castes do not mean the demise of the caste consciousness. It just means its temporary suppression. The best insurance against this poison is to annihilate it altogether with alternate idiom of class. Difficult though it may sound to very many well meaning people too, there does not seem to be any other solution to the problem.

The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front floated by the CPM has been doing a good work in Tamil Nadu. It sent its team to Dharmapuri and raised very sensible demands as not even the established Dalit Party has done. Indeed, the issue in Dharmapuri is to rehabilitate Dalits properly. It is shame that the ruling parties who are the trend setter in shamelessly distributing television sets and laptops and household appliances, announce pittance of Rs. 50,000 as compensation taking alibi of the SC/ST Act, which otherwise is observed more in its violation. The said compensation is meant for the sufferance of atrocity and not for the loss of property. It is the obligation of the government which has failed to protect Dalits to compensate for their losses in addition to compensation for the agony that they have undergone. The Front’s demands that the Government should build decent houses for the victims, it should provide compensation for actual losses suffered; provide for due police protection; restore their documents; and take care of their children’s education are therefore most endorsable. It may be tempting to advise the Front as an outfit of the communist party that they should now scale up their efforts and think in terms of uniting people on class lines while creatively taking up anti-caste fights. The incident is reminiscent of the massacre in Kilvenmeni more than four decades ago although there has not been any loss of life in Dharmapuri. On 25 December 1968 the goons of the landlords had similarly torched a Dalit hamlet there and killed 44 hapless Dalits, mostly women and children, inaugurating what I call a new genre of atrocities in the post-independent India. One could sensibly analyze and attribute it to the changes in political economy that befell the countryside because of the capitalist strategy of development followed by the so called Nehruvian socialist regime with half-baked land reforms and green revolution. This strategy created a class of rich farmers out of the erstwhile shudra caste (read today’s BC/OBC) peasants as an important ally of and political buffer for the ruling classes at the centre and transformed Dalits to be pure proletariat dependent on the wage labour, sans security of the jajmani system. This class of rich farmers assumed the baton of Brahmanism, the upper caste landlords having left villages to nearby towns smelling greening pastures there. This class, enriched and empowered in a flash lacked in cultural sophistication of the traditional upper castes, had numbers at its command using its caste ties. The contradictions of new agrarian economy between them and Dalits as wage labourers, often manifesting through faultlines of castes, resulted in caste atrocities in a carnival mode. Kilvenmani was the inaugural piece which would be followed by many of its kind later.

Kilvenmani took a toll of 44 lives of poor Dalits. Those days Dalits did not have much to lose than their lives. In 2012, two generations after Kilvenmani, the state of society is not the same. The villages in 1960s may have had a few pucca houses belonging to a landlord and his kin but today they have many, even belonging to Dalits, not necessarily signifying increasing equality but surely elevated cultural levels, thanks to the spread of education and more so, the television reach. The relative gap between Dalits and others may have gone up but surely Dalits do not look their dilapidated selves as their parents. They have striven hard to better their and their children’s lives. Most Dalits in Dharmapuri slogged in the construction industry in Bangalore and sweat shops of Thirupur and had invested their earnings to have better houses for their families left behind. Their houses and their contents objectified their lives. Not only theirs but also of their families. Destruction of this investment is equivalent to the destruction of all Dalits in those burnt houses. The Dalit property and not Dalit lives therefore came handy for inflicting maximum damage in order to ‘teach lesson’ to the defiant Dalits, which is the basic objective behind caste atrocities. In this sense, Dharmapuri should be taken as worse than Kilvenmani. In 1960s, the Dalit movement could be said to be in making. Today it is in unmaking. The representational logic has come full circle. Despite having had always a houseful Dalit representation in parliament and legislature assemblies and having produced a sizable middle class that has reached every nook and corner of the governance structure, it has been of little use to Dalit masses who have been left behind. Neoliberalism has already sung a requiem to its representational logic. The intellectuals who should fearlessly put forth truth before people are engaged in befuddling reality with ‘cartoon controversies’. Dharmapuri cries out for answers to these and many such questions.



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