IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 14th, 2013
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- SIT asks apex court’s permission to seek death for Kodnani
- BJP MP accused of ‘extortion’ for Modi’s rally
- Amit Shah is questioned by CBI for 4 hours in Ishrat case
- Gujarat Police killed ‘terrorist’ Sadiq, but failed to protect Pandya 70 days later
- Court orders action against Delhi policemen for false case against two Muslims
- Shamli: 2 BJP MLAs booked for violating prohibitionary orders during protests
- Dual murder sparks tension in Muzaffarnagar
- UP official’s letter on rebuilding Ram temple at Ayodhya creates flutter
- Uttarakhand police to prosecute BJP MLA for 2011 communal riot
- Bihar Dalits massacre acquittal: ‘Who killed my family then?’
Opinions & Editorials
- RSS And Politics: Conspiracy Is The Mantra – By Shamsul Islam
- Bottoms At The Pyramid – By R.K. Misra, Bhasha Singh
- The strange case of Akhlaque Ahmed Khan: In jail although acquitted in one case, bail granted in another – By M Reyaz
- The ‘None of the Above’ Option – By Manjari Katju
- Reaping the Whirlwind – Editorial
- The doubt of the benefit – Editorial
A communal harmony meeting was organised by Shanti Samiti under the aegis of Aligarh Udyog Vyapar Pratinidhi Mandal at Mamta Lodge, Shahjamal, Aligarh. Addressing the meeting Inspector General of Police of Aligarh Range, Prakash D. said that people of Aligarh are peace loving but sometimes, several anti-social elements try to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the city but it is heartening to see the people of Aligarh have been successful in diffusing such malicious attempts. He said that Aligarh Udyog Vyapar Pratinidhi Mandal is a composition of traders of all religions and sects and they are united for their common goals and they deserve appreciation for this.
District Magistrate of Aligarh, Rajiv Rautala said that the time has come when the people of city are expected to change their perception and thinking and don’t fall prey to rumours. They must maintain communal harmony and brotherhood as this is the key of success for any prosperous city. He appealed to the public to maintain communal harmony for the sake of development of the city. He congratulated the organisers for organising the programme. President of Aligarh Vyapar Pratinidhi Mandal, Gyanchandra Varshney said that their organisation is a non-political group of traders of all religions. We are traders why should we quarrel. He appealed to everyone that they must maintain the atmosphere of peace and harmony of all sections of the society.
President of Sir Syed Awareness Forum (SAF) and senior faculty of A.M.U Dr. Shakeel Samdani said that if Muslims and Hindus living in India feel that they can live in peace by fighting with each other then they are totally wrong in their assumption. They are supposed to live with peace and harmony and maintain cordial relations with each other as it is in the interest of the country. Dr. Samdani said that the new generation should be taught those lessons which promote communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims. By citing the example of various rulers of India, especially Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Tipu Sultan, and Shivaji, he said that all these rulers were very secular and we should highlight those incidents which can promote communal harmony and secularism in India.
He also said that whatever duties and responsibilities police and administration are having they are doing it but the social organisations and society at large are also responsible to maintain the social setup in order and if people are behaving in a matured and disciplined manner, it will help the police and administration to carry on their duties smoothly. He said that the riots and communal clashes are weakening the social fabric of the country and ultimately hindering its progress, that’s why everybody must unite together to fight with this menace. Vice President of Aligarh Udyog Vyapar Pratinidhi Mandal, Haji Aslam Ansari also appealed to everyone to maintain the peaceful atmosphere of the city and said that it is the need of the hour to maintain peace and harmony not only in Aligarh but in the entire nation.
The meeting was attended by A.D.M (City), D.S Sachan, C.O First Gyanandra Singh, C.O Two, Ram Mohan Singh, Sardar Dhal Singh, Gulzar Khan, Khallu Sherwani, Bablu Pathan, Yaqoob Ansari of Momin Conference, Haji Mukhtar, Haji Khalid Sayeed, Bhupendra Varshney, Sipu Sarraf, Anupam Varshney, Gayaparshad Girraj, Social Activist Mansoor Ilahi, Abdullah Samdani, Maazul Haque, Research Scholar, Shoeb Ali, Ex-Cabinet Member, AMUSU, Raja Sahpau, Annu Bidi, Sanjay Agarwal etc. The programme was attended by large number of Hindus and Muslims and it was a great success.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the post-Godhra riots has asked the Supreme Court for permission to file a plea for slapping the death penalty on Maya Kodnani, the former Gujarat Minister convicted for involvement in the Naroda Patiya 2002 riots.The SIT made the plea in the quarterly report it filed before the Supreme Court. The appeal comes after the State government recently decided not to press for enhancement of the 28-year sentence awarded to Kodnani while agreeing to the filing of an appeal for death for four others, including Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi.
The State government’s refusal to seek death for Kodnani was based on Advocate General Kamal Trivedi’s opinion that there was “no direct evidence” against the former Minister. Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, along with 30 others, were convicted for life over the 2002 riots, in which 96 people were killed.
Mr. Trivedi said Kodnani was convicted only on the basis of indirect evidence and the government should not press for death penalty in her case. The government has given SIT permission to seek the death penalty for Babu Bajrangi and four other accused who were sentenced to life by the designated court. The case has seen several twists and turns. Having initially permitted SIT to seek death for Kodnani, Bajrangi and eight others, the State backtracked in Kodnani’s case in May.
- Supreme Court refuses to lift stay on Gulbarg Society massacre case verdict (Oct 10, 2013, Times of India)
- Complaint in court for registration of case against Narendra Modi (Oct 11, 2013, DNA India)
- Congress MLA flays Modi on ‘toilet first’ remark (Oct 14, 2013, Times of India)
- Dalits protest Modi rally on their land (Oct 14, 2013, Asian Age)
BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi’s much-hyped first public appearance in Bihar, after his party’s split with the JD(U) last June, has kicked off a major controversy. A sugar mill owner has registered an FIR against Rama Devi, sitting BJP MP from Sheohar in north Bihar, accusing her of demanding Rs. 5 lakh as ‘donation’ for Modi’s proposed ‘hunkar rally’ in Patna on October 27. Devi has, however, refuted the allegation. She, too, has registered an FIR against the mill owner, claiming he had misbehaved with her and threatened her. A senior BJP leader in Patna declined comment on the matter.
The rally will bring Modi to the home turf of the BJP’s former ally and chief minister Nitish Kumar, who cut off ties with the saffron party over the Gujarat strongman’s projection as the prime ministerial candidate. Confirming both the parties had lodged FIRs against each other, Sitamarhi superintendent of police (SP) PK Sinha said call details of the two were being procured to verify their respective claims. “Only after ascertaining the facts of the matter will we take action, as permitted by law, against the guilty party”, the SP told HT.
In his FIR lodged at Riga police station of north Bihar’s Sitamarhi district, adjacent to Sheohar, Riga sugar mill chairman Omprakash Dhanuka has charged the MP of calling him up on three consecutive days for this purpose. “She was demanding Rs. 5 lakh to make arrangements for rally participants. But I politely refused, saying I am not in a position to pay such a huge amount,” Dhanuka said in his complaint.
The sugar mill owner said Rama Devi had first asked him to pay Rs. 10 lakh as donation for Modi’s rally but subsequently reduced the demand to Rs. 5 lakh. “She asked me repeatedly to pay this sum or be ready to face consequences. She made her last call at 11 am on October 8. Once again, I turned down her request saying that it was not possible for me to pay this money,” he said. Dhanuka said he registered an FIR against the MP only after learning she had lodged one against him. “I urge the police to verify mobile call details to find out who called whom,” he said on Thursday.
Devi held a press conference at Motihari (East Champaran) on Thursday to question Dhanuka’s claim. “I had called him to discuss cane growers’ problems. But he used foul language and threatened me,” she told HT. This is not the first time that a politician has been accused of demanding money for making rally arrangements. Earlier, an official of a technical institute, SL Rai, had lodged an FIR against former JD (U) MLA Vijay Kumar Shukla alias Munna Shukla, alleging he had demanded Rs. 7 crore to make arrangements for the party’s ‘adhikar rally’ in Patna last November.
- ‘Modi never did anything for Hindus. He exploited them for political ends’ (Oct 6, 2013, Asian Age)
- Narendra Modi using Mahatma Gandhi’s name to his advantage: Digvijaya Singh (Oct 14, 2013, IBN)
- BJP making unsubstantiated allegations to grab power: Sheila (Oct 8, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- Parties spreading fears about Modi to get votes, says Muslim cleric (Oct 15, 2013, IBN)
BJP leader and former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah was questioned on Saturday by the CBI in connection with the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. Questioned for four hours in the presence of senior CBI officers, Shah denied any wrongdoing. The agency said it may call him again for questioning.
Jailed IPS officer D G Vanzara, who is an accused in the case, had written a resignation letter recently in which he claimed that the Gujarat government had been “inspiring, guiding and monitoring” every police action from “very close quarters”. CBI officers asked Shah about the phones calls exchanged between Vanzara and other senior officers of the Gujarat police before and after the Ishrat Jahan encounter.
Shah was quoted as having said that he had “no prior knowledge of the encounter” and was informed about the intelligence alert since it related to the Gujarat chief minister and he was the home minister. He claimed that Vanzara was trying to mislead investigators. The CBI said it would examine Shah’s statement before filing a supplementary chargesheet.
- Ishrat case: After quizzing Amit Shah, CBI set to file chargesheet (Oct 14, 2013, IBN)
- CBI to name Ishrat case plotters, grills Amit Shah (Oct 12, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Amit Shah grilled in Ishrat case: ‘I don’t control CBI, it’s their job’, says Shinde (Oct 12, 2013, Business Standard)
- Ishrat chargesheet to detail IB officials’ role (Oct 12, 2013, Asian Age)
Gujarat Police killed ‘terrorist’ Sadiq, but failed to protect Pandya 70 days later (Oct 9, 2013, Indian Express)
The CBI team probing the Sadiq Jamal Mehtar fake encounter case has got leads that could question the intelligence gathering mechanism of the Gujarat Police in 2002-03, especially in the Haren Pandya murder case that happened within two and a half months of the Sadiq encounter. Sadiq was killed on January 13, 2003, while Pandya, a former MoS (Home), was killed on March 26, 2003. In the case of Sadiq, the CBI has evidence of detailed intelligence inputs on him shared with the police by the IB. The CBI’s probe shows this encounter to be a joint operation of the IB and police officials of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The intelligence input claimed Sadiq to be trained by the Lashkar-e-Toiba and sent on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi, VHP leader Pravin Togadia and then deputy prime minister L K Advani.
However, the agency is finding it strange that the same intelligence mechanism failed to save Pandya – who was killed nearly 70 days after Sadiq – and then acted promptly to foil a terror plot targeting Modi in 2004 when Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed. The CBI is dissecting the ‘ISI conspiracy’ theory of the Ahmedabad crime branch under its then DCP and now suspended IPS officer and prime accused in encounter cases, D G Vanzara. The case famously called ‘ISI conspiracy case’ was an umbrella case covering five crimes, including tiffin bombings, Pandya murder and others, as riot reprisal events planned by the ISI, after which the crime branch began rounding up suspects on the ground that they wanted to avenge post-Godhra killings of 2002.
During the questioning of suspended ADGP P P Pandey, who is in Sabarmati jail in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, the CBI tried to get to the bottom of how the police, which killed alleged ‘terrorists’ in encounters based on intelligence inputs, either failed to get intelligence on Pandya’s killing or failed to act on it. A CBI officer said, “We are probing the details of terror conspiracy theory to get to the roots of the intelligence inputs that claimed a terror attack on political bigwigs in Gujarat. The police claimed that post 2002, the fear of jehadi attack was high and in the same period a minister was killed. However, neither was there any jehadi involvement in his case nor in the encounter cases; the truth of intel inputs lies in terror conspiracy operation.”
Pandey, who was joint commissioner and chief of crime branch in 2002, worked closely with Vanzara on this alleged terror conspiracy. Pandey reportedly told the CBI that the assistance of Intelligence Bureau was sought after the crime branch got into action in this ‘terror operation’. The Gujarat unit of IB was then led by director Rajinder Kumar, who was recently questioned in Delhi in the Sadiq encounter case and has been questioned earlier in Ishrat encounter case. The CBI officer said, “Pandya was killed hardly after two months and a half of Sadiq’s encounter about whom the Gujarat police had received input two months prior, indicating that Gujarat ministers were at risk. This shows that the police and intelligence officials were in the loop about the threat to Pandya but could not foil his murder plot despite ‘intelligence gathering’ as well as watch on movements of suspects whereas in the case of police encounters, it claimed they foiled terror bids.” The CBI is gearing up to question then ACP (crime) G L Singhal who was a part of the team led by Vanzara.
- CBI questions Gujarat top cop in Sadiq Jamal case (Oct 6, 2013, Times of India)
- Haren Pandya’s murder: Gohil writes to PM for further probe (Oct 12, 2013, Indian Express)
- Prajapati murder: CBI questions BJP gen secy (Oct 8, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- D G Vanzara goes coy on exposing ‘real culprits’ behind fake encounters (Oct 8, 2013, Times of India)
Court orders action against Delhi policemen for false case against two Muslims (Oct 9, 2013, Ummid.com)
In yet another major embarrassment for Delhi Police Special Cell, a Session Court at Tis Hazari on September 26 acquitted two Kashmiri Muslims arrested in what now turned out to be a fabricated terror case, and ordered action against the policemen who were involved in their arrests. The Delhi court in its judgement – pronounced September 26 the written copy of which lawyers received Tuesday, acquitted Javed Ahmed Tantray and Ashiq Ali Bhatt, and ordered the Delhi police commissioner to initiate immediate action against the police officers who had arrested the two men. The court gave the police commissioner a month’s time to file his report on what action he has taken, said Akram Khan, defense lawyer MS Khan’s aid and a lawyer himself, while talking to ummid.com.
The court in its judgement observed that the two men were picked up from Amarnath Express and were falsely implicated in the said case. Javed Ahmed Tantray and Ashiq Ali Bhatt were arrested on August 6, 2009 in New Delhi along with huge cache of arms and ammunition. Justifying their arrest, police had claimed that the two were plotting terror strikes in New Delhi on Independence Day at the instance of Pakistan-based HM chief Syed Salahuddin. After the acquittal of the duo in the case, questions are now being raised about the source of the “huge cache of arms and ammunition” that the Delhi police had claimed to have seized from them.
As against the court observation that the two were arrested from Amarnath Express and falsely implicated in the case, the police had claimed that the two were coming from Jammu to Delhi in a car.The Delhi police chargesheet said, two alleged HM militants Javed Ahmed Tantray and Ashiq Ali Bhatt left Jammu for Delhi on the morning of August 6 in a car bearing registration number HR – 36 C 3036, carrying two assault rifles and two hand grenades. However, the defnse lawyer exposed the police theory with the help of toll plaza records and other evidence. “As per the records of two toll plazas in Ambala and Karnal, their car crossed the tolls at 6.45 pm and 7.41 pm, respectively and reached Daryaganj in Delhi at around 11 pm. Interestingly, the same car has been recorded as crossing the tolls at 7.48 am and 8.42 am, respectively on the same morning. If Tantray and Bhatt had left Jammu on August 6, how come their car was present hundreds of kilometers away in Haryana?” asked lawyer MS Khan, Tantray’s lawyer.
Delhi police had also claimed the two assault rifles were hidden below the rear seat of the car stolen from Panipat four months before the incident. But witnesses said there was no cavity below the rear seat to keep rifles due to the petrol tank of the car. This is not the first time that Delhi police have faced embarrassment. Recently, they had arrested Liyaqat Ali Shah claiming that he was planning terror strike in New Delhi. Later investigations however revealed that the charges against Liyaqat Shah were wrong and fabricated. Similarly, investigating agencies in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra had also arrested Muslim youth in terror cases that took place in Hyderabad and Malegaon respectively. But investigations later revealed that the cases against them had no substance, and the blasts at the two places were actually the handiworks of terrorists associated with the right wing Hindu organisations.
Arrests of Muslims in false cases are regularly taking place in India. The community leaders are raising the issue with the government but to no avail. A week ago, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had written a letter to all chief ministers urging them to make sure that no innocent Muslim is framed in a false case. But, he was criticised by the Hindutva parties including the BJP. Muslim leaders too termed Shine’s letter a poll-time gimmick. “We don’t want such letters. We want action. If the government is really serious on the issue, it shoudl release all those Muslims who are in jail in false cases”, Samajwadi Party MLA in Maharashtra Abu Asim Azmi said.
- Documentary on Khalid Mujahid screened in US (Oct 8, 2013, Muslim Mirror)
- Ajmer blast case accused denied bail (Oct 8, 2013, The Hindu)
- Malegaon case: HC dismisses petitions challenging NIA probe (Oct 11, 2013, Rediff)
- Directive to CMs over harassment of youth applicable to all communities: Sushilkumar Shinde (Oct 10, 2013, Times of India)
A chargesheet has been filed against two BJP MLAs for violating prohibitionary orders in Shamli district while protesting against a gangrape.
A case has been registered by the police against BJP MLAs Hukum singh, Suresh Rana and 14 others in connection with violation of prohibitory orders and indulging in destroying shops in Shamli district on June 13, while they were protesting against a gangrape.
A local court at Kairana has ordered the case to be heard in court on October 11.
- Muzaffarnagar riots: HC refuses stay on arrest of MLA, ex MP (Oct 8, 2013, Business Standard)
- Muzaffarnagar riots: Attachment proceedings initiated against politicians (Oct 9, 2013, Times of India)
- Mobile conversations reveal extolling killing of Muslims, burning houses, halting PAC for ’10 minutes’ during Muzaffarnagar riots (Oct 12, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Muzaffarnagar riots were ’caused’, they didn’t happen: Rahul Gandhi (Oct 9, 2013, Hindustan Times)
Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh grew tense again, after two young people were murdered in two different places a day ago, officials said Thursday. The district was rocked by communal violence last month. Initial information available is that a carpenter, travelling from Pallavpuram to his village Jamalpur was stabbed to death by two motorbike-borne assailants.
Soon after the first murder, a 25-year-old barber at Pancheda Road in the Nayi Mandi Kotwali area was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne assailants while he was shaving a customer. Following the murders, both of which occurred late Wednesday, people came out on the streets in large numbers, jammed roads and raised anti-government slogans. Heavy police reinforcements were rushed to the tension-hit areas.
There were allegations that these murders too were communal incidents. The district administration fears that the crimes may take a communal hue. “The situation was tense last night, but under control now. No one will be allowed to take the law into their own hands. The culprits behind the murders will be arrested soon,” a senior police official in state capital Lucknow said.
Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) R.K. Vishwakarma told IANS that the two crimes have still to be investigated, and no clue about the possible motive was yet available. “The atmosphere in Muzaffarnagar continues to be tense, as people attribute the murders to communal forces,” Vishwakarma said, adding that the police force is investigating the cases, and things are under control, for now. Communal riots in the district last month claimed 47 lives.
- Pressure mounts on UPA for passing communal violence bill (Oct 9, 2013, Times of India)
- Muzaffarnagar Riots: 27 women confirm they were raped, says AMU Lawyers Forum (Oct 10, 2013, Muslim Mirror)
- Muzaffarnagar riots: Children elude schools post-communal violence (Oct 8, 2013, Economic Times)
- BJP polarising communities to instigate riots, alleges AIDWA (Oct 8, 2013, Business Standard)
UP official’s letter on rebuilding Ram temple at Ayodhya creates flutter (Oct 12, 2013, Times of India)
A communique of the UP government convening a meeting of senior police officers and the district magistrate of Faizabad to discuss the reconstruction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya on the lines of rebuilding of Somnath temple created a flutter here, even triggering speculation in political circles. The communique issued by Satish Chandra Mishra, secretary to the state government, instructed the DGP and other senior police officers to attend a meeting convened on Monday evening in connection with the “enactment of a law in Parliament for construction of a temple at Shri Ramjanmabhoomi on the lines of the reconstruction of Somnath Mandir”.
Going by the people called for the meeting, all of them police officers with the exceptions of principal secretary (home) R M Srivastava and the district magistrate of Faizabad whose jurisdiction includes Ayodhya, the purpose of the exercise seemed, on the face of it, to be related to maintenance of law and order. However, the description of the subject, with a specific mention of the reconstruction of a temple at “Shri Ramjanmabhoomi on the lines of the reconstruction of temple at Somnath”, left many intrigued. “Shri Ramjanmabhoomi” is pretty much a Sangh Parivar term for the disputed site. The reference to Somnath also stood out as the BJP and Sangh Parivar have defended their campaign for the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya by drawing an analogy of government’s support for reconstruction of the legendary Shiv temple at Somnath after independence.
Also, VHP has for long demanded a central law to facilitate the construction of Ayodhya temple. When contacted, principal secretary (home) Srivastava, who has to chair the meeting, sought to tamp down the speculation about the purpose of the meeting by saying it was meant only to discuss the repercussions of VHP’s fresh plan to revive its temple campaign. He said that VHP has planned to observe a Sankalp Diwas where its cadre will take a fresh pledge to build the Ram temple. Srivastava also counseled against reading meaning into the reference to reconstruction project at Somnath. The senior bureaucrat explained that VHP had organised a similar Sankalp Diwas at Somnath earlier, and this may have been the reason for the reference.
However, many remained sceptical, pointing out that seasoned officers are not expected to be casual while drafting communiques on issues as sensitive as Ayodhya. The disbelief stems from the political backdrop where Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s projection as BJP’s PM candidate is interpreted as a prelude to the revival of hardline Hindutva themes, including the construction of Ram temple, in the saffron party’s campaign. Some wondered whether SP was trying to outflank the BJP by defusing a potential plank of Modi?
Others disagreed, saying that Mulayam Singh Yadav would not risk the “Maulana” standing that he acquired among Muslims by taking a tough stand against temple campaign in 1990, particularly after the SP government’s handling of communal riots has been criticized. “It would have made sense to us if you had said that the meeting had been called to reconstruct the mosque,” said a senior SP leader when asked about the letter. The officials who have been asked to attend the meeting to be held at the principal secretary’s office at annexe, include DGP, ADG (law and order), ADG (Intelligence), IG (law and order), IG (railways), IG (Lucknow Zone), DM and SSP, Faizabad.
- A letter, a faux pas, a tremor (Oct 12, 2013, The Hindu)
- UP govt suspends former Home Department Secy for issuing wrong letter, orders probe (Oct 14, 2013, IBN)
- UP govt letter on Ram temple a mistake, home dept says; transfers top official (Oct 13, 2013, Times of India)
- UP govt bans VHP’s ‘Sankalp Diwas’ Yatra on Ram Temple issue (Oct 14, 2013, Indian Express)
Police in Uttarakhand have been allowed to prosecute BJP legislator from Udham Singh Nagar Rajkumar Thukral for inciting communal frenzy and spreading hatred during communal riots in Udham Singh Nagar in 2011. Four people were killed and 60 others injured in the riots which broke out on October 12, 2011. Violence erupted hours after torn pages of a holy book of a minority community were found lying outside a place of worship. A curfew was imposed on the town for five days.
DGP B S Sidhu said that principal secretary (home) Omprakash gave go-ahead to police on Monday on an application seeking permission to proceed cases against Thukral and 53 others based on the findings of a Crime Branch of Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) probe about their involvement in the communal riots. “Sole objective of CB-CID probe into the case was to investigate it dispassionately to corroborate extent of those involved in the communal violence in public interest and not against certain individuals so the question of implicating any one in the case does not arise,” Sidhu said.
A senior CB-CID officer said findings of probe have revealed that communal riots were not only incited but engineered clearly at the behest of Thukral and others involved in the case. “We had put up a proposal before home department a couple of days ago, seeking to grant us permission to prosecute those involved in riots, on the basis of these findings, that has been granted to us,” Sidhu said. A senior IPS officer who monitored the probe told TOI that over 100 eye-witnesses were cross-examined by CB-CID sleuths. “The extent of Thukral and others’ involvement in the communal violence was corroborated on the basis of conclusive evidence,” a senior CB-CID officer said in Dehradun.
He said the CB-CID is yet to file a chargesheet against those involved in the riots in court. “As soon as charge-sheet is filed, we will also put an application before the court to prosecute them for their involvement in the riots,” Sidhu said. A senior IPS officer said Thukral will be the first BJP MLA in Uttarkhand to face a trial for his involvement in communal violence. Thukral dismissed charges against him saying he was framed in the case. “As CB-CID is a part of police department, I was falsely implicated in the case to tarnish my image at the behest of Congress-led government,” Thukral said.
“As CB-CID probe’s findings are based on its detailed investigation against all those who were found involved in the riots and not against particular individuals since 2011, the question of blaming Congress-led government which came to power in 2012 doesn’t arise,” chief minister Vijay Bahuguna said.
- Add expenses of Ramdev’s meeting to BJP poll account: EC (Oct 10, 2013, Rediff)
- EC okays Ramdev yoga camp in Delhi, alerts organisers not to use it for political purposes (Oct 10, 2013, IBN)
- Election Commission issues orders for extending ‘None of the Above’ option to voters (Oct 12, 2013, DNA India)
- Modi summons DGP for update on sexual assault case against Asaram (Oct 10, 2013, IBN)
Sixteen years ago 58 Dalits, including 27 women and 10 children, were allegedly killed by the upper-caste Ranvir Sena militia in Laxmanpur-Bathe village in Bihar’s Jehanabad district. Citing lack of evidence, the Patna high court on Wednesday set aside a lower court’s conviction and acquitted all the 26 accused in the massacre case. Then President K R Narayanan had described the incident a “national shame”, triggering a debate over injustice to the marginalised. The families of the victims are angry with the court ruling. They say they have been denied justice.
“Who cares for justice to the poor, we have lost hope,” says Mahender Paswan, who filed the FIR at Mehandia police station in the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre case on December 2, 1997, in which 49 were named as accused. Paswan, whose mother, four brothers and two sisters were killed in the massacre on December 1, 1997, says if the court acquitted all the accused, who killed his family and others in the village. “The villagers were asleep on that cold December night when Ranvir Sena men attacked the village and entered our houses. They killed without mercy,” said Paswan.
“I filed the FIR, appeared in court as a witness and fought for justice. I am very disappointed that the high court has acquitted the accused,” says Paswan, who claims the police and state government played a major role to save the accused. “We will not sit silent. We have decided to fight for justice till our last breath. We will challenge the high court verdict in the Supreme Court,” Paswan said. Terming the court acquittal as a “massacre of justice to poorest of the poor,” the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said that it will move the Supreme Court against the Patna high court verdict.
He said the CPI-ML will also appeal to the apex to appoint a Special Investigation Team on the lines of the one that probed the 2002 Gujarat riots for giving justice to victims of massacre cases in Bihar. “The Supreme Court should take cognisance of the acquittal of the massacre convicts and order an impartial probe under its direct supervision,” said Bhattacharya. Another villager, Bodh Paswan, also blamed the police and state government for the acquittal of the accused. “The police did not file a strong charge-sheet with solid evidence against them in court,” he claimed.
Mahesh Kumar, who was six years old at the time of massacre, said the village elders told him that the massacre had forced then opposition leader in the Lok Sabha, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and several Union ministers to visit the village. “Vajpayee, who later became prime minister, not only condemned the massacre when he visited the village, he virtually wept and demanded action against the accused,” said Kumar. According to the police, armed Ranvir Sena men used country-made boats to crossover to Laxmanpur-Bathe, situated on the southern bank of the Sone river. …
- Acquittals kindle new fear in Bihar’s caste battleground (Oct 11, 2013, Indian Express)
- Won’t let the killers walk free: Bihar Dalits (Oct 12, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Bihar govt to approach SC against massacre case acquittals (Oct 10, 2013, Rediff)
- CPI-ML rally against Baathe carnage acquittals (Oct 11, 2013, Times of India)
Opinions and Editorials
RSS specializes in double-speak and triple speak. In fact, the situation is so critical that it may be an understatement regarding RSS behavior. No other organization which claims to be committed to moral regeneration of India can compete with RSS in manufacturing lies. The current public manifestations of RSS for active participation in Indian politics, specially, forcing BJP to adopt Narendra Modi as prime ministerial candidate for 2014 elections is continuation of the same conspiratorial mind-set. In the aftermath of brutal killing of Father of the Nation, Gandhiji by committed and trained cadres of Hindutva camp, RSS was forced by Jawaharlal Nehru & Sardar Patel to write a constitution declaring that RSS would be “devoted purely to cultural work” and would not indulge in “political” activities. But the fact is not that cat is out of the bag now recently. Despite its assurances that it would not participate in politics to the Nation (on the basis of which ban imposed on it for being responsible for killing of Gandhiji was lifted), it is not first time that it has violated this cardinal pledge.
The most prominent ideologue of the RSS, MS Golwalkar, openly declared that it had political ambitions and wanted to control politics directly. It was in total violation of the pledge to the Government of India that RSS would not indulge in political activities. While addressing a gathering of top ranking RSS on March 16, 1954, at Sindi, Wardha, he said: “If we say that we are part of the organization and accept its discipline then selectiveness has no place in life. Do what is told. If told to play kabaddi, play kabaddi; told to hold meeting then meeting….For instance some of our friends were told to go and work for politics that does not mean that they have great interest or inspiration for it. They don’t die for politics like fish without water. If they are told to withdraw from politics then also there is no objection. Their discretion is just not required.” [Shri Guruji Samagar Darshan, (collected works of Golwalkar in Hindi), Volume III, Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana, Nagpur, nd, p. 32]
He continued to relish RSS ambition to control politics of a democratic-Secular India clandestinely and did not mind sharing this ambition publically. While addressing top level cadres of the RSS at Indore on March 5, 1960, this Hindutva ideologue, went on to declare: “We know this also that some of our Swayamsevaks work in politics. There they have to organize according to the needs of work public meetings, processions etc., have to raise slogans. All these things have no place in our work. However, like the character in a play whatever role has been assigned should be portrayed with best of capability. But sometimes Swayamsevaks go beyond the role assigned to a performer (nat) as they develop over-zealousness in their hearts, to the extent that they become useless for this work. This is not good.” [Ibid, Volume IV, pp. 4-5.] We find here Golwalkar referring to the Swayamsevaks loaned to political offshoot as ‘nat’ or performers who are meant to dance to the tunes of the RSS. This fact should not be missed here that Golwalkar’s above design of controlling the political arm was elaborated in March 1960 almost nine years after the establishment of Jansangh (the forerunner of the BJP) in 1951.
The RSS cadres who control the BJP keep on harping that BJP is an independent political organization and does not work under the dictates of the RSS. It is pertinent that one compares this claim with the facts available in the official publications of the RSS to know the whole nexus. The central publication house of the RSS, Suruchi Prakashan, Delhi, published a book in 1997, titled Param Vaibhav Ke Path Par (ON THE ROAD TO GREAT GLORY) penned by Sadanand Damodar Sapre, a senior RSS functionary. This book contains details of more than 40 organizations created by the RSS for different tasks. The preface of the book itself declares that, “Without the knowledge of the different kinds of activities of the Sawyamsevaks (the volunteers of the RSS) the introduction of the RSS is incomplete. Keeping this in mind it has been attempted in this book to produce the brief information about the diverse activities of the Sawyamsevaks. This book covers the organizational status till 1996.We believe that this book will prove to be of use for those who want to understand the RSS along with the Swyamsevaks.”
The BJP as a political organization figures prominently in it at number 3 out of 37 major outfits. The chapter on Jana Sangh/BJP describes in details how and why RSS created them. This publication of the RSS also shows how the organization is run in a clandestine manner. It runs like a well-organized mafia through its subsidiaries and pocket organizations. There has always been a conscious attempt to create confusion about its different fronts which provide RSS with the opportunity to dissociate with any of these as per its convenience. For instance it used Hindu Jagaran Manch (HJM) for attacking Christians in late 1990s and when public opinion, media, judiciary and Parliament seemed to turn against it, RSS denied any relation with HJM. Moreover, when nefarious designs of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Dharam Sansad were exposed before the Nation, RSS announced that these were independent organizations. Interestingly, it was often seen mediating between the BJP lead government (1998-2004) and these outfits. …
- BJP Speaks with Forked Tongue – Editorial (Oct 13, 2013, Peoples Democracy)
- This Way To Oudh – By Prarthna Gahilote (Oct 21, 2013, Outlook)
- Modi’s shining Gujarat: a half truth – By Dr. Ataur Rahman (Oct 9, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Commandeering change – By Harish Khare (Oct 10, 2013, The Hindu)
From the plush Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel airport in Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar is a dream drive. Till last year, though, just before the road takes a turn to the bridge across the Sabarmati river, an array of bare bottoms used to make people flinch and turn away. But the municipal corporation hit upon a brilliant idea to solve this – they constructed a wall to hide the slums on this VVIP route and added a bamboo plantation for good measure. The exhibits may have been hidden from public view but the spillovers are still on display every morning! Cut to Gandhinagar, and to the majestic Mahatma Mandir, a swanky Rs 500 crore monument to chief minister Narendra Modi but ironically named after the half-clad Mahatma Gandhi. On the road leading from the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway to this global convention centre, the view again has been cut off but the stench remains. Switch to the secretariat.
The sachivalaya has undergone a major renovation. Gone is the old staid sarkari look, in its place is a stylised corporate one, carrying the distinct stamp of Modi. But barring the CM’s newly constructed block, pass any other gallery and the toilets yell from a distance, making you hold your breath. Even the IAS officers hold their breath as they pass. The temples of the state are not immune to this problem either. The Saranpur Hanuman temple, 164 km from the state capital Gandhinagar, is a popular place of pilgrimage. Thousands congregate here daily. It has a toilet, and there’s even a loo for the ladies. Both western style and Indian. They, however, are usually locked. The janitor says the locks can be opened for a payment of Rs 4 but he can’t guarantee a clean loo or flowing water. Indeed, the ‘toilets’ there are an exception in the vast countryside where “sit and shoot” is both an essential chore and a national pastime. While prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi may have stirred a sandstorm with his temple-toilet remark, most cities of Gujarat, including its capital, are sorely lacking in these basic public facilities.
Also, “the gender discrimination is acute,” says Prof Purabi Bhattacharya, who says even the ones that exist in the capital are so filthy that one would end up sick if one was to use it. Housewife Jayshri Vyas, who stays in the comparatively better off Panchayatnagar area in Rajkot, voices the same sentiment. A CAG report for the period up to March 2012 points out that 18,321 anganwadis in the state are without toilets. Additionally, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board has issued notices to eight municipal corporations and 159 municipalities for not following guidelines on solid waste disposal. Gujarat was free of manual scavenging, claimed the state government in an affidavit as far back as in 2004. The same government, however, commissioned the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to carry out a survey in 2006 and the report identified 12,000 people carrying ‘night soil’. Even more strangely, while claiming Gujarat to be scavenger-free, the state government has also been availing central grants for the rehabilitation of scavengers.
Gujarat Safai Kamdar Vikas Nigam MD C.S. Rajpal told Outlook, “Gujarat has completed a survey on manual scavenging in statutory towns and not a single case was reported”. But asked how railway tracks and platforms were being cleaned now, he had no answer. Martin Mackwan, a rights activist, believes Modi is targeting the Dalits with his statement on toilets and wonders aloud if the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate would allow toilets to be built at the disputed site at Ayodhya, as has been suggested by the Congress’s Jairam Ramesh (or originally by Kanshi Ram). The census figures are equally revealing. As many as 52 lakh households in the state have no toilet. Over 64 lakh households do not have any drainage facility and 49 lakh people are defecating in the open. And another unique distinction for Gujarat: there are more toilets in the state serviced by animals (4,890) than by scavengers (2,566).
- Politics Of Sanitation: Political Failure And People’s Movement – By Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastav (Oct 7, 2013, Countercurrents)
- That Stinking Feeling – By Neha Bhatt (Oct 21, 2013, Outlook)
The strange case of Akhlaque Ahmed Khan: In jail although acquitted in one case, bail granted in another – By M Reyaz (Oct 4, 2013, Twocircles.net)
Akhlaque Ahmed Khan was not granted bail ever in the Delhi case (he was subsequently acquitted in 2006), he was granted bails in both the cases that were filed against him in Kolkata. On mere charge of alleged conspiracy to ‘wage war against the government’ an accused is languishing in jail for over 14 years. The story of Akhlaque Ahmed Khan of Kolkata is one of most intriguing, for in the same month in January, 1999 he was made co accused, along with Syed Abu Nasir of Bangladesh and others in two terror cases – one in Kolkata and other in Delhi. While in October, 2006 Akhlaque was acquitted from the Delhi case, he is still languishing in Kolkata’s Presidency Jail as an under trial in connection with the Kolkata case. What is more intriguing is that he is behind bar, although in the same case the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) had granted him bail way back in April, 1999 as he had failed to furnish the security bond on time.
In the first case, in the Alipore court, he was granted bail and later discharged from the case as Police failed to file any charge-sheet against him. As the Police had failed to file the charge-sheet within three months in the ongoing case too, after serving the statutory 90 days period Akhlaque was given the bail order in April 1999, along with two other co-accused Abdullah Salafi, Mritunjoy Das who are since out on bail, on security bonds of Rs 10,000. However, as Akhlaque was anyway not granted bail in the Delhi case and was in Tihar Jail, his counsel advised Akhlaque’s family “to wait for his bail/acquittal in the Delhi case, as he would not be freed even after furnishing the bail bond.” The counsel suggested that the bail bond could be deposited even later.
After his acquittal in the Delhi case in October 2006, however, as the counsel of Akhlaque approached the Calcutta court, they were faced with what his youngest brother Azad Ahmed Khan describe as “harrowing experiences”. They had to run from pillar to post, literally, seeking permission to furnish the bail bond, says he, but to no avail. As the charges were already framed in the said case and it was transferred to the session court for trial, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) said that it now has “no jurisdiction to pass any order” over the case. This was a case, in fact, where even the learned public prosecutor Ashoke Bakshi on November 22, 2006 had rebuked the honorable court and had “supported the contention of the advocate for the petitioner and submitted that the order of bail dated 16.4.1999 is still in force and therefore, the learned CMM has committed wrong in refusing to accept the bail bond.”
In fact he had suggested that the order of bail should be confirmed by the Court of Session and the learned CMM should be directed to accept the bail bond in terms of the order dated 16.4.1999.” The fast-track court session court, where his case was being heard, however, observed that the petitioner’s right to be released on bail “stood extinguished on filing of chargesheet on 15.01.2002…As the accused who was directed to be released on bail did not furnish the bail bond after the order was passed and remained in custody, he cannot claim the execution of the said order by furnishing bail after filing of the charge-sheet and commitment of the case to the Court of Session.” On suggestion of the senior lawyers, Akhlaque had then approached the Cacultta High Court for quashing of charges under 120B/121/121A/122 and other such serious charges relating to criminal conspiracy of waging war against the government and pleaded that he was discharged from the Bhawanipur case (which was pursued in Alipore court) and also acquitted from the Delhi court on similar charges. The defence counsel had said that if some forged documents were at all found, the accused may be tried for forgery.
The Calcutta HC had, however, discharged the revisional petition for quashing of the proceeding arguing that the Delhi court’s disbelieving the claim of the prosecution “cannot be a ground for disbelieving the prosecution case, so far as the present case is concerned.” In fact from CMM to Session Court to the HC, Akhaque’s bail plea was repeatedly rejected considering the ‘seriousness’ of the charges, even when his mother fell very sick. Akhlaque was not allowed a parole even when his mother died on June 28, 2009. The trial is still on in a fast track court, and consequently Akhlaque awaits his fate.
- Police Playing Partisan Role In Muzaffarnagar Riot Investigations, Allege Villagers – By Deevakar Anand (Oct 1, 2013, Tehelka)
- Memorandum to PM for keeping promise on Communal Violence Bill – By M Reyaz (Oct 8, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Indian Muslims increasingly disenchanted – Syed Zafar Mahmood with Deepa Kurup (Oct 6, 2013, The Hindu)
- Shinde’s directions to CMs: Better Late Than Never – By Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (Oct 2, 2013, Twocircles.net)
Campaigns to “cleanse” the political system have gained considerable ground in the last few years in urban India. These have strengthened with the nearing of assembly elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as also the general elections scheduled for 2014. Coupled with this are attempts, both institutional and movement-driven, to make democracy in India more participatory. It may be useful to start with a brief look at the legal history of the various moves towards this cleansing of the electoral system. In July this year the Supreme Court ruled that parliamentarians and state legislators who were convicted of serious crimes, meaning carrying a jail term of two years or more, would be barred from contesting elections. The Court struck down Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act which allowed convicted members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies to continue in office while their appeals journeyed through courts often for indefinite periods. The government, backed by support from almost all political parties, had introduced a bill in Parliament to override this Supreme Court judgment and then passed the ill-fated ordinance which now stands withdrawn.
In September, close on the heels of the contentious ordinance, came another judgment from the Supreme Court. On a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) a few years back, it ruled that voters should have the option to reject all the candidates who were standing for election in their constituency. It directed the Election Commission (EC) of India to include the option “None of the Above” (now popularly called NOTA) in the electronic voting machines (EVMs). The Supreme Court felt that this would contribute to cleansing politics – that the political leadership would formally know that there are people unhappy with the parties’ choice of candidates. The logic is that this would build moral pressure on political parties and possibly bring about a rethink on their choice of candidates, making them hesitant to put up candidates with criminal records. According to the Court, exercising the option of rejecting all candidates would lead to a “systemic change” in the whole electoral process.
The Supreme Court stated that besides cleaning up politics, the option of negative vote would foster greater participation among voters as this would draw to the polling booths those who otherwise do not vote because they are not satisfied with the candidates contesting elections. The right to a negative vote would encourage them to visit the polling stations and express their unhappiness by exercising their choice of rejection. The Court felt that this would also contribute to bringing down impersonation in voting. The proposal for a negative vote had come from, among others, the EC in 2001 when James Lyngdoh was the chief election commissioner (CEC). It was reiterated in 2004 by CEC T S Krishna Murthy (see note 1). Though the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 provide that one can refuse to vote after identifying oneself and thereafter, appropriate entries would be made by the polling officer in the electoral register, etc, this procedure did not protect the secrecy of the negative ballot. As former CEC S Y Quraishi recently pointed out in a newspaper article, the EC has been asking for this option to ensure secrecy and bring down bogus voting and not for any other reason.
The PUCL petition on which the Supreme Court based its ruling was on the same issue – maintaining the secrecy of the voting decision. The Court went a little further in its judgment and highlighted the cleansing and participatory dimensions of the negative vote. Published research on causes and effects of negative voting brings out aspects of it not easily discernible or immediately visible (see, for instance, Kernell 1977; Fiorina and Shepsle 1989). However, this published research is more about negative responses to governmental policies/actions rather than such responses to the choice of candidates. The scholars looking at negative voting in the United States some years ago pointed out that such voting occurs when voters respond more strongly to political decisions and actions they are unhappy about than those actions/outcomes they approve of or are in favour – in which case they might not go to the polling booth at all (Fiorina and Shepsle 1989). As is obvious, it is a vote expressing disapproval. This disapproval can be both of policies and leadership.
Voters satisfied with political actions and leadership might or might not come out to vote. With the option of a negative vote, the same options are also available to those who do not approve of the candidates or policies and are generally unhappy with the whole political situation at a given time. They can choose to sit back and not come to the polling booth at all or come to the polling booth and exercise their voting rights (in secrecy) to express displeasure. Negative voting, if it is against the incumbents, highlights the issue of accountability of the political leadership more sharply than what we can call “positive” voting. Its objective is to drive home, more forcefully, the point that the leadership has to change itself and its politics, and has to govern better. Political parties may now have to be much more unambiguously accountable for their actions beginning from their choice of candidates contesting elections to the decisions they take in government. …
- Will Left again support Congress to keep out BJP? – By Amulya Ganguli (Oct 12, 2013, Yahoo)
- Nitish Kumar: Birth Of A New Secular – By Samar (Oct 10, 2013, Countercurrents)
The protests which have been raging in the coastal and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh for over two months now have surprised most observers for their intensity and duration. An angry reaction from the people of Seemandhra, as the non-Telangana part of Andhra Pradesh has come to be termed, was on the cards once the creation of a separate Telangana was formally announced. However, the manner in which this protest in Seemandhra has sustained itself for this long and the inability of the central government to address it shows that it reflects popular anger of a fairly unprecedented nature. It will not do to suggest that this is only the result of back-room politics or some conspiracy.
Over the past decade and more, every political party in Andhra Pradesh has used and abused the Telangana statehood demand for immediate political gains. Prior to the 2004 elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party ignored its own resolution demanding Telangana so as to gain support from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). In 2004, the Congress, under Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, had a pre-poll alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) that promised a separate state within a year of coming to power. After their victory, many assumed that Telangana would now be a reality and there were reports of land speculation in the Vijayawada-Guntur region in anticipation of the fact that the new capital of Seemandhra would be located there; Hyderabad was assumed as the capital of Telangana. That promise was quietly buried by the Congress in various committees, leading the TRS to ally with the TDP which now passed a resolution asking for a separate state of Telangana.
Ever since the movement of a separate Telangana intensified in the 10 districts that comprise this region it has been clear that there is active hostility to any proposal for division of the state in the 13 districts of Seemandhra. Political parties were vertically split on this with their legislators from each region taking diametrically opposite stands irrespective of their party’s official stance. The flip-flops and contortions one witnesses among many of them today may be new(s) for those in Delhi but has been on display for many months, if not years, for the people of Andhra Pradesh. Perhaps, the long years of such cynical politics – where public statements are assumed to be untruths by both the political leaders who utter them as well as by the citizenry who hear them – had made the people in Seemandhra assume that whatever these parties may state officially they would never allow Telangana to be created. The rollback of December 2009 only added to that feeling. The shock of realisation that a separate Telangana is now a close reality is perhaps one reason for this intense outpouring of protests in Seemandhra.
However, this may not explain it entirely. The manner in which Hyderabad is being sought after by the people of Seemandhra suggests that this city had emerged as some sort of a golden land of opportunity for the poor and working people of Seemandhra. This projection of aspirations on Hyderabad (and therefore the fear of loss) suggests that more than the actual opportunities which it provided, this city has, perhaps, emerged as some sort of substitute for overcoming the real hardships and troubles people are faced with. Migration to the city of opportunities as a solution to local problems with agriculture, employment and education is, after all, not something unique in Seemandhra. Unfortunately and tragically, this aspiration for Hyderabad and its riches is as much a hyperbole and chimera as is all such migration to the big cities of India (or the developing world as a whole). Seen thus, the protests on the streets of Vizianagaram and other places in Seemandhra are both the release of a pent-up anger against the cynical machinations of the political leaders as well as a cry for social and economic justice.
What is most unfortunate is that most political leaders of Seemandhra have only stoked the anger and sense of betrayal of the people, while the central government has only twiddled its thumbs since this is not Rajpath in Lutyens’ Delhi. The fears and apprehensions of the people of Seemandhra need to be addressed by the Government of India, and, also, crucially, by the leaders of the Telangana movement. Some things are easily done, for example those relating to jobs, education and access: after all, Indian citizens do not need visas to travel to or work in another state of the union and fundamental rights apply to all. Other demands may require greater empathy and negotiation. It also requires a firm administration in the state at the moment and not a chief minister who uses his position to play one side against the other. This is not the first time that a state is “losing” its capital with the formation of a new state. It has happened earlier when Meghalaya was formed and Assam had to move its capital from Shillong to Dispur. That distant experience, apart from the more recent ones, could provide some lessons for the present. The primary lesson is that division of a state need not imply division of fraternity.
- Slipstream People – By Ratna Rao Shekar (Oct 21, 2013, Outlook)
- Hyderabad and the Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh – By G Gangadhara Rao (Oct 19, 2013, EPW)
- The Togetherness Of Division – By Madhavi Tata (Oct 21, 2013, Outlook)
That the prosecution must meet the highest standards of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, is an indispensable condition in the trial of any criminal case. The benefit of doubt should invariably go to the defendants. As the English jurist William Blackstone wrote, better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer. In India, however, sloppy investigation and shoddy prosecution have been part of an extremely inefficient and slow justice delivery system that has allowed conviction rates to stay at alarmingly low levels. Criminals have repeatedly gotten away with murder and massacre. While reinforcing each other, money power and muscle power have turned out to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the doubt perceived by the judiciary.
Almost inevitably, in cases where the victims are poor, landless peasants and Dalits, the perpetrators have remained beyond the reach of law. On October 9, the Patna High Court acquitted all the 26 persons convicted by a lower court in the 1997 Laxmanpur Bathe case of massacre of 58 Dalits. The judges found the prosecution witnesses “not reliable” and gave the benefit of doubt to the 16 sentenced to death, and the 10 sentenced to life imprisonment. If a high-profile case such as the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre can collapse in this manner, India’s criminal justice system can infuse little confidence in its people.
Actually, the conviction in the lower court itself came after the intervention of the High Court, which expedited the trial more than 11 years after the massacre. However, the period between the massacre and the conviction was far from quiet. Both Ranvir Sena, a private army of upper caste landlords, and Maoist groups, who mobilised large sections of poor peasants, including Dalits, carried out a series of attacks and reprisals in rural Bihar. Not surprisingly, several witnesses in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case turned hostile. To begin with, eye-witnesses to the massacre were indeed few, as the culprits had come in the dead of the night and shot everyone they found. The trial court indeed acquitted 19 of the accused.
And while analysing the motives of the defendants, it had taken into account not only the specific, known circumstances of the massacre, but also the history and cycle of violence in the region. The appellate court, however, chose to ignore the testimony of the available witnesses. When justice is not seen as being done in a case of brutal massacre, India’s under-classes can hardly be blamed for losing faith in a system that invariably works to the advantage of the privileged and the powerful. This is a case where the State must appeal against the High Court order, and ensure that those found guilty by the trial court are put away for life.
- At stake is the dignity of Dalit women – By Namita Bhandare (Oct 11, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Census 2011 missed 5 crore slum dwellers – By Subodh Varma (Oct 12, 2013, Times of India)
- Conditions of SC/ST Households: A Story of Unequal Improvement – By R B Bhagat (Oct 12, 2013, EPW)
- You Can Change Your Religion, Not Your Caste – By Abdul Khaliq (Oct 5, 2013, Tehelka)