IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 7th, 2011
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Cops were punished for controlling riots : Ex-DGP
- 2002 Gujarat riots witness stabbed to death in Ahmedabad
- Probes find 3 links between Sohrab and Haren cases
- Call Sanjiv Bhatt for deposition, Mallika Sarabhai tells riot panel
- Malegaon blast: All 9 accused granted bail
- Human right violations at its worst during Moradabad police-Muslim clash
- Sharmila’s fight completes 11 years, continues
- Shehla murder probe indicates names of some politicians: CBI
- Karnataka BJP’s land scandals embroil RSS affiliates
- Cop who changed rape FIR showed accused as witness
Opinions & Editorials
- Watered Down – By Sugata Srinivasaraju
- Nadeem Saiyed: Yet another truth seeker silenced – By Mallika Sarabhai
- Elusive justice – By Praful Bidwai
- Nation joins Irom in her fight as it enters its 12th year – By Ratnadip Choudhury
- Pits of corruption – By Pamela D’Mello
- Crusaders in the dock – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan
Anti-Sikh Massacres of 1984: Indian American group demands speedy justice for riot victims
Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – https://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has called on the Government of India to mark the 27th anniversary of the anti-Sikh pogrom in 1984, by taking concrete steps to secure justice for the victims, and rehabilitation for the survivors.
The horrific violence that engulfed Delhi and parts of northern India, claimed the lives of over 3000 people and displaced thousands of others, in a reprisal against the Sikh community for the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.
Numerous eyewitness accounts have brought to light the fact that the rioters had access to voter records that allowed them to mark Sikh homes. Mobs of rioters were taken by bus to areas inhabited by Sikhs, where they murdered, looted and raped, with the police often doing little more than being mute witnesses. The discovery of mass graves in Haryana in 2011 shows that a full accounting of the 1984 pogrom has not yet happened.
“The 1984 anti-Sikh massacres and the failure on the part of successive governments to apprehend the culprits even after 27 years, represents one of the lowest points in the history of our democracy,” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President, IAMC.
“It is absolutely unconscionable that despite 10 official commissions to investigate the events of those fateful days, the government has managed to secure convictions in only a tiny fraction of the cases,” added Mr. Khateeb.
The failure of the Congress Party to hold accountable individuals like Jagdish Tytler, Kamal Nath and Sajjan Kumar whose political careers were untouched by their implications in the anti-Sikh riots, shows that the ruling party is still in a state of denial about its own responsibility for the mass killing of Sikhs.
IAMC has called upon the Government of India, even at this late juncture, to reverse the miscarriages of justice that have taken place over the last 27 years. By bringing to justice those responsible for the riots, regardless of their political and social standing, the nation can heal the wounds of countless victims, while ensuring that targeted killings of members of any community, have no place in the world’s largest democracy.
Indian American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.
For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.
TIME: India’s 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots: Waiting for Justice
AMNESTY: Sikh massacre victims await justice in India, 25 years on
HINDU: 1984 and the violence of memory
LINK: Bollywood Legend Amitabh Bachchan Being Accused Of Provoking 1984 Sikh Massacre Rioters, Says Witness
IBNLive: Sikh body demands memorial for Hondh-Chillar massacre victims
FIRSTPOST: Blood-for-blood politics: From Indira Gandhi to Narendra Modi
TCN: With bitterness and longing – remembering victims of 1984
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Cops were punished for controlling riots : Ex-DGP (Nov 1, 2011, Times of India)
Retired IPS officer and former state intelligence bureau (IB) chief, R B Sreekumar has requested the Godhra probe panel to seek details on how efficient cops managed to control riots in 2002 in most part of Gujarat. He has also told the commission that state government has “with ulterior motive underplayed or belittled the praiseworthy and model performance of law enforcers” who controlled riots in their respective jurisdictions. Sreekumar, who has dashed off a letter to the Nanavati-Mehta commission and the Supreme Court-mandated special investigation team, has highlighted that state government’s claims that the 2002 riots were “spontaneous” and violence took place due to “failure of system” were completely misleading.
He said that there was either no violence or negligible damage in 16 districts and two commissionerates. But the government has never given due credit to its police officers for effectively containing riots. Instead, those cops have received “shabby treatment from the state government including punishment postings and departmental actions in the post-riot period.” His affidavit filed last year contained names of such officials.
Sreekumar has also told the commission to seek details from senior police officers like V K Gupta, Manoj Shashidhar, Satish Verma, Narasimha Komar, Vivek Srivastava, Rahul Sharma, M D Antani, Upendra Singh and Keshav Kumar on how they managed to control violence in their areas. “The information on the operational strategy, tactics, ground-level methodology, techniques of leadership and motivation and administrative measures, adopted by these officers during the time of protracted 2002 anti-minority blood bath in Gujarat will be of great relevance to the terms of reference of the Commission,” the letter stated.
The commission has also been asked by the state government to come up with suggestions to prevent such violence in future. Analyzing the incidents of violence, Sreekumar has stated that the authorities deliberately acted against the minority community, which resulted in massive violence in areas like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Panchmahals and north Gujarat.
“Paradoxical and inexplicably strange phenomena of about 60% of death in police firing and 77% of casualties of mob-violence being drawn from the Muslim community pose a serious question mark on the professional integrity and the commitment to the Rule of Law of the officers of police and Executive Magistracy,” Sreekumar stated. Sreekumar has till date filed eight affidavits before the commission exposing the State’s complicity in the 2002 riots. He was denied promotion by the Narendra Modi government, but he fought a long legal battle and got promotion on Gujarat high court order after he retired.
- ‘Get details from officers who curbed riots in 2002’ (Nov 1, 2011, DNA India)
- Sreekumar asks riot panel to study peace cases of 2002 (Nov 1, 2011, Indian Express)
- Ahmedabad policeman with common touch hangs up his boots (Nov 1, 2011, DNA India)
- Nanavati Commission spent Rs 6.32 cr since 2002: RTI (Nov 2, 2011, IBN)
2002 Gujarat riots witness stabbed to death in Ahmedabad (Nov 5, 2011, Hindustan Times)
A Naroda Patiya massacre case witness and RTI activist Nadeem Saiyed was stabbed to death by unidentified persons in Juhapura, Ahmedabad, on Saturday. Saiyed, who was stabbed 28 times, was rushed to VS Hospital where he was declared brought dead, said police. “The attackers are on the run and their identity is not yet known,” said a police official. The Congress worker was a witness in the 2002 Naroda Patiya case in which 95 people were killed during the communal violence that erupted after the Godhara train burning incident. Saiyed had recently testified in court.
Ahmedabad police, however, suspect that the murder was in connection with a recent clash between some illegal slaughterhouse owners and police. On October 29, a mob in Juhapura set a police jeep on fire and injured 2 policemen when police went there after receiving information that an illegal slaughterhouse was operating in the area. Subsequently, five men were arrested. Saiyed, however, had reportedly told police the real culprits were roaming free. A source close to Saiyed said he was also a police informer and had rallied for a Congress ticket in last year’s civic body polls in Ahmedabad.
“After the 2002 riots, he emerged as a social activist who would take on politicians and anti-social elements in his community. Over the years, he also became very ambitious politically and a controversial figure,” a police official in Ahmedabad told HT. He also faced allegations of extortions and blackmail, said the official.
Saiyed had filed several Public Interest Litigations (PILs) in the Gujarat high court over sanitation issues in Johapura. He had also filed many RTI applications seeking details of central funds to the Gujarat government, land acquired for industries, civic amenities in his locality and personal assets of several politicians.
- Gujarat riots witness stabbed 28 times to death in broad daylight (Nov 5, 2011, Times of India)
- Saiyed gave key evidence on Naroda accused (Nov 6, 2011, Indian Express)
- ‘Nadeem’s could be a political murder’ (Nov 6, 2011, DNA India)
- Activists, politicians condemn killing of Nadeem Saiyed (Nov 6, 2011, Times of India)
Probes find 3 links between Sohrab and Haren cases (Nov 4, 2011, Times of India)
The investigation papers in two sensational cases – Haren Pandya murder and Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter – reveal three distinct links between them. With Gujarat high court’s order of acquitting 12 accused persons in the former minister’s assassination, a question has again been raised on the motive behind the murder and whether the encounter that took place three years later was in any manner connected with it.
The possible links between these high-profile cases emerged with the new probe agency, CBI, filing its first chargesheet in July last year. An important witness and Sohrabuddin’s accomplice, Azam Khan made a statement that IPS officer Abhay Chudasama, who is an accused in this case, told him that he had saved Sohrabuddin from being implicated in Pandya’s murder. This was the first indication towards a possible connection between the two cases.
A month later, the supervisory authority in CID (crime)’s probe in fake encounter case, IPS officer Geetha Johri claimed in her curative petition before the Supreme Court that Andhra Pradesh police stopped her from interrogating Kalimuddin alias Naeemuddin, who is a People’s War Group (PWG) member-turned police informer. She made a sensational revelation that Kalimuddin was the third person traveling with Sohrabuddin and Kauserbi, when they were picked up, and he was also an absconding accused in the Pandya murder case.
Johri accused AP police of shielding Kalimuddin and wanted to interrogate senior CBI officer Balwinder Singh, who was to look after the investigation into the fake encounter case. Johri also questioned Singh’s role in Sohrabuddin’s abduction when he was posted at Hyderabad in 2007, and his protecting Kalimuddin.
Besides, investigation reports by CBI in both the cases have revealed that Hyderabad-based sharpshooter Asgar Ali, who allegedly shot Pandya dead, and Sohrabuddin were living in Udaipur at the same time in early 2003. Usmankhan Pathan from Udaipur is a witness in the Pandya murder. He had harboured Asgar, who had assumed a fake identity then. Asgar lived in Khanjeepir area, while at the same time Sohrabuddin was living in Udaipur in Sabinakheda and Rampura areas. Beside Pathan’s statements, the names of former Abdul Latif gang members cropped up in testimonies of witnesses in the fake encounter case like Azam, Shama and Mushtaq. The alleged role of underworld don and absconder in Pandya case, Sharif Khan, was conspicuous, where as Sohrabuddin was always seen as Khan’s protege.
- Supreme Court expresses serious concern over fake encounters (Nov 6, 2011, The Hindu)
- Motiveless murders (Nov 2, 2011, Times of India)
- RTI activist alleges harassment by panchayat members, officials (Nov 5, 2011, The Hindu)
- ‘Conspiracy’ to kill Advani: Probe sought in arrests of Muslim youths (Nov 5, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Call Sanjiv Bhatt for deposition, Mallika Sarabhai tells riot panel (Nov 3, 2011, DNA India)
Activist Mallika Sarabhai has written a letter to the Nanavati-Mehta Commission of Inquiry to summon suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for deposition. Interestingly, Bhatt has also expressed his willingness to appear before the commission. Sarabhai wrote the letter to the commission on October 25. She said in the letter that it was important to summon Bhatt for deposition after former DGP RB Sreekumar filed an affidavit on September 16. “In view of the revelations made by Sreekumar on oath, it becomes absolutely imperative for the commission to question Bhatt as he is the only person who would be in a position to provide the further missing details regarding the actions taken by the chief minister and the government of Gujarat to derail my writ petition,” she said in her letter.
Soon after the riots, Sarabhai had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court in April 2002, demanding action against Narendra Modi, accusing him and his government of complicity in the spread of riots. She was the first to file a petition in the Apex Court after the riots. She had demanded that the alleged role of the state government and chief minister Modi in the communal violence be investigated. Sarabhai has sent a copy of her letter to Bhatt. So, on the basis of this, Bhatt has written a letter to the commission, expressing his willingness to appear before it for deposition. In his letter of October 31, Bhatt has stated that as the petition filed by Zakia Jafri before the Apex Court had been disposed of, the issue was longer sub judice and he had no restraints to depose before the commission.
“In view of the disposal of the special leave petition, I can now appear before the commission, as and when summoned, in order to bring out the details regarding the exact roles of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah as well as the advocates attached with certain law offices in Ahmedabad and Delhi, in undermining the proceedings of writ petition filed by Mallika Sarabhai before the Supreme Court,” Bhatt said in his letter. Bhatt also said: “My deposition on the subject will bring out the vivid details as to how Rs10 lakh was drawn from the Secret Service Fund and was subsequently handed over by Narendra Modi to Amit Shah on the very same day for further disbursal and execution of plans as per the instructions of Narendra Modi.”
- Court summons Bhatt on complaint for giving false information (Nov 3, 2011, IBN)
- Bhatt affidavit case: Court relaxes Kanara’s bail condition (Nov 5, 2011, Indian Express)
- Sanjiv Bhatt demands fool-proof security from SIT for self, family (Nov 5, 2011, DNA India)
- 2002 Sardarpura massacre judgment likely on Nov 9 (Nov 5, 2011, Indian Express)
Malegaon blast: All 9 accused granted bail (Nov 5, 2011, IBN)
All the nine accused in 2006 Malegaon blast case have been granted bail on Saturday. However, Mohd Ali and Asif Khan who also accused in the 7/11 case, will still be in jail. The rest will come out by Tuesday at the earliest. Earlier, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) informed a special Mumbai MCOCA court hearing the 2006 Malegaon bomb blast case that it would not oppose the bail plea of the nine accused facing the charges. This was stated by prosecutor Rohini Salian to judge YD Shinde who took on record a reply filed by NIA on bail applications filed by all the nine accused.
NIA contended that during further investigation into the case after the revelation by Swami Aseemanand, arrested in Mecca Masjid bomb blast case, about the alleged involvement of a right wing group, it had reviewed the evidence collected by previous investigating agencies ATS and CBI and also collected fresh evidence in the form of documentary and oral evidence. “After due deliberations a decision was taken on the basis of facts and circumstances not to oppose the bail applications of all the nine accused who were earlier arrested and charge sheeted,” NIA said.
“However, the NIA would not admit any contentions of the accused in the bail petitions so far as they relate to the charge sheet filed by previous investigating agencies, so also the facts and circumstances which came to light during the investigation by NIA if they are also traversed by the accused,” it said. The investigating officer had placed new findings and circumstances in the form of evidence before the superior officer for taking a view whether the bail application of the accused should be opposed in the court or not at this stage. Further investigations are in progress to collect more evidence for arriving at a definite conclusion, NIA said.
In the wake of Swami Aseemanand’s confession that pointed to a right-wing group’s involvement in the case, the nine accused had sought bail. Aseemanand had been arrested for his alleged role in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts. “From the confession, it is clear that those responsible for the 2006 Malegaon blasts, are persons far removed from the current accused,” they said in their bail plea. The nine accused further pleaded that they have been in jail for the past four years and “there is no direct evidence of their involvement in the said offence and it was only based on the forcibly-taken confession statement”.
Aseemanand, in his confession, that was recorded before the magistrate few months ago, had alleged that a right-wing group was responsible for the 2006 blasts in Malegaon, which killed 37 people and injured over 100. The blasts had occurred near Hamidia mosque in the Bada Kabristan area around 1.15 PM on September 8, 2006, after Shab-e-Barat prayers. Police had arrested nine persons – Salman Farsi, Shabir Ahmed, Noorulhuda Doha, Rais Ahmed, Mohammed Ali, Asif Khan, Javed Sheikh, Faroogue Ansari and Abrar Ahmed – for their alleged involvement in the blasts.
- 2006 Malegaon blasts: NIA reviewed evidence after Swami Aseemanand confessed (Nov 6, 2011, Times of India)
- Malegaon rejoice as ‘innocents’ granted bail ahead of Eid (Nov 5, 2011, Ummid.com)
- Malegaon accused’s families want compensation (Nov 7, 2011, IBN)
- Malegaon blasts case: Lawyers of accused made 60 trips to court in 5 years (Nov 6, 2011, Times of India)
Human right violations at its worst during Moradabad police-Muslim clash (Nov 5, 2011, Twocircles.net)
In recent weeks, reports have been circulating on the Internet about the post-July 6th situation in rural areas adjacent to Moradabad city, in which serious violations of the rule of law human rights have taken place. A CPI (M) delegation led by Subhashini Ali, Member, CC, visited the affected villages on the 2nd November and spoke to dozens of affected people. The background to the events of 6th July is an incident of the kind that occurs in hundreds of villages and urban areas every day: two Muslim families who are neighbours in Bagha village have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over various petty matters. In the first week of July, Yusuf, son of Kamrul, is alleged to have misbehaved with his neighbor, Muslim’s mother and Muslim is alleged to have misbehaved with Yusuf’s sister. Meanwhile Kamrul complained to the police against Muslim. Muslim’s family was convinced by the village Pradhan not to go to the police and that the matter would be sorted out amicably ‘within the village’. The result was that the police came looking for Muslim early in the morning of the 6th. Before they entered his house, all the male members had to run away and only his young sister, Noorjahan (about 14 years old) remained. They ransacked the house and abused her (there is photographic evidence of this) and, apparently, threw a copy of the Koran on the floor. After they left, the terrorized young girl ran into the village and told everyone about what had happened. The news of ‘desecration’ of the Koran spread like wildfire through nearby villages which are heavily populated by Muslims. By 9.00 a.m. thousands of people started accumulating on the main road resulting in a massive road blockade. The local police took the help of Muslim leaders of the area including Haji Atiq and Kamil (Pradhan of Dingarpur) and the road-block at Bagha village was soon cleared. By the time they returned to Thana at Mainethar they found that besides the large crowd, a jeep had been set onfire. Again with the help of local people, the crowd was dispersed. Meanwhile, the District Magistrate, Raj Shekhar and DIG of Police, Ashok Kumar (large districts in UP have seen SSPs replaced by DIGs) had left Moradabad for the area and they had to stop at Dingarpur where a mob had collected. All these large villages are located off the main road and have taken on the attributes of small Kasbahs with large markets.
As a result, there are always large crowds around the main road as people from a large catchment area come for their daily needs, for work and also to go to school and college. At Dingarpur too, the crowd was large and angry. The DIG, in the belief that his personal intervention would restore peace; soon got out of his vehicle and went to talk to the people. At this point, quite inexplicably, the DM along with his large armed escort turned around and left the area, leaving the DIG quite alone in the middle of an angry mob. Apparently, the DIG did fire from his service revolver but the situation was out of control and he was badly beaten by members of the crowd. Soon PAC and Police re-enforcements arrived and he was taken to the hospital. After this, it was the police that went berserk. They entered homes in Dingarpur village and beat men and women mercilessly and ransacked their homes. People were beaten and sent to jail with serious injuries. At least four minors suffered bullet injuries (one of them has since succumbed to them) and among the 38 persons still in jail there are at least three minors. The first person we met was Haji Atiq, a prominent Congress worker of Moradabad, who belongs to Bagha village. His family runs two large schools in the area and enjoys considerable prestige. He told us that on the 6th morning, the Mainethar Kotwal requested him to come to Bagha to help pacify the huge crowds that had collected. Haji Atiq readily agreed. He says ruefully that his going there and requesting people to go back to their homes, accompanying the Police to Mainethar actually turned many people against him. He however, feels that he was doing his duty and has no regrets. What he does regret is the fact that he, his two brothers and brother-in-law (the former Pradhan of Manethar) have all been named in the FIR as persons who attacked the police and public property. He says that this has been done at the behest of the BSP Minister, Akbar Husain [his political rival] who is the MLA from the area. Haji Atiq told us that the entire administration knows and appreciates the role that he played but has been unable to help him. He also told us that his Party leaders also have been of no help – Azharuddin the local MP and Rajya Sabha MP from Moradabad, Rashid Alvi, both belonging to the Congress. He was also unhappy that no Congress leader – not even Digvijay Singh, he said – had bothered to visit Moradabad since July. We then went to Mainethar village where a large number of people were waiting for us. There is a CPI (M) branch here and the Secy. Is Zulfikar. The interesting point made by those present is that nothing happened in or around the village on the 6th. The Thana, however, bears the village name and is at a distance from the village. When the Kotwal returned to the thana from Bagha it was surrounded by a mob and a police vehicle had been set on fire. Not a single person from the village, however, was arrested from the scene. Many days later, more than 50 of them were named in two consecutive FIRs.
There are many interesting aspects to these names. The first is that all of them are active supporters of the current Pradhan, Om Prakash. He was also present in the meeting and testified to this. He said that he had been meeting the police and the administration regularly in the last 6 months and his interventions have been successful in ensuring that no arrests have been made and the police until then have not raided any homes in the village. Many of those named in the FIRs had signed affidavits as to their whereabouts on the 6th July. Just to give a few examples – Haji Bhure was in Saudi Arabia performing Umra; his brother Rizwan, is severely handicapped with only one leg; Sabir was away in Ghaziabad painting the house of the former Station Officer (Police) who is now posted there. According to the villagers, the entire list of accused was given to the police by a group of people who were supporting another candidate in the Panchayat elections. Our last stop was Dingarpur, a village still shrouded in sorrow and seething with suppressed anger. The Pradhan Kamil’s house is one of the first as one turns into the village from the main road, so we went there and several people who wanted to speak to us, came there. Kamil’s wife, Saimeen, is a brave and outspoken woman. She told us that her husband had been asked by the Manethar Kotwal to come to Bagha to help him pacify the crowd there. He went immediately and returned to Dingarpur in the Kotwal’s jeep. By the time they reached, the badly injured DIG had already been removed. Kamil talked to the people in the crowd many of whom were not from the village. When he felt he could do no more he went home. He had barely sat down to eat when more than 40 PAC constables entered his house and started beating him mercilessly. They also beat Saimeen who still has bad bruises on her legs. They did a lot of damage to the household – breaking beds, cupboards, dishes and setting fire to a motorcycle. Then they dragged Kamil away and sent him to jail in a very battered condition. He still has not been given bail along with the 37 others arrested. Saimeen told us that other people from the village who took shelter were also badly beaten and many were arrested. Saimeen’s neighbor, Salma also met us. Her 15 year old son, Tauseef, who is in the XIth, got caught up in the turmoil. He along with 2 other minor boys from Asadpur and Bhikapur, both of whom are students, have all been sent to jail after having been badly beaten.
When their lawyer made an application regarding their minor status, their school certificates were not accepted as proof of age in contravention of the law. Medical checkups too were denied. Instead a Civil Magistrate was sent to the jail to decide on their age and he certified them as being ‘Adults’. As a result, these young boys have not been tried by a Juvenile Court and are being held with hardened criminals instead of at the Juvenile Home. Saimeen and Salma told us that 3 young boys – all minors – also received bullet wounds on the 6th July. None of them was given any medical attention by the administration and their families have been pauperized by their treatment. We could confirm the names of two, Ghulam Rabbani (15) and Mohd. Kamran Ali both still to recover from their injuries. Our most heartbreaking encounter was with Nasreen. Her 14 year old son, Rehan, succumbed to his bullet injuries on the 19th of October. Someone brought his bleeding body and left it on the street outside Kamil’s house on the 6th evening. His father, Ahsan, rushed him to the Meerut Govt. Hospital where he was treated for sometime. Then he shifted him to Safdarjung Hospital but, when, he did not seem to be recovering, he brought him home about two months back. And on the 19th of October, his frail and battered body gave up the fight. Nasreen said that they are very poor people. So poor that they could not afford to educate their only son, Rehan. His elder brother had died some years ago. On the 6th of July, he had gone to the market to buy soap when the bullet hit him. Her husband has lost whatever little he had in trying to save his child’s life. He had a meagre two bighas of land that he has sold. He is heavily in debt. He has no time to grieve but has to look for work, everyday. Not a single FIR has been filed by any of the injured and beaten. Only Saimeen had the courage to give her statement to the police and civil administration, including the District Magistrate, it has not been converted into an FIR as should have been done in view of the fact that she has a medical certificate proving her injuries from the beating she suffered from the PAC constables.
All the other families, including Rehan’s parents, are too terrified to file reports against the police. Only those who know the history of the district since the horrific Eid-gah riot of 1980 can appreciate the extent of terror that the PAC uniform carried out in Muslim homes, especially among the women. It was completely incomprehensible to us; however, the administration too had done nothing for those suffering from bullet injuries. Rehan’s long hospitalization and treatment at home was known to them but they did nothing. They were informed about his death but did not conduct a post-mortem. In fact, the family was encouraged to proceed in haste with the burial. We could not, unfortunately, meet with the District Administration for an interesting reason. When they came to know about my planned visit, they informed the District Party that we would not be given ‘permission’ to enter any of the villages because this could create a ‘law and order’ problem. In view of this it was just not possible to make any appointments with senior members of the administration. We did, however, hold a well-attended Press Conference after we got finished with our investigations. The local Hindi and Urdu papers gave excellent coverage for our statements. In the days after 6th July, the Media had been completely hostile to the villagers so it was only on the 3rd November that people in the area were made aware of what had happened that day. The CPI (M) has decided to make efforts to see that FIR’s are registered and that the death of Rehan is investigated. The Party has also decided to make regular visits to the area so that further harassment of the villagers can be stopped.
- Uttarakhand Assembly: Cong, BSP walkout over Rudrapur violence (Oct 31, 2011, IBN)
- Minority panel visits Gopalgarh, asks Gehlot govt. to improve minorities’ perception (Nov 5, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Why has VHP chosen Pirana for its meet, ask villagers (Nov 3, 2011, DNA India)
- Blast accused Salman a minor, approves a Jaipur Court (Nov 3, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Sharmila’s fight completes 11 years, continues (Nov 4, 2011, Hindustan Times)
As Anna Hazare gave his anti-corruption campaign a fresh boost by breaking his 19-day ‘maun vrat’ in Delhi, another campaign in a faraway corner of the country quietly reached an important milestone. Irom Sharmila, the ‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur, has completed 11 years of her hunger strike against the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Sharmila, also known as ‘menghoubi’ (the fair one), hasn’t ingested food or water all these years and is force-fed through a nasal tube. On Friday, she was produced before a district court here for further remand of 15 days, a fortnightly ritual, before returning to a special ward at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences. “I will continue the struggle. It is up to the authorities to listen to the demand or ignore it,” she said.
Hunger strike is seen as an attempt to commit suicide, which is a punishable offence. So, the state has to arrest her, only to release her after a year, as per law. A support group, Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA, has organised nation-wide demonstrations, including a day-long fast, on Saturday. On November 2, 2000, an Assam Rifles battalion killed 10 civilians in a village near Imphal. Three days later, Sharmila embarked on her fast, demanding revocation of the Act. Her fight continues.
- Manipuris go on fast in support of Sharmila (Nov 6, 2011, The Hindu)
- Revoke AFSPA with Centre, state govt’s consent: Farooq (Nov 5, 2011, Indian Express)
- AFSPA must go, says Farooq (Nov 1, 2011, The Hindu)
- Issue of withdrawal of AFSPA complex question: Bansal (Nov 1, 2011, Hindustan Times)
Shehla murder probe indicates names of some politicians: CBI (Nov 2, 2011, Indian Express)
Names of some influential political personalities have surfaced during the CBI probe in the murder of RTI activist Shehla Masood in Bhopal, prompting the agency to hand over investigations to its Special Crime Unit in Delhi. The agency, which was making little headway in the killing of Masood on August 16 in the absence of any eye-witness coming forward even though the incident took place in broad daylight in a busy and posh locality of Bhopal, has got some leads, CBI sources said.
The leads indicate involvement of some political personalities based in the national capital, the sources said without taking any names. The case, which has been probed by the Lucknow unit of the agency, will now be handled by its Delhi-based unit as “it has better resources, better manpower and better facilities”, they said. The agency has announced award of Rs 5 lakh in September for anyone providing credible information about the murder. The murder weapon used in the case is yet to be traced.
On September 3, the agency registered a case in the murder of Masood after the case was referred to it by the Madhya Pradesh government. Shehla was shot dead when she was going towards her car outside her residence in Koh-e-Fiza locality in Bhopal on August 16.
- CBI team from Delhi takes over probe into Shehla’s murder (Nov 3, 2011, The Hindu)
- CBI’s Special Crime Unit to probe Shehla murder (Nov 1, 2011, Indian Express)
- State Information Commissioner’s statement shocks RTI activists (Nov 6, 2011, The Hindu)
- UP: Whistleblower cop dumped in mental hospital (Nov 5, 2011, IBN)
Karnataka BJP’s land scandals embroil RSS affiliates (Nov 2, 2011, Deccan Herald)
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) land scandals in Karnataka that have landed its first chief minister in jail now seem to spread to affiliates of the party’s mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). New Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, still struggling to establish his authority nearly three months after taking over, has promised action if land allotment to RSS affiliates in Bangalore is proved illegal. “I have heard that reports have appeared in media in Delhi and here (about land allotment to RSS and its affiliates). If it (allotment) is unlawful, action will be taken,” he told reporters here Wednesday. Gowda did not elaborate on the action that will be taken. “We will have to study it,” he said.
The reports of alleged favours to outfits of “Sangh Parivar” – a term used to refer to the RSS, its affiliates, BJP and pro-Hindu organizations – came as embarrassment continued to mount on to the ruling BJP over land deals or land grab. One more law maker of the BJP, S. Muniraju, Wednesday came under police probe for fabricating documents to grab land belonging to a resident of his constituency Dasarahalli on Bangalore’s outskirts. The Lokayukta (ombudsman) court judge N.K. Sudhindra Rao ordered the police to complete the probe by Nov 19 and submit a report. Muniraju is the sixth ruling party law maker to be embroiled in controversial land deals.
Apart from Yeddyurappa, other ruling party lawmakers fighting illegal land deals cases are former ministers Katta Subramanya Naidu and S.N. Krishnaiah Shetty. Home Minister R. Ashoka and Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani are being probed for land grab. Yeddyurappa is alleged to have violated norms to allot prime land to RSS affiliates in Bangalore and in city outskirts when he was chief minister. He is now in jail in two corruption and illegal land deals cases filed against him in January this year. He quit July 31 after the Lokayukta (ombudsman) recommended his trial for corruption in the illegal mining scam. Yeddyurappa’s bail plea hearing is resuming in the high court here Thursday.
Yeddyurappa is reported to have allotted over 900 square metre land in upscale Sadashivanagar in north Bangalore to Rashtrotthana Parishath, an RSS affiliate. The land was meant for civic amenities – generally for parks or building for community activity. He is also alleged to have allotted 10 acres of land near Bangalore to a school affiliated to the RSS. A spokesperson of Rashtrotthana Parishath denied illegality in land allotments and told reporters norms had been followed. Land in Bangalore has become a precious commodity as the city’s population has been rapidly growing in the last two decades, particularly after it became the nation’s IT hub.
The population now stands at 8.5 million and growing every day as scores of people from others parts of the state and the country flock to the city as IT-fuelled economy throws up job opportunities. Adding to the problem is encroachment of government land, which is rampant not only in Bangalore but across the state. A panel appointed by Yeddyurappa in 2009 reported in July this year that 40,000 acres of government land in Bangalore had been encroached. The government is yet to act on the report.
- BJP MLA Sampangi surrenders passport (Nov 2, 2011, IBN)
- MPs facing criminal charges served SC notices (Nov 4, 2011, Central Chronicle)
- Black money probe: Tax agencies send notices (Nov 1, 2011, The Hindu)
- PMO wanted 2G note, finance ministry relented: Pranab (Nov 1, 2011, Hindustan Times)
Cop who changed rape FIR showed accused as witness (Nov 5, 2011, Indian Express)
A police sub-inspector who was suspended for tampering with the FIR related to the gang rape of a Dalit girl had not only dropped names of three BJP leaders whom she had named as accused, but also turned two of these accused into witnesses. Avardan Gadhvi, the PSI who was suspended after he was found to have torn pages from the original FIR in the case in which a 20-year-old Dalit girl from Boidiya village in Santrampur taluka was the victim, has tried to explain in the second FIR at Shehra police station, posing as the rape victim, as to why he did not file a proper FIR the first time at Santrampur police station.
The Indian Express has copies of both FIRs and the chargesheet filed on basis of the second FIR, which names the two people named as accused earlier, as witnesses. So, the two FIRs tell contrary versions on the three accused whose roles change dramatically in the second version of the complaint in the Shehra police station’s records. The victim, who belongs to Santrampur in Panchmahals district, had lodged a complaint with Santrampur police on August 4, naming eleven persons as accused. Her complaint says she was kidnapped by the main accused, one Tiku Pateliya, and was subsequently kept under illegal detention in various villages where several people gang-raped her.
Three of the accused in that FIR included Raju Khant, Dalpat Pateliya and Raman Pagi, who allegedly raped the girl at different times in Vata Vachhoda and Mirapur villages. All three are BJP leaders in in the Panchmahals. Pagi is the sarpanch of Palikhanda village, Dalpat Pateliya is the sarpanch of Vata-Vachhoda village and Khant is the member of Shehra Taluka Panchayat. The first FIR was transferred to Shehra Police Station, which covered the jurisdiction of the crime and was headed by PSI Gadhvi. After receiving the FIR from Santrampur police, a subordinate officer at Shehra Police Station made corresponding entries and also recorded the FIR. Afterwards, however, PSI Gadhvi tore off the FIR and the relevant station diary entries and registered a fresh FIR on August 6. The first FIR bears the signature of Santrampur’s police station officer Kanuhai Hemabhai and the second is signed by Gadhvi.
In the second FIR, registered on August 6, the name of Khant has disappeared completely. Pateliya and Pagi have been named, but as witnesses who tried to stop the main accused, Tiku Pateliya, from keeping the girl under illegal detention at an Anganwadi centre of Vata-Vachhoda village. In the second FIR, Gadhvi writes on behalf of the victim that she had gone to Santrampur Police Station to lodge the complaint. “I even wrote the complaint, but as my physical and mental condition was not well, it (the complaint) was not written properly and I left the complaint unfinished to lodge a complaint with Shehra police station where the incident had happened…”
The original FIR has the concerned police officer’s signature, but does not bear the girl’s signature. It is not clear why the girl did not sign the FIR after lodging it and then lodged the second complaint before Gadhvi. The girl has reportedly given a statement to the effect that the second FIR is correct, after which the police investigated on the basis of the second FIR and ignored the first one. Gadhvi has been suspended for tearing off the original FIR and corresponding records from the station diary after an inquiry that was ordered by the Panchmahals Superintendent of Police, Sachin Badshah.
- Dalit Youth Commits Suicide Following Custodial Torture (Nov 6, 2011, People’s Democracy)
- Russian rape: Goa Police in quandary over death of accused (Oct 30, 2011, Times of India)
- Dalit judge alleges discrimination (Nov 2, 2011, IBN)
- Dalit farmers herded away from govt land (Nov 6, 2011, Hindustan Times)
Opinions and Editorials
Watered Down – By Sugata Srinivasaraju (Nov 14, 2011, Outlook)
When new Karnataka CM D.V. Sadananda Gowda invited his party colleague and Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi to participate in the Mysore Dussehra festivities in October, he knew perhaps that some ‘progressive types’ would make some noise. But he certainly would not have expected people of his own ilk to protest. Modi skipped the Dussehra function. But by then, this unexpected protest had been made public through a letter to a leading Kannada daily. It was about the early redemption of deep discount bonds of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), issued by the Gujarat government in 1993 to raise funds for the Narmada project when agencies like the World Bank and IMF had refused to fund it. T.N. Ramakrishna, an RSS swayamsevak who runs the Rastra Gaurava Samrakshana Parishath, in a letter headlined ‘Narendra Modi should not come to Karnataka’, accused Modi of “causing huge losses” to thousands of retail and institutional investors by forcing the early redemption of the SSNNL bonds.
Here’s the background. In September 1993, the Gujarat government floated the SSNNL bonds at Rs 3,600 each, of which the deemed value at the end of 20 years was Rs 1.11 lakh. While SSNNL could not force early redemption, investors were given the option of exiting at the 7th, 11th and 15th years from the date of allotment. Nationalised banks were then offering 13 per cent interest on deposits, while the bonds offered net returns of 17.5 per cent, so they attracted many middle-class and institutional investors. Among the investors were the the provident- and gratuity-fund trusts of Mysore Paper Mills, SAIL and Hotel Janpath.
In 2004, the Modi government tried to redeem the bonds prematurely but gave up in the face of stiff resistance. But in 2008, the government had an act passed to redeem the bonds on January 10, 2009, five years before maturity, fixing the deemed value at Rs 50,000. Feeling cheated, bond holders challenged the legislation in the high courts of Bombay, Gujarat and Karnataka. SEBI impleaded itself as a party and filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking transfer of all cases to the apex court. This was upheld, and the matter is now before a bench headed by the chief justice of India.
“Modi claims the GDP growth rate of Gujarat is higher than the national average, but he has forgotten who made it possible,” says Ramakrishna. “If people like me had not invested in the bonds, do you think Gujarat could have built the dam? If the dam hadn’t been built, could the state have attracted investors? The availability of water for homes, industry, hydropower and so on is because of the dam. Why deny people who helped the state their legitimate returns?”
Vishwanath S. Malagan, a member of the Mysore Paper Mills Limited Employees Provident Fund Trust, says the trust suffered huge losses owing to the forced early redemption. Bond holders are hoping the Supreme Court will decide the case before January 2014, the original redemption date. Modi, never short on rhetoric, especially while addressing two groups – the middle class and investors – hasn’t said anything so far to assuage the feelings of the bond buyers, who belong to those very groups.
- The Muslim Question – By Tehelka (Nov 112, 2011, Tehelka)
Nadeem Saiyed: Yet another truth seeker silenced – By Mallika Sarabhai (Nov 6, 2011, DNA India)
For whom was Nadeem Saiyed more of a hindrance? Was it the accused of Naroda Patiya and those behind the accused; or were it crooks in many garbs whose lies, deceit and dishonesty he was exposing through the hundreds of RTIs he had filed? Or was the larger nexus the same – those in cohorts to subvert justice for personal gain and power? The result is the same in any case. On Saturday morning, Saiyed was on his daily walk close to his home in Juhapura, picking up newspapers at round the corner where he was attacked by four men with swords and stabbed to death. His is yet another casualty among the truth seekers of Gujarat. In all probability, this is another murder which will go unpunished; or worse, innocents will languish in jail for decades for his murder before being let off due to lack of evidence.
Few days ago, Nadeem had approached the police regarding the case of a planned cow slaughter in Juhapura where a bunch of young people had attacked the police. It was Nadeem’s case that the police had picked the wrong people in the matter. Nadeem had been fighting for justice for many years now. Sometime ago, while traveling to an RTI meet with my colleagues, he mentioned about the immense pressure on the witnesses of the Naroda Patiya massacre. “It is very difficult to hold out to the constant threats to our families and the simultaneous bribes and promises of further goodies,” he had mentioned. He knew he could stand against all this but wasn’t sure how some of the others would. They have young children, he had said.
Three months ago, I was coming out of a meeting with activists at Mehndi Nawaz Jung Hall when he stopped me. Introducing himself to me he said, “Ben, my life is under constant threat. I am afraid they will get to me before I can testify.” He had been fighting the Ahmedabad municipality as well, for the terrible lack of infrastructure in Juhapura. He had filed a writ in the high court. Two months ago, HC directed the corporation to give an immediate response as to what facilities existed there and when could the rest be put in. His consistent filing of RTIs had a bearing on hundreds of citizens and the Public Cause Foundation honoured him for it two years ago. But yesterday, they got him.
Nadeem is not the first in the state who has been taken out because of the ripples he caused in the system. The list is getting longer, the audacity and disdain of the killers becoming more blatant. Courts grinding away at snail’s pace are emboldening others to continue killing the truth seekers. People of the state have become the proverbial Neros that the Supreme Court once called our CM – making merry as the state burns. Each murder is reduced to a new item and is treated as a mere statistic. What does it have to do with me anyway? I’m fine, I’m safe! I’m allowed to prosper without hindrance. Leave these things to others; they will sort them out themselves. This is what is happening everywhere, isn’t it? …
- Gujarat police totally failed slain RTI activist Nadeem Saiyed – By Jumana Shah (Nov 6, 2011, DNA India)
Elusive justice – By Praful Bidwai (Nov 5, 2011, Frontline)
Integral to the planned mass-scale anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in February-March 2002 was the gigantic conspiracy to cover up the role of senior functionaries of the government, top policemen and officials in instigating and condoning the violence and in ensuring that no proper investigation would be conducted into various episodes of butchery, rape, criminal assault and arson. The intention behind the well-coordinated effort was to secure impunity for the perpetrators of a shameful orgy of targeted violence against a religious minority and the worst state-sponsored pogrom in independent India’s history. One of the most nauseating instances of this was the Gulberg Society episode in Ahmedabad, in which former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri’s limbs were severed and he and 68 others were barbarically burnt alive. This incident was investigated by more than 10 citizens’ inquiry committees, composed of public intellectuals, scholars and former civil servants, all of which independently reached the same conclusion. Jafri’s widow, Zakia, pursued the case and in 2006 petitioned the State police to register a first information report (FIR) against Modi and 61 others, something only the police can do under the Indian criminal justice system. When the police turned her away, she moved the Gujarat High Court, but it rejected her plea in November 2007. In April 2009, the Supreme Court directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) it had created to take up the Gulberg case.
The SIT concluded that there was no evidence against Modi to substantiate the finding of several citizens’ inquiries that he convened a special meeting of senior officials at his official residence on February 27, 2002, after the Godhra train fire episode earlier that day. At the meeting, Modi allegedly instructed police officials to allow Hindus “to vent their anger against Muslims”, thus enabling a tsunami of violence to break out. It was widely reported in the media at the time that two Gujarat Ministers, Ashok Bhatt and I.K. Jadeja, unconnected with the Home portfolio, visited police control rooms (PCRs) to monitor the violence and influence the police. This April, an Indian Police Service officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in support of these findings. He swore that he was present at the February 27 meeting in his capacity as a senior officer of the intelligence wing. The SIT, however, concluded that Bhatt was an “unreliable” and “controversial” witness whose testimony was not corroborated by the other officers present at the meeting. The SIT confirmed that Ashok Bhatt and Jadeja were indeed present in the PCRs but found no evidence that they had interfered with the police’s work. The SIT’s conclusion was in keeping with its overall record on Gujarat. Since it was set up by the Supreme Court in 2008, the SIT has only filed one new set of charge sheets in the 10 cases it investigated. That charge sheet indicted Maya Kodnani and Jaydeep Patel in the Naroda Patiya case. It had to do so because of the overwhelming, irrefutable evidence of their involvement in the massacre through mobile phone records. The SIT concluded that no case had been made out against Modi and that there was no prosecutable evidence against him and 61 others. But the Supreme Court took the unusual step of asking the amicus curiae (friend of the court), senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, to conduct an investigation into the case and comment on the SIT report from an independent legal perspective. Ramachandran’s report was filed in July and still remains classified.
In September, the court said it would cease monitoring the case and returned it to the normal process of investigation. It did not explicitly endorse Ramachandran’s report. The Gujarat government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrated the Supreme Court ruling in the Zakia Jafri petition as a “clean chit” for Modi. But the court had by no means exonerated Modi or upheld the SIT report. It sent the case to a trial court in Gujarat and directed it to examine that report and Ramachandran’s comments and give the petitioners a hearing. The trial court can proceed against the accused even though the SIT did not recommend filing a charge sheet against them. Of course, how the court acts within Gujarat’s political climate remains an open question, but it cannot simply bury the case or accept a closure report without hearing the petitioners and summoning witnesses if necessary. Since then, stories purportedly based on portions of Ramachandran’s report have appeared in the media, beginning with The Hindu (October 23). According to these, Ramachandran, relying on the same evidence that the SIT gathered, disagrees with the view that there is no case against Modi. He says there is “no clinching evidence” to dispute Sanjiv Bhatt’s presence at the crucial February 27 meeting, which seems “logical”. Such an important meeting could not have taken place without the intelligence wing of the police. The intelligence chief could not be there, and Bhatt was senior enough to represent the unit. Ramachandran reportedly says the fate of the case can be decided only after all senior Gujarat police officers, including Bhatt, have been cross-examined. Such a proper legal process alone can establish whether Modi is innocent or guilty. Ramachandran holds that Bhatt’s account was made probable by the presence of Ashok Bhatt and Jadeja in the PCRs, which would have had a dampening effect on the police and probably conveyed the message that Modi wanted them to go soft on the rioters.
On the basis of this analysis, Ramachandran reportedly recommends that Modi and other concerned high functionaries be prosecuted under Indian Penal Code Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different classes or communities on grounds of religion), 153B (making assertions or imputations prejudicial to national integration), 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) and 166 (public servant disobeying a direction of the law with the intent to cause injury). If it is true, the recommendation does not seem proportionate to Modi’s alleged offences, which resulted in a prolonged reign of terror that led to 1,200 gory killings and countless rapes, and forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes. Under Section 166, any public servant who disobeys a direction of the law on how he should conduct himself in that capacity, and knowing the act will cause injury, can be punished with one year’s imprisonment. The sentences in the other sections above are three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine, hardly commensurate with the crimes of instigating or condoning mass murder. There is every reason to stiffen the charges against the culprits to include criminal conspiracy and incitement to murder. This alone can remedy India’s historic failure to punish the culprits of the Gujarat carnage.
In 2002, India’s entire political class failed to compel the ruling National Democratic Alliance to dismiss the Modi government for manifestly violating the fundamental right to life of citizens. Arguably, had the secular opposition insisted on its dismissal through a sustained agitation such as a fast, the NDA might have had no choice but to impose President’s Rule – just as Indira Gandhi had to dismiss Chimanbhai Patel in 1974 in the face of Morarji Desai’s hunger strike. Similarly, the Assembly elections were held in December 2002 despite Gujarat’s communally charged atmosphere, the terrorising and disenfranchisement of an entire community, and the near-total absence of rehabilitation of the violence-affected. After rightly raising objections initially, the Election Commission unfortunately agreed to hold the elections, citing a questionable precedent. Modi cynically capitalised on Hindutva hubris and won even as the Congress adopted a soft Hindutva line, becoming the BJP’s “B Team”. We must not allow the horrors of Gujarat to be forgotten or papered over for the sake of normality, development or “moving on”. Like the Augusto Pinochet case, in which the dictator was pursued in Spain decades later for his post-1973 crimes in Chile, the time for closure has not yet come in Gujarat. It will come only when the truth behind the violence is established and its culprits are brought to justice. The small fry will probably get away because it may practically be too late to book them. But the guilt of those at the top must be proved, and they must be punished.
- We stand with you, Sanjiv Bhatt! – By By Sayema Sahar (Nov 1, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Nation joins Irom in her fight as it enters its 12th year – By Ratnadip Choudhury (Nov 5, 2011, Tehelka)
For 11 long years Menghoubi (the fair one) of Imphal is on a hunger strike asking New Delhi to repeal the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), which she feels has to go immediately if normalcy has be to restored in Manipur. Better known as the ‘Iron lady of Manipur’, Irom Sharmila Chanu, 42, is observing the world’s longest hunger strike in a small cabin of the JN Hospital in Imphal where she is being forced fed by nose and kept under captivity. Moved by the barbaric killings of 10 civilians in Malom on 2 November, 2000 Irom started her protest. The poet turned activist had almost no one with her on the day she took to hunger strike as a means of her protest for the alleged killing by the Assam Rifles. On Saturday when she stepped into the 12th year of this unprecedented struggle, almost the entire nation is with her.
“I do not believe in amendments to solve the crisis. This will only lead to social degradation and disharmony which are the main factors for corruption, today corruption is eating up Manipur,” Irom told TEHELKA on 3 November when she was produced in an Imphal court. She further opined that only the repeal of AFSPA would not restore right to life in Manipur but corruption and nepotism will also have to be curbed. With Manipur expected to go for Assembly polls early 2012, Irom also accused the Chief Minister of graft. “The Manipur government doesn’t work for people, it only works for the corrupt, the ministers and the CM is busy in nepotism,” she said.
While Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has recently made fresh promises of withdrawing the act from some parts of Jammu and Kashmir, the inhabitants of Manipur have received no such assurance so far. Meanwhile, in order to add more strength to what has been Irom’s lonely struggle so far, thousands of people in Manipur have joined the Save Sharmila campaign, which is being held on Saturday all over Manipur to commemorate Irom’s launch of a fast unto death campaign 11 years ago. To mark the completion of 11 years of Irom’s fast, Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA – the human rights group leading the Save Sharmila campaign, along with several democratic and human rights bodies is also organising an All India One Day Fast and Demonstration across the nation and around the world on 5 November.
As part of the state-wide protest, several demonstrations were also held all over Manipur jointly organised by the Save Democracy Appeal Group, Just Peace Foundation, Manipur Film Form and Manipur University Students’ Union. At a sit in protest held at the Malom Massacre Memorial site where 10 civilians were gunned down, family members of the victims also joined the Save Democracy campaign. While providing support to Irom’s heroic struggle, they expressed deep resentment against the Centre and the state government for delaying the process of delivering justice to the wronged.
- Irom Sharmila’s Silent Resilience Ignored – By Zafri Mudasser Nofil (Oct 13, 2011, Nav Hind Times)
Pits of corruption – By Pamela D’Mello (Nov 5, 2011, Frontline)
For the first time in its six-decade history, Goa’s influential iron ore mining industry is confronted with serious questions about its mining and ethical practices and even the fundamental premise of its existence as a 100 per cent export-oriented industry. A series of writ petitions filed earlier this year by the environmental group Goa Foundation has put the industry on the back foot. Besides, the leaked report of the Goa Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Leader of the Opposition Manohar Parrikar of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has sought an inquiry into the various aspects of the illegal mining that goes on in the State and the failure of the departments that are responsible for monitoring the industry. In September-October, the Justice M.B. Shah Commission, appointed by the Central government to study the illegal mining, visited all the 91 working mines and several non-working mines in the State. Its report is expected in November, and this has the State administration in a nervous bind. The intense media spotlight in the past couple of months prompted the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters’ Association (GMOEA) to call a press conference to deal with the industry’s “crisis of reputation”. Its president, Shivanand Salgaocar, admitted that fly-by-night operators who had entered the industry in the China boom phase post-2005 did indulge in illegal mining practices, non-payment of royalty, and pilferage of stacked reject ore. “Investigate these and take action, but it is unfair to apply the same brush to tar and feather the entire industry,” he said.
Following the writ petitions, the PAC report and the scrutiny of the Shah Commission, the Department of Mines and Geology and the Pollution Control Board in the State have suspended 40 mining leases for not having the required approvals. Two mines operated by the Congress politician Dinar Tarcar under a power of attorney from its original leaseholders were closed down recently after pressure mounted on the government to act. The mines were found to be operating in excess of the limits sanctioned in the environmental clearance. At the centre of the storm is Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, who has held the Mines portfolio for 12 years, both as second-in-command of the BJP government earlier and then as the leader of the Congress government he has been heading since 2007. Having survived several attempts by his own party colleagues to dislodge him, Kamat has been following a please-all policy to stay in power. This and his close coordination with Congress managers in New Delhi could help him to stay in power until the end of his five-year term in May 2012, but his laissez-faire policy has translated into a free-for-all. Despite his protestations, Kamat will have to face charges of turning a Nelson’s eye to the illegal mining and other irregularities in the industry. State Congress president Subhash Shirodkar and GMOEA secretary Swaminathan Sridhar argue that except in a few cases, comparisons of Goa to Karnataka vis-à-vis illegal mining – namely extracting ore from land where there is no lease granted or without the permission of the leaseholders – are “grossly exaggerated”. In one case where the State government was forced to act, Nationalist Congress Party leader and former legislator Jitendra Deshprabhu was arrested for ore extraction from his plot in Korgaon, Pernem, and for non-payment of royalty. In another case, machine operators fled from a site in Sattari which was being dug up on the pretext of constructing a pond. Parrikar suspects this to be a case of direct involvement by a Minister.
Neither the Goa Foundation nor the PAC chairman is willing to accept the mining industry’s assertion that non-compliance with statutes or delayed royalty payments be termed as “irregularities” and not illegalities. “There are several statutes which apply to mining, including the Environment Protection Act, the Air and Water Acts, and wildlife and forest protection laws. Violations of these laws are criminal offences, and they cannot be dressed up as mere irregularities,” says Claude Alvares of the Goa Foundation. According to Alvares, every single mine operating in Goa violates some law or the other and is therefore illegal. “All mining in Goa is illegal. Show me any of the 91 mines in operation in Goa and I will show you how it is operating illegally,” he says. The foundation has filed hundreds of petitions against the ore industry over the years; it has stepped up public interest litigation (PIL) petitions this year. In August 2011, the foundation compared the information it gleaned from Right to Information (RTI) queries and replies to questions in the Assembly regarding the production and export of ore with the production limits set by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in its environmental clearance certificates.
The findings were revealing. As many as 48 mines were producing and exporting ore in excess of the prescribed limits. The foundation promptly took the MoEF, the Union Ministry of Mines, the Mormugao Port Trust, the Panjim Port Authority and several State agencies to court for overlooking this excess, collecting royalty payments and issuing export NOCs (no-objection certificates) for 13.47 million tonnes exported in excess between 2006 and 2010. Among the companies listed are many major and prominent operators. According to the Goa Foundation, 20.4 million tonnes of unaccounted ore, worth Rs.4,500 crore at $50 a tonne or Rs.10,800 crore at $120 a tonne, was illegally exported from Goa between 2002 and 2010. In addition, the Karnataka Lokayukta’s report on illegal mining recommended the recovery of the cost of 45,59,365 tonnes of illegal iron ore transported from Tinaighat (Karnataka) to Sanvordem railway station (Goa) by some 40 consigners between 2006 and 2010, before ore movement from Karnataka to Goa was stopped.
Goa’s ore to overburden ratio is 1:3 (overburden refers to the soil and reject that is displaced in the process of ore extraction). This results in soil and lower-grade rejects piling up at mine sites. When the threshold limit of iron was reduced (from 55 per cent Fe to 45 per cent Fe) in 2009, low-grade ore became marketable in China. This sparked off the frenzied export of rejects accrued over the years. Overnight, mining dumps became gold mines. All that mattered now was how fast one could load them onto the ships to China. In the free-for-all that ensued, pilferage became rampant. Agricultural fields and villages on the ore’s route suffered collateral damage. Errol D’Souza, Professor of Economics at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, says one reason for the gold rush is the quadrupling of iron ore prices internationally between 2004 and 2009. It is still rising. “The price was $13.82 per metric tonne in December 2003 and it was $147.54 this September. That is the extent of the increase,” he says. As a result, some 15,000 trucks clog the roads as they make hazardous and accident-prone trips to loading points, coating forests and crops with a lethal red dust that asphixiates agricultural produce. Little wonder that there were scores of villages along the truck routes protesting and setting up roadblocks, leading to a volatile law-and-order situation in some places. Mine dumps can only be worked after obtaining specific air and water pollution consents, but most of the dumps have been working without them, says Alvares. Apart from pollution laws, they also violate mine management plans and jeopardise mine closure plans, which means refilling pits with the soil dug out. …
- Up For Grabs – By Sharat Pradhan (Nov 14, 2011, Outlook)
- ‘Submerged in illegal mining’- Pamela D’Mello with Manohar Parrikar (Nov 5, 2011, Frontline)
- Shortcomings and malignant provisions – By Anil Divan (Nov 1, 2011, The Hindu)
- Unhealthy precedent – By V. Venkatesan (Nov 5, 2011, Frontline)
Right from the first major splash that it made in April 2011 through the anti-corruption satyagraha demanding a Lokpal Bill, the movement led by the Gandhian Anna Hazare had been characterised by many seasoned observers as a half-baked socio-political engagement, lacking in a concrete ideology or even a comprehensive action plan to address the diverse concerns before the country. Though members of Team Anna, including Hazare himself, time and again sought to portray the movement as the “second freedom struggle”, these observers dismissed this as mere hyperbole. It was pointed out then that the core factor that imparted credence and strength to Team Anna was the ineptitude of mainstream political parties in addressing various pressing issues of the polity, particularly corruption. It was, therefore, inevitable that the absence of coherent and collective thinking ultimately weakened the movement. Developments in Team Anna over the month of October strengthened these assessments. The team has been beset by problems ranging from allegations of corruption against its members to confused and contradictory positions on national issues and about the direction of the movement. This, in turn, reflected the wrangling within the group, which subsequently led to a couple of high-profile desertions.
The trouble started with the decision of Team Anna to campaign against the Congress in the byelections in the Hissar Lok Sabha constituency in Haryana. The active campaign carried out by Team Anna’s key members, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, raised questions about the movement’s avowedly non-political character. When it made its first major appearance in April 2011, Team Anna was perceived as being opposed to politics and politicians in general. The disdain and distrust that members of the team expressed towards mainstream politics and politicians had strengthened this impression. Such was the vehemence with which the idea was played out at its rallies that the campaign against the Congress candidate seemed completely out of character. This point was raised by Team Anna members such as P.V. Rajagopal of the Ekta Parishad and Rajendra Singh, a Magsaysay Award winner. Apparently, neither of them got a satisfactory answer from Kejriwal, Bhushan or Hazare himself. Consequently, the two activists chose to leave Team Anna.
This was followed by a physical assault on Prashant Bhushan, allegedly by Hindutva extremists for speaking in favour of a plebiscite in Kashmir. The response to the attack exposed another major fissure in Team Anna – Hazare only mildly condemned the assault but criticised Bhushan’s views on Kashmir. The next in the line of fire was Kejriwal. A slipper was thrown at him when he was in Lucknow to address a meeting. Kejriwal also had to answer a charge from former Team Anna member Swami Agnivesh that he had transferred funds amounting to Rs.80 lakh belonging to the primary movement of the team – India Against Corruption, or IAC – to the account of Public Cause Research Foundation, an organisation led by him. Then came the allegation that another Team Anna member, former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Kiran Bedi, had claimed inflated travel expenses from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other institutions that invited her to seminars and meetings. While the charges against Kejriwal could be dismissed as mere allegations by a former associate, the disclosure about Kiran Bedi was well-documented and hence most embarrassing for the team. Records showed that Kiran Bedi, who is entitled to a rebate on Air India tickets on account of her being a gallantry award winner, paid discounted fares for her air travel but charged full fare from the organisations that invited her. According to government guidelines dated February 2001, all gallantry award winners are entitled to a 75 per cent discount on economy class tickets on board Air India. Kiran Bedi was awarded the President’s Medal for Gallantry in 1979. These full fare reimbursements were credited to India Vision Foundation (IVF), an NGO headed by her.
Interestingly, these “inflated fare trips” include those undertaken before 2007, when she was still in government service. The sponsor of one such trip to Mumbai was the Lehman brothers, who later became a major donor for IVF. Kiran Bedi was also hosted by the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai while she was in service. The explanations given by Team Anna in general, and Kiran Bedi and Kejriwal in particular, in relation to the charges against them have been far from convincing. Both Kiran Bedi and her chartered accountant Suresh Vyas are on record saying that the inflated bills were a form of “saving” done by IVF to enhance its funds. In her texted correspondence with several media organisations, Kiran Bedi argued that the allegations against her were nonsense: “Did they invite me or did I get invited? And if they offered me this and I saved for a cause, so what is their problem! Was the invite conditional? Since when did saving become a crime?” Kejriwal, on his part, has been repeatedly asking Agnivesh if he has any proof that he had siphoned off funds meant for the IAC. Agnivesh responded that Kejriwal’s demand for evidence is similar to the rhetoric unleashed by politicians when they face corruption charges. “Kejriwal siphoned off into his private trust Rs.70-80 lakh received as public donations during Anna Hazare’s 12-day fast at Ramlila Grounds, Delhi, in August. He had delayed the operating of an account in the name of IAC, despite several directions from the core committee to do so. Instead, Kejriwal saw to it that the contributions to the anti-corruption movement were received in the accounts of his private trust, Public Cause Research Foundation [PCRF]. My demand is simple. This issue should be probed like all other allegations against politicians that are under investigation now. A movement against corruption cannot have double standards,” Agnivesh told Frontline.
Team Anna’s line of defence is that these developments should not detract from the central goal of having the Jan Lokpal Bill passed in the next session of Parliament. “There is a conspiracy behind these allegations and its aim is to scuttle the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill,” said Maneesh Sisodia, another key member of Team Anna. Obviously, the team is pointing fingers at the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Campaign managers of the Congress such as general secretary Digvijaya Singh, have found the developments handy to launch sharp verbal attacks against the Team Anna leadership. Both Kiran Bedi and Kejriwal have been at the receiving end of his sarcastic statements. He has called for a probe into the allegations against the duo. Digvijaya Singh has also stated that the Hissar initiative of Team Anna clearly points to the backing it received and continues to receive from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-led Sangh Parivar and its political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party. In the midst of all these external and internal problems, Team Anna is seeking ways and means to regroup and launch a face-saving initiative in order to remain relevant when the Lok Pal Bill takes concrete shape in the run-up to the winter session of Parliament. However, as things stand now, it is not clear whether this initiative will involve yet another round of aggression or a moderate compromise with the government and other challenging forces. Indications are that members of Team Anna have conflicting opinions on this crucial question too.
- No Lokpal without social justice – By Prabhat Patnaik (Sep-Oct, 2011, Sabrang)
- Matter of honour – By Bhaskar Ghose (Nov 5, 2011, Frontline)
- Messianism versus democracy – By Prabhat Patnaik (Sep-Oct, 2011, Sabrang)
Godse’s Children- Hindutva Terror in India
Author: Subhash Gatade
Reviewed by: Ram Puniyani
Available at: Pharos Media & Publishing Pvt Ltd, D-84 Abul Fazl Enclave – I, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi-110 025, India. www.pharosmedia.com
Unravelling The Truth (Oct 30, 2011, Countercurrents)
Terrorist violence has been one of the major problems of recent times. This phenomenon came to popular notice more so after the 9/11 attack on WTC, which was followed by, apart from other things, popularization of the terms ‘Islamic Terror’, ‘Jehdi terror’. The popular perception associating Terrorism with Islam and Muslims dominated the ‘social common sense’ and acts of terror got associated with Islam and Muslims. It is in this context that when two Bajrang dal workers died while making bombs in Nanded, Maharashtra, the Maharashtra ATS, did not pursue the investigation to its logical conclusion to unravel the whole truth. It is in this light that when most of the acts of terror took place around Parbhani, Jalna, Aurangabad, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, and Samjhauta Express blast, that authorities rushed to investigate those acts on the lines that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’, many innocent Muslim youth were arrested and some of them released much later for the lack of proper evidence, whatsoever, by which time the lives of most of them were ruined. It was Hemant Karkare, who meticulously investigated the Malegaon blast and, much against the intimidation from the likes of Narendra Modi and Bal Thackeray, put forward the truth of involvement of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, Lt Col Purohit and other groups associated with RSS ideology. With further perusal of the issue gradually the role of Hindutva groups Sanatan Sanstha, Abhinav Bharat and even some members of RSS started coming to light, in cases of blasts which occurred in front of mosques when congregation was just over, or in Samjhauta express blast.
This is the backdrop in which one welcomes the meticulous and well articulated contribution by Subhash Gatade. Gatade has been consistently writing against the sectarian politics of Hindutva forces-RSS combine. This book was contemplated in this context, when the Hindutva elements were exploding bombs here and there and the investigation authorities were looking the other way around. The result was that the likes of sadhvi, swamis and their associates, were merrily getting away without getting any punishment. This comprehensive volume is very strong on investigation of different episodes of act of terror, covering most of the blasts done by Hindutva elements, the major being the span of blasts from Nanded blasts 2006 to the confessions of Swami Aseemanand. Each of these acts has been presented and the immaculate evidence of the involvement of RSS affiliates and those inspired by the RSS ideology of Hindu Nation is laid bare in an incontestable way. After the reading of even the few chapters of the book, one realizes how misplaced has been the investigation in these cases, how distorted has been the social common sense of people and the authorities in these matters.
To add to the strength of the book, we have an apt introduction by Dr. Shamsul Islam, who himself is an authority on RSS. This is an important part of the book and outlines the ideology of RSS, its agenda of Hindu nation, its clever ways of instigating violence and how its structure has been kept fluid enough to keep it insulated from the impact of its members who indulge in violence. The book demands in a forthright manner from RSS, the list of members who were asked to leave or have left due to their involvement in acts of terror. The RSS chief had stated that RSS does not indulge in violence; and those of its members who were indulging in it have already left or have been told to leave. One knows that starting from Nathuram Godse to Swami Assemanand, were the part of RSS as an organization and as vehicles of its agenda and work. It came to be claimed that they have ‘left’ RSS. This is a shrewd and clever arrangement and the book lays bare this methodology of the RSS which controls innumerable organizations to actualize its agenda. The confusion between the terms Hinduism and Hindutva has been elaborated competently. Gatade does well to discuss the definition of the complex term, ‘terrorism’ and also incorporates the state terrorism in his exposition. The latter is generally ignored in the discourse of terrorism as such.
What emerges from this book is that the saffron terror, Hindutva terror, has twin foundations. One, it is a sort of response; a revenge to many acts of terror by the groups identified as Muslim groups, and two this terror trail has been brought up to pursue the agenda of Hindu nation to target the Muslim minorities. These acts, with their anti-Muslim focus are to achieve Hindu rashtra according to their plan. The author brings to fore the influence of RSS ideology in army, the role of Bhosla Military School, virtually controlled by RSS, and the role of some army officers in facilitating the acts of terror by these groups. Lt. Col Purohit, the accused in Malegaon blast, who also supplied RDX from army stores to the Hindutva terror groups, is one such officer, and he may tip of the iceberg. This has a very frightening prospect for our democracy. The book debunks the popular perceptions which links Islam and Muslims to acts of terror and makes it clear that acts of terror are politically motivated actions with different agendas. The fascination of RSS with the fascist methods being pursued by Israel and the role of Mossad in particular is the high point of the book. Our investigation agencies need to take a cue from this and put their investigations on more professional lines.
The book takes a broad overview of Hindutva politics also and the role of media and the international connections of Hindutva politics are also presented in detail. What is missing is a time line of Hidnutva terror. Such a time line would have made it easy from the reader to see the whole picture in perspective. An Introduction by the author, putting the book in proper context and summarizing the main arguments of the book would have been a valuable addition to this otherwise most timely and revealing contribution from this journalist-activist. This work is a serious attempt to piece together the statements of the RSS functionaries and the news items in some of the periodicals to come to the conclusions. It is a comprehensive presentation, filling the gaps in popular knowledge about the real causes of terror attacks in India. Pharos Media, the publishers need to be complemented for publishing this second book on the topic, the first one being “Who killed Karkare?” by S. M. Mushrif, which again was an eye opener. Godse’s Children, an apt name for the book, is a must for all those who seek truth in contemporary times, particularly when truth is being suppressed deliberately in pursuit of sectarian agendas. This compendium will go a long way to shape the popular opinion in a correct direction.