IAMC Weekly News Roundup - November 28th, 2011 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 28th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Quran with Bhagavad Gita in a communal harmony class (Nov 21, 2011, Yahoo)

Holding the Quran in one hand and the Bhagavad Gita in the other, Mukhtar Ahmad conducts ‘a class of communal harmony’ at a madrassa in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi district to enable students to draw similarities between Islam and Hinduism. Welcome to Bahrul-Uloom madrassa (Islamic seminary) in Chittanpura town where like Ahmad several other Muslim teachers are involved in imparting lessons of brotherhood and unity to inculcate ‘moral values’ in their students. ‘Our main objective behind teaching Hindu scriptures along with the Quran is to undertake a comparative study of the holy books of the two religions to enable our students to draw similarity between Islam and Hinduism,’ Ahmad, a teacher at the Islamic seminary, told IANS.

‘By drawing similarity between the two religions, students will be able to correlate the teachings of Quran with those of the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu ancient text, which in turn would enable them to respect the two religions in the same manner,’ he added. The Hindu scriptures were introduced one year ago in the syllabi of the Behroom-Uloom madrassa with an aim to spread communal harmony and brotherhood. The private Islamic seminary was set up in 1964. ‘The management always asked the teachers to come up with ideas and suggestions for making students good in academics, improving their performance and inculcating moral values,’ 58-year-old Ahmad said.

‘In our discussions, we unanimously agreed that apart from grooming students and preparing them for future challenges, our other main objective was to churn out good human beings from the seminary,’ he said. ‘A few seminary teachers proposed to introduce the comparative study of the Bhagavad Gita with the Quran that was already being taught to students. The sole objective was to make students imbibe the teachings of the religious books,’ he added. Today, not only the Bhagavad Gita, the four Vedas – Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva – are taught to the students along with subjects like Hindi, English and Computer Science. The teachers first read the scriptures themselves for four-five months and then impart the knowledge to the students.

Seminary officials said the Hindu scriptures were initially introduced in the classes equivalent to 10-12 standards. But now they also form the course content of lower classes. There are over 2,500 students – both boys and girls – enrolled in different classes of the madrassa. ‘While we admit boys only till Class 8, we have the provision for enrolling the girls till Class 12,’ said Hadis Alam, another teacher at the madrassa.

As there is no Hindu student at the madrassa, the Islamic seminary officials believe they would soon get their first batch of Hindu students with the introduction of Hindu scriptures in the syllabi. Ahmad said the location of the madrassa in a Muslim-dominated area could be preventing the Hindus from sending their kids there. ‘But the introduction of Hindu scriptures in the syllabi has been considerably appreciated by our Hindu brothers. We believe we would soon have Hindu students seeking admission in Bahrul-Uloom,’ he added.


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Nanavati panel reluctant to expose Modi, says Mallika Sarabhai (Nov 26, 2011, DNA India)

“When the entire country is gearing up to fight corruption, why is the corruption by CM Narendra Modi not being probed by the Nanavati-Mehta Commission?” asked noted danseuse and social activist Mallika Sarabhai, who was present before the commission in connection with her application to question Sanjiv Bhatt for the same case.

However, she had to wait before she could be allowed to question Bhatt. Sarabhai had filed a petition in the Supreme Court on April 1, 2002, demanding thorough investigation into the post-Godhra riot cases. It was alleged that Modi had used government funds of Rs10 lakh from the secret funds to bribe her lawyers. Bhatt, in September 2011 revealed Modi’s attempts to bribe Sarabhai’s lawyers. The commission did not allow the questioning and reserved the order in this connection. Sarabhai argued that either the commission question Bhatt or she be allowed to question him.

However, the commission, according to Sarabhai, is still reluctant to question Bhatt. “This is an opportunity to dig out corruption in the state,” she told reporters. Supporting her claim, Bhatt had even written a letter to the commission showing his readiness to reveal the misuse of secret service funds of the government of Gujarat.

Earlier, the commission refused the questioning of Bhatt as he had already filed an affidavit in Zakia Jafri’s complaint in SC. However, Bhatt replied that he was not constrained by the pendency petition filed by Jafri, as the petition has been allowed and disposed of by the SC on September 12, 2011.



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Examine Narendra Modi’s role in fake encounter: Ishrat’s kin (Nov 22, 2011, DNA India)

A day after the Special Investigation Team (SIT) concluded that the city girl Ishrat Jehan and three others were killed in a fake encounter in Ahmedabad, her kin Tuesday said their stand that the teenager was innocent has been vindicated. “I have been always saying that my daughter is not at fault and this has been proved by the SIT report. Our demand for CBI probe into the killing is still pending,” Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kausar told a news conference in Thane.

Ishrat, a 19-year-old college girl who hailed from Mumbra on the outskirts of Mumbai, along with Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar was killed in a shootout by Ahmedabad Crime Branch on June 15, 2004. “Against the backdrop of the stigma and ordeal we underwent, we want that all those involved in the killing should be brought to book and given capital punishment,” said Raza Anwar Iqbal, brother of Ishrat Jehan.

Local MLA Jitendra Awhad demanded that the IB report cited by the Gujarat Police that Ishrat and others were terrorists on a mission to kill Narendra Modi be verified. “The chief minister Narendra Modi should also be brought under the purview of the examination,” he added. In a setback to the Narendra Modi government, the special investigation team probing the 2004 killings Monday concluded that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter, prompting the Gujarat High Court to order a fresh FIR against accused policemen in the case.



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21 cops involved in Ishrat encounter (Nov 22, 2011, Times of India)

The Ishrat Jahan encounter is the third shootout by Gujarat police that has turned out to be fake – the first two were of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his accomplice Tulsiram Prajapati, while a fourth encounter of Sadiq Jamal Mehtar is under investigation by CBI. All of them were declared terrorists and killed by the same set of cops led by now-jailed deputy inspector general D G Vanzara. Advocate Mukul Sinha, who is representing the family of one of the victims, alleged that the encounters were staged for political gains as they helped Modi give the impression of being the toughest fighter against terrorism.

As many as 21 policemen, including IPS officers, are involved in the encounter. Among the IPS officers are the then Ahmedabad joint police commissioner (crime branch) P P Pande, then assistant commissioners of police G L Singhal and N K Amin besides Vanzara, who along with Amin is accused of murdering Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi.

Ishrat, a 19-year-old student of Khalsa College in Mumbai, and three others – Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar – were proclaimed Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists on a fidayeen mission to kill Modi when they were killed on June 15, 2004.The three members of SIT probing Ishrat’s encounter comprised additional director general of police (ADGP) of CISF R R Verma, ADGP of Gujarat police Mohan Jha and inspector general of Gujarat police Satish Verma.

After the verdict, Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kausar demanded capital punishment for her daughter’s killers and blamed the officers for forcing the family to live with the stigma of having terrorist kin. In 2009, magistrate S P Tamang had investigated into the encounter and declared it as fake. He had held 21 police officersresponsible for the “cold-blooded murder”.

On Monday, a bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari observed that the date, venue and time of the encounter, mentioned by the crime branch in its FIR on the day of the killing, did not match with other investigations. The bench noted though that not all officials shown in the FIR may be involved in the encounter. “Somebody else may also be behind the encounter,” the court observed while discussing the need for further investigations.



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Jamia teachers welcome SIT report on Ishrat; demand fair probe into Batla House “Encounter” (Nov 21, 2011, Milli Gazette)

JTSA welcomes the SIT report which has concluded that the teenaged college girl Ishrat Jahan and her three companions were killed in cold blood – and were not terrorists on way to kill Narendra Modi. This has reinforced the findings of the Tamang Enquiry Report which had drawn similar conclusions in 2009, and which the Gujarat government had tried to suppress and discredit. The SIT report has given credence to the allegation of civil rights activists that the officers in Gujarat police had executed several people through the last decade in collusion with the highest political authority in the state. The police officers gained medals and promotions and Modi built his image as the Hindutva hero by highlighting the alleged assassination attempts on him.

JTSA salutes the fighting spirit of the lawyers, activists and family members of those killed in the encounter, especially Ishrat’s family who had to suffer not only her loss but also the ignominy of their daughter being labelled a terrorist. However, we must remember that Gujarat is not the only state where encounter killings were condoned and pursued as state policy.

We would also like to reiterate that the Batla House ‘encounter’, despite the NHRC’s clean chit and the Congress government’s stubborn refusal for a free and fair probe, remains suspect. Recall that the post mortem reports of the two youth killed confirmed that the two had been shot from close range in the back; not a single shot was fired in the frontal region–an improbability in the case of cross fire. There are reasons to believe that the government is hiding the truth. What the SIT report and Tamang report before that tell us is that even if delayed, the pursuit of truth and justice must not be given up.



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Sohrabuddin encounter case: SC questions Amit Shah’s theory (Nov 22, 2011, DNA India)

The Supreme Court today questioned the theory advanced by former Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah claiming that call details collected by CBI to nail him in Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter killing case has no relevance as they related to another case of kidnapping. “It appears too much of coincidence. These are some glaring circumstances,” a bench comprising justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said. The remarks by the bench were made when Shah’s counsel Ram Jethmalani was countering that call details produced by CBI as evidence to show alleged complicity of the former minister in case.

CBI has alleged the call details showing conversations between Shah and DSP N K Amin between November 22 to 30, 2005, clearly indicate that the former minister was involved in the conspiracy to eliminate Soharabuddin. However, Shah claimed the conversations between him and Amin during the relevant period was in connection with the kidnapping of a boy in which he had sought the help of the DSP who at that point of time was heading the cyber cell of the Gujarat Police.

The bench had made the observations after telling in detail as to how the investigation into the Soharabuddin case progressed since 2006 and during the passage of time transfers of police officers were made who were directly under the control of Shah as the state’s Home Minister. While the bench was expressing its reservations about Shah’s theory, Jethmalani stuck to the stand by maintaining that CBI has wrongly charged Amin with being involved in the conspiracy to kill Soharabuddin as he was not a member of the joint team that had picked the victim from Hyderabad.



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‘Right-wing angle into Karkare’s death must be probed’ (Nov 24, 2011, Rediff)

A year after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai shook the country, there was a major controversy pertaining to the death of former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare. The theory that was floated was whether Karkare was killed by Pakistani Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist Ajmal Kasab and his associates or has the handiwork of certain right-wing groups who were upset over his investigations into some other terror cases.

S M Mushrif, a former Indian Police Services officer, had written a book Who Killed Karkare-The Real Face of Terrorism, which sparked a major debate. Mushrif in his book had even blamed some right-wing groups of being the masterminds behind Karkare’s murder, ‘as keeping him alive would have invited more probes into right-wing terror.’

Today, however, it appears to be a concluded theory that Kasab was directly responsible for killing Karkare, along with his colleagues Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar. Mushrif says, in this brief interaction with rediff.com, that he would not allow the issue to die down unless and until the matter is probed.



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‘Nehru wanted RSS banned, Patel wanted proof’ (Nov 25, 2011, Rediff)

There is no better way of understanding the points of differences in views of our national leaders of the independence era than by revisiting the correspondence (through letters) exchanged between them. A Delhi University history professor Neerja Singh has compiled and edited a series of letters exchanged between our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and then Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

In Nehru-Patel: Agreement within Differences, professor Singh has put together a series of letters exchanged between the two prominent leaders between 1933- 1950. In an interview to rediff.com’s Priyanka, she argued that they possessed very different personalities and temperaments, yet both were deeply secular. However, timely differences erupted between the two because they believed in dealing with issues differently.

Nehru wanted to completely ban the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. But Patel argued that they couldn’t do so because of lack of concrete evidence against the saffron outfit, and, being a democratic country, issues had to be dealt with as per the rule of law. Both Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel held citizenship as the most important identity of a person. For them, the primordial identities of person, of belonging to one minority group or another should be, in the overall scheme of things, submerged within the identity of citizenship.

In another letter to the industry minister in the Nehru cabinet and Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Sardar Patel said, ‘The RSS is like a militant group and there is no difference between the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS. Both are hazards for the national security. We don’t have concrete proof but it has been learnt that the leaders of Mahasabha had distributed sweets and had celebrated after the assassination of Gandhi.’

There was very a clear consensus between the two, and both viewed RSS as a militant Hindu organisation. The difference was that Nehru wanted to ban it completely, dismantle their propaganda machinery and make arrests. On the other hand, Patel argued that since there was no solid and concrete evidence against RSS, stern action could be taken as things had to progress as per the rule of law.



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Objectionable comments on Facebook spark communal tension (Nov 21, 2011, IBN)

Fresh communal violence today broke out in Rajasthan’s Dungarpur town, about 130 km from here, as members of a community pelted stones at shops and vehicles protesting objectionable comments against a religion on social-networking site Facebook. The violence in Dungarpur town was a sequel to last night’s tension in Udaipur over the comment on Facebook.

Protesting the comments, members of the community had last night held demonstration in Mukherjee Chowk area in Udaipur near Masjid Chudigaran and burnt tyres. In Dungarpur, the community members this morning took out a silent rally which turned violent when a youth driving a motorcycle entered the crowd. The agitators beat up the youth and pelted stones at shops and damaged public property.

The situation was brought under control after police reached the spot and pacified the agitators assuring action against those involved in the incident, IGP Govind Gupta said. The agitators also submitted a memorandum to district collectorate of Dungarpur protesting against the objectionable post. Police said the comments, posted from a fake account, have been removed and investigations are on to nab the culprit.



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453 IAS, IPS and civil servants chargesheeted in last 3 yrs (Nov 23, 2011, Indian Express)

Over 450 chargesheets have been filed by CBI against IAS, IPS and other civil servants in the last three years, the government said on Wednesday. “During the last three years, 453 chargesheets have been filed against IAS, IPS, IFS and Class-I officers of Central services,” Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

The minister also said while a total of 943 cases are at different stages of investigation by the CBI till October this year, the agency is also probing seventy-nine cases of disproportionate assets. “According to information furnished by CBI, as on October 31 this year, 167 requests for sanction are pending with various ministries/departments of government, out of which 68 requests were pending for more than three months.

“Forty-four number of requests were pending with various state governments as on October 31 out of which 39 were pending for more than three months,” he said. The delay is often caused due to detailed analysis of the available evidence, consultation with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the state governments/other agencies and sometimes non-availability of relevant documentary evidence among others, Narayanasamy said.



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Maoists allege fake encounter of Kishenji, CRPF denies (Nov 25, 2011, Hindustan Times)

The CRPF on Friday forcefully denied that Maoist leader Kishenji was felled on Thursday in a fake encounter even as heaps of theories and circumstantial evidence centring around the death have begun to accumulate. In some ways, this is acquiring the shape of a replay of what happened after Cherkuri Azad died in July 2010. “There was no fake encounter. We cornered him and took him within the firing range. He tried to flee by firing at us and we also counter-fired,” said K Vijay Kumar, CRPF director general, at the spot where Kishenji’s body was found on Thursday. However, scepticism abounded.

“According to my information, Kishenji was arrested yesterday (Thursday) around noon and later killed. If this report is true, it is a heinous crime … and a proper investigation should be conducted and clarified,” CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta said in a letter to Union home minister P Chidambaram. Human rights activist Choton Das, one of the six interlocutors appointed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee for pursuing peace talks with the rebels, said in the same vein: “I suspect this is a case of fake encounter. A drama has been created over the entire issue.”

Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, who along with Kishenji’s niece came from Andhra Pradesh to Kolkata to claim the slain rebel’s body, described it as “murder”. Kishenji always used to be surrounded by a core team of people’s liberation ‘soldiers’ who are experts in jungle and guerrilla warfare. However, the police have not found any other body – adding to the mystery. “There were many policemen in the village on Thursday. This is the paddy-harvesting season, and we were working in the fields. The police allowed us to work freely, but in the afternoon, we suddenly heard several rounds of firing. I returned home,” said Nagendra Mahato, 25, a local resident.



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Opinions and Editorials

Delayed, Maybe Not Denied – By Neelabh Mishra (Dec 5, 2011, Outlook)

It’s an autumn of worries, it seems, for Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister and self-styled iron man. The scales of justice refuse to tilt to his advantage. First, a trial court sentenced 31 rioters for the massacre of Muslims by electrocution and fire in Sardarpura during the post-Godhra riots of 2002. Then, the Gujarat High Court accepted an SIT’s conclusion that Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai aka Javed Sheikh and two others (said to be Pakistanis, but whose identities were never established conclusively) were butchered in cold blood by so-called encounter specialists of Modi’s police. The court has ordered a fresh investigation of the whole affair. Is the sword of justice moving slowly but inexorably to puncture his 56-inch chest, vaunted with arrogance, stained though it is with the blood of innocents?

Modi’s shameful past is at last catching up with him. This time, the wheels of justice have turned differently from the Best Bakery trial of 2003, in which all 21 accused were acquitted as the eye-witnesses turned hostile. In the Sardarpura case, the Supreme Court ensured that witnesses were protected from intimidation, coercion or combinations thereof. It was the first post-Godhra riot case to be prosecuted by a Supreme Court-appointed SIT. The verdict was an indicator that after all, even if the myth of Modi’s invincibility, crafted by an assiduous industry, works with the SIT – of the 31 convicted in the Sardarpura case, the SIT had brought to book only two – the judiciary won’t buy it. It had also compromised its credibility by flip-flopping on Zakia Jafri’s allegation of the complicity of Modi and 61 other powerful people in the murder of her husband Ehsan, a former MP, and other Muslims of Gulberg Society by a riotous mob. This, however, has been challenged by amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran’s report to the Supreme Court that suspended police officer Sanjeev Bhatt’s allegation of Modi’s complicity in the post-Godhra riots be placed before the trial court and verified by cross-examining the officers present at the chief minister’s meeting of February 27, 2002, during which Modi is alleged to have directed police officers to allow mobs to vent their fury.

With the Sardarpura and the Ishrat cases going against him, Modi will now be worried about how things pan out in Zakia Jafri’s case in the trial court. Till now, it was projected that Modi’s writ ran unimpeded in Gujarat and even the judicial realm would fall under the spell he has orchestrated. But the courts haven’t been swept by that empty wind. However, many in officialdom – especially in the police – lost their spine, awed perhaps by its hypnotic swell. The SIT investigating the Ishrat case found that as many as 21 police officers conspired to murder her and three others, and to describe them as Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists on a mission to assassinate Modi. As Conrad observed, cops and criminals are cabbages from the same basket, so, to the cynic, there’s nothing extraordinary about cops being trigger-happy when the loot is promotions and a brave name. But the willingness of Gujarat’s cops to kowtow to Modi’s bigoted ideology seems widespread. Even some central intelligence officers have been found to have provided fake inputs in the Ishrat case. Two of the 21 officers named in the case, D.G. Vanzara and Narendra Amin, are in custody in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, which has singed Modi’s political lieutenant Amit Shah.

Another worry for the would-be ‘Sardar’ is that many police officers are now speaking up about his cold-blooded regime. Earlier, it was only R.B. Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma who spoke out. Then came Sanjeev Bhatt. Now it’s the turn of Mohan Jha and Satish Verma, members of the R.R. Verma-led SIT which submitted a report to the Gujarat High Court in the Ishrat case. At one time, during election meetings, Modi would arch his eyebrows, invoke the name of ‘Miya Musharraf’, give out Lyngdoh’s name as ‘James Michael Lyngdoh’ in a slow and deliberate manner to turn local communal prejudices into votes. But election victories shouldn’t mitigate crimes if the wheels of justice turn on their true axis. Woefully for Modi and thankfully for India, the communal bogey he freely invoked – of late, he has abandoned it and drums the development tattoo – hasn’t affected many, like the police officers who have spoken out or the judges seeking to bring justice to Gujarat. Modi, a practitioner of expedient politics whose contempt for constitutional functioning is ill-disguised, must be having eerie visions of so many pseudo-secularists working against him from key institutional positions. Unfortunately for him, his party has to seek power across India, not just in Gujarat – and within the constitutional framework. So it cannot afford to project as a national leader a demagogue whose image of invincibility the judiciary has dented. For now, Modi might have to content himself with dancing with his uninclusive vision of ‘Garvi’ Gujarat.



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Cops shame Gujarat – Editorial (Nov 23, 2011, Deccan Chronicle)

The special investigation team’s findings that four persons, including Ishrat Jahan, were killed in a “fake encounter” by the Ahmedabad police is yet another indictment of the state and its law and order machinery. It is already clear that various arms of the Gujarat government have been blatantly partisan in their dealings with minority groups, but the killing of these four, who the police claimed were linked to terrorist groups, is shocking even by those standards.

The role of senior IPS officers and their teams too is utterly shameful. The police is duty bound to protect citizens, not pick up innocent people and bump them off in cold blood. Chief minister Narendra Modi, whose “sadhbhavana” fast was designed to project him as a leader of all Gujaratis, not just one section, must introspect on the SIT report. His administration has been trying to uphold the fiction that various senior police officers had acted impartially and in accordance with the law.

This has been exposed time and again. But there is nothing to suggest that the state government has any desire to get at the truth of such episodes. Had it not been for the courts, which refused to accept the government version at face value, the facts may never have come out. As the courts try to determine which agency should probe the Ishrat Jahan matter further, the least Mr Modi should do is to ensure that the guilty are punished.



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Gujarat’s close ‘encounters’ – Editorial (Nov 24, 2011, The Hindu)

The Narendra Modi government has reason to feel severely embarrassed and exposed by the report submitted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to the Gujarat High Court. In holding that Ishrat Jahan, the 19-year old Mumbai student, and three others were killed in cold blood by the Gujarat police, the SIT has dismissed the State government’s persistent claim that the four died in a shootout. The evidence on which the team reached its conclusion is not yet publicly available but the High Court has revealed that the three-member SIT reached the unanimous conclusion that the four victims were murdered before their bodies were dumped on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. In short, summary extra-judicial executions were dressed up to look like a police encounter. This is exactly the same conclusion the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate had reached in 2009.

Going by the forensic evidence and the post-mortem reports, the magistrate dismissed the Gujarat police’s claim that the victims, who were allegedly involved in a plot to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi, were killed in an exchange of gunfire on a highway. He concluded that the victims were shot dead at very close range the night before the encounter was supposed to have taken place. Instead of acting on this honest finding, the Bharatiya Janata Party State government denied that the encounter was fake and accused the magistrate of overstepping his jurisdiction by writing such a report. Now that the High Court has ordered that a fresh FIR be registered against those suspected of murdering Ishrat and the others, cover-up of the heinous crime will no longer be possible.

It has been seven years since the killings took place, a period during which the Modi government feigned a posture of hurt innocence. With the High Court declaring its intent to hand over the investigation, after the filing of a fresh FIR, to a central agency, there is no way the 21 policemen, including some officers, allegedly responsible for staging the fake encounter could be shielded.

Among them is Deputy Inspector General D.G. Vanzara, the so-called ‘encounter specialist,’ who was arrested and jailed for the extra-judicial murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife in 2005. The issue of staging fake encounters should be seen for what it is – murder most foul. It should not be clouded or sidetracked by questions on whether those done away with were ‘innocents’ or extremists, gangsters, or whatever. Enough of rationalisations: no civilised society under the rule of law can countenance or tolerate extra-judicial killings, a practice that subverts the very principles the criminal justice system is founded upon.



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Why the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill must be codified into law – By Teesta Setalvad (Nov 11, 2011, Sabrang)

In 1998, five years after we launched Communalism Combat, we had pointed out, in possibly one of the first researched compilations on judicial pronouncements on communal violence, that from the first ever bout of communal violence in free India (Jabalpur, 1961) to the full-blown pogroms that followed some decades later, two characteristics typified the violent frenzies that frequently cost us lives and property (‘Who is to blame?’, Communalism Combat, March 1998). Both characteristics hold good today. One is the silent yet strident mobilisation by right-wing supremacist groups through hate speech and hate writing against religious and other minorities for months beforehand. Though these have always amounted to violations of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), they have gone unchecked and unpunished, creating a climate that is fertile ground for the actual outbreak of violence. The other major cause of such violence has been found, by several members of the Indian judiciary, to be the failure of large sections of the administration and the police force to enforce the rule of law, resulting in a complete breakdown indicating deliberate inaction and complicity. Both these features combined each time – whether in Jabalpur (1961), Ranchi (1967, Justice Raghubir Dayal Commission of Inquiry), Ahmedabad (1969, Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry), Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad (1970, Justice DP Madon Commission of Inquiry), Tellicherry (1971, Justice Joseph Vithayathil Commission of Inquiry), Hashimpura (1987) or Bhagalpur (1989) – to ensure that minorities were not just brutally targeted but also denied free access to justice and reparation.

The organised violence in Delhi in 1984, Bombay in 1992-1993 and Gujarat in 2002 took the levels of impunity for state and non-state actors to hitherto unknown heights. A historiography of communal violence since Indian independence thus reveals a poor report card on justice delivery and reparation. Today unfortunately, we have extant examples of victim survivors, Muslim, Sikh and Christian, still waiting at the threshold for the first stages of investigation and trial to begin decades after the crimes have taken place. The newly drafted Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 (commonly referred to as the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill), which awaits a nod from the cabinet before it is tabled in Parliament, is an attempt to address the imbalance and the despair caused by over six decades of discriminatory justice delivery. Far from being discriminatory against the majority, it entitles any victim – whether from the majority or a minority – to a robust scheme for compensation and reparation. The bill is legislative acceptance of the discriminations in justice delivery faced by sections of our population that have long been subject to communal and targeted violence. When citizens who are numerically weak and socially disadvantaged are attacked on account of their identity, institutions of governance – law enforcement and protection and justice delivery – most frequently act in ways that discriminate against them. The Communal and Targeted Violence Bill seeks to protect religious and linguistic minorities in any state in India, as well as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, from targeted violence, including organised and communal violence. Apart from including the offences listed under the penal code, the proposed law modernises the definition of sexual assault to cover all sexist crimes that heap indignity on the victims (including stripping in public, etc), not just rape, and broadens the definition of hate speech and writing already penalised under Section 153A of the IPC.

Most significantly, it deepens the definition of dereliction of duty – which is already a crime under the IPC – and for the first time in India includes offences by public servants and/or other superiors for breach of command responsibility. “Where it is shown that continuing unlawful activity of a widespread or systematic nature has occurred,” the draft bill says, “it may be presumed that the public servant charged with the duty to prevent communal and targeted violence has failed… to exercise control over persons under his or her command, control or supervision and… shall be guilty of the offence of breach of command responsibility.” With the minimum punishment for this offence being 10 years’ imprisonment, superiors will hopefully be deterred from allowing a Delhi 1984 or Bombay 1992-1993 or Gujarat 2002 to recur. The proposed law will also act as a deterrent to acts of complicity by public servants during smaller bouts of violence and awards fair compensation and reparation to victims when they do occur. Positive and reasonable legislative steps to correct either the discriminatory exercise of state power or the discriminatory delivery of justice draw strength from a clear constitutional mandate. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution states that: “The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. Article 21 clearly places the responsibility on the state to ensure equal protection of life and liberty (and, by implication, property) and Article 15(1) provides that “the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”. This is recognition that vulnerable groups may require protection from the state. Every democracy is premised on the assumption that while the majority can take care of itself, minorities need special protection. Consider for a moment India’s experience in tackling communal violence (or its failure thereof) alongside our history of recurring bouts of targeted violence, when numerically weaker and socially disadvantaged groups – linguistic or religious minorities or Dalits or tribals – are attacked because of their identity. Throw into this analysis the review of the application (or non-application) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. And the reasoning behind the need for this law, applicable to minorities defined not just by faith but also by other criteria, becomes immediately evident.

“Minority” is not, or should not be, a rigidly frozen concept based on religion alone. The reality is otherwise, as our sordid experience of the attacks on Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley or the violence unleashed on North Indians/Biharis in Mumbai and Maharashtra or Tamils in Karnataka has shown. With the migration of populations and altering demographies, democracies need to develop sound measures for the protection of all the people. Jurisprudence through justice delivery and reparation through compensation packages must reflect this ever changing reality. There is a simple way in which to make the proposed law applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir assembly must first pass a simple resolution addressed to the president of India asking that the law be made applicable in the state. Thereafter, it would require a reference made to Parliament by the president of India for amendment of the Jammu and Kashmir (Extension of Laws Act) 1956 so as to extend the new law to Jammu and Kashmir. A law to protect the minorities draws its source from already existing powers granted to the centre, implicit in Article 355 of the Indian Constitution regarding the “Duty of the union to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance” which provides that: “It shall be the duty of the union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”. This has generated considerable debate and will also be deliberated upon when the bill is put before the parliamentary Standing Committee. Detractors who speak only of India’s federalism baulk at admitting the ground realities during prolonged bouts of violence; such selective public amnesia negates years of bitter experience in dealing with outbreaks of majoritarian mob frenzy. Over the decades the collective experience of civil libertarians and jurists at such times has been to ask for law and order enforcement to be temporarily handed over to the army. Assimilating this experience without impinging on the responsibilities of state governments to protect lives and property, the proposed law, under Chapter IV, envisages the creation of a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation. The authority’s role will be to serve as a catalyst for implementation of the new law. Its functions will include receiving and investigating complaints of violence and dereliction of duty and monitoring the build-up of an atmosphere likely to lead to violence. …

At a more intellectual level, the arguments proffered by sociopolitical commentator Ashutosh Varshney also appear to be mired in a frozen reality, three decades old. Unlike in the 1960s and 1970s when communal violence generally occurred in communally sensitive cities like Bhiwandi, Ahmedabad, Aligarh, etc – a hypothesis that Varshney uses – communal violence and serious eruptions of mob frenzy are today spreading to rural India and to towns and cities hitherto free from this malaise. A major reason for this is the widespread currency of majoritarian communalism which accompanied the BJP’s rise to power together with the moral failure of the “secular” Congress or the left to tackle the ideological onslaught. This encroachment by the majority, brutish and arrogant, has crept into our systems of governance, the administration and the police. While the proposed Communal and Targeted Violence Bill in no way pretends or purports to tackle the scourge of irrationality and prejudice, it certainly aims to hold to account those public servants who fail to abide by Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, to protect the lives and liberties of innocent victims who are targeted simply because they belong to a minority group. It is imperative that those concerned with justice and reparation join the campaign for the restoration of fair debate. Currently the proposed law has become the victim of hysterical propaganda – led, unsurprisingly, by players whose political trajectory gained momentum by legitimising irrational prejudice and even hatred, who rose to power on the wings of communal mob frenzy. To enable a reasoned rational discourse on a long overdue law, the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill must be tabled in Parliament and be put before a Standing Committee forthwith. Any anomalies within it can be ironed out at that stage. We must not allow this process to be derailed by the same cynical political players who have gained political brownie points and mileage through the spread of hatred and the generation of mob frenzy.



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Identity concerns – By R. Ramakumar (Nov 19, 2011, Frontline)

“Modern” India, it would appear, has finally found the “missing link” in its superpower story. Having ensured that all its “poor” had access to ” roti, kapda aur makaan” by the 1980s, and ” bijli, sadak, paani” by the 1990s, it is surging ahead to meet the new and rising aspirations of its “poor”. The foundations of this surge are being laid with the Unique Identification (UID) number, or Aadhaar, which is also the key to the three “virtual things”. For Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, “Aadhaar… is symbolic of the new and modern India”. For Rahul Gandhi, Aadhaar is the key to “bridging the two Indias”, where you “take some” from the “India of opportunity” and “put them” into the “India without opportunity”. Business leaders and the pink press are gaga over the spin-offs. According to one analysis, Aadhaar links “private-sector businesses to India’s poor in an unprecedented manner”; another is titled: “UID: The Biggest Business Opportunity since Liberalisation”; and yet another quotes the managing director of a software giant thus: “UID gives us a business opportunity to prosper in this digital world”. The total cost of the project is estimated at over Rs.50,000 crore. A business newspaper reveals that “for every rupee of IT spend on the project… around 60 per cent… will go to hardware vendors”. One consultancy giant estimated that within five years into that “post-Aadhaar world”, India would see a first wave of investments totalling $10 billion. From then on, “potential” is $12 billion a year.

There is no other government project that has kicked up such frenzy in recent times. However, in the midst of this frenzy, myriads of questions are begging for answers. While there are people asking these questions, there are also those tired old ways of dismissing them. Brand them as ” jholawalas” or “lefties” or “anti-technology guys” or “those who broke computers in the [19]80s”. The more lenient of the brandings would be “civil libertarians” or “privacy activists”. Whatever they be branded, one thing in common is that none of their questions has received a satisfactory answer yet. One place to ask questions in a democracy is Parliament; however, about six crore Aadhaar numbers have been issued even before Parliament has taken up the matter for legislative discussion. Frontline was the first to publish a critical article on UID in 2009, which raised a set of questions to the government (“High-cost, High-risk”, August 14, 2009). More than two years later, most of those questions remain unanswered.

An important question regarding Aadhaar is how it will be used. Aadhaar is connected closely with the National Population Register (NPR) of the Union Home Ministry. The NPR is a child of the Kargil War. Following the reports of the “Kargil Review Committee” in 2000, and a Group of Ministers in 2001, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government decided to register compulsorily all citizens into an NPR and issue each a Multi-purpose National Identity Card (MNIC). Officially, the NPR is aimed at preventing “illegal migration”. For this purpose, the Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended and new Citizenship Rules were released in 2003. As per Rule 7(3) in the 2003 Rules, “It shall be the responsibility of every citizen to register once with the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration and to provide correct individual particulars.” Rule 3(3) states that information on every citizen in the NPR should compulsorily have his/her “National Identity Number”. Still further, Rule 17 states that “any violation of provisions of rules 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 14 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees”.

While registration to the NPR was compulsory and a National Identity Number was linked to each name, the 2003 Rules did not approve of linking biometrics with personal information. If we analyse the annual reports of the Home Ministry, the sections on the MNIC pilot project do not refer to biometric data until 2004-05. In 2005-06, the first mention of biometric data appears. The report noted: “Data entry work for all the 30.96 lakh records… and integration of photographs and finger biometrics of 17.2 lakh… out of 20.6 lakh… has been completed.” Just how biometrics got included in the NPR without sanction from the 2003 Rules remains a mystery. … In a working paper on financial inclusion, the UIDAI notes that taking banking to rural areas is an “expensive proposition”. Hence, opening rural branches becomes a “social responsibility rather than a business opportunity”. It suggests that Aadhaar can usher in “an era of ubiquitous branchless banking”. Instead of opening rural branches, the bank may simply appoint “business correspondents” (B.C.), who, with the help of hand-held biometric devices, perform banking functions.

To promote the B.C. model, the RBI has already permitted the appointment of “for-profit companies” as B.Cs. The size of the “B.C. market” was recently estimated at Rs.3,000 crore. Just by routing MGNREGS wages, the B.Cs are likely to earn up to Rs.600 crore a year as commission. The B.C. model has already triggered adverse outcomes in rural areas. On March 18, 2011, an internal circular of the State Bank of India noted that B.Cs were “found to indulge in malpractices, such as asking for unauthorised money, over and above the bank’s approved rates of charges from the customers”. It noted that “gullible customers” are being “exploited”, posing “serious risk” to the bank’s reputation. During discussions with a leading bank union, I was told that B.Cs regularly extracted Rs.100 to 150 per gold loan in many south Indian districts. One newspaper recently quoted a B.C. employee in Punjab thus: “75 per cent of B.C. agents are village sarpanchs or their kin.” To conclude, a project of the size and cost of Aadhaar should not be pursued without wider discussions among the public and in Parliament. Such projects should inspire public trust and confidence. However, the undue haste displayed by the proponents of the project raises many questions. The sad part of the story is that there are no satisfactory answers.



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Maoism did not die with Kishanji in West Midnapore – Editorial (Nov 26, 2011, Economic Times)

The killing of top Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao, otherwise known as Kishanji, in a gunbattle with security forces in West Midnapore on Thursday, is part of the bloody cycle of violence and counter-violence that attends the Maoists’ agenda of overthrowing the state by force. There is no getting away from the fact that Maoist violence can, and has, attained a savagery all its own. There is little choice for the state but to try and end that savagery and murderous attacks. But there is no room nor cause for triumphalism about any killing, nor does Kishanji’s death mark the end of the Maoist problem.

The latter simply cannot be dealt with by counter-violence alone – indeed, that can even prove counter-productive, as the experience of the Salwa Judum showed, and further destroy the lives of the poorest and the tribals, in whose defence the Maoists claim to operate. Maoism cannot be treated as a law-and-order issue or resolved through sundry military operations. It is also a political ideology, and unless the basic context of exploitation and deprivation in which it thrives is not addressed, Maoism will exist, and be resurrected in the future, even if the last armed Maoist cadre were to be eliminated now.

And that is because in these affected areas, deprivation and exploitation have existed in such measure that Maoists have been able to find ready foot-soldiers, for whom Maoism becomes a potent, even empowering, ideology. The problem, thus, must not be viewed solely as a crisis of sovereignty, as only a challenge to the might of the state, but also as the crisis and utter failure of Indian democracy in the affected regions. This problem can only viably be solved through an attendant political programme of delivering genuinely inclusive, participatory development in these regions.

Unyielding dogma and total reliance on violence can only beget more violence for the Maoists. But they also feed off the further misery foisted on the country’s poorest people by military operations. In the final analysis, that situation, Maoism itself, also represents a political challenge. It must be dealt with as such.



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