IAMC Weekly News Roundup - November 21st, 2011 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 21st, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Measure in place to observe communal harmony week (Nov 18, 2011, Times of India)

The district authorities are all set to observe “communal harmony week” from November 19 to 25. A string of functions would be organized during the week. While seminars/symposiums/meetings would be organised on November 19 on the topic of non-violence and communal harmony, special function would be organised on November 20 on the occasion of Minority Welfare Day to strengthen brotherhood. On November 21, cultural events would be organised on the occasion of regional sadbhavna diwas and rallies/meetings would be held on November 22 to observe Weaker Section’s Day.

Similarly, a series of cultural events would be held on November 24 to mark Sanskratik Ekta Diwas and importance of women would be highlighted on November24 in programmes to be held on the occasion of Mahila Diwas. On November 25, an awareness campaign would be taken on the issue of protecting environment, informed the district magistrate. Pointedly, the National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH), a Central government organisation based in New Delhi, has been conducting a campaign around the issue from November 19 to 25. Schools across the country have been encouraged to participate as well. “We have been celebrating it every year since it is a good opportunity for students to learn more about communal harmony,” said an official.

District authorities in the same regard have chalked out a series of cultural activities around the theme, like music recitals and role plays which are performed. Along with promoting communal harmony among the youth, the NFCH also provides assistance to children rendered orphans or destitute as a result of communal, caste, ethnic or terrorist violence. It would be an additional aim of the campaign week to raise funds for the support of these children.


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Hindu radicals disguised as Muslims planted Malegaon bombs? (Nov 14, 2011, Rediff)

On Monday, as seven of the nine accused who were granted bail in the 2006 Malegaon blasts are set to be released from jail, there was a sense of relief in Nashik town. For years, investigators have been suspecting the involvement of Muslim youths in this case. It’s just a matter of time that the National Investigating Agency files its status report in the case, which is likely to indict the two accused – Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lieutenant Colonel Srikant Purohit. The focus of the probe in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case has been on the confessions made by Swami Aseemanand, a key figure in the Hindutva terror network. After having admitted to have planned terror attacks on Ajmer Sharif, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and the Samjhauta Express, Aseemanand retracted his statement. But it was this confession that made it easier of the NIA to gather leads in the 2006 case.

Aseemanand’s retraction will not have much impact on the case, according to legal experts. He will have to prove before the trial court that the statement was made under duress. And if he does prove this the court will have to direct the magistrate before whom the statement was made to testify. But despite this the NIA will tread carefully and only use the confession to obtain leads rather than document it before the court. Today, the investigators are close to cracking the case. But for years the biggest point of debate has been over who planted the bombs in the Muslim cemetery. Hemant Karkare, who led the investigations in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, gave a new dimension to the case after he pointed out the involvement of some radical Hindu groups in terror-related activities. One of angles that was being probed was that Purohit threatened some Muslim youths from the banned Students Islamic Movement of India to prepare the bombs since they had the required expertise. Another theory was that Muslim youths were hired by Hindu extremists to plant the bombs.

Investigations into the 2006 Nanded blast, which investigators say was one of the first terror activities involving Hindu extremists, point out to yet another interesting tactic deployed by saffron extremists. During a raid that was conducted after the Nanded blast, the police recovered Muslim attire, skullcaps and fake beards at a place where the operation was allegedly planned. During the course of the investigation it was also found that Hindu radicals planned to dress up like Muslims to plant bombs in a move to malign the minority community. Investigators say that those behind the 2006 Malegaon blasts could have also disguised themselves as Muslims. Soon after the blasts a Muslim newspaper The Milli Gazette reported that a corpse with a fake beard was discovered while lifting bodies after the strike. The police in Malegaon immediately took charge of the body and claimed to have sent it to Nashik. However, the next day it denied that any such body was ever found, said the report. The report also said that the news of the corpse with the fake beard was carried by Delhi’s Urdu daily Hindustan Express on September 9, 2006 and the Mumbai-based Inquilab on September 11, 2006.

Probe agencies have been able to draw a lot of similarities between the attacks in Nanded and Malegaon operations. However, investigators have not been able to reach at a conclusive decision regarding the hiring of Muslim youth to plant bombs or Hindu extremists disguising themselves. But, Aseemanand had admitted to investigators that he had developed a deep sense of vengeance against Muslims in general. One of the accused in the Nanded blasts – Manohar Rao – had confessed to having procured Muslim attire, beards and caps. The accused have said that they wanted to mislead the police by leaving traces of the involvement of the Muslim community. If they planted bombs disguised as Muslims the eyewitnesses’ account would reveal the same. The module also created fake email ids in the names of Muslims once again with an intention of misguiding investigators. A similar modus operandi was used in the terror operations carried out in the Marathwada region in central Maharashtra – at Jalna, Purna and Parbhani, say insiders.

Aseemanand in his confessions made no mention of the Nanded, Parbhani, Jalna and Purna operations and only spoke about the Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Samjautha and Ajmer blasts. This clearly indicates that two different modules were involved in the attacks though their motives were similar. The accused in the Nanded case said that they wanted to hit back at the Dawood Ibhraim gang for helping terrorists carry out 2003 Mumbai twin blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar. Aseemanand also speaks about similar revenge when he propounded the “bomb ka badla bomb” theory. The NIA is expected to file a status report in the 2006 Malegaon case, but that’s going to be no cakewalk. “Like the Mecca Masjid case, while probing the Malegaon we were misled and a lot needs to be undone. Moreover, the four cases – Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Samjautha and Ajmer blats – are interlinked,” say NIA officials.



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Justice is yet to be fully delivered in the post-Godhra riots (Nov 15, 2011, Economic Times)

A Gujarat special court’s sentencing to life imprisonment 31 accused in the Sardarpura massacre, part of the post-Godhra pogrom in 2002, is important: never before have such a large number of the accused in a communal violence case been punished. That is a minor reversal of India’s shameful history of lack of convictions in such cases. Justice delayed is justice denied. In this case too, justice took almost a decade to achieve, even as 42 others among the accused were let off. And it is now hoped that the law of the land is brought to bear on the perpetrators of the other post-Godhra riots cases of violence.

The problem, however, which faced the nation after the carnage in Gujarat was how to deal with a situation, and deliver justice to victims and their families, when the whole state apparatus was suspected to be complicit in acts of communal violence. The long-drawn, murky twists and turns that have happened since in investigations into the riots – everything from witnesses turning hostile, reports of intimidation, the perception of hounding of whistleblowers, even the shocking admission by the state government, some months ago, that it had destroyed what seemed like critical records relating to the riots – have only reinforced the impression of an administration out to subvert justice.

Indeed, the Supreme Court’s intervention, in the form of its appointment of a Special Investigation Team (SIT), itself was a stinging indictment of the law enforcement and judicial mechanisms in the state. The larger problem in India has been the commonly acknowledged role of political parties and state administrations in many communal violence cases. The wider political class, therefore, bears much of the responsibility of perpetrating a culture of immunity.

In Gujarat, for instance, the big question is whether directions to allow the rioting flowed from the highest levels of the government. We need a clear answer to that question. In that context, the passage of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill assumes critical importance in a country all too often ravaged by such riots.



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Gujarat riots: SIT concealing evidences to protect politicians, say victims (Nov 14, 2011, DNA India)

Some of the victims of 2002 Gulberg housing society riots in Ahmedabad have accused the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) of concealing evidences to protect politicians and high-ranking policemen in the post-Godhra communal violence case. The allegations were levelled by their lawyer SM Vohra while making submissions in a local court on their application seeking a stay on the trial in the case till SIT submits its final report.

Judge BJ Dhandha, after hearing all parties – the applicants, the accused and the prosecution – reserved his order on the application till November 18. Seeking a stay on the trial, Vohra contended unless all evidences related to the case were submitted in the court, prejudice could be caused to the trial. He said SIT has probed the complaint of Zakia Jaffery, whose husband Ahsan Jaffery was among those killed in the violence, on a direction of the apex court, and demanded that its findings related to the Gulberg case be placed before the court.

Zakia’s complaint had alleged inaction on the part of top Gujarat government officials to contain the statewide riots triggered by the February 27, 2002 Godhra train carnage. SIT was not submitting relevant evidences in the court as it wanted to protect some powerful politicians and high-ranking police officers who have been accused of dereliction of duty by the riot victims, Vohra claimed. He said the court should wait for the evidences to be submitted by SIT and till then, stay the trial. This would not cause any prejudice to the accused as there is already a stay on pronouncement of judgement in the case by Supreme Court.



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There’s threat to life, but it’s not going to stop me: Bhatt (Nov 20, 2011, Hindustan Times)

Out on bail, suspended Gujarat IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt still fears for his life and says that people “deserve” the Narendra Modi government as the state has been “laboratory of hatred politics”. Bhatt, who claims he is being targeted by the BJP government in Gujarat, said the 2002 Godhra riots was one of the best documented in history.

“I know I have threat to my life, but it is not going to stop me. It is government’s responsibility to safeguard life of every citizen of the country,” he told reporters here on the sidelines of a conference on human rights. Bhatt was arrested on charges of forcing his subordinate, KD Pant, to file a false affidavit against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, implicating him in the 2002 riots. Averting a question on why he remained silent for so long as the Gujarat riots took place in 2002, Bhatt said he had already answered it several times.

On how Modi came back to power with a thumping majority despite the riots, Bhatt said, “People get the government they deserve. Gujarat has been laboratory of hatred politics.” Drawing similarity between 1984 anti-Sikh riots and 2002 Gujarat riots, Bhatt also made it clear that his raising of voice was not motivated against a particular political unit and he is of the view that any targetted violence, be it communal or be it sectarian, should be stopped.



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SC to examine 21 Gujarat ‘encounters’ (Nov 15, 2011, Asian Age)

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to go into all alleged “fake encounter” killings by the Gujarat police since 2003 after it passed judicial orders on three such cases, saying the issue was urgent and needed to be looked into.

“These are important matters of four-five years old. We don’t want delay. We will give a specific date for hearing in January,” a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said.

The court was hearing two PILs filed by journalist B.G. Verghese and Bollywood star Javed Akhtar, seeking a thorough investigation into 21 alleged fake encounters in Gujarat since 2003.



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Truth is out: Ishrat Jahan encounter was fake, SIT tells Gujarat HC (Nov 21, 2011, Hindustan Times)

Nineteen-year-old Ishrat Jahan was killed in a fake encounter along with three others, a special investigation team (SIT) told the Gujarat high court on Monday. The shooting was staged and according to forensic, medical and material evidence, the victims were killed before the “encounter date” of June 15, 2004, said the report, which was submitted on November 18. The three member SIT was headed by Bihar cadre IPS Rajiv Ranjan Verma.

A high court bench – which did not make the report public – initially ordered that a fresh FIR be filed, charging the policemen involved with murder. However, later, it decided that a final order regarding the FIR will be given on Wednesday. Police have maintained that Ishrat, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, on a mission to kill chief minister Narendra Modi. Over 20 policemen, including senior IPS officers, are involved in the case.

The probe will now pass on to a central agency. The court on Monday sought suggestions from the petitioners and the government on whether to entrust the task to the CBI or the National Investigation Agency. “The probe agency needs to find out who played the key role… what was the motive, what was the actual time of death and the circumstances in which they were killed,” it said. The development is a blow to the Modi government, facing a series of fake encounter charges against its police force. But families of the victims hailed the report as a “victory of truth”. Said Ishrat’s uncle Rauf Lala: “She was innocent, it is our victory.”

The Gujarat high court on October 7 asked the SIT, probing the encounter, to submit its final report by November 18. That was the second time that the court had directed the SIT to submit its final report. During the hearing on September 10, the SIT was asked to give its final report by October 7. However, the team had submitted an interim report saying investigation into the case was not yet over. During the October 7 proceedings, Verma had said that they wanted to conduct psycho-analysis test on some of the witnesses, who have turned hostile and the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) has given them time to conduct such a test between October 19 and 21. Verma also told the court that they had some queries regarding the CFSL report on reconstruction of the encounter.

Ishrat, Pillai, Rana and Johar were allegedly killed by Ahmedabad Crime Branch in an encounter on June 15, 2004. A team of Ahmedabad crime branch on July 15, 2004 had intercepted an Indica car and later on killed four persons in encounter. The probe in the case was supervised directly by the high court which constituted the SIT last year to investigate the genuineness of the gunfight after petitions were filed by Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kausar and Gopinath Pillai, father of Pranesh, raising questions about the police version of the incident.



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NAC members demand tabling of communal violence bill in winter (Nov 18, 2011, IBN)

Members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) today demanded tabling of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence bill in the winter session of parliament. NAC members Farah Naqvi and Harsh Mander told a meeting today that, “If the UPA is sincere, they should do it now. Today the ball is firmly in their (government) court.” The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence(Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2001, better known as communal violence bill, has been submitted by NAC to the government which has yet not acted on it in the wake of opposition to the draft provisions by political parties like the BJP.

The draft law intends to prevent and control targeted violence against the scheduled castes, the scheduled tribes and religious and linguistic minorities. Harsh Mander said that not only the leadership but the executive too has failed to give equal justice under the existing law to minorities and it is necessary to pass the new law. He said that as long as the accused are Muslims, flimsy allegations are enough to keep them in jail but when the accused is a Hindu, then you need highest standard of investigation and proof.

Former High Court judge Hospet Suresh questioning the delay over tabling of the bill asked “should we to go on fast like Anna Hazare and demanded that the government should table the bill in the parliament. “We are still debating this when it should have been passed (in the parliament) by now”, he said.



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Muslim youths tortured after Modi’s call to release the detained tourists (Nov 15, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Some Muslim youths in the Kalpeni Island of Lakshadweep were reportedly subjected to torture for allegedly detaining 131tourists including 45 from Gujarat, who had entred the island without adequate documents. The Gujarat tourists were believed to be close aids and officials of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The tourists were held ‘hostage’ by locals on Kalpeni Island on 29th October for lack of sufficient travel documents but they were released on 30th October. The tourists that included 25 children had reached there by MV Kavaratti vessel from Kochi. After they landed the islanders examined their travel documents and found that over 100 of them had no proper documents including boarding passes.

The tourists had reached the island under the ‘Samudra’ package of Lakshadweep Tourism Department to visit Kalpeni, Kavarathi and Minicoy Islands. They were expected to possess proper documents to entre each Island and it was the responsibility of the Island sports department to provide them adequate documents but it was found that over 100 tourists had not their names in the passengers list of MV Kavaratti or in the online port department list. The ship had 750 passengers in all. It is believed that their documents and luggage weren’t sufficiently checked at Kochi port. The local administration charges penalties on people arriving Lakshadweep without proper documents. So, the people of Kalpeni Island reportedly demanded action against the tourists who had entered the island without proper documents but the administration explained that the problem was technical. This enraged the locals and they reportedly detained the tourists.

The news was flashed by both print and electronic media but with twisted tone and text. It was presented as if ‘Islamic extremists detained Modi’s men’. Some of the detainees reportedly called up Gujarat CM’s office and it was on Modi’s call to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram that Island Administrator Amarnath and Collector N Vasantha Kumar rushed to the island in helicopter and soon 26 local Muslim youths were taken into custody.

The Muslim youhts were taken to Kavarathi Police station and allegedly tortured. Though they are now out on bail after two days remand, they have been asked to report to the Kavarathi Police station on a daily basis. On the other hand, no case has been lodged against the Gujarat tourists who were there without necessary documents. Meanwhile, Kalpeni Island Chairperson Kakkayillam Nalakam Naseema told mediapersons that Collector N Vasantha Kumar misbehaved with her as she questioned torturing of the Muslim youths.



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India nun Valsa John murder: police probing Maoist role (Nov 21, 2011, BBC)

Sister Valsa John was killed after about 50 people broke into her home last week. Police say that Maoist pamphlets were left at the crime scene. They said that rebels were finding it hard to infiltrate the area where the nun had considerable influence. More than a dozen villagers have been detained in connection with the murder. Initially, the police said they believed the Maoist pamphlets were left at the crime scene to mislead investigators.

But after interrogating the detained villagers, police say they believe that rebels were behind the murder. “She was a major block in their [Maoists’] way,” senior police officer Arun Oraon told the BBC Hndi’s Salman Ravi. “Therefore, the Maoists fanned all the resentment against her. They provoked the villagers to resort to such an extreme step,” he said. Sister John’s brother, however, says she recently spoke of threats from a “mining mafia”. There has been no word from mining officials.

Some reports said that Sister John had also angered a group of tribal people by going to the police to file a complaint after a local woman was allegedly raped. The tribesmen wanted the issue to be settled out of court. Mr Oraon said the police were investigating all these angles. Sister Valsa, originally from Kerala, was working with the Missionaries of Charity and had gone to Jharkhand to work with tribespeople.

Our correspondent says she later took up the cause of tribal people displaced by mining around Pakur, about 400km (250 miles) north-east of the state capital Ranchi. The state government has ordered an inquiry into the incident.



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Charkop teen’s rape: Probe ordered into police inaction (Nov 17, 2011, Hindustan Times)

A day after a detailed report by HT about the insensitivity displayed by Borivli police that may have contributed to the abduction and rape of a 14-year-old girl from Charkop, a DCP-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident.

On Wednesday, joint commissioner of police (law and order) Rajnish Seth directed the deputy commissioner of police (DCP), Zone 11 Mahesh Patil to conduct an inquiry and submit a report by Thursday.

The 14-year-old was allegedly abducted and raped over a period of 34 days by the two accused before she was rescued on Monday. Two days before she was kidnapped, the girl had lodged a complaint with the Borivli police alleging molestation by the duo. Instead of taking strict action, the Borivli police booked the duo under lighter, non-cognisable sections and let them off with a warning.

“This is serious matter which needs to be looked into immediately. I have asked the DCP to conduct a detailed inquiry,” Seth told HT. Appropriate action would be initiated against policemen found guilty, he added.



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Opinions and Editorials

Sardarpura lesson: Gullible go to jail, not mastermind – By Girish Patel (Nov 21, 2011, DNA India)

I know I am a person who is easily moved. Perhaps this is why I could not keep my eyes from filling up with tears when I saw the photos of the kin of people killed in the Sardarpura massacre of 2002, as also of the relatives of convicts jailed for life in the case. I do not overlook the important difference between the two groups – relatives of innocent victims against kin of people found guilty in the case – but the plight of their families is the same. What is far more important is that the real culprits behind the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 are still free and in power.

These people could have prevented or controlled the communal riots but deliberately did not do so. It was these people and their storm-troopers who created murderous frenzy in the name of cultural nationalism and poisoned the minds of ordinary people with hatred, intolerance and violence. These people are still free and they continue to enjoy temporal power and “religious” blessings. Given this state of affairs, one question continues to haunt the mind: who really gets justice in our society? The trial court simply decided who was or was not proved to be guilty of specific crimes – and nothing else. What about the communal carnage of 2002 in its totality? What is the real truth behind it? Who and what led to the communal frenzy and large-scale violence that resulted in the killing and uprooting thousands of people, not to talk of the destruction of their properties worth crores of rupees?

The suffering of the people does not just end with the conviction of the guilty and acquittal of the innocent. On the contrary, the judgement in Sardarpura case that came after nine years of the incident reopens old wounds among the victims and rekindles the feeling of enmity and bitterness among the convicted. Further, acquittal cannot compensate those acquitted for the years they had to stay in jail or for the ignominy of criminal proceedings. Moreover, the matter does not end here for there are many more years of appeals to go. What type of criminal justice system do we have that allows inflicting of pain on innocent victims and their families and also on the kith and kin of the indoctrinated and almost insane wrongdoers? What is this criminal justice system which neither deters nor prevents nor delivers retributive justice in time?

The Nanavati enquiry commission which was appointed in 2002 to investigate the riots is not able to find out the truth even after nine years and expenditure of Rs 6crore. Can truth be so complex and expensive? What is the purpose of such enquiry commissions? Everyone in Gujarat knows the truth about the 2002 pogrom but it is strange that only the learned judges find it difficult to discover it. Our experience with the working of a large number of such commissions of enquiry in India during the last 50 years has shown that such commissions are actually intended to delay the discovery of truth. The delay helps higher-ups in power or in command to avoid answering for their culpability besides creating general amnesia among the people.

Why fool the people and why waste so much money? Why the need to accommodate or oblige retired judges when that undermines the status, authority and independence of the judiciary? Why mystify the truth? It is far better to stop this charade of justice and truth. The real question which troubles me is why have we failed to create a humane society and loving, caring and sharing human beings even after thousands of years of civilization, religions, saints and mahatmas? Why is it that philosophers and scholars, scientific inventions and technological advances have all failed in making human beings truly human?



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Ruining Innocent Lives: Guilt of Investigation Agencies – By Ram Puniyani (Nov 13, 2011, Countercurrents)

Nine youth accused in Malegaon blast case of 2006 have been granted bail by the MCOCA court. (Nov 6 2011). These Muslim youth were arrested after the bomb exploded on the Shab-e-Barat, killing several people. Immediately after that the Anti Terrorist Sqaud, arrested nine Muslim youth, there was really no evidence worth its name against them. Still police which is, motivated more by biases than by professionalism, arrested these Muslims youth. The investigation agencies have firmly believed all through that all terrorists are Muslims. Human rights workers tried to reason with the top police authorities that how can Muslim youth conspire to kill their own kin. In other quarters the way the virus of Islamophobia and anti Muslim sentiments has gripped a large section in society including the police authorities, have strong biases against Muslims. The investigation for authorities so far had become an easy job, after every blast, catch hold of few Muslim youth put them behind bars and then try to generate the evidence, if possible.

Similar things happened in Mecca Masjid blast when the authorities arrested nearly 25 Muslim youth after the blast in the mosque. That time even the National Commission for Minorities minced no words and concluded that the case against Muslim youths, who were detained in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts, has been fabricated. The Godhra train burning investigation is also mired in much deeper misconception, where nothing could be proved against the alleged Chief conspirator, Maulana Haji Umarji. Despite that, other Muslim youth were given the sentence. All these investigations show a clear pattern that the biases of the investigation authorities overtake their professional training. This was also one of the lazy way of going about things as arresting Muslims after such an episode is passe’ in public opinion and in the media in particular. Barring a small section of media others hardly played their role of raising doubts about the methods of investigating authorities.

In the blasts in Nanded (April 2006) two Bajrang dal activists died while making the bombs. They were making the bombs in the house of one Mr. Rajkondawar, a RSS worker. It had all the clear evidence of the Hindutva terror gang undertaking such terrorist operations. But Mahrashtra ATS stubbornly ignored the basic point and protected the real guilty of the crime. It took the like of Hemant Karkare to impeccably unearth the evidence linking the Malegaon blast of 2008 with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey and other RSS associates, to meticulously demonstrate that the real cause of terror attacks in these places from Nanded, Modassa, Parbhani, Jalna, Aurangabad, Ajmer and Samjhauta blast lies somewhere else. It is unfortunate that the police officer of such an integrity was killed in the Mumbai terror attack on 26/11 2008. What was happening so far was that since police was merrily botching up the investigation, the real culprits were becoming bolder and they went on committing one after the other acts of terror. There is a long list of RSS affiliates, against whom there is a strong ground to allege them. Of course, RSS true to its character was quick to say that those involved in acts of terror, had already ‘left’ the RSS.

The matters really could not be hidden after the confession of Swami Aseemanand, which was reported first by the gutsy magazine Tehelka. Swami Aseemanand, an RSS worker, who was working for VHP in Dangs, organizing Shabri Kumbh in the presence of top RSS top brass, confessed in presence of a magistrate. This confession as per the law can be treated as an evidence in the court. He spilled the beans and confessed his role in Mecca masjid and other blasts and also named his colleagues in the crime. This forced the agencies to do the course correction in some ways. Aseemanand has named senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar, the murdered RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and senior RSS pracharaks Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsangra, among others, as being key conspirators in the terror blast. The result of this fortunately is that in Malegaon blast accused after 5 years of their suffering and loss of youthful years in jails, have been granted the bails. This raises multiple questions as far as our society and nation are concerned. First is, do we deserve such a biased investigation agencies who, episode after episode, keep repeating the same method despite the lack of proper evidence. The heavy reliance of agencies on the role of SIMI, a banned organization and some vague groups with Muslim names has been the favorite line of investigation of the authorities. How can this trend be reversed? The biases in the minds of authorities are also a reflection of ‘social common sense’ prevalent in the society. This ‘social common sense’ has been manufactured by communal forces and media has disseminated it further. Despite the Harmony Programs by Government, despite the Home ministry’s lip service to prop up National Foundation for communal harmony, not many awareness programs have been consistently followed or taken up seriously.

The state has enough resources to ensure that police academies, the officers training institutes and college-universities are made the conduit to disseminate the values of plural traditions, the synthesis of religions in the form of Bhakti and Sufi traditions, the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi on communal harmony. A lot is possible to give a prop to the values of harmony which underlie the India’s freedom movement and are inherent in Indian Constitution. There are many a NGOs and individuals who are trying to do this work, but definitely their reach is very limited. This promotion of culture of amity and celebration of diversity by the state is a must at this juncture. The second point of serious concern is what does state and society do when the lives of innocents are ruined by the callous attitude of investigation authorities. There have demands that these youth should be adequately compensated and their amount of compensation should be recovered from the salaries of the police officers who are blinded by their prejudices and push aside professionalism to give a free play to their biases in arresting these youth. A suitable rehabilitation program, scholarship, assistance to rebuild the life has to be the responsibility of the state in these matters. State must come forward to undo the severe harm it has inflicted on these innocent youth.



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Ramkatha, Rambhakts and the University – By Ashwin Anshu (Nov 12, 2011, Economic& Political Weekly)

An essay by the world-renowned Indian folklorist and linguist A K Ramanujan, “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation” has been at the centre of controversy ever since Delhi Uni¬versity’s history department office was vandalised in February 2008 by youth belonging to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in protest against the introduction of that essay as part of under¬graduate readings. Three years down the line, Delhi University, going against the recommendation of the expert committee established on the orders of Supreme Court, has set a perverse seal of legitimacy on that attack by shelving the essay from suggested readings. It is a well-known agenda of the Hindu right to control education in a way that sup¬ports its own anti-secular ideology. Earlier attempts were made via the rewriting of school textbooks. An even more sinister method is that of invoking “religious” or “popular sentiment” to attack writings that question the prevailing orthodoxies or put forward new perspectives. This is more dangerous as it erases the crucial line between the freedom of rational enquiry, which is basic to any academic pursuit, and the limitation of this freedom by ideologies which uphold the supremacy of religion and the religious community. The Hindu right wing has increasingly sought to curtail academic freedom by setting up this crite¬ria of “religious sentiment”. The works of some of the best historians in this country, like the late R S Sharma, Romila Thapar and Sumit Sarkar, have been targeted in the past for hurting “religious” senti¬ments. This time it is Ramanujan’s essay.

A brief summary of the background and context in which Ramanujan’s essay had been included in the syllabus will help re¬move misconceptions about the justification for its inclusion in the undergraduate course. Delhi University, following extensive de-liberations and due procedures, had put into place from July 2005 the restructured syllabi for undergraduate students for Honours courses. This was done by the academic council (AC) based on the report of the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) restruc-turing committee that had been set up by the vice chancellor on 11 October 2004. The major change effected was to do away with defunct subsidiary courses and replace them with a set of concurrent courses which sought to expose students “to a range of challenging academic debates in areas other than the one covered by the main subject”, considered necessary for students to acquire “critical social awareness” and avoid “over-specialisation”.

For students, from streams other than History, a range of disciplinary courses had been framed which included “Culture in India: A Historical Perspective” that had ancient, medieval and modern components. Ramanujan’s essay was included along with Irawati Karve’s novel Yuganta, based on the Mahabharata, for the sub-theme “Ramayana and Mahabharata: Stories, Character and Versions” for the ancient component of the course. These essays were selected in order to expose students from non-History backgrounds to the “best and most innovative historical scholarship” of an “interdisciplinary nature”. The in¬clusion of Ramanujan’s essay was thus in tune with the nature and purpose of the course that sought to instil a critical and historical understanding of a diverse and plural Indian culture. History as a discipline has been a favoured site for extra-academic and coercive inter¬ventions since it serves as an important tool for legitimising certain constellations of power or to question them. It is a matter of extreme concern when a secular state and its institutions buckle before the hooliganism of right-wing elements and endorse their undemocratic and anti-rational standpoint which subverts the very premises of a healthy academic environment. The recent decision of the AC of Delhi University to shelve that essay from the reading list of the undergraduate courses is precisely such an action.

The question that arises is, who has the authority to decide whether a piece of writing hurts sentiments or not? Surely self-appointed groups, which are rising by the dozen in the country these days, cannot be given that authority. The correct thing to do in this case would have been to go by the recommendations of the committee appointed to look into this matter as a result of the Supreme Court order. What makes the AC decision a matter of concern is that three out of the four members of that committee did not find anything objection¬able in Ramanujan’s essay, and yet the AC decided to remove it. The particular essay, rather than hurting religious sentiments or pronouncing moral judgments, is actually a creative effort, from an “objective” standpoint to draw upon many pre-existing studies of the Ramkatha tradition and points out an important historical and cultural fact – the diversity of stories connected with Ramkatha. The title “Three Hundred Ramayanas” drew from the enumeration of 300 Ramayanas by one of the most well known of such surveys, that by Camille Bulcke, widely regarded as a classic of the Hindi literary sphere. There are different stories about Ram in different cultures, which reflect the beliefs and attitudes of these cultures. In Jaina Ramayana for example, Ravana rather than being a rakshasa (demon) is considered one of the 63 great Jaina heroes. …

The controversy over Ramanujan’s essay highlights some key issues. One of them is the Hindu right’s claim to act as the custodian of Hindu identity and to assert its hegemony over all “Hindu” traditions is often successful due to the weaknesses of our institutions. The other is that the defence of academic freedom and autonomy is central to the life of a university. The supremacy of rational enquiry is the funda¬mental basis of all academic endeavours and undermining that destroys the basis of a university. If the logic of the criticism of Ramanujan’s essay is extended, then historical studies will be transformed into theological works that discuss religion only from the theological rather than secular standpoint. If the aim of history education is to broaden minds and to infuse a critical under¬standing of the past then shelving of essays like that of Ramanujan on non-academic grounds does not help. The climate of intolerance will only be furthered. There¬fore, it is the duty of all members of the university community, the larger academic community as well as citizens concerned about our secular public institutions to impress upon Delhi University authorities that they should not bow down to violence but defend their own faculty and academia and reinstate Ramanujan’s essay in the undergraduate syllabi.



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Maya Woos Them All – By Virendra Nath Bhatt (Nov 26, 2011, Tehelka)

Chief Minister Mayawati, till now opposed to dynasty in politics, has added her grandfather Mangal Sen to the pantheon of Dalit icons in a bid to reassure her core votebank. This, at a time when she’s visibly wooing upper castes and rousing regional aspirations by seeking four-way division of UP. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had won 206 seats in the 403-strong UP Assembly for the first time in 2007 by forging a new social coalition dubbed ‘Sarvajan’ – a euphemism for Dalits, Brahmins and Muslims. But in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the party could lead in only 100 Assembly segments falling under 80 Parliamentary seats.

A BSP leader told TEHELKA on condition of anonymity that the pandering to upper caste sentiment is being watched warily. It’s a tightrope walk. On 12 November, National Education Day, Mayawati inaugurated a university for the physically challenged, named after Shakuntala Mishra, mother of Satish Chandra Mishra, her right-hand man and Rajya Sabha MP. Here, she mentioned her grandfather in glowing terms, recalling how he had insisted on educating girls in the family. And instead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to students, it was her speech that was read out in schools, in which too she invoked her enlightened ancestor.

With the 2012 Assembly polls less than six months away, stark realities haunt the BSP. Its vote share in the 2009 Lok Sabha election plummeted to 27.42 percent against 30.43 percent in the 2007 Assembly election. In at least three constituencies, there were warning signals. Take Agra, widely regarded as the ‘Dalit capital’ because of the large number of Dalit entrepreneurs and employment of Dalits in the footwear industry. The Agra seat was won by the BJP, with the BSP coming second. Another setback for the BSP came in Barabanki (reserved) Lok Sabha seat. The victory of Congress candidate PL Punia, that too by a margin of over 1 lakh votes, came as a shocker, as he had served Mayawati as her principal secretary over her three tenures as CM.

Defeat of the BSP candidate in Etawah Lok Sabha seat also highlighted the failure to implement the Dalit-Brahmin formula. This was the seat from where Kanshi Ram, Mayawati’s mentor and BSP founder, had won in 1991. In the past four years, Dalits have watched with dismay as over three dozen of Satish Chandra Mishra’s family members and associates, including his brother and sister, got posts in government bodies and in the judiciary. The price Mayawati might have to pay is too high, according to Badri Narayan, author and professor at GB Pant Social Science Institute. “In 2007, of the total 13 percent Brahmin population in UP, hardly two percent voted for the BSP,” he says. “In fact, Mayawati needs only this much support of Brahmins.”

Of course, Dalits and Brahmins may not actually vote on casteist lines, belying Mayawati’s cynical calculations. Atul Anjaan, national secretary of the CPI, certainly hopes not. “All this shows to what extent the politics of UP has degenerated,” he says. “For two long decades, castebased and communal parties have held sway.” But most political pundits say the fight will be between the regional players – Samajwadi Party and BSP – rather than the BJP and the Congress.



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Reforming the Press Council – By A.G. Noorani (Nov 19, 2011, Frontline)

The appointment of Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Supreme Court, as Chairman of the Press Council of India is about the best thing that has happened to that body in a long while. It is no exaggeration to say that the PCI commands little prestige today and less relevance. It is not representative of the press at all. What Justice Katju has done, in a few days after his appointment, is to infuse life into it and involve the press in its work. This is a good step towards making the media feel that it is their institution. It is a liberal approach, which he expounded in a get-together with mediapersons at his residence on October 10. “There are two ways to remove these defects in the media. One is the democratic way, that is, through discussions, consultations and persuasion – which is the method I prefer. The other way is by using harsh measures against the media, for example, by imposing heavy fines on defaulters, stopping government advertisements to them, suspending their licences, and so on. “In a democracy we should first try the first method to rectify the defects through the democratic method. For this purpose, I have decided to have regular get-togethers with the media, including the electronic media, so that we can all introspect and ourselves find out ways and means to rectify the defect in the media, rather than this being done by some government authority or external agency. I propose to have such get-togethers once every two or three months, at which we will discuss issues relating to the media and try to think of how we can improve the performance of the media so that it may win the respect and confidence of the people.

“If the media prove incorrigible, harsh measures may be required. But in my opinion, that should be done only as a last resort and in extreme situations. Ordinarily, we should first try to resolve issues through discussion, consultation and self-regulation. That is the approach which should be first tried in a democracy. I, therefore, request the Union government to defer the implementation of its recent decision regarding news channel licences, so that we can ourselves discuss the issue thoroughly, and ourselves take corrective measures. “Till now the function of the Press Council was only adjudication. I intend to make the Press Council an instrument of mediation in addition, which is in my opinion the democratic approach” ( The Hindu, October 22, 2011). But the archaic Press Council Act, 1978, is most unsuited to serve as a platform for such an imaginative enterprise. It was atrophied at its very birth by imposing (Section 5 (3)) a strange composition of the Press Council, which ensures its own irrelevance and cynicism by the press. Justice Katju rightly holds that the electronic media should also be brought within the remit of the Press Council. Indeed, failure to do so would violate the constitutional guarantee of equality (Article 14). Equals must be treated alike. Cinematograph films are different in that, unlike the print and electronic media, they are subject to pre-censorship. A ramshackle system of supposedly quasi-judicial institutions is set up by the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Meanwhile, the electronic media roams at large like a rogue elephant.

However, if television is to be brought within the purview of the Act of 1978, as it must be, the statute will have to undergo a drastic overhaul beginning with its title. The composition of the PCI must be changed fundamentally. This would provide an excellent opportunity for reform, in which Justice Katju’s PCI can perform the role he promises as an instrument of mediation. But 2011 is not 1978. The media are more assertive. No reform will be acceptable or will work unless it is based on the largest measure of consensus in the print as well as the electronic media. To begin with, the PCI’s composition must change. Names need not be mentioned, but it is well known that over the years it has had members whose presence on the Council was nothing short of scandalous. Members of the print and electronic media should put their heads together to ensure that the PCI truly represents the media. Justice Katju might propose a radical change. The PCI should no longer be headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court but by a person elected by the media itself. Appointment of a judge by the government adds an “outside” element to what is a “Court of Honour” comprising the media, mandated to discipline its own erring members. The task will be more effectively performed if the PCI represents both the wings of the media, print and electronic, and is headed by one of their own.

Bar a few honourable exceptions, the former Supreme Court judges who served as Chairmen did poor service to the PCI and brought little credit to themselves. What is it that inspired a former judge of the Supreme Court presiding over the Press Council, Justice N. Rajagopala Iyengar, to write to V.C. Shukla, easily the most despicable Minister for Information and Broadcasting we have ever had, on August 13, 1975, during the Emergency, confidentially in this conspiratorial vein: “You remember I spoke to you about the desire of some members to have a meeting convened for the purpose of discussing the Emergency and the Censorship. I had an informal meeting of the Delhi-based members and I was able to convince them that this is not necessary or desirable. So this will not figure in [sic] the agenda of my meeting that is being called” ( White Paper on Misuse of Mass Media during the Internal Emergency; Government of India; August 1977; page 40). The context brings out the betrayal by the PCI Chairman. Kuldip Nayar had proposed a resolution condemning restrictions on the press. The judge, a custodian of press freedom as the PCI’s head, not only sabotaged the move but wrote to the Minister about his brilliant piece of work to earn brownie points. Justice R.S. Sarkaria was another favourite. He was appointed on a Commission of Inquiry in 1976 against the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi; as head of the Commission on Centre-State Relations in 1983, along with two former bureaucrats, to deliver the desired report; and later as Chairman of the PCI, in recognition of his high services to the state. In 1990, participants at a seminar were shocked to hear him argue that it took the United States 200 years to acquire a law on the freedom of information. Fortunately, we did not wait for those 200 years. But his worst abdication of duty lay in entertaining an oral complaint by the Army on press reportage on Kashmir. It included reports of alleged rapes of 31 women by army personnel during the night of February 23-24, 1991. A probe into the veracity of such a report is one for a Commission of Inquiry to undertake; surely not for the Press Council of India. Besides, Regulation 4 of the Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979, binds the PCI to reject any complaint that is not in writing and does not contain the details required under Regulation 3. The upshot was a report by B.G. Verghese, which lies discredited today. …

Justice Katju lost little time in dissipating the credit he had initially acquired. The penchant for sweeping remarks for which he was known in the “outbursts” on the Supreme Court Bench asserted itself soon after he became Chairman of the PCI. He deservedly received reprimands from the Editor’s Guild and the Broadcast Editors Association on November 1 and 2. All of which only fortifies the case for revamping the PCI by eliminating Supreme Court judges from the chairmanship and including the electronic media within the ambit of a reconstituted Media Council as suggested in this article. Katju ought to know that judges of the Supreme Court exhibit appalling ignorance of literature when they demand that avowed works of historical fiction should be historically accurate. You cannot denounce and persuade at the same time. … But not all his comments on the media should be brushed aside. Some are fair. For instance, TV anchors assiduously whip up chauvinism in their contest for Television Rating Points – their current target is China. Four leading anchors behave like licensed louts every evening. They promote sensationalism and revel in aggressive demeanour. Print media journalists have to undergo a long grind before they reach editorial positions. Only a TV anchor will loftily proclaim while in Ladakh, “the McMahon Line is behind me”. He did not know that the line is our boundary in the north-east. It does not extend westward. In Ladakh the Sino-Indian boundary was never defined. Only a Line of Actual Control exists. Another TV channel has broken all norms of professional integrity by reducing itself to a platform for Omar Abdullah whenever he has been in trouble ever since he was pitchforked into the office of the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir nearly three years ago. To everyone’s surprise, he on his part grants it and its correspondent preferential treatment. Still and all, Justice Katju should be given a fair chance for he has some good ideas and intends to infuse life into the PCI.



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