IAMC Weekly News Roundup - October 15th, 2012 - IAMC
no-image IAMC

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 15th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

‘Gujarat 2002 an assault on secularism, democracy and republicanism’ (Oct 9, 2012, Yahoo)

Activists and intellectuals here Tuesday unanimously expressed the opinion that the riots in Gujarat in 2002 were an assault on Indian secularism and a lot remained to be done to secure justice for the victims. The activists were speaking at a seminar at the M.F. Husain Art Gallery in the capital’s Jamia Millia Islamia. Well-known leftist historian Romila Thapar delivered the keynote address. In her speech, Thapar noted that Gujarat 2002 was ‘a genocide and no ordinary riot’.

“In the ten years since the riots, the Modi administration has made repeated attempts to portray Gujarat as a progressive and well-administered state. If that is the case, why is it that most of those made accused in the Godhra case are still behind bars? Why has compensation not been paid properly? And what of those listed as missing,” Thapar asked. “The Gujarat of Narendra Modi is not at all a secular state. Its system of governance negates the most fundamental principles of the Indian constitution,” Thapar said.

Other speakers emphasized on why Gujarat 2002 should never be forgotten by Indian society. “Memory is a moral responsibility for every society. And how you carry out this particular responsibility depends on what future you envision for your society,” said author and academic Purushottam Agarwal. “This tragedy must never be forgotten. It should be remembered and understood so that justice can be done. It was an assault on secularism, democracy and modern republicanism,” said activist Mukul Manglik.

“They say Gujarat is developed. The term ‘development’ is a synonym used by Gujarat’s rulers for ‘forgetting’. We want to capture the struggle of memory against erasure,” said sociologist Shiv Vishvanathan. Filmmaker and Jamia alumna Anusha Rizvi dwelt on the social aspects of communal riots in modern India. “There are three important aspects of communal riots today. First, they are a largely urban phenomenon. Second, they are usually instigated by secular issues like eve-teasing, land-grabbing and political assassination. And third, communal riots are the only secular activity that politicians across the board indulge in,” Rizvi noted.

Among the attendees at the seminar was R.B. Sreekumar, former Gujarat DGP and Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad, who has spear-headed the fight for survivors of the Gujarat riots. The seminar is the first in a series organised jointly by Jamia and NGO ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’ to commemorate 10 years of the 2002 massacres in Gujarat. The programmes will include a photo retrospective, statistics, missing person’s wall, acknowledgements and survivor’s conversations among other things. It will end Oct 13.



[Back to Top]

Activists read ‘between the lines’, say UK pushing Modi for justice (Oct 14, 2012, Indian Express)

Human rights activists in the state say there is nothing in the statements of British Foreign Office minister-in-charge of India, Hugo Swire, for Chief Minister Narendra Modi to rejoice over. They say the statements, if read between the lines, indicate Britain’s lack of faith in Gujarat’s judiciary. “This is a matter of great concern, not joy for any Gujarati,” said leading advocate and human rights activist Girish Patel. Modi as also state government’s spokesperson Saurabh Patel had welcomed the British minister’s announcement.

Referring to Hire’s statements that Britain wanted to secure justice for the families of the three British nationals killed in 2002 riots, Patel said it indicated that British government was not optimistic about getting justice for its nationals under the existing political dispensation in Gujarat and hence, it wanted to engage its officials in New Delhi with Modi. “Even after 10 years, if the British government has to ask its high commissioner to approach Modi to take up the issue of justice for its citizens killed in Gujarat, it spoke volumes about independence of judiciary in the state,” Patel further said.

Jesuit human rights activist Fr Cedric Prakash said, “Only a part of the British minister’s announcements pertaining to strengthening ties with Gujarat had been highlighted, overlooking the other part pertaining to the British support to human rights issues in Gujarat.” “They have not forgotten violation of human rights in 2002,” said Fr Prakash, adding, “The British minister has also not spoken anything if Modi can visit UK or any other European Union countries.” He said the statement needed to be looked from the propaganda point of view to help Modi in the upcoming Assembly elections due on December 13 and 17 and non-resident Gujaratis sympathetic to Modi and based in UK played a role in that.

However, human rights activist J S Bandukwala downplayed the British announcements saying that the announcement was blown out of proportion as it was normal activity of any government embassies to promote their economic interests. “There is nothing in it for Modi to brag about,” said Bandukwala. But he felt that the timing of the announcements a few weeks before the Assembly elections was a very subtle propaganda by some foreign public relations agencies allegedly hired by Modi. “It is an attempt to show that if a foreign country can warm up to Modi after 10 years, why should the political outfits at home maintain distance from him,” Bandukwala added.



[Back to Top]

Add legal grounds to plea, HC tells Malegaon blast accused (Oct 12, 2012, Indian Express)

Bombay High Court (HC) asked the lawyer representing Malegaon blast accused Ramesh Upadhyay on Thursday to add formal legal contentions to his petition challenging the validity of the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) and National Investigating Agency (NIA). Six people were killed and more than hundred injured in the blast on September 29, 2008. Upadhyay had filed the petition in the form of a letter to Chief Justice of the High Court.

A division bench of Justices Asoka and S S Jadhav asked amicus curiae Ameeta Kuttikrishnan to add legal grounds to the letter and posted the matter for a final hearing on November 1. Kuttikrishnan told Newsline, “Upadhyay has argued that ATS was not formed under any Act passed by the legislature but was created by a notification. A government resolution has given ATS the status of a ‘deemed police station’. He has questioned whether the agency has the power to arrest persons and interrogate them. He has also demanded release and compensation in view of his ‘illegal arrest’.”

Upadhyay claimed ATS power was limited to collecting information and analysing it. He demanded the constitutional validity of ATS and NIA be looked into and actions of the agencies declared illegal and unconstitutional. Upadhyay has also questioned invoking of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against him by NIA, contending that his act was not a scheduled offence then that could be investigated by the agency.



[Back to Top]

Cops mum on Dayanand Patil; hasn’t returned home, say kin (Oct 12, 2012, Indian Express)

Even as three IM suspects were arrested in connection with the J M Road blasts on Thursday, investigators kept mum on Dayanand Patil (33) of Uruli Kanchan, the only person who was injured in the serial blasts on August 1. Patil had reportedly told investigators that he lifted the bag carrying explosives from the IAC pandal. Patil was admitted to Sassoon hospital for treatment. After being discharged, Patil did not return to his home in Mhetre Chawl. Investigators had found his passport, which showed that he had been to Jordan in 2004. Investigators had also searched his house in Bidar in Karnataka. DIG (ATS) Sanjiv Latkar refused to comment.

Patil’s neighbours in Mhetre Chawl said since the day his wife Satyakala left the house, neither the Patils nor any of their relatives visited the one-room flat. “Satyakala was not keeping well after the police took Patil away. A few weeks later, her brother took her and her daughter to their maternal home in Bidar. Since then, the house is locked with the Patils’ belongings inside. The landlord can’t rent the house to others,” said Satosh Londhe who stays opposite Mhetre Chawl.

Wadekar, who lives in Dehu Road area, said he was unaware of Dayanand’s whereabouts. “I spoke to his family a week ago. He hadn’t returned till then,” said Wadekar. Speaking over phone from their village in Bidar, a relative of Satyakala said she was with them but Patil had not returned.



[Back to Top]

Stop witch-hunt of educated Muslim youths: IFF (Oct 15, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Saudi Arabia based India Fraternity Forum (IFF), has demanded the Indian Central Government to ensure equal rights to its entire citizen irrespective of caste, creed & religion. IFF also demanded immediate release of innocent Muslim youth kept behind bar without trial as illegal detainees & asked the government to stop witch hunt of educated Muslim youths by various security agencies. The demand was made in a seminar titled “Challenges of Muslim Empowerment in Contemporary India” organized by IFF in Dammam at Nahada club. The seminar stressed the need of being united to defeat the fascist forces by joining hands to build the nation and march forward towards peace and prosperity. Muslims are the second largest community in India after Hindu with 13.4% of country’s population. During British rule, Indian Muslims played a leading & positive role in India’s struggle for independence.

Mr. Mirza Zaheer Beig a scientist & professor in the reputed King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals was the Chief Guest. Mr. Beig, in his speech, highlighted atrocities Muslims are facing today in India and stressed the importance of empowering Muslim community to achieve the goal of a truly developed India. Mr. Mohamed Meraj of IFF delivered the main speech in the seminar. He highlighted the fact that real power of Indian state is its secularism and integration of all communities irrespective of their religions, beliefs and faiths in the nation building process is extremely necessary. Today, Muslims in India are the most down trodden community per an official report; lives in slums, marginalized in every sector of life, their constitutional rights of being an Indian citizen are denied.

Moreover, the Fascist forces trying to corner Muslims in the present modern society and portraying as traitors. Communal forces have infiltrated various in government machnieraies has managed to create a biased mindset. A large percentage of Indian Muslims are kept behind the bars, tortured, humiliated for no cause; no crime without even proper trial. Mr. Mohammed Parvez of IFF specified in the concluding speech that IFF has organized this program, to call upon all Indian expat to consolidate and work together with secular minded people in order to restore India’s pride and to demand equal rights and justice as promised by the constitution.

More than 200 people attended the event. The seminar began with the recitation of Qira’th by Luqman Molvi. Mr. Abdul Hakim welcomed the gathering. Syed Mansoor Shah of King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals delivered complementary speech. Mr. Mohammed Amir presented the vote of thanks. The event was anchored by Mohammed Abdul Waheed. IFF volunteers facilitated the smooth conducting of the event.



[Back to Top]

Hingoli Shiv Sena leader, 7 others get life term for murder (Oct 15, 2012, DNA India)

A local court on Monday awarded life sentence to Hingoli district Shiv Sena chief and seven others, including his brother – a sitting Municipal Councillor – in a 2007 murder case.

District judge MV Yewatikar found the Sena leader Santosh Bangar, his councillor-brother Shriram and six others guilty of murdering one Vitthalappa Tukaramappa Torkar (75), government pleaders Dyaneshwar Teknur and SN Doifode said.

A resident of Bhirada village in the central Maharashtra district, Torkar was fatally attacked by a group of persons on February 23, 2007 over a land dispute, added Teknur and Doifode. Three other accused were acquitted due to insufficient evidence, the two government pleaders said.



[Back to Top]

DDA wanted ‘parts’ of Munirka mosque to be demolished (Oct 10, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Delhi Development Authority (DDA) officials had ordered the demolition of part of the mosque on the Nelson Mandela Road, in Munirka village, near Vasant Vihar Police Station. Bulldozers, trucks, and a number of policemen had gathered today morning, around 9 a.m. outside the mosque. The issue was, however, resolved and ‘demolition’ cancelled after more than five hundred people had gathered outside the mosque, including local MLA Barkha Shukla, and area councilor Parmila Tokas.

According to DDA officials, a part of the mosque is on the ‘encroached’ horticulture department land and hence they had orders to demolish it. According to TCN sources, Urban Development Minster Kamal Nath intervened and ordered against flattening in the last minute. The mosque, that attracts more than three thousand people from, in and around the area in Friday prayers, had put a tin shade outside the main structure to accommodate more people. Being closest to the reputed Jawaharlal Nehru University, the mosque is full to its capacity particularly on Fridays.

Mohammad Zubair, Secretary of the Management Committee of the mosque, told TCN: “As the number of people coming to the mosque, particularly on Friday, had multiplied over the years, we just put a tin shade to protect Namazis from scorching Sun.” He added that no permanent structure has been built. The Delhi Waqf Board approved management committee of the Munirka Masjid, also argues that the land is an extension of the mosque property, according to khasra number- 707. They cite a copy of the Delhi Gazette, published by the Delhi Government on April 16, 1970, that recognizes the Munirka mosque. Masjid Management Committee of Munirka has now written a letter to the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and requested her to stop any such drive in future.



[Back to Top]

More Muslim representation in police force, army and IB: AIMMM (Oct 14, 2012, Times of India)

Expressing concern over spurt in communal violence in various parts of the country, the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (AIMMM), the umbrella body of Indian Muslim organisations in the country, has demanded increase in Muslim representation in the police force and Intelligence Bureau (IB). The Central Working Committee of the AIMMM, in a recent meeting, passed a resolution stating that it is alarmed at the spurt in communal riots in various parts of the country, especially in Uttar Pradesh after Samajwadi Party government came to power in the state. “It has been noted that the police force either remains passive during these instances of engineered murder, loot and arson or becomes an active participant opening fire at will at Muslims with the intent to kill as happened at Masuri town near Delhi.

We caution the state and central governments to be more careful in tackling acts of violence, pay adequate compensation to the victims of police fire and take quick legal action against the killers,” the resolution stated. It also appealed to the Muslim masses to show no unnecessary and hasty violent reaction to inflammatory situations created on purpose by communal forces whose eyes are fixed on the general elections in 2014 for which communal polarization is required so that their political party may benefit. The AIMMM, in another resolution, welcomed the effort of the central government to raise Muslim representation in the police force which has gone down to as low as 2% in some states. “Muslim representation should also be raised in the Army, IB and other security agencies to regain the lost confidence of the Muslim masses,” it stated.

The AIMMM also passed a resolution which stated that after a short respite in the wake of the exposure of the vast network of saffron terror outfits, the vicious campaign against Muslim youths has started again. Innocent youth are being arrested, from various parts of the country on the basis of fabricated stories and mere suspicion. Police chiefs were recently told during their annual conference that the biggest threat faced by the country comes from the so-called “Indian Mujahidin” which many in the Muslim community think is a fictitious organization propped up by the IB to harass Muslims. Eighteen youths have been arrested recently in Bangalore and other places in a totally false and fabricated case which is clear from the changing stories dished out by Bangalore police about these youths.

The AIMMM demanded transparency in the matter and establishment of fast-track courts to try cases of young Muslims arrested on terror charges. Acquital after 10-15 years of trial and incarceration ruins their lives and careers. IB and police officers responsible for fabricating cases and implicating innocents should be punished and compensation to the victims should be deducted from the salaries and pensions of such officers. The meeting was chaired by the AIMMM national president Zafarul-Islam Khan and attended by Arshi Khan and Mohammad Sulaiman (general secretaries of AIMMM), Nusrat Ali, Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman, Prof Akhtarul Wasey, Prof Shakil Ahmad, Prof SM Yahya, Janab Zafar Jung, group captain (retd) M Anwar, Ahmad Rashid Shevani and Nusrat Shervani. The meeting discussed a number of organisational, milli, national and international issues including Assam violence, riots in UP, terror related arrests among others.



[Back to Top]

Allocation of resources fertile ground for corruption: CBI (Oct 12, 2012, Times of India)

CBI director A P Singh on Thursday said allocation of natural resources was becoming a “fertile ground for corrupt practices”. The agency is probing a number of corruption cases related to exploitation of natural resources like iron ore, coal, off-shore minerals and spectrum, among others. Singh, who was summing up the two-day annual conference of CBI and state anti-corruption bureaus, cautioned that allocation of precious natural resources was attracting attention for being a fertile ground for corruption. “The conference deliberated upon the issue of allocation of precious natural resources and policy challenges. The allocation of iron, coal, spectrum, land and other such resources have also attracted lot of attention as being a fertile ground for corrupt practices. The issue has taken centrestage in the debate on corruption,” he said.

The director said the conference also looked at the legal issues involved in the allocation of natural resources. “One crucial aspect which emerged is the role of unaccounted money (mostly in cash transactions) in plundering of natural resources as it seems to be the cause as well as effect of organized acts of corruption. This is surely a challenge before all of us, both at policy formulation and implementation level to find right approach and tools to deal with it,” he said. Singh said there was no doubt that bonafide decisions going wrong was distinct from an act of corruption and the agency would keep that in mind during investigations. “The perception of policy paralysis in government as a result of investigation by agencies into cases of corruption also came up in discussion during the conference,” he said.

Summing up the deliberations of the conference, the CBI director said it had recommended that state anti-corruption bureaus should be asked to develop a system of identifying middlemen indulging in corrupt practices and for monitoring their activities as a measure of preventive vigilance. The CBI chief also sought powers for himself and state anti-corruption bureau heads to appoint experts and professionals on contractual basis for the probe of complex cases among other demands. On the issue of jurisdiction to probe corruption in schemes funded by central government, Singh said, “The central government is spending Rs 99,000 crore in various rural development schemes but for looking into complaints of corruption, it has to depend mainly on the state governments who are implementing the scheme.”



[Back to Top]

The recent spate of Haryana rapes shows up the callousness of politicians and law enforcers (Oct 15, 2012, Times of India)

The true worth of a modern nation lies in its treatment of women and children. Sadly, India still has a long way to go before it can measure up to such standards. The spate of recent rapes in Haryana of at least 15 women, including dalit teenage girls, has renewed focus on the inefficacy of the law and order machinery. In place of a policy of zero tolerance towards those who commit such crimes, we have a situation of zero political will.

Consider some outrageous outbursts emanating from political leaders. According to the august Dharamvir Goyat, Congress spokesperson in Haryana, 90 per cent of rapes are the result of consensual sex. A day later state education minister Geeta Bhukkal saw behind rapes not consensual sex, but a conspiracy against the Haryana government. This is a new excuse seemingly put abroad by the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, when Mamata Banerjee described a rape case as being fabricated to malign her government. What we are being asked to believe is that the real victims in cases of sexual assault, sometimes followed by murder or suicide, are the respective state governments!

Now consider the horrific reality of some of these cases. On October 7, a 16-year-old dalit girl set herself on fire after being gangraped. Reportedly, a cop stood guard while the culprits committed the crime inside the house. If a cop can be assigned to be on watch, or recorded evidence freely circulated through MMS clips – as happened in a similar case last month – it suggests a high degree of confidence on the part of perpetrators that the law will not catch up with them.

The growing visibility of women in public spaces, and their increasing assertion of rights, may have triggered a patriarchal backlash – which is in turn encouraged by the lack of visible action or indeed of articulation by the political class. An all-out effort must be made to bring up the conviction rate for rape. Proper prosecution and strict legal action will prove an important deterrent. At the same time special cells and fast track courts must be set up to deal with gender based crimes. Law enforcers must be trained and sensitized to deal with victims of sexual crimes. The law has to be implemented relentlessly so that offenders face the full force of justice.



[Back to Top]

Opinions and Editorials

Dear Mr Modi, open your heart and apologise for riots – By Harinder Baweja (Oct 12, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Dear Mr Modi, You must be happy – in fact – elated over the UK government’s change in stance. You are celebrating no doubt, for after an entire decade the UK has ended its diplomatic isolation of you and promised to engage with you and Gujarat. The timing of the announcement – comes as it does in the middle of the election campaign – is something you will work to your advantage. You have an uncanny knack of doing that and it wasn’t surprising to see the UK government’s press release go up on your website narendramodi.in, within seconds of it being released.

Publicity, image-enhancement, propaganda are a fine art and you could give a tip or two to the best PR firms in the country. They might even be using you as a case study in their board rooms but Narendra bhai, why do you stop short of image-enhancement when it comes to the 2002 riots, to the many Muslims who are also Gujaratis. You are obsessed about the well-being of six crore Gujaratis, you say often but even at the three day sadbhavna that you organized in Ahmedabad, you refused – appeared repulsed in fact – the skull cap offered to you on stage in front of zillions of live cameras.

You went as far as to fast for three days in the name of sadbhavna but not once did you say you were sorry that so many innocents were slaughtered in your state. The recent Naroda Patiya judgement detailed the role of politicians, including that of Mayaben Kodnani, a junior minister in your government, but all you did – through your propagandists – was to distance yourself from the judgement and the indictment.

Aaj khush to bahut honge aap. If UK has changed its mind; may be the US will too and reverse its decision of not honouring you with a visa. And then, may be that will pave the way for your ride to New Delhi. But Narendra bhai, all the development that you have showcased, has not reduced the taint. You say there is no case against you in any court of law. You say also, that Gujarat has been peaceful for the last ten years and yes, you say: hang me if I am guilty. But 2002 is not just about legality. It has a lot to do with your own political ambition and with perception.

Not once in the last many years, has the BJP given a single seat to a Muslim candidate. In the entire month that you toured the state on your rath – and you travelled through many areas that were wracked by violence in 2002 – not once did you bring up the riots or the Naroda judgement. I’m reasonably sure it was deliberate, but then I write this open letter – on behalf of many – and we urge you to innovate and to be brave. Open your heart and apologise. Embrace each one of the six crore Gujaratis. Don’t make the Muslims the centerpiece of your political strategy. Polarizing the state will only give you yet another handsome win in the state and it will keep you there; a prisoner of your own politics. Learn from the UK. They’ve ended the diplomatic isolation. Ultimately, you will have to end your own isolation. And there are no short cuts, for that, I’m afraid.



[Back to Top]

If The Pose Holds – By Pushp Sharma (Oct 15, 2012, Outlook)

“I have taken some loan from you for this trust but I couldn’t repay you. Please forgive me. I am leaving.” These 21 words in three selective lines (the police wouldn’t part with the original or a copy) indicate that the author ‘left’ of his own accord, even provides a plausible motive. But five years after Baba Ramdev’s guru, Swami Shankardev, went missing from the Divya Yog ashram in Haridwar in July 2007, the mystery behind his disappearance has not been lifted; in fact, more intrigue has unravelled after an Outlook-IBN undercover investigation. And not only because someone tampered with the date of the letter and sought to make it July 14 from July 11; or because the police was informed by Ramdev’s Man Friday, Acharya Balkrishna, only on July 16, a full two days or more after his disappearance. The investigation, which recorded conversations with six police officers (besides ashram inmates, doctors and others), reveals a strange, even shocking, indifference to the disappearance of the 78-year-old founder and helmsman of the ashram. Equally strangely, the ashram showed no interest in tracing the whereabouts of the missing guru-a man who once held veto power over the Divya Yog Trust. And stranger still, the police displayed no urgency to investigate till “something or someone” decided earlier this year that the case had to be formally closed. The policeman who filed the final report (FR) this April admits on camera that he was “forced” to file it. He says he was reluctant to do so because of the sensitivity of the case but was bluntly told that he would have to close the case if he valued his job. Now, who would be interested in bringing such pressure on the police and why? That too after the file had gathered dust for five years?

It remains unclear what really happened in July 2007-or in the run-up to it. Ramdev, the present head, was himself out of the country at the time. Swami Shankardev’s ‘final letter’-addressed to Ramdev’s brother-in-law Yash Dev Shastri-would have people believe that the guru, who suffered from tuberculosis of the spinal cord and possibly of the lungs, “left” because he could not repay his “loans”. One inmate alleges that Shankardev was reduced to selling cardboard and styrofoam boxes of medicines to foot his medical bills during his last few months at the ashram. How much money could Swami Shankardev have taken as loan, when, and for what purpose? At the time of his disappearance, he held two bank accounts: one (a/c 0251000-100-100-172) at the Punjab National Bank, which had a balance of Rs 2,420, and the other at the Indian Overseas Bank (a/c 51879), which had a balance of Rs 1,881. But with the ashram expanding and thriving (its 2007 turnover was Rs 50 crore), why would he find it difficult to repay any loan? What is more, the people to whom he ostensibly owed money were also inmates of the ashram and hardly cash rich. Strangely, the police seem to have no clue about most things concerning the case-about how much money the missing guru owed, whether the guru is merely missing or whether he committed suicide or was eliminated. Some of the investigating officers have been candid in confessing on record that a proper investigation is carried out only when they are prodded into action. In this case, neither the senior officers nor the complainant evinced much interest in tracking the missing guru. So virtually no investigation was done. “Hum log kaam, sahi bataoon, toh tabhi karte hain jab pressure hota hai…hamare upar toh koi aisa pressure thha bhi nahin! Maine bahut zyada kaam isme, frankly, kiya bhi nahin (Frankly, I didn’t do much on this case because there was no pressure of any kind),” said an investigating officer on camera.

Surprisingly, Baba Ramdev did not meet the investigators even once regarding the disappearance of his guru, the man who transferred the Divya Yog ashram to him and made him chairman. So, in April 2012, the police closed the case, having failed to make any headway. So what’s new? Thousands of Indians disappear every year, never to be found. But then Shankardev was not just another old man. He was one of the four trustees and had the powers to veto decisions taken by the trust. While his two personal bank accounts had a combined balance of a paltry four thousand rupees, he was an authorised signatory and could operate the trust’s bank accounts. And yet, his disappearance did not create much of a flutter. The ashram showed little urgency in trying to trace its own founder, who had voluntarily given up the reins of the ashram in 1995 to his far more worldly-wise and nationally known disciple, Baba Ramdev. Investigations conducted by the police were perfunctory. Explains SI R.B. Chamola, a member of the investigating team, “Nobody took any interest in this case; I do not remember anyone ever asking about the progress of the investigation.” Chamola, incidentally, is the same man who led a special Delhi Police team which arrested Sher Singh Rana, former dacoit queen Phoolan Devi’s killer, from Calcutta after he had escaped from Tihar-a “competent policeman” with 52 encounters under his belt. Chamola admits on camera that the old man could have been a victim of a criminal conspiracy: “Aaj bhi agar aap Haridwar mein jaoge to kaafi sare log yehi kahenge ki yeh sab inhi ka kiya hua kaam hai (Even now, if you go to Haridwar, people will freely say it’s an inside job).” Chamola adds: “Guru inhi ke paas thhe, missing bhi inhi ki taraf se registered hui kyunki saari cheezein dekhte bhi yahi thhe. Ab jab ek complainer hai uski family ya wohi kuch complaint nahi kar raha hai police se. (Guru lived with others in the ashram. Missing complaint was filed by them as they looked after everything. Now, when a complainant is not following up, what can be done?)”

An old associate of Shankardev, Karamveer, Chamola added, had also voiced his doubts over the disappearance of the titular head. Karamveer left the ashram after Swamiji handed over charge to Ramdev. Vipin Pradhan, a colleague of Karamveer at the Divya Yog ashram, also left with him. According to the police report, when the investigating officer met Vipin, he said: “Trust mein bhai-bhatijawaad badh gaya thha. Purane logon ki awhelna ho rahi thhi. Shankardevji 70-75 saal ke buzurg hain. Beemar bhi rehte hain. Balkrishanji aur Ramdev ke vyavhar se dukhi thhe. Unko koi nahi poochta thha. Na hi unki koi haisiyat thhi. (Blood relations were given preference over senior people in the ashram. Shankardev was an old, sick man. He was upset with the behaviour of Balkrishnaji and Ramdev. Nobody bothered about him, nor did he have any say over there.)” Earlier this year, pressure was finally exerted to get the case closed. SI Surendra Bisht, who filed the FR in April 2012, claims he had initially refused, on the plea that it was a sensitive case and required supervision of officers holding superior positions. “Main toh bas SI hi hoon (I am just an SI),” he had protested. But he was bluntly told that he would have to pay a heavy price if he failed to comply with the order. “Kyun, naukri nahin karni hai kya? (Don’t you want to continue in service?)” he was asked. Not surprisingly, he agreed to close the case (“Maine kaha theek hai, theek hai”). The case should have been treated far more seriously from the beginning, he reflected, saying far greater urgency was on display while closing the case. Pradeep Chauhan, investigating officer of the case in 2011, when contacted, ruled out any possibility of foul play. But he conceded that in 2007 Ramdev was well respected and his stars were in the ascendant. He was not embroiled in any controversy or dispute either. “It is possible that because of his aura, nobody suspected any foul play,” he says.

Documents related to the investigation indicate that Shankardev’s final letter was sent for forensic examination along with several samples of the old man’s writing. The report of the forensic lab at Dehradun confirmed that the handwriting in the letter matched that of the one in the samples. But the date on the letter had been tampered with and a different date had been overwritten with the help of a different pen and with different ink. First person reports raise sufficient doubts to merit a reinvestigation. By all accounts, Shankardev was a well-meaning person and was not driven by worldly ambitions of expanding his empire. He had handed over the reins of the ashram at the age of 66 to Ramdev. The most damning indictment, though, comes from a former driver at the ashram, Rahul. The old man in later years was treated with utter disdain, he claims. The ashram, which was rolling in money and boasted of a fleet of cars, would refuse to provide a vehicle and ask him to take a rickshaw instead when he travelled. The old man would often lament his decision to cede control of the ashram to others and speak to people sympathetic to him. On such occasions, he would often be beaten up by the bouncers (“Andar ke jo worker hain, woh batate thhe ki aaj Maharajji pe bajaya hai”). Rahul also says on camera that the old man was more fond of Karamveer. But whenever he was caught speaking to the former inmate over the phone, he would be locked up and confined by way of punishment. Shankardev, he claims, was suffering from several ailments but was not treated properly. Investigation by the police also found that Shankardev had not been to see his doctor for at least a year-and-a-half before he disappeared, though he suffered from tuberculosis of the lungs as well as the spinal cord. But Dr Kamal Nayan Gambhir claimed he was suffering from spinal tuberculosis alone and had been to see him even on the day he disappeared. Which of the two claims can be deemed credible and why would the police ‘misquote’ the doctor? A shoddy investigation, police indifference and inaction followed by a sudden burst of activity to put a lid on the case, have raised many eyebrows in this hills district. A dark shadow still hangs over an old man’s disappearance.



[Back to Top]

Questions over Arrests of Muslim Youth in Karnataka – By Shivasundar (Oct 20, 2012, Economic &Political Weekly)

Though the Supreme Court of India warned the Gujarat police that no innocent person should be branded a terrorist and put behind bars simply because he belonged to a minority community, the Karnataka police seem to have no qualms pursuing the “Gujarat model”. From 29 August to 25 September this year, 19 Muslims were arrested by the police on terror charges. Of these, four were arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in Nanded district following a tip-off by the Bangalore police. Most of the accused are young and educated and include a journalist, a scientist, two doctors doing postgraduate courses, a master of computer applications (MCA) student, and a software engineer. That the police do not have any evidence or major leads to substantiate the terror charge even after remanding the young men to custody for the maximum permissible 30 days raises many questions. Of course, investigations are still on and it is too early to draw conclusions. However, one cannot miss the contradictions in the first information reports (FIRs), the conflicting statements made by the investigative officers, and the gaping holes in the larger picture of terror the police has tried to paint.

More importantly, the Karnataka police do not have an unblemished record in handling cases of a similar nature earlier. Crime Branch (CCB) states that its Assistant Commissioner of Police K N Jitendranath received information that members of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were hiding in the Marappa Garden area of JC Nagar and moving around on a stolen motorcycle. On 29 August, a police team that had been following them for three days came to know that the suspects were plotting to kill Pratap Simha, a columnist with Kannada Prabha, a Kannada daily, known for his provocative views on religious issues. The motorcycle-borne suspects, Abdul Hakeen Jamadar and Shoaib Ahmed Mirza, were arrested when they were allegedly about to attack the journalist who was at a friend’s place. According to the police version, the men were arrested in dramatic circumstances. Shoaib is said to have pulled out a 7.65 mm Pietro Beretta pistol and aimed it at the policemen.

However, Jitendranath pounced on him, preventing him from opening fire. According to the FIR, the arrested men possessed seven rounds of live ammunition, a mobile phone, an ATM card and Rs 1,100. It also mentions they had some “jihadi” literature, which, quite intriguingly, included a picture of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a clipping from the film Mission Kashmir and some photographs of the 2002 Gujarat massacre and a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) parade. The interrogation of the accused led the police to four “accomplices” in JC Nagar: Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddique, a journalist with Deccan Herald, an English daily, Reyaz Ahmed, Muhammed Yusuf Nalabund and Aijaz Ahmed Mirza, an engineer with the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) laboratory and Shoaib’s elder brother. The accused were taken to the Basaveshwar Nagar police station and booked under Sections 120(B), 121, 121(A), 122, 123, 153(A) (B), 307 and 379 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections (3) and (25) of the Arms Act 1959; seven sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967 were also invoked.

Meanwhile, Obaidullah Bahaddur alias Imran, Waheed Hussain alias Sohail, Zafar Iqbal Sholapuri alias Zakir (a doctor), Muham med Sadiq Lashkar alias Raju and Babu alias Mehboob were arrested in Hubli. What makes the police version doubtful is a complaint filed at 9 am on 29 August by Abdul Hakeen and Shoaib’s neighbours claiming that some unknown persons had forcibly taken away the two men in the early hours of the day. The FIR states that the first arrests were made at 12.30 pm in Basaveshwar Nagar, while the second lot was detained at 3.30 pm in JC Nagar. …



[Back to Top]

His Royal Son-In-Lawlessness – By Saba Naqvi (Oct 22, 2012, Outlook)

We, the mango people of India, should be both angry and dismayed at the get-rich-quick tale of Robert Vadra. We must accept that the legacy of the nation’s first prime minister-that man of ideas, integrity and dignity-has been sadly diminished. The Ideas of India are now reduced to the Real Estate Acquisitions of the First Damaad of India. FDI has suddenly taken on an all-new meaning. Perhaps we should agree with Vadra’s Facebook comment that this is a banana republic. If so, it is one where individuals like him, appendages of political clans, make a monkey of the aam aadmi by getting land, help and interest-free finance. Vadra’s fortune is so clearly built on a fortunate marriage. He may have done nothing criminal, but he has certainly wielded influence to get rules bent, and that is improper, particularly for someone linked with this particular family.

There is something quite crass about the entire snatch-and-grab-land episode. Rippling muscles, legs astride fancy motorbikes, Vadra has always appeared a bit of an interloper in the first family that is usually associated with a certain elegance and class. But ‘We, the mango people of India’, mostly ignored Vadra outside the small circle in Delhi where rumours about his business deals have been doing the rounds for a while. The larger public never gave the man a thought. Now it seems that the husband to a Gandhi-Nehru, father to the next generation of the dynasty, applied the bodybuilding steroid technique to build his little empire really fast. He just can’t be ignored any longer. His face and form now impose on that cosy family album frame. There is so much history, drama, tragedy attached to the family-even family-baiters grant that. In that grand scheme of a family whose tryst with destiny shaped India’s history, the Vadra episode is just plain tawdry. It has been established without doubt that crony capitalism is not confined to places like Jharkhand where Madhu Koda made a fortune and landed in jail for it. Perhaps it has been most shamelessly (and shamefully) on display in states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, where the nexus between business and the political class has been repeatedly exposed. It is more than amply clear now that, in post-liberalisation India, politics is far too often used as an instrument to extract cash, favours and land for a handful of individuals, mostly businessmen and politicians and their families or the new prototype of the politician-businessman.

The best thing Vadra has going for him is the fact that the ruling class, which includes the Opposition, media and business, is uneasy with this sort of expose, one that questions land deals and the nexus between India’s leading builders and the first political dynasty, particularly in Haryana. For within the Indian State is the Republic of Hooda, that begins on Delhi’s periphery and is one of the most valuable real estate stretches in the country. Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a master player in the game of quid pro quo and influence-peddling. He is said to know exactly how to keep important citizens of Delhi happy: by giving them real estate in Haryana at throwaway prices. He has been the rare CM in the Congress circuit to have rarely had trouble with the high command. Now it’s apparent that he has been good to the first son-in-law. DLF, Hooda’s government spokespersons and the Congress have all naturally tried to pick holes in the argument and trash Arvind Kejriwal and friends. As more details of the Vadra affair emerge, the Congress has on the record tried to put up a (largely unconvincing) defence-off the record, they know it’s another disaster-but have belatedly tried to step back from one of the more damaging episodes in the dynasty’s history. (The party’s dirty tricks cell was back in action on Thursday, though, with allegations about Prashant Bhushan’s trust-owned land in Himachal Pradesh.)

One need not be enamoured of India Against Corruption to recognise the fact that only a wildcard entry like them could have gone to town with this story. After all, it has been in circulation for a while, and a section of the BJP leadership actually stopped the party from making Vadra an issue (another form of quid pro quo?). Enter Kejriwal, obviously desperate to make a mark and enter politics with a splash. Something he has certainly managed.There’s a certain noticeable wariness in the BJP. For one, Narendra Modi, on the campaign trail in Gujarat and never shy of attacking the dynasty, has been strangely silent on the Vadra issue till the time of writing. What is fuelling the caution? Could a long-distance runner like Modi be guarded about picking up an issue raised by a force that could be an unguided missile? Could it be that he sees himself as the redeemer of the middle classes and does not want any non-traditional usurper to start hogging headlines at a time that he must believe belongs to him?

There is, of course, the belief that the next big target for Kejriwal & Co would be BJP president Nitin Gadkari. But given the internal equations within the BJP, it is hard to see Modi shedding tears for Gadkari with whom he has had an uneasy relationship. This episode has also had an unfortunate outcome for Sushma Swaraj who is widely believed to have stopped the BJP from going ahead with raising the Vadra issue earlier this year. She has been critiqued by party cadres and there are a lot of rude comments on her Twitter account. For the Congress, it’s all-round bad news. Consider the SMS joke doing the rounds-Rahul to Sonia: “Mummy, first CWG, then 2G, then Coal-G, and now Jija-G!” But even for the BJP, this is a hot potato. There are enough scandals involving its leaders, including the dealings of another first damaad, Ranjan Bhattacharya, married to former PM A.B. Vajpayee’s foster-daughter. A hotelier by profession, he too had acquired considerable wealth at short notice. Perhaps a comparative study of the sons-in-law of India’s politicians is called for. Meanwhile, the BJP would both be worried about the Kejriwal force turning on them, or alternately stealing some of its space and thunder at a time when another scandal has hit the Congress.



[Back to Top]

Where did the money go? – By Sai Manish (Oct 20, 2012, Tehelka)

More than a year after Sikkim was devastated by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake on 18 September 2011, one would have expected the state government to have put people’s lives back on track. But the ground reality is that the quake survivors have been left to fend for themselves, lurching from one natural disaster to another. Documents and ground reports reveal that not only did the Pawan Kumar Chamling administration fail to utilise existing funds for rebuilding houses, but also mismanaged crores that were received as aid from the Centre, individuals, NGOs and other states in the aftermath of the quake in which at least 111 people lost their lives.

While the priority should have been to rebuild houses, the government played politics while disbursing aid. “The prime minister has announced Rs 1,000 crore financial grant for Sikkim. But till date, we have received only Rs 200 crore. Despite that, we are working on rebuilding the state. Once we receive the full amount, we will be able to work more effectively,” was Chamling’s weak line of defence in March. Chamling and his Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) have been in power since 1994. But Chamling’s claim is highly misleading. Till date, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 400 crore. Half the amount was given within a week of the quake (Rs 50 crore was given after then Home Minister P Chidambaram’s visit on 22 September, while Rs 150 crore was released after a Central team led by Joint Secretary Shambhu Singh reviewed the situation on 29 September). This amount was meant to be used for urgent requirements, including building shelter for victims. This January, the Centre contributed another Rs 200 crore.

Apart from the Rs 400 crore, RTI activists have found out that the CM’s Relief Fund received hundreds of crores as contributions from state governments, individuals, corporations and NGOs. The government has failed to disclose information on the contributions and the CM’s office has been accused of massive misappropriation. However, before one focusses on the Central aid, it would be pertinent to look at the state’s own funds that it hid from public knowledge and left unutilised even as victims were crying out for help. One of the primary objectives of the rehabilitation process was to provide durable housing and shelter to thousands of displaced people so that they could be shielded from the impending winter. Little did anyone know that people would not just have to brave the winter without a home but also suffer a summer of discontent, a raging monsoon and landslides in the open.

Documents accessed by TEHELKA show that Chamling sat on funds amounting to Rs 211.20 crore that was already there in the state’s coffers and were earmarked for building rural housing for the poorest of the poor. These funds were available under the CM’s Rural Housing Mission (CMRHM) and meant for building 6,000 houses with an envisioned budget of Rs 3.5 lakh per unit. Most of the money was to be used from government funds. In addition, Sikkim had been receiving generous contributions from Centrally-sponsored schemes such as the Indira Awaas Yojana and the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. But after the quake, the government feigned ignorance about the CMRHM funds. “There was no shortage of funds. The same money already earmarked for building houses could have been disbursed. Yet top officials kept delaying reconstruction and sat on files for six months making excuses that they were waiting for the Centre’s help,” reveals an aghast state bureaucrat on the condition of anonymity.

It also seems that the state government had been misrepresenting facts to visiting Central government officials about the CMRHM scheme. Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso told National Commission for Minorities member KN Daruwala, who visited Sikkim between 14-20 June, that close to 6,000 houses had already been built under this scheme. But the reality is that not a single house had been completed even a year after the earthquake. Gyatso further told Daruwala that kuccha houses were being replaced at a cost of Rs 5 lakh per house. Yet, records available with TEHELKA show that those whose houses were completely damaged in the quake got only Rs 30,000 as compensation. …



[Back to Top]

The rape of reason – Editorial (Oct 12, 2012, The Hindu)

It is not unusual to hear people talk of fighting fire with fire, but is it appropriate to recommend fighting crime with crime? Former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala apparently thinks it is. Endorsing the regressive views of some khap panchayat leaders in his State, Mr. Chautala suggested that the growing incidence of rape be addressed by relaxing the laws relating to child marriage (an offence under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006). This is a rape of reason, based on a dangerous and completely false idea that masks the distinction between sexual desire and rape. While the first is a natural human desire, the second is a violent act borne principally out of an aggressive urge to dominate the victim; power and humiliation are integral to this act of violence rather than sexual fulfilment.

The belief that there will be a radical reduction in rape incidents if men and women were allowed to marry before they turn 18 is easily disproved by some basic facts about this and other forms of sexual assault. It is stupid to assume that only single men are perpetrators of this crime; married men are rapists as well. Similarly, married women are frequent victims of rape. Finally, the idea that rape will be dissolved by marriage ignores the fact that it can – and does – take place within marriages as well.

There has been a spate of rape incidents in Haryana recently – as many as 17 in a month – in which a number of victims have been Dalit women. Already under pressure, the Haryana government and the Congress party at the State and the Centre must also contend with the ridiculous statement of a State minister explaining away most rapes as the outcome of consensual sex. Apart from taking action against the minister for making light of a serious problem, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who visited Haryana, ought to have led from the front in condemning the child marriage ‘remedy’ for rape.

It is hugely ironic that this argument is raised in a country where child marriages frequently take place. Recently, four U.N. agencies estimated that more than 40 per cent of the world’s child marriages take place in India; also that in eight States of the country, over 50 per cent of young girls are married before they reach the age of 18. Mercifully, the Jat Mahapanchayat, which comprises khap panchayat leaders from across Haryana, has distanced itself from the demand of some members that the marriage age for girls be brought down to 16. Child marriages are a violation of fundamental rights and a major impediment to the empowerment of women and the establishment of gender equality.



[Back to Top]