IAMC Weekly News Roundup - November 5th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 5th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

For amity, communalism must die (Nov 4, 2012, Times of India)

Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi, winner of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for his work on Gandhi for children and the recipient of the 2012 Kannada Rajyotsava Award, weaves his fiction around marginalized Muslims in an imaginary town called Muthupady. All his works are imbued with a deep sense of communal harmony. He tells STOI only when politics of communalism dies will there be total amity between Hindus and Muslims.

Was it social concern that prompted you to write or did it come about later? In the initial two to three years, I was one among the multitude of writers. In 1973, one thought started bothering me – why aren’t there Muslim characters in Kannada literature? Why should a Muslim character always be a ‘jatka saabi’ (a horse-cart driver)? Doesn’t he have a life like others? The answer I found was to write about them.

How are your views seen by your community? That’s a million-dollar question. Three decades ago, it was not easy to write about Muslims. While there was literature to eulogize the “heavens”, I wanted to write about a world of my own and that’s why I created Muthupady. I gave the residents of Muthupady all facilities and freedom. All stories and novels were aimed at Muslims with the intention they get educated. That’s why the language is simple, not contrived. It’s a straight line of story telling. I believe that social change is possible through writing when I see that some of my friends who had protested after browsing through (not reading) my writing, now have daughters who carry laptops and give me a platform to speak.

What are your views on the increasing burqa culture in Dakshina Kannada district? Do you think growing intolerance in the society is alienating minorities? Till December 6, 1992 this was not the norm, although the primary reason could be that not enough girls who would wear a burqa made it to schools. In my village, my elder sister was the first to attend school and she studied till Class V. Next was my sister who got a degree and became a bank employee. Thirty years ago, my friends would ask me: “Bolwar, you talk about revolution, but why don’t your girls get educated?” Now, Muslim girls attend college in droves and they score well and get ranks. The question asked by the children of those friends is: “Why do you always wear a burqa or veil?”

Is there a need to raise this issue? One should understand that if a Muslim girl has to step out, she needs the permission of her mother, who, in turn, has to get societal approval. If the community has to allow girls to get educated freely, the pre-1992 atmosphere of amity should return. If that has to happen, communal politics should end. After the Babri Masjid demolition, the relationship between Hindus and Muslims has gone sour. Muslims wear burqa because others say don’t. It’s like every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It’s sad that the sufferers are poor Muslim girls and women. To buy a burqa for her daughter, a woman who rolls beedis for a living may have to invest six months of her earnings. Nobody can see the tears or the pain inside a burqa. …


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SIT to seek death penalty for Kodnani, Bajrangi (Oct 31, 2012, DNA India)

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT) which investigated key cases of the 2002 communal riots intends to move the Gujarat high court for capital punishment to Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi and some other convicts. Sources in the SIT said that the agency will, in fact, be seeking the death penalty for all those sentenced to 25 years imprisonment or more in the Naroda Patia riot case.

The sources said that the SIT has set in motion the process for an appeal in the high court seeking capital punishment for Kodnani, Bajrangi and others sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in the case. Talking to DNA, a source said that the court itself had accepted that the NarodaPatia case as falling in the ‘rarest of the rare’ category; hence those convicted in the case could be given the capital punishment.

The SIT will be writing to the state legal department about its intention to file an appeal in the high court and will then follow with an appeal seeking capital punishment for some of the convicted accused. Besides Kodnani and Bajrangi, the probe team will demand capital punishment for seven others including Suresh Chhara.

It may be mentioned here that Kodnani, Bajrangi and 27 others convicted and jailed by the trial court in the Naroda Patia case have already filed appeals in the high court against their conviction. The trial court had sentenced Kodani to 28 years in jail. Bajrangi was jailed till his natural death while eight others were jailed for 31 years each. Another 22 convicts were awarded jail term of 24 years. Suresh Netlekar, who was absconding after his conviction in the case, was the last one to be sentenced. He was jailed for 31 years.



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‘Sexist’ & ‘sick mind’ tags on Modi (Nov 1, 2012, The Telegraph)

Shashi Tharoor may have had one “50-crore-rupee girlfriend” but Narendra Modi has done better. He has caught the attention of at least half a dozen women. Half a dozen angry women. The Gujarat chief minister’s recent comment on central minister Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar has angered several influential women, who said the remark was “sexist” and betrayed a “sick” mind. Mamata Sharma, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, said she was contemplating legal action against the BJP leader. “It shows his mindset…. I will see what legal action I can take.”

At an election rally on Monday, Modi had without taking Tharoor’s name said his wife was once his “50-crore-rupee girlfriend”. “There was a Congress leader who was a minister. He was accused of amassing wealth from cricket. He had said in Parliament that he is not connected to the Rs 50 crore in the lady’s name,” Modi said, in an apparent reference to the 2010 “sweat equity” controversy involving IPL Kochi that Pushkar had got embroiled in. The comment came a day after the Congress MP, who had resigned as minister of state for external affairs in the wake of the controversy, returned as junior HRD minister. “…And then girlfriend becomes wife, we learn some time later…” Modi had gone on to say. “…the issues are still not settled and he (Tharoor) is now made a minister…. What a girlfriend. Have you ever seen a 50-crore girlfriend?”

Left leader Brinda Karat said the comment was an expression of a “sick and perverted” mind. Tharoor had hit back, saying his wife was priceless. “But you need2be able2love some1 2understand that,” he tweeted. The BJP today waded into the row, with spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi saying Tharoor should be given the epithet “international love guru” and made “minister of love affairs”. Another jibe came from the party’s NRI supporters on their website, friendsofbjp.org, where they posted a poem with the lines: “If the berth is dear, Shashiji, here’s free advice. Make peace with Narenbhai and get free kiss as a gift.”

Kiss and peace weren’t on the lips of Geetha Bakshi, a scribe, who said she found the comment “disgusting”. Latha Kurien Rajeev, art curator and gallery owner, said: “I don’t think it is in good taste.… So many men in power have issues involving women, sometimes their wives, sometimes it’s their girlfriends…. Moreover, the IPL allegations have still not been proved.” Public relations professional Parvathy T. termed the comment “cheap and not expected” of a chief minister. “If the problem was about reinstating Tharoor, Modi’s question should have been direct. Why bring his wife into the debate?”

Some activists, however, felt Modi’s comment had been quoted out of context. “I think the media trivialises women’s issues… and picks up sensational bits…. In that same speech he raised several important issues relating to women but the only one that the media considered worth blowing out of all proportion was the frivolous reference to Sunanda Pushkar. This is not to deny that the vocabulary used was in bad taste,” said activist Madhu Kishwar. The Congress has decided not to help Modi divert attention from issues of public concern in Gujarat, where elections are due in December. Environment minister Jayanthi Natrajan, asked how she felt about the remark being a woman politician, said: “Where is the question of women… everybody should condemn this remark.”



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Narendra Modi using terrorism to gain power: Shankersinh Vaghela (Nov 2, 2012, Times of India)

Dubious police encounters in Gujarat suddenly came to a halt since former minister of state for home Amit Shah and several police officials were arrested, claimed chairman of Congress election campaign committee Shankersinh Vaghela.

Vaghela said many police officials are in jail and many more likely to be arrested soon in this regard. “Who is responsible for these encounters? The former junior home minister was externed for several months and has returned, but he will soon find himself in jail again,” said Vaghela.

Vaghela alleged that the BJP government was behind these encounters. He said during the last assembly elections Modi had challenged terrorists. “The terrorists then struck and killed several hundred people accepting Modi’s challenge. Gujarat is the only state where two senior ministers are jailed. One in for an encounter and the other for rioting in 2002,” he said.

Leader of opposition Shaktisinh Gohil said Modi has left Gujarat’s border unguarded to help terrorists. Even in the Mumbai terror attack of 2008, Kuber, a Porbandar resident’s boat was used by terrorists.

He said Modi has commandos to guard even his footwear, hence he challenges terrorists. Gohil accused Modi of using terrorism to satisfy his votebank politics and his desire to return to power.



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From corruption to murder? Nitin Gadkari-linked case takes nasty turn (Nov 2, 2012, Indian Express)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing January 2010 murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty, on Friday conducted searches at the offices of IRB Infrastructure Developers Limited, a company which was recently in news over its links with BJP chief Nitin Gadkari. “Searches are being conducted at four premises of IRB in Pune,” a senior CBI official said on condition of anonymity without disclosing details.

A year before he was killed, Shetty had lodged a complaint with Pune police’s crime branch about an alleged land scam involving IRB chairman Virendra Mhaiskar. The CBI, which was handed over the probe by the Bombay High Court last year, had on October 24 conducted searches at 11 places in connection with the murder.

Shetty was killed as he stepped out of his house on January 13, 2010, at Talegaon Dabhade town in Pune district. In 2009, Shetty had written a letter to the Pune police seeking protection as he was allegedly being threatened by Mhaiskar.

Shetty had alleged that IRB and its subsidiary companies with the connivance of bureaucrats prepared fake documents to claim ownership of government land. The IRB group is said to have extended huge unsecured loans to Purti Sugar and Power Limited run by Gadkari. The company had bagged contracts from the Maharashtra government when Gadkari was Public Works Department minister in the state.



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Mumbai Lit fest: Girish Karnad attacks VS Naipaul for his views on Muslims in India (Nov 3, 2012, IBN)

The Mumbai Lit fest on Friday witnessed major drama when veteran actor and theatre artist Girish Karnad slammed Nobel prize laureate VS Naipaul and called him anti-Muslim. Karnad, who was present at the lit-fest on Friday to conduct a class on theatre, spoke at length about Naipaul.

Karnad said, “Now Mr Naipaul has written three books on India, three very big books and if you read them you will find that not one of them contains any reference to music. He has gone through the whole of India without responding to Indian music. Now I think that this only means that he is tone deaf. That’s my reading of the situation but then there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be tone deaf. He has no music and therefore no conception of what the Muslims contributed to our history. This concept of what the Muslims did in Indian history clearly shows that he has no idea of atleast the music bit.”

The controversial comments have sparked off a debate on web with author Taslima Nasreen tweeting in support of Karnad. If Naipaul wrote his books in one of the Indian regional languages, he would have been an unknown writer even in India. Festival organiser Anil Dharker expressed dismay over the controversy saying, “We were all taken aback by Girish Karnad’s attack on VS Naipaul. After all, we had invited him to speak about his journey in theatre and Mr Naipaul had nothing to do with that!”

Naipaul was awarded the Landmark Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this week at the ongoing Mumbai Literature Festival which ends on November 4. He is yet to comment on the controversy sparked off at the same event.



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“Faizabad violence was well-planned and targets had been selected” (Nov 1, 2012, The Hindu)

Last week’s violence in Faizabad district during the Durga Puja procession which left two persons dead, several injured and dozens of shops razed, was executed in a planned manner and the targets had been selected, according to a fact-finding team and accounts by victims and eyewitnesses. The fact-finding team of human rights organisation Rihai Manch said the sequence of attacks on “well-known business units in Faizabad city” suggested that the violence was not a spontaneous reaction but a well-organised act. According to them, the mob was organised into smaller pockets with dedicated leaders. Seven such persons accused of leading the mob have been arrested so far, a police officer said. Rajiv Yadav of Rihai Manch told this journalist, who accompanied the fact-finding team, that eyewitness accounts revealed trolleys were used to transport looted goods from the shops and had been placed strategically beforehand. Ahmed Deen’s footwear shop, which was full to the brim with supplies for the festive season, is now a pile of ash and dangling wood. “A gang of 40-50 persons broke into my shop and looted goods worth Rs.70 lakh. They put them into vans and trolleys. This went on for 20 minutes… After this, they brought canisters of petrol and set my shop on fire… We don’t just want sympathy, we want fair compensation.” Another shopkeeper said: “I left my office and was walking toward my computer sales shop at 6.10 p.m. when I heard my shop was ablaze. I rushed towards it, but police did not allow me to enter the area. Instead, they asked me to leave and save myself.”

According to accounts by eyewitnesses and victims, around 30-40 trolleys out of the 200 in the procession were used to carry out the arson and violence. Moreover, they said a separate convoy of vehicles that were part of the procession indulged in violence, in which at least 60 shops were set ablaze. Large quantities of petrol, kerosene, diesel and other equipment were ready in these vehicles, locals claimed. The Nawab Khan mosque at Chowk, the epicentre of the violence in the city, was vandalised. Gatekeeper Mohammed Ismael alleged a convoy of vans was parked outside the mosque on October 24 during the procession, much before it turned violent. “When I asked them why the vans were parked there, they said the vehicles had stopped for some repair work. Then a member of the district administration [Vinod Pandey] asked me to leave the spot. I protested but was eventually forced to go by the others. Minutes after that, petrol and kerosene containers and other equipments were taken out from these parked vehicles. And the next thing I saw was brick throwing and shops being set on fire.” Ismael says the vehicles drove away immediately after the violence. “The police stood and watched. When we asked for help, they asked us to run.” Footage from CCTV cameras on the mosque’s gate is being used to identify miscreants, said Senior Superintendent of Faizabad Police Ramit Sharma. The police had arrested 67 persons and identified another 70-80 others on the basis of the footage till Tuesday evening.

The first floor office of Urdu-Hindi newspaper Aap Ki Takat , located within the mosque, was strewn with broken glass, upturned chairs, dismantled shelves and scattered books and documents. Editor Manzar Mehdi believes he was targeted because his paper is known for promoting communal harmony. “The motto of our paper is that Hindu-Muslim are brothers and Hindi-Urdu sisters…This was not a riot. It was a one-sided criminal attack,” said the senior journalist. “The mosque was closed duringMaghrib [evening prayers]. They broke the locks with spades and tried to put the facade of the mosque on fire. They ransacked our office. The laptop, computer, inverter, camera and other things were looted, and they tried to drag the table out too, but left it midway when they realised it was too big.” The victims say they had been anticipating such an attack as communal tensions had been growing in the area ever since a dispute arose in nearby Mirzapur over the construction of a wall in the compound of a mosque in July. These tensions flared, the locals say, when three idols were stolen from the Dev Kali temple here on the night of September 21-22. “The local Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh outfits called for a month-long agitation to protest against the loss of the idols saying Muslims had stolen the idols. They threatened to cancel the idol procession,” said a social activist and writer. He alleged that “inflammatory songs, taped threats and communally inciting recordings” were distributed by the local BJP units during the month-long protest. “If this was not organised, then how could an alleged eve-teasing incident at Medical Chourraha incite such violence 600 metres away within minutes?”

Meanwhile, the police say they have not received any complaint or a first information report request over an eve-teasing incident and are investigating the cause behind the incident. According to local journalists, who spoke on condition of anonymity, some shops had refused to participate in the bandh to protest against the theft of the idols. This led to a small dispute but that was sorted out soon. “Is it only coincidence that shops that did not agree to close during the protests were the ones to be razed?” A few hundred yards away from the centre of the Chowk is Saket Stationery, which has been completed razed too. However, its proprietor Mohammed Laiq Khan says the administration rubbished his claims for compensation saying the shop was razed due to an electric short circuit. “How can it be a short circuit when you can clearly see that people have broken that window to throw petrol inside? Besides, we had no power since two days before the incident,” says he. In neighbouring town Rudauli, an incident of smearing colours on a religious site during the procession on October 24 reportedly caused the violence there, which quickly spread to other parts of the district. However, local welfare committees have questioned how a “minor incident” could cause such large-scale arson some 40 km away in Faizabad city.

They have also questioned the role of the central Durga Puja committee and local political leaders in “inciting and guiding” miscreants, saying such organised arson cannot take place without their support. Rudauli Police on Tuesday said they had named BJP MLA Ram Chandra Yadav and 20 others in an FIR for their role in abetting violence, among other things. While the situation is crawling back to normalcy in Faizabad city, in Bhadarsa village, some 15 km away, police say strict measures are being followed to maintain the curfew. A school teacher-cum-Principal from the town said locals were scared to venture out to procure even essential commodities even during the curfew relaxation period. According to police sources, FIRs have been lodged there against 500 unidentified persons. Scared of getting arrested, the residents stay indoors. According to sources in Bhadarsa, around130 huts were razed on the night of October 26 in retaliation for the initial violence. On Tuesday, Faizabad Congress MP Nirmal Khatri was prevented from entering Bhadarsa. Faizabad Helal Committee convenor Khaliq Ahmad said they had written to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav submitting a list of “conspirators” based on eyewitness accounts. “We have asked him to act to dispel fear among residents and repair damaged places of worship at the earliest to maintain harmony.”



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If Guj govt fails to give minority scholarships, Centre will intervene: New Minority Minister (Nov 2, 2012, Twocircles.net)

“If the Gujarat government failed to grant the minority scholarship provided by the central government, the government will directly come on the scene and will certainly enable the minority students to the facility,” said to the new minority minister K Rehman Khan today. He further added that Sonia Gandhi, particularly wants to see the implementation of the 15 point programme set out for the empowerment of the minorities so that “minorities particularly Muslims may fathom their race to development.”

Khan was talking to a five member delegation of the Jamia Urdu Aligarh. The delegation led by the OSD, Jamia Urdu, Farhat Ali Khan presented shawl and memento to the Minority Affairs. Drawing the attention of the Minority Ministry, the OSD of the Jamia Urdu pointed out the indecision of the HRD Ministry in providing ‘equivalency to the courses of the Jamia Urdu Aligarh,’ which provide education to deprived section of the society. The delegation also submitted a memorandum demanding equivalency status to courses taught.

The minister has assured to take up the issue with the MHRD. Jasim Mohammad, Director the Jamia Urdu highlighted that the UP government’s lax attitude towards implementation of the minority focussed schemes and demanded that the central government should evolve some mechanism to see their implementations.



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Manmohan Singh’s pledge to Sikh riot-hit unfulfilled (Nov 3, 2012, Hindustan Times)

In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced an enhanced rehabilitation package for survivors of the 1984 riots. “We cannot undo the past, but we have the option of building a better future. Let us help the Sikh community get over the trauma of 1984,” he had promised in a speech in Rajya Sabha in 2005. Soon after the PM’s announcement, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) had issued an order to various riot-affected states to provide jobs to the survivors, in addition to other ex-gratia payment.

It has been six years since the MHA order was issued on January 16, 2006, but the Delhi government is yet to provide a single job despite the fact that Delhi saw the maximum number of killings – 2,733 as per official records. HS Phoolka, lawyer for the survivors, says, “One Sikh was killed every minute over 48 hours in Delhi, but the survivors are still running around in various government departments.” The Delhi government’s website substantiates the charge. It reads, “1,115 requests received in the office of the divisional commissioner, Delhi, since the announcement of the revised package in January 2006.” But the column for the number of people who have been provided employment, says, “not applicable”.

An official in the divisional commissioner’s office also confirmed that no jobs have been provided. So far, the Delhi government has issued offer letters, followed by showcause notices to various candidates. One such candidate Ajeet Singh, whose father was dragged out of his house and burnt alive in ’84, has submitted an affidavit affirming that nobody in his family has a government job (a prerequisite as per the guideline), but he has received no response to his written pleas addressed to the PM, the cabinet secretary and the chief secretary.

Another applicant, Rajvinder Kaur was rejected on the grounds that she had got married. Delhi divisional commissioner Dharam Pal says such cases can be reviewed. Asks Kulbir Singh, president, Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, an NGO helping the survivors, “Which door should we knock on now? We have sent reminders to everyone.”



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Kejriwal says BJP signed sweet deal with Mukesh Ambani’s RIL, Congress implemented it (Oct 31, 2012, Hindustan Times)

After taking on Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and BJP president Nitin Gadkari, anti-corruption activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday charged Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and chairman of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), with getting undue favours from the government over a contract to develop natural gas fields.

The allegations pertain to RIL’s D-6 block in the Krishna Godavari (KG) basin, India’s largest gas producing field off the eastern coast in Andhra Pradesh, which is being jointly developed by RIL and its partners, Britain’s BP and Canadian firm Niko Resources.

Kejriwal and his colleague, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, termed the deal a “classic case of crony capitalism” and said both the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Congress-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) governments were responsible for RIL getting this contract.

The contract, signed in 2000 by the then NDA government, according to Kejriwal, would rob the national exchequer of revenues to the tune of Rs. 45,000 crore if RIL’s demands for a higher price for its gas were met.

The government has not decided yet on a demand by RIL to raise the price of gas from the field to $14.25 per unit from $4.25, the subject of a long-running controversy. In a brief statement, RIL dismissed the charges as being “devoid of any truth or substance”. …



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Haryana outrage: Lok Dal MLA, wife slap, threaten physically challenged Dalit rape victim (Oct 29, 2012, Indian Express)

Haryana has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks with criminals of all kinds perpetrating atrocities against women for months. Now, a pillar of the govt, a Member of the Legislative Assembly has added to the shock value of news flowing from the state. Haryana Police have registered a case against opposition Indian National Lok Dal MLA from Loharu, Dharampal Obra and his wife Sheela for allegedly slapping and threatening a 30-year-old physically challenged rape victim and her husband.

The two have also been booked for allegedly using casteist remarks against the victim and her husband, who are Dalits and hail from Obra village in Bhiwani. “We registered an FIR on Saturday against Obra’s nephew Rajinder, who has been booked for raping the victim and making her video clips and threatening the victim. “Dharampal Obra and his wife have been booked for slapping the victim, using casteist remarks and for threatening the couple,” Bhiwani’s Superintendent of Police, Simardeep Singh said today.

In her complaint, the victim has alleged that between October 2011 to February 2012, Rajinder, also from Obra village, raped her when her husband was away to Rajasthan for few months and made a video clip and threatened to eliminate her if she disclosed the incident to anyone. However, in February, when the victim’s husband returned she narrated the incident to him. The victim has alleged that the MLA stepped in to put pressure not to lodge complaint against Rajinder and along with his wife slapped them and hurled abuse.

Simardeep Singh said that the victim had approached the police in May this year with her complaint, “but soon retracted her statement”. “Now, again she has lodged the complaint. We have registered the case against relevant Sections of the IPC. The investigation is under progress. No arrests have so far been made as we are collecting evidence,” Singh said.

Meanwhile, the 57-year-old first-time MLA, a retired school master, trashed the allegations against him as “baseless”, saying there is “no truth in these”. “I am open to any investigation. There are some vested interests who are behind this to tarnish my image. I never slapped or threatened the woman or her husband,” the MLA maintained.



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Opinions and Editorials

The Iron man Begins To rust – By Rana Ayyub (Nov 10, 2012, Tehelka)

Just before the Navratra celebrations, Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressed a meeting of senior Gujarat BJP members in Nabhoi village. In attendance were the 500 most important functionaries of the party from Gujarat. The venue was significant. Nabhoi is a stronghold of the Kadva Patels, at the centre of attention in Gujarat. On the podium were close confidants of Modi and a life-size portrait of Swami Vivekananda found prominent display. Seated in the first few rows was an MP from the state known for his opposition to Modi. As the chief minister rose to speak, the MP whispered to the person next to him that Modi would cry while delivering his speech. The news spread across the room, whisper to whisper. Some laughed it off; others waited, curious to know if the prediction would come true. Modi did not disappoint; he recollected a quote of Swami Vivekananda and a tear dropped from his right eye. As if on cue, the cameras zoomed in on him as he wiped his eye with a linen kerchief. The stunned neighbour turned searchingly towards the MP. The latter laughed. “In Gujarat,” he said, “our seniors, including the likes of Ashok Bhatt, have resorted to the same tactic when they seemed to have been losing ground among their own men.” It’s an interesting anecdote coming as it does in the wake of opinion polls that give Modi a sweeping victory in Gujarat. State Intelligence Bureau officers, however, are foretelling only a narrow win. There is no doubt the odds are in favour of India’s most controversial politician, but as TEHELKA toured Gujarat, some factors pointed to the unpredictable nature of politics. It is possible that a different picture may emerge.

Shrewd as he is, Modi has sensed the possible pitfalls. So, while his public relations machinery went overboard playing up the visit of British High Commissioner James Bevan, the man himself made a hasty visit to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur just a day before Bevan arrived. A fitness freak and religious man, Modi broke a rule he had set himself. Known to fast for nine days during the Navratra festival and abstaining from leaving Gandhinagar, he made an exception for Nagpur. Why? His concern was that the mood on the ground was changing. In 2002, the Gujarat riots and religious polarisation had won the BJP a thumping victory. In 2007 the “maut ka saudagar” statement backfired on the Congress. But today, the BJP, or rather Modi, is caught in the complexities he himself has created. In 2002, newspapers such as Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar were labelled Modi’s pamphlets by critics. Today, their headlines lampoon him. “Troubled Narendra Modi runs to Nagpur with his can of worries” said Gujarat Samachar. Other newspapers, which till recently were toeing the government line, seem to have become “neutral”. Recently, Modi came across the editor of a newspaper that has started carrying scathing editorials. The editor was subjected to a rather terse remark: “I’m told you are not keeping well. Take good care of your health, you will need it to write against me.”

MODI’S ATTEMPTS to woo voters are in full throttle. Radio advertisements talk of the UPA government selling the country by inviting FDI in retail and being anti-farmer. But here is where Modi’s real problem lies. Here is where the Congress has decided to focus all its attention. Here is where BJP rebel Keshubhai Patel and his new political entity have chosen to hit Modi. At an election rally in the BJP stronghold of Bhavnagar, Congress leaders gathered an impressive crowd of 4,000 people. In the old days, a chunk of the crowd would have comprised Muslims, who make up 30 percent of Bhavnagar’s population. Much against expectations, the audience was a combination of cattle traders, farmers and disgruntled local villagers, including Talatis and Patels, castes being wooed by Keshubhai’s Gujarat Parivartan Party. Congress MP Jagdish Thakur said, “Narendra Modi talks of Miya Musharraf, but why should the farmers of Saurashtra care for Miya Musharraf? They should be concerned about taxes, subsidies and returns.” The audience roared. Surprisingly, none of the three Gujarat Congress leaders present on the dais raised the 2002 issue or tried wooing the minorities. This could either reap benefits for the Congress or backfire and is a risk they run. Indeed, Congress leaders in Gujarat have chosen to maintain a stoic silence over the participation of Modi’s lieutenant Amit Shah, the former home minister charged with masterminding fake encounters, in Modi’s election management. “We have decided we will focus on issues like pension plan, on widows’ empowerment, on corruption, on the VAT on diesel and petrol,” says Shaktisinh Gohil, the Leader of the Opposition. He brushes aside talk of division in the Congress ranks and of the alleged chief ministerial ambitions of people such as Shankarsinh Vaghela.

The Gujarat Congress has been seen as the party’s weakest unit. Though the party has sought to keep its internal squabbles aside till the elections, the show of strength at election rallies does not seem enough to counter Modi’s charismatic appeal, especially to the woman voter. But it’s here that Modi’s PR machine seems to be losing on two fronts – the Keshubhai challenge and a Congress that has decided to use the same marketing gimmicks to target the middle-class voter. Free and low-cost housing to unemployed and poor women is an example. The announcement saw long queues outside Congress offices. For the first time, Modi was forced to launch an offensive against the Congress he had been dismissive about. Sonia Gandhi, who chose to begin her campaign from Rajkot, too seemed to have been advised about the wave that had gripped Gujarat. Unlike 2007, there were no references to Sohrabuddin Sheikh or the 2002 riots. True, the disclosures made by Arvind Kejriwal about Robert Vadra and BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and the subsequent media expose have indeed brought the discourse back to corruption. Suggestions are being made that it was the Modi-sympathetic group in the RSS that was behind the disclosures against the Gandhi family and Gadkari. An RSS insider says, “Narendra Modi knows the art of playing his games. Do not be surprised if tomorrow he wins by a narrow margin and pins the blame on corruption accusations against senior party leaders.” While Kejriwal might have chosen not to mention the findings of the CAG reports against the Modi government, lawyer Anand Yagnik has not been quiet. Yagnik is the petitioner for villagers affected by the Adani Group’s Mundra Port Special Economic Zone (MPSEZ). He has got a stay order on the project from the Supreme Court and believes Modi will be caught in his net of corruption. “He will talk of 2G,” says Yagnik, “but what’s happening in Gujarat is worse than 2G, and it’s happening every day.” The reference is to the MPSEZ. A fact-finding team lead by environmentalist Sunita Narain is assessing the project now.

“Modi’s corruption does not need analysts,” says Yagnik. “Here 189 million sq m have been sold to the Adani Group at the rate of Rs 11 per sq m. The market value was Rs 1,100 per sq m. All Modi has to do is answer the public of Gujarat as to why land was given at throwaway rates.” Yagnik is stunned by the silence of the Congress, but believes that it will be an issue the new-generation Gujarati will keep in mind. Activist Mukul Sinha of the Jan Sangharsh Manch has been a petitioner in the 2002 riots cases as well as the fake encounters cases. He says the pro-Modi wave in Gujarat has changed direction: “The Narmada canal is hailed as one of the biggest achievements by Narendra Modi, but why does he not talk of its failure to benefit the farmers of Dholka, Bavla, Sanand taluka, etc? These are agrarian areas and these farmers will now seal his fate.” Activists and analysts say if one were to take a careful look at the big decisions taken by the Modi government, they seem to have furthered the cause of big industry. Modi plays this up as a sign of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, but none of the benefits have trickled down to the farmers and labourers, many of whom belong to the Leuva and Kadva Patel communities. These voters are now being wooed by Keshubhai. Villages in Saurashtra and northern Gujarat are a glaring example of apathy. Mohan Solanki, a farmer in Junagadh, launches a scathing attack on Modi: “I don’t travel by international flights. So I guess I don’t know about development… There is a rage among farmers about the jantri prices (minimum price at which land is sold). Farmers across Rajkot, Amreli and Junagadh were asked to sell their surplus land at jantri rates. The government then declared them Special Economic Zones and the rates went up 10 times. Now we can’t afford our own land. So, is this development?” A recent survey gave Keshubhai just one seat, but a close look at the 40-odd seats in Amreli, Junagadh and Rajkot shows a clear shift in the attitude of farmers as they come out in huge numbers to the BJP rebel’s meetings. “The cadres are with him,” says a VHP insider. “they will galvanise the farmers to vote for Keshubhai.” …



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Stuck in a time warp – By Rajdeep Sardesai (Nov 1, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Nitin Gadkari isn’t quite known to mind his language. A few weeks after he took over as BJP president, he expressed himself with typical candour to a group of journalists: “I know you must be wondering who is this bloody ‘mota’ guy from nowhere. I want to tell all of you I am on a mission, not here for commission!” Three years later, those words may well come to haunt him as he is slowly pushed into exile from the Delhi durbar. In this open season against corruption, it would be easy to see Gadkari as yet another high-profile ‘target’ of the growing public anger against political corruption. What might have been dismissed as ‘sharp’ business practices in another period is now evidence of yet another politician trying to wink at the law by a mix of recklessness and subterfuge. Why else would a self-proclaimed ‘social entrepreneur’ choose to set up a maze of fictitious shell companies unless he believed he could get away with it using political clout?

And yet, the eclipse of Gadkari is not just about a popular rage against the neta. It also reflects a growing crisis within the country’s premier Opposition party. In the last three years, in the relentless gaze on the wrongdoings of the UPA 2, the BJP has been in soft focus. And yet, the travails of the BJP at times suggest that its future is just as uncertain as the Congress’s. The Congress is a private limited company tightly controlled by one family. The BJP, on the other hand, is increasingly resembling a shell company where the directors exist on paper, but the real investors have their address in Keshav Kunj in Nagpur. The Gandhi family may have escaped stern scrutiny but at least its top leaders have to face the people during elections. The RSS leadership, on the other hand, remains an extra-constitutional grouping which can determine the fate of the BJP without being tested in electoral waters. It is this conflict between an elected, accountable BJP leadership and an unelected, unaccountable RSS that lies at the heart of the BJP’s present crisis.

Gadkari was appointed president of the party as a result of this conflict within. The 2009 election debacle, LK Advani’s refusal to retire gracefully and the squabbling between the BJP’s Generation Next leadership appeared to have convinced the RSS that the time had come to stage an internal coup. So, disregarding all claimants from its Delhi parliamentary wing or any of its upwardly mobile chief ministers, the RSS anointed an ‘outsider’ as its president, someone whom they hoped would rise above factional politics. As the friendly neighbourhood swayamsevak from Nagpur, Gadkari was ideally placed to restore the RSS’s dominance over the BJP’s decision-making. While the RSS has tried to sustain the fiction of being distanced from politics, the fact is that there have been only two periods in the Jan Sangh-BJP’s history where the RSS has actually shown signs of a retreat. The first was in the aftermath of the collapse of the Janata Party experiment when a growing disillusionment with the BJP’s so-called Gandhian socialism and an attraction towards Indira Gandhi’s soft Hindu politics saw many Sangh members drift towards supporting the Congress. The second period was when AB Vajpayee asserted his autonomy in the post-1999 NDA. The personality cult that was built around Vajpayee as the ‘Man India Awaits’ clearly appeared to dwarf the RSS.

But as the Advani-Vajpayee era drew to a close, the RSS decided to reassert itself as the pater familias of the saffron brotherhood. The rise of Narendra Modi has only accelerated this process. Modi, in many ways, is the antithesis of the original vision of a swayamsevak. In the RSS worldview, community matters more than self: common rituals, common training and an austere lifestyle are seen to bind swayamsevaks into an organisational whole where ideology matters more than the individual. Modi may have cut his teeth in an RSS shakha, but clearly he has chosen a highly personalised style of functioning where the organisation becomes subservient to the cult of Modi. In the process, an entire generation of RSS loyalists in Gujarat has been edged out by newer, more ambitious political entrants. Even Sangh offshoots like the VHP have been pushed to the margins in Gujarat. While Modi’s experiment has met with spectacular success in Gujarat, the RSS is worried that the politics of Gandhinagar could now be replicated on a larger stage in Delhi. It is this fear of Modi above all else which prompted the Sangh to prop up Gadkari as their protective armour. In every interview when the BJP president was asked about the BJP’s prime ministerial contenders, he would smile, “We have six to seven people in our party who can be prime ministers. Narendra Modi is one of them.”

By seeking to equate Modi with other BJP leaders, Gadkari was trying to emphasise the notion of a ‘collective’ leadership, a concept which is fiercely patronised by the RSS. Unfortunately, the Sangh is caught in a time warp, its ideas shaped by the past and not by the changing realities. This is an era of presidential- style politics where individuals have to be strongly projected to define a ‘brand’. A Gadkari-style leader could never be a magnet to attract new voters to the BJP nor could he ever really assert his authority over a fractured party. However, it is now apparent that the RSS will not admit the failure of its Gadkari experiment. Nor will it loosen the umbilical cord with the BJP and allow it to function as an autonomous political outfit. A second term as party president for the beleaguered Gadkari appears unlikely now. A Gadkari may be dispensable as a ‘damaged’ politician, but who will hold the RSS accountable?



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Revival Of Communal Agenda In Uttar-Pradesh – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Oct 31, 2012, Countercurrents)

Faizabad burnt horribly on the Dusshera day when crowd attacked many places of Muslims including some of the mosques too because of a rumor of the theft of idols from Devkali temple by the Muslim miscreants. It turned out later that the idols were actually stolen by the Hindus themselves but then by the time the truth was found out, the hate mongers had succeeded in their agenda and completely torn the peace of town which has seen many worst cases in history and yet remained symbol of multicultural fabric of India. It is more than shocking because the state of Uttar-Pradesh is under Samajwadi Party which claims loudly and shouting that it is the sole protector of Muslims in the country. Mulayam Singh Yadav, in the 1990s, would travel across the state and assure Muslims that as long as he is there ‘babari masjid ko parinda bhee nahee chhoo sakata’. Unfortunately, after March 2012 when Akhilesh Yadav took over as chief minister of the state, his government has failed to stop the communal disturbances in the state which had become a thing of past. It has been over two decade after the demolition of Babari mosque that Uttar-Pradesh is witnessing communal tensions at different places and the latest in the series was Faizabad which remained quiet and calm even during those heydays when the rest of India was burning in the fire of Ayodhya. The twin cities of Avadh actually sealed the fate of two national parties in the state and the result is that both BJP and Congress are mere spectators on the sidelines. However, both of them also know it well that road to Race course has to go via Lucknow and hence efforts to create space. Therefore, despite all the hangama over the corruption issue, the BJP has found that it is now hounding the ‘party with a difference’ with Nitin Gadakari himself on the trouble and the party is unable to recover from the jolt. Hence, it reverts to regressive agenda of Hindutva which is actually the only agenda it has gained ‘expertise.’ Now, the political situation in Uttar-Pradesh is an unambiguous power struggle between the Dalits and the Other Backward Communities and for all political purposes it is basically a power struggle between Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. It is also a well-known fact that a massive OBC population is still too religious as no efforts have been made to ‘enlighten’ them of the dangers of Hindutva and hence the chanting of ‘ram mandir’ is again in the air. It is not for nothing that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat raised the issue on the Vijayadashmi day in Nagpur and afterwards various political leaders of BJP started singing the same song. With Himachal elections on the way and Narendra Modi campaigning for his party there while the president Nitin Gadakari remained an unwanted person, things in the party are getting clearer. Now, the Bihar BJP has also started slogan of Narendra Modi as future prime ministerial candidate while systematically, Kalyan Singh, the former chief minister of the state, in a press conference ‘owned’ the demolition of Babari Masjid. He said, he would be dying a satisfying death once a huge Ram Temple is built in Ayodhya. That is the desire of Kalyan Singh as well as many like him such as Uma Bharati. All these people are now placed in Uttar-Pradesh and Kalyan Singh is returning to the party.

In this background, if we see the revivalism of Hindutva agenda in Uttar-Pradesh then we should not remain in doubt that the more the agenda is revived, the bigger the benefit for Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav as he emerges the sole champion of ‘secularism’ and absolute ‘guarantee’ of ‘protection’ of Muslims in Uttar-Pradesh. There is no denial of fact that the growing assertion of Dalits and backward communities halted the Hindutva agenda in Uttar-Pradesh. Their relations with Muslims and that too with Pasmanda Muslims have made a rainbow political constitution in Uttar-Pradesh where the most marginalized social forces are plunging into politics and asking for their share in power. The Hindutva’s agenda was therefore successfully subsided to the growing caste identities in Uttar-Pradesh. A politician like Kalyan Singh or Uma Bharati would never be useful for the party if they were not coming from the backward communities. That is the irony that while a majority of Dalits are quite assertive and culturally challenging the brahmanical notions, the backward caste remain isolated culturally and totally subjugated to Hindu cultural ethos. That has resulted in their being used by the Hindu elite in violence against Dalits.

This anti Dalit mindsets from the powerful OBCs were strengthened further with Samajwadi Party came to power. The fact is that Dalits and lower OBCs have lot in common but the upper OBCs being land owning community has not really accepted the importance of agrarian and land reform. The caste hierarchy and Hindu caste system dominate their minds most of the time resulting in violence against the Dalits. They felt that once all the anti-Dalit forces are united, it would be easier for Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav to pursue his goal to Delhi. That is one reason that while the state government continues to behave in the same way while raising the issues of Muslims. If the trend in Uttar-Pradesh have anything it is clear that Mulayam Singh and his team want Uttar-Pradesh in the pre-1990 stage where BJP was deliberately trying to consolidate the Hindu votes while Mulayam Singh Yadav became champion of Muslims and secular votes in the state. Faizabad and Ayodhya are two places which are symbol of strong cultural affinity between different communities. It is also a fact that a majority of the people are not much interested in the Dalit issues and Buddhists explains how various temples of Ayodhya are basically Buddhist ones and converted into the Hindu temples. During the Babari demolition in 1992, many historical mosques and Dargahs in Ayodhya were attacked by the Hindutva lunatics. These places are continuously on their agenda even today and hence whenever opportunity comes they strike at those places. We should not assume that violence against Muslims or the places of historical importance on the target by those who instigated violence.

The General elections are due in 2014 but the political parties are up in preparation right now. Tragically, people continue to look for alternative among those who have failed them. Those of us who have followed up the communal violence in the country know very well about the pattern in these cases. They are not just communal but based on high voltage rumor machinery of communal minds. Even the issues of two individuals if they happen to belong to different religion is easily converted into the issue between the two communities and giving ample space to such regressive forces to spread and promote their vicious political agenda. There is a strong need to revisit the Communal Violence Bill. Unfortunately, in the din when Parliament does not function, a bill has not seen the day. The BJP has opposed it because it harms the party and makes the vulnerable for spreading violence. Yet, it would be good for UP government to act hard, strengthen the bureaucracy and make them accountable for their act. More political interventions in bureaucracy will only communalize their minds and result in their failure to address the issue on time.

In the meanwhile, the state government must act fast and take action against all those who instigated violence in Faizabad. It is clear that the HIndutva agenda is clearly working various dimensions. We have seen how they hoisted Pakistani flag in Manglore and then spread the rumor that the Muslims have done so. It has come out clearly how the theft of idols from Devkali temple in Ayodhya was the work of Hindus only and why this was made an issue to convert it against Muslims. It is clear that such mastery of the Sangh Parivar in trying to instigate communal discord can only be countered if our administration and police are allowed to work independently and state government follow the ‘rajdharma’ whose duty is to protect the citizens of the state irrespective of their caste and religion. If the state government does not fix accountability and stability of the administration, Uttar-Pradesh might further see the escalation of communal violence as it is actually not people who are turning communal but the political parties who want to set agenda for 2014 and definitely governance and corruption cannot be the issue hence the state seems to be returning to agenda being fixed by the Hindutva fanatics and perhaps that suits to the Samajwadi Party too and hence their failure to act on time. But, India cannot afford to lose its communal amity to political manipulations and hence it is on the people too lies greater responsibility. It is important not to look for messiah to save us from the problems. The agenda of the communal minds are clear to take us back to primitive ages and decide about our future denying us our individual freedom. A people’s movement against communalism must start at all level and it is equally important that local people must interact more and not heed the rumors. My own experience with Faizabad and Ayodhya is that while there might be differences among communities, their issues have been hijacked by big politicians’ masquerading as ‘spiritual leaders’. It is time for Faizabad and Ayodhya to dump aside these religious issues and come closer fighting for communal amity as they have to live together and not those who come from outside and instigate the disturbances. There are already so many temples and mosque in this region. The only thing which is not there are good schools, better hospitals and job prospectus. It is time; common people seek answer to these growing issues and not allow the religious thugs to set political agenda for future.



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Shock strategy – By Purnima S. Tripathi (Nov 3, 2012, Frontline)

Naming and shaming politicians is how Arvind Kejriwal hopes to make an impact as the newest entrant in Indian politics with a political party that will be given its name on November 26. The anti-corruption crusader-turned-politician began by questioning the legitimacy of the real estate deals involving Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and claiming to have documents that bring out his nexus with a business group. In a span of three years from 2007, Kejriwal claimed, Vadra’s fortune grew from Rs.50 lakh to Rs.300 crore. Congress governments in Haryana and Rajasthan, he said, helped facilitate Vadra’s real estate and land deals, which were valued in crores of rupees. These were allegations that had been reported in the media several months earlier and forgotten. They created a buzz for a few days when political exchanges filled television news channels with the viewers being none the wiser at the end of it all. Of course, Vadra shut his Facebook account in a hurry after he made what was widely seen as a distasteful comment, ‘mango people in a banana republic’. The heat and dust of this exposé had hardly settled when Kejriwal turned his focus on Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid and his wife Louise Khurshid, alleging that the Dr Zakir Hussain Trust, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) they run, had misappropriated public funds, running into several lakhs of rupees, meant for helping disabled persons. This allegation was the subject of a sting operation by a media house. The Khurshids held a press conference to explain their position but it ended up in an ugly exchange of words between them and a section of the media. The allegations against the trust included forgery of signatures and fake names in the lists of beneficiaries. Kejriwal claimed that the Khurshids had not answered the five questions put to them by India Against Corruption (IAC), the organisation he runs. But even as the tempo of the charges was building up, Kejriwal suddenly announced that he was ending the agitation in Delhi and moving it to Farrukhabad, Salman Khurshid’s Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh, starting November 1.

With two of his “exposes” still hanging fire, he went on to a third one a couple of days later. This time his target was BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who, he alleged, got farmers’ land at throwaway prices for his business ventures in what has come to be called the “irrigation scam”. However, the charges, made by Anjali Damania of the IAC, were seen to be “soft’ when compared with the other two. Besides, the allegation-a-day kind of activism did not go down well with even serious civil society members in the fight against corruption. Several questions were raised against Kejriwal’s strategy. If Kejriwal was serious about fighting corruption and if he indeed had proof of corruption in all these cases, why did he not approach the courts? Is he only doing it to sensationalise corruption? “Why should we approach the court all the time? It is for the governments to take action. We are only trying to make people aware that there is corruption cutting across party lines. It is a cosy nexus at the top in all parties. We are trying to raise people’s awareness about this cosy nexus so that this corrupt system can be changed,” Kejriwal told Frontline. Said Prashant Bhushan, a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court and a crusader against corruption: ” Paise se satta, phir satta se paisa, kab tak chalega?” (power through money, then earning money using this power , how long will this continue?). “It is this adulterous relationship between money, power and politics, in which the common man has been totally marginalised, that we are trying to break,” said Kejriwal. “And for doing this we have to prove that all parties are together in this, we have to expose all,” he added.

But can the fight against corruption alone ensure electoral success? Can a political party based only on the anti-corruption plank succeed? “Corruption is the most secular concept of all. It hits across caste, class or religion, so it should appeal to people irrespective of barriers,” Kejriwal said. And this, he added, was why he believed his campaign against corruption could actually be translated into a successful political venture. That, if achieved, would be a first in Indian electoral politics. “Going the political way is not an end for us; it is the means to an end. Fighting elections is not the end of our movement against corruption, but is part of our movement itself, whose objective is to change the system.” The political analyst Yogendra Yadav agreed. “If they can articulate the issues properly and maintain their focus, they can succeed because there is a massive scope outside the mainstream political domain even now,” said Yadav. According to him, the time has come when real issues like corruption have become topics of political discourse, and in this discourse money, for once, will not be able to play a role. “For the younger generation today, which finds itself totally sidelined in a corruption-riddled system, this is the defining moment when swaraj can actually become a reality.” Gopal Rai, a close associate of Kejriwal, said all the money and muscle power of established political parties had ensured only 50-55 per cent voting. “The rest, who never vote, are waiting for an alternative and this is the segment we are targeting. We are promising them the alternative politics, which will be politics for change,” he said.

If the reaction of political parties to Kejriwal is any indication, there is some unease among them. The Congress trashed his charges against Vadra, saying that as a private individual Vadra’s business transactions were nobody’s business, but a battery of Union Ministers and party functionaries was quick to defend him. Similar was the case with Gadkari, with senior BJP leaders, including the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, defending him. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh gave an indication of the unease in political circles when he said Kejriwal had broken the understanding among political parties of not targeting family members of politicians. In effect, he gave credence to Kejriwal’s charge of a cosy nexus at the top in all political parties. The unease has brought forth counter-charges against members of Kejriwal’s team. Prashant Bhushan was accused of purchasing land at cheap rates in Himachal Pradesh, ostensibly for some educational institution, and Anjali Damania was accused of shady land deals in Maharashtra. Another associate, Mayank Gandhi of Mumbai, was accused of being in cahoots with builders and using his clout to get land cheap. All of them are now being investigated by the party’s internal Lokpal, headed by the retired Delhi High Court Judge A.P. Shah. “Probity and transparency is what we are demanding from other parties and we are setting an example by putting our colleagues under investigation. Why don’t the Congress and the BJP do the same? Why don’t they at least declare that they will get the charges looked into by an impartial agency?” Kejriwal asked.

Kejriwal’s biggest challenge, perhaps, is responding to criticism from civil society itself. His close associate Y.P. Singh, a former Indian Police Service officer who was until recently with the IAC, accused him of shielding Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar. He said the charges against Pawar in connection with the Lavasa township near Pune were far more serious but Kejriwal did not raise them. Kejriwal responded by saying that the charges against Pawar had been mentioned in his charge sheet against 15 Union Ministers in May and that he had sat on a nine-day fast in July demanding action against them. “These are issues anyone launching a big movement has to face. One has to take these things in one’s stride.” He said vipassana, his daily morning walks and yoga kept him cool and grounded. The vision of his party will be declared on November 26 but swaraj, as the draft document shows, is its leitmotif. His party’s elected candidates will shun all VIP trappings such as red beacons, government bungalows and government cars and will have only as much security as is available for any common man. His party structure will not be the high command type, but one where even candidates will be decided by the local party workers. And if his candidates get elected, all decisions concerning the people, barring a few, will be taken collectively by the people themselves. “There are models for such governance and we will show that it is possible,” he said. Besides, of course, Jan Lokpal, the right to reject and the right to recall, will form an integral part of his agenda. “We will have a time frame for implementing our programmes. We will also have a mechanism that will keep us in touch with people who are not part of our organisation, otherwise we will be doomed,” he said. He admitted that building the organisation was a daunting task. “We have enormous support even in the remotest areas, but we will have to reach out to people and that is a challenge,” he said. As for the party’s core ideology, he said the fundamental principles such as reservation and protection of minorities would remain non-negotiable. All the rest would be discussed, debated and then finalised. “Various committees are already at work,” he said. Though their immediate slogan is “Dilli chalo”, it is going to be a long journey ahead.



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Hisar’s shame – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Nov 3, 2012, Frontline)

THE road leading to Dabra village in Haryana’s Hisar district is not very difficult to locate. It was at Dabra, a mere 15 kilometres from the district headquarters, that a heinous crime was committed on September 9. It would have gone unnoticed had it not been accompanied by another tragedy. Sixteen-year-old Suman (name changed), daughter of a daily wage labourer, was on her way to her grandmother’s home in Patel Nagar, a residential colony in Hisar town, when she was accosted by some young men from her village near a semi-deserted canal. The young men, all from a dominant caste in the village, abducted her. They then took her to a field on Tosham Road and forced her to consume some intoxicant. She was then raped by seven people, while five stood guard. And this happened in broad daylight. On September 18, nine days after the incident, she mustered enough courage to tell her mother, who had been wondering why the cheerful and intelligent girl was morose and unhappy. Her father sent his family away to a relative’s house and discussed the matter with some other residents of the village. But his attempts to file a police complaint failed because of fears within his own community and threats from the caste group to which the rapists belongs. After he was sent word that pictures of the incident would be made public if he reported the matter, he committed suicide by consuming a pesticide.

In Dabra, where caste polarisation is strong, there are around 800 households of Jats, 150 homes of Chamars (a Scheduled Caste to which Suman belongs), 150 homes of Dhanaks (another Scheduled Caste), and a few families from other castes and social groups. The S.C. community is dependent on the dominant caste groups as agriculture is the main occupation, like elsewhere in the State. “In Hisar in particular, the caste divide and hierarchy are very strong. At Dabra, Dalits cannot sit on chairs in the presence of Jats,” said one of Suman’s aunts. It was no surprise, therefore, that until September 21, none of the accused was arrested despite being identified by the victim. There were other reasons too. State Industries Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala’s wife happens to hail from Dabra. “A lot of pressure was put on my father not to register a case. They tried to bury it by making us compromise, saying that I would have difficulty in getting married,” Suman told Frontline. Her two aunts, one of whom is a former Councillor, have stood by her. Suman’s mother hardly spoke a word during the interaction with Frontline. The loss of her husband, the violence her daughter suffered, and the public humiliation of it all had numbed her into silence. The mother, who had studied until Class 12 and taught in a school, sat there with her head held low, swallowing deeply from time to time.

Eight of the 12 accused were arrested almost a fortnight after the incident. The police security provided to the family—around 20 policepersons are posted in the village—has failed to instil confidence in the household. “We want the family to be relocated in the city. It is not safe for them here. If they stay here, they will be forced to withdraw the case and compromise. I wonder which Dalit girl will go to school at this rate,” asked another of Suman’s aunts. The Dabra case is not a stand-alone one in Haryana. There has been a spate of attacks on women of all ages, including minor girls, in recent years. In May last year, Sweety, a Class 12 student, was kidnapped from a market in Kurukshetra district, gang-raped and murdered. For four continuous days, there were angry protests by students who blocked the roads. Over the last one month, as many as 20 instances of rape, including gang rape, were reported. On October 11, the six-year-old daughter of a migrant labourer from West Bengal was kidnapped from her father’s rickshaw by some young men, raped, and then left to her fate. She survived, but doctors said she would not be able to conceive.

On September 28, a newly wed woman was lured, kidnapped and raped by four persons in Sonepat district. On the same day, a Class 11 student was lured into a godown and raped by four persons. On February 28, a Class 9 girl from Barar village in Bhiwani district was kidnapped while on the way to the market, taken to the fields and raped by five men. There is no denying that there is a broad pattern to the violence, but it cannot be seen purely in caste terms. While the majority of rape victims have been Dalits, crimes in the name of honour have taken place where girls from the dominant castes have been the victims. In some cases, the victim and the perpetrators were from the same community. In this context, the statements of Congress and opposition leaders and of self-styled khap panchayats have been far from responsible. One Khap Mahapanchayat leader demanded that the age of marriage be lowered to 16 years as a response to increasing crimes against minors. The statement was later retracted on October 13 at a Jat Khap Mahapanchayat meeting at Sonepat following strong protests.

The meeting, which held the electronic and print media responsible for the rise in crimes against women, reiterated the demand for an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act to prevent rapes. Khaps had made a similar demand for an amendment in the Act declaring same-gotra marriages illegal after the award of the death sentence (later commuted to life) in a brutal honour-killing case. In July, the stamp of approval for khaps came from none other than Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who urged them to deal with issues as serious as the implementation of the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.



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Four Days Of News Paper Blackout In West Bengal – By Ranjit Sur (Oct 29, 2012, Countercurrents)

An unthinkable and unprecedented thing happened in West Bengal. That too without much noise. Four days of news paper blackout. Not a single newspaper was published from 22nd October to 25th October throughout West Bengal- during Durga Puja days. Eariler some newspaper have been closed for one day at Dussera only. That too not all newspapers. Publicly it was announced this time that due to distributing industry’s- distributors-vendors and hawkers unwillingness to work during the puja days is the reason of non-publication of all the newspapers. They were to enjoy puja holidays with their families just like other Bengalees. But surprising aspect of the whole episode is that newspaper Barons of Bengal also swallowed it silently. All of them accepted the distributing industry’s unethical, nonsense and never in history proposal without any protest. As if it was a joint move by the publishers and distributors.

What about the Government? Surprise! Surprise! The super active Chief Minister of West Bengal and her Ministers were conspicuously silent – none of them uttered a single word over this issue. So it is clear that they had not only supported this blackout but they had organized it from behind. Ruling TMC have several MPs from newspaper industry and has serious clout over vernacular news media. But why the publishers accepted it ? The Chit Fund controlled newspapers donot have the guts to disobey Government wish. But the proffessionally managed big houses also surrendered.

There is a rumour that inter-house rivalry also played a role in this blackout and played as a willing partner in the crime against readers. Except The Statesman , none of the news paper published any criticism of the distributors and vendors act or Government’s tacit support for this unethical act. None of them bothered to think of readers’ right to information. It is a fact that no mechanism is evolved to gauge readers’ opinion or consult the readers- the ultimate consumers of the industry, for whom, atleast they say, the news paper is published. Even they, the publishers, expressed not even a word of regret to their readers for failure to supply the paper, not even to their subscribers who paid in advance . So there is reasons to believe that the Publisher, distributors and the Government-ruling party collectively forced this news blackout for four days with ulterior motive behind. Even the opposition parties, the Congress and the Lefts, also surprisingly kept mum on the whole issue. The vote politics, chance of annoying the thousands of newspaper vendors and hawkers, who are only a voter to them, probably kept them silent.

The CPI and the CPM also kept their daily publications suspended for these four days. The Government action is understandable. To them , world will be happier if there is no news paper. But parliamentary opposition in India is newspaper fed. So their silence and inactivity is suicidal- perhaps they moved for temporary gain. Its a fact that they lost control over the industry in all sense of the term yet they fail to do their duty as opposition and saviour of democracy.

The loss is of readers. Its really a punishment for an educated person to stay without news paper – that too four days at a stretch. Their fundamental and democratic right is denied. It is decisively proved that the Television and Internet is no match for newspaper- particularly vernacular newspaper. Moreover, this four days’ blackout of newspaper off course is a threat to freedom of Press. Government and ruling party perhaps made the newspaper industry understand how far they can go to teach them a lesson if they not fall in line to obey them. The newspaper industry hope learnt their own lesson and will see this is not repeated. Readers are not ready to accept this flexing of muscles- whoever it might be, the publishers , the Government or the distributors. In this age of information this black out is simply not acceptable and should be protested by all and sundry. The sooner the better.



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