IAMC Weekly News Roundup - October 17th, 2011 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 17th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Communal harmony docu bags international award (Oct 14, 2011, Indian Express)

A short documentary film on friendship between Muslim and Hindu shopkeepers in Ahmedabad’s walled city area has won an award for promoting “human unity” at an international film festival held in Auroville (near Puducherry) early this month. Filmed by city-based chartered accountancy students Aayush Patel (21), Mit Jani and Prateek Gupta (both 20), the 18-minute Mia-Mahadev is a tale of tailor, Bharat Makani, and jewellery tools trader, Hassan Saiyed from Pankor Naka.

The jury at the Auroville Film Festival 2011 said the film was chosen because it delivers a “convincing message of bridging the gap between Muslims and Hindus. As an initiative to reconcile Hindu-Muslim conflict, it is very relevant for today’s time”. Makani and Saiyed are so well-known there that the errand boys merely have to tell the paanwala “Mia-Mahadev” when they go to order paan and masala for them.

Their friendship began during the anti-reservation riots of 1985 when a mob tried to burn down Hassan’s small shop – the lone Muslim-owned shop in the area – but Bharat and a few neighbors had stopped them. After several years, the duo set up a free information centre, Miya Mahadev Pooch Parach Kendra (Miya Mahadev information kiosk), because “people kept getting lost here and we had to point them in the right direction many times”, Bharat had told The Indian Express in an earlier interview. As many as 131 films were screened at the festival.


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Hindus, Muslims to rule Ambur Municipality (Oct 12, 2011, IBN)

The leather town of Ambur has been maintaining communal amity in the civic elections for over 60 years. There is an unwritten agreement between the Hindu and the Muslim communities that is being meticulously followed. Accordingly, when a Muslim candidate gets elected for one term, the next term will be held by a Hindu candidate. The Vice-Chairperson would be a Hindu if the chairperson is a Muslim and vice versa.

During the last civic polls, the municipality had to elect a candidate from the general (men) category and it was the turn of the Muslims, wherein DMK candidate Nazir Ahmed was elected, defeating his rival from the AIADMK. In this poll, the municipality has to elect a woman candidate from general category and it is now the turn of the Hindus to field their candidates. Accordingly, various political parties have fielded women candidates in a seven-cornered battle for the plum post of Chairperson.

While the AIADMK has fielded Sangeetha Balasubramanian, a novice, the DMK has fielded Shanthi Raj, a second-time contestant. The Congress suffered a setback as two of its candidates Shakila Theerthagiri and Roselin Sampath withdrew their nominations. They have become independent candidates now. The DMDK, PMK and VCK have also fielded their candidates, bringing in more competition. As things stand, there is going to be a tough battle ahead for both, the AIADMK and DMK candidates. This is mainly because of the changing political and communal equations that are likely to impact these parties.

Meanwhile, the Indian Union Muslim League, which was in alliance with the DMK so far, has switched sides and announced its support to an independent candidate Shakila Theerthagiri, while the AIADMK’s ally Manithaneya Makkal Katchi has fielded its own candidates in four wards. This is certainly a setback for the AIADMK. DMK candidate, Shanthi Raj and the Congress candidate, Shakila Theerthagiri contested in the 2001 polls but lost to the AIADMK candidate, Latha Udhakumar, who won hands down in the elections that year.


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Prashant Bhushan bashed up, attacker held (Oct 12, 2011, New Kerala)

Senior lawyer and Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan was bashed up by some youths at his Supreme Court chamber here Wednesday. He blamed the attack, captured by a TV crew, on the rightwing Sri Ram Sene.

The youths barged into his chamber and started beating him up, before being overpowered by lawyers and others present in the room, TV visuals showed. The youths objected to his comments on Kashmir, Bhushan said.

“They were Sri Ram Sene activists. They are intolerant,” Bhushan told IANS. He has lodged a first information report with police in the incident. While one attacker was held, two others are said to have escaped.

Two weeks back, Bhushan had gone to Varanasi where during a press conference he was asked if he would favour a referendum in Kashmir. To this, he replied there could be a referendum, he said. It is this comment that angered the group, Bhushan said.



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SC rejects Gujarat govt. petition, will continue monitoring riot cases (Oct 11, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Rejecting a petition of Gujarat government on Tuesday, the Supreme Court of India said it will continue monitoring the riot cases of 2002. The BJP government of chief minister Narendra Modi, an accused in the Gulberg Society massacre case, had filed a petition urging the apex court not to monitor the 2002.

Encouraged with the September 13 verdict of the Supreme Court whereby it sent back Zakia Jafri’s case to trial court in the state and said it will not monitor the case, the Gujarat government had moved the petition urging the apex court to stop monitoring the 2002 riots cases as chargesheet has been filed and trial has begun. An apex court bench headed by Justice D.K Jain was told by senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi that according to the rules, monitoring should come to an end after the chargesheet has been filed.

However, the court told the Gujarat government today that the trial was being monitored by the Special Investigation Team for the last two years and there was no change in circumstances to go back on that decision. The apex court said it will continue monitoring the riots cases of 2002 and will pass necessary direction later if needed.



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Move against Bhatt smacks of vendetta: former Gujarat DGP (Oct 11, 2011, The Hindu)

The former Gujarat Director-General of Police and ex-Special Rapporteur to the National Human Rights Commission, P.G.J. Nampoothiri, has said the moves of the Narendra Modi government against IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt smacked of vendetta. Mr. Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging that Mr. Modi had, in a meeting on February 27, 2002, asked officials not to act against rioters during the Godhra carnage. The IPS officer was arrested after a constable, who had worked under him during the riots, filed an FIR for allegedly threatening him and making him sign a false affidavit.

“This is a clear case of harassing Bhatt. Even according to the FIR, it is a minor case and he, especially being a senior officer, should not be detained for so many days. Things are being done the wrong way. There is no justification for harassing Bhatt’s family,” the former DGP said. He welcomed disclosures about the riots by the likes of Mr. Bhatt. “It will help us understand what really happened during the riots.” He criticised the Modi government for reportedly not having implemented the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission that studied the post-riot conditions in Gujarat.

“Had the recommendations been implemented, the quest of the victims for justice would have gathered force. The NHRC had recommended that five cases [Godhra, Best Bakery, Sardarpura, Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society] be investigated by the CBI. The other 4,252 cases too required meticulous investigation,” he said. Mr. Nampoothiri worked for the Gujarat Police for 34 years. He settled in Thrissur after his retirement in 1998.



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Sanjiv Bhatt case: Cops quiz lawyer; seize computer, Sim card (Oct 15, 2011, DNA India)

A police team led by assistant commissioner of police, NC Patel, went to the office of the lawyer, VH Kanara, on Thursday and questioned him for around 2 hours. The police also seized the lawyer’s Sim card, phone and a computer in connection with the case filed by police constable KD Panth against IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. Bhatt was arrested on the basis of Panth’s complaint and is currently in judicial custody.

Panth has accused Bhatt of forcing him to file a false affidavit. Sources in the police said that the Kanara’s computer was seized because it was allegedly used to prepare the affidavit which Panth now says he had filed under duress. In his FIR, Panth had alleged that he was taken to Kanara’s office after midnight on June 16, 2011, where he was allegedly forced to sign the affidavit. NC Patel is the investigating officer of the Sanjiv Bhatt case. When contacted, Patel said he cannot reveal anything in this connection. He also refused to say anything about Kanara’s statement or about the materials seized from him.

Talking to DNA, Ahmedabad police commissioner Sudhir Sinha said that Kanara’s statement had been recorded. He, however, added that he was not aware of anything being seized from his office. Sources said that the police were trying to strengthen the case against Bhatt by recoding the statement of the advocate and also getting details from the computer which allegedly was used to prepare Panth’s affidavit.



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‘LK Advani’s rath yatra an attempt to disturb communal harmony’ (Oct 9, 2011, DNA India)

The NCP and the RJD Sunday alleged that BJP leader LK Advani’s rath yatra on the corruption issue was an attempt to disturb communal harmony and peace in the country. “The BJP is out to vitiate peace and communal amity in the country through Advani’s rath yatra with electoral benefits in the next parliamentary polls,” NCP national general secretary Tariq Anwar told reporters here.

Describing Advani’s crusade against corruption as ‘uncalled for’ and ‘ill timed’, the NCP leader said the former should have waited for the outcome of the proposed Lokpal bill being drafted by a parliamentary committee on the basis of several proposals submitted by the civil society. He also rapped the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for giving his consent to flag off Advani’s rath yatra from Sitab diara on October 11 next and regretted that Kumar has agreed to do so despite his open disagreement with the BJP’s ideology.

“It (Advani’s rath yatra) is an attempt to incite communal disharmony to which the RJD is opposed to,” RJD Bihar unit president Ramchandra Purve told reporters here. The RJD has decided to oppose Advani’s rath yatra by taking out a protest march on October 11 under party national president Lalu Prasad, he said.



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HC judge recuses from Chudasama bail hearing (Oct 15, 2011, Indian Express)

A single-judge bench of the Gujarat High Court on Friday recused itself from hearing the regular bail petition of suspended IPS officer Abhay Chudasama in connection with the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. After recusal of Justice Z K Saiyed, the petition is now likely to appear before some other bench of the court. Chudasama, who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), had moved the HC after a Sessions Court rejected his bail petition in August.

In the petition, he has accused CBI of miserably failing in its duty to reveal the truth in the dark areas of the case and had deliberately implicated him to use it as a ‘ladder’ to arrest former Minister of State (Home) Amit Shah. Chudasama has also negated the entire evidence against him saying it had appeared only subsequently and that most of the witnesses are not reliable.

On August 16, the special CBI court had dismissed his bail petition saying he has been cited as the linchpin in the case by the CBI. During the said hearing, the probe agency had told the court that it was investigating the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter case and Chudasama could tamper with evidence, if granted bail.

Challenging the order, Chudasama has explained that he was out on interim bail for nearly four months for undergoing hip surgery and even the CBI had no complaints of any tampering with evidence by him during that period. He has shown readiness to abide by all the conditions imposed by the court, including that of staying away not only from Gujarat but from those states where the witnesses reside.



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Medha Patkar begins Kashmir to Manipur march against AFSPA (Oct 17, 2011, Times of India)

Around two dozen human rights activists from across the country started their march on Sunday from Srinagar to Manipur demanding revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The ten day long march has been named after 53 year old Irom Sharmila, a Manipuri human rights activist who launched her crusade against the act when Assam Rifles personnel killed ten civilians in Imphal on November 2, 2000. Sharmila has been on an indefinite fast for almost eleven years, demanding the repeal of AFSPA that gives unbridled powers to the armed forces.

The march led by social activist and Team Anna member Medha Patkar would pass through different states to generate awareness among the people about the act and the need for its revocation. After visiting Hazratbal shrine in Downtown on Sunday evening, the marching activists started their rally from Lal Chowk in Uptown. Patkar said that the AFSPA was an inhuman law that had no place in a civilized society. “There have been unlawful killings and disappearance cases in the places where this law is operational. We denounce all kinds of violence including the kind committed by army in Kashmir and other parts of the country,” she added.

Medha said that the official interlocutors on Kashmir had also recommended revocation of AFSPA but the government had nothing so far to repeal it. Human rights activist and Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey said that the activists were ready to face the attacks for demanding revocation of the armed forces law. “We are ready to face the people like those who attacked Prashat Bhushan in New Delhi,” Pandey told the gathering before leaving with the march. Pandey advocated that the people of Jammu and Kashmir should be given the right to decide their political fate.

However, Medha Patkar differed from this point of view. She said that the state should initiate a meaningful dialogue with the Kashmiri people to resolving Kashmir issue. The caravan which would end its journey on October 27, 2011 after passing through ten states was joined by several Kashmiri human rights activists including chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Parveena Ahangar and Hurriyat separatist leader Zamrud Habib.



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Communal violence a cause of concern; 427 deaths in 3 years (Oct 16, 2011, Times of India)

Communal violence has become a major cause of concern for the government with as many as 2,420 such incidents reported from across the country in past three years that resulted in the death of at least 427 people.

According to home ministry statistics, 53 people were killed and 1,059 injured in 338 incidents of communal violence this year till August. Of these incidents, 10 people were killed on September 14 in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district while four persons lost their lives in Rudrapur town in Uttarakhand’s Udhamsingh Nagar district on October 2.

“Communal violence has become a major cause of concern for the Centre. We have advised the state governments concerned to deal with such incidents firmly as communal disturbance could have far reaching consequences in the society,” a home ministry official said.

In 2010, 114 people were killed and 2,115 injured in 651 incidents of communal violence in the country. In 2009, 123 people died and 2,417 were injured in 773 incidents of communal clashes while another 123 lives were lost in 656 incidents of communal violence in 2008. More than 2,270 people were also injured in those clashes in that year.



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Samjhauta case: Defence wants NIA to put ‘all facts’ on record (Oct 10, 2011, Indian Express)

A special court here today adjourned the Samjhauta train blast case till November 2 after the defence plea that NIA should put “all facts” pertaining to the case on record. “Arguments on framing of charges were to be taken up today, but the case was adjourned after the defence plea. In the next hearing, we have been asked to file our reply,” NIA Special Prosecutor R K Handa said later. National Investigation Agency’s Special Judge Subhash Mehla adjourned the case. Handa said right wing Hindu group member Aseemanand’s counsel submitted a plea before the court that NIA be directed to produce documents that claim to have revelations of 26/11 terror accused David Coleman Headley’s wife and that of Students Islamic Movement of India “showing Headley and SIMI’s hand in the cross-border train’s bombings.”

“The defence pleaded that NIA be directed to produce the documents of the US agency FBI with regards to Headley’s investigation and another report where SIMI is claimed to have confessed responsibility in the (train) bombings,” he said. After the court proceedings, Aseemanand’s counsel said, “All these documents were necessary to be brought on record. We have sought these documents under the provisions of the Section 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code.”

As the proceedings in the case are held in-camera, Handa said outside the court, “We submitted that the defence was only adopting delaying tactics. Their averments are totally vague and hearsay. At the time of framing of charges, the accused has no right to summon any document.” “We also submitted that this (Special) Court would not have jurisdiction to summon some of the records from the US,” he said. On September 28, the date of last hearing in the case, the special court had allowed NIA, probing Samjhauta train blast case, to send the material evidence collected for examination to Hyderabad-based Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory.

The NIA had sought permission to allow CFSL experts to take material evidence of the Samjhauta Express case to Hyderabad facility for comparison with other samples collected in Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer bomb blasts cases, in which the role of a right-wing activist is suspected. After a four-year probe, the NIA had on June 20, charged Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi (now dead), Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalasangra alias Ramji with triggering explosions in the cross-border Samjhauta Express that left 68 people dead, mostly Pakistanis.

In the chargesheet filed in June before the vacation court of additional district and sessions judge here, Kanchan Mahi, the NIA had accused the five of hatching a criminal conspiracy which resulted in bomb blasts in the train. Aseemanand and Sharma are already in judicial custody in Ambala jail. Apart from Ajmer Dargah blast, which claimed three lives and left 15 others injured, Aseemanand and Sharma are accused in several other blast cases across the country, including those at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid and Malegaon.



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Terror suspect Afroz Shaikh flying high 10 years later (Oct 11, 2011, Times of India)

Afroz Shaikh was arrested by the city crime branch in October 2001 for planning to hijack an airliner in the UK and crashing it into the House of Commons on 9/11. A free man now, he says the police’s attempts to “malign” him failed. The father of two had to give up his career as a pilot and now help his family in the garment business. He offers namaz five times a day now and spends most of his time with his family. “It was a horrible experience with the city police. I was termed an al Qaida associate in India and arrested on terror charges. But where is the evidence? The entire case was fabricated and the police’s cooked up story fell through in court,” says Afroz.

“I was framed in eight cases. Just to keep me in custody, the cops booked me in cases of theft, robbery and forgery,” he laughs. He says his family and the media stood by him in the “most difficult time of his life”. Soon after the court acquitted him, he decided to marry a Pune-based HR executive, now a housewife. “My two sons go to reputed schools. I don’t want to mix my present with the past but I remember the methods and tactics the police used to harass and malign me. My passport is still with the court so I can’t take up the job of a pilot. What have they achieved by doing this?” Afroz wonders.

His training certificates obtained from Australian, American and British flying clubs are with the court too. “I want to expand my business and go abroad but my passport is with the court,” says Afroz , trying to recollect the date his papers expired a few years ago. How did he spend six months in jail? “Excellent,” he laughs, “I was not a culprit but framed in the case. My father had arranged homemade food and other stuff in jail. Other inmates would clean my clothes and my family would pay them. Even I would get a massage service in jail.” He also contested the 2004 assembly elections as an independent but lost.



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Opinions and Editorials

A Few Good Men Wearing Khaki – And Modi’s Handcuffs – By Julio Ribeiro (Oct 24, 2011, Outlook)

Sanjiv Bhatt, an IPS officer of Gujarat who is now under arrest, insists he was present at a February 27, 2002, meeting during which chief minister Narendra Modi instructed senior police officers not to check Hindu mobs thirsting for revenge for the previous day’s Godhra train carnage. Bhatt’s official driver had supported that statement, saying he had driven his boss to the meeting, but he retracted later and lodged a complaint that Bhatt had forced him to say that. Without bothering to establish the truth, the state arrested Bhatt. There is no denying that an urgently summoned meeting was held at the chief minister’s office or residence on the evening of February 27. Under the circumstances obtaining from the train carnage, such a meeting was a must. And even if Bhatt was not invited into the room when Modi addressed the chief secretary, the home secretary, the DGP and the police commissioner of Ahmedabad, I’m sure that, in his capacity as a senior intelligence officer, he would have accompanied the DGP to the venue in the absence of the intelligence chief, who happened to be on leave then. On conclusion of the meeting, the DGP would have briefed Bhatt on the chief minister’s instructions. Intelligence officers are always kept in the loop. That Modi did give those directions and sent two ministers to ensure compliance by positioning themselves in the police commissioner’s and the DGP’s control rooms is common knowledge in the Gujarat police force. I visited Ahmedabad in April 2002 and talked to many officers and men as well as citizens of Ahmedabad. Not one of my interlocutors denied that the police had failed in its legally mandated duty because of instructions from political masters. There’s no better example than this of politics superceding the law; if a cautionary instance for the urgency to depoliticise the police were needed, there could be none as egregious.

But there were indeed some officers in Gujarat who did not carry out the illegal and unconstitutional instructions. They deployed their men, giving strict instructions that any reprisal attacks against Muslims must be countered. Negligible violence was reported from the districts under these vigilant and conscientious officers. Rahul Sharma headed one such district, Bhavnagar, and Vinod Mal another, Surendranagar. Surat, too, was comparatively quiet. The government certainly did not appreciate such dutifulness and adherence to the Constitution; very soon, these officers found themselves being shunted about. The whole thrust of police reforms advocated by the Dharma Vira commission has been on depoliticising the force by taking away the power of appointment and transfer from politicians and instead vesting it with a security commission specifically entrusted with picking competent officers of undoubted integrity and giving them the freedom to enforce the law without having to look over their shoulder at the chief minister or home minister. I’d like to quote the 1968 ruling of Lord Denning, a celebrated judge, in the Rex vs Metropolitian Police Commissioner of London, ex parte Blackburn: I have no hesitation in holding that, like every constable in the land, the commissioner should be, and is, independent of the executive…. No Minister of the Crown can tell him that he must, or must not, keep observation on this place or that; or that he must, or must not, prosecute this man or that one…. The responsibility for law enforcement lies on him.” A police force untrammelled by political control would have ensured that even the spontaneous anger of the majority against innocent members of the minority was monitored and kept in check. The enormity of the pogrom in Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat, which continued unchecked for a week or more, would not have happened. Jayanti Ravi, an IAS officer, was the district magistrate of Godhra when the kar sevaks were burnt to death in the ill-fated Sabarmati Express. She phoned me a day after the incident, requesting me to come to Godhra immediately. I pointed out that, being no longer in the service, there was nothing I could do. In the course of our phone conversation, she told me the train had been held up in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh, because of some mechanical defect, and had rolled into Godhra station seven hours late. This puts to rest any theory that the attack had been planned.

Apparently, some VHP workers accompanying the kar sevaks used to pull the beards of Muslim tea vendors on the platform, refuse to pay and even destroy their property. It is said that, in retaliation, people living in the Signal Falia slums adjoining the railway line, many of whom are Ghanchis (a Muslim community of oil-millers) and earn a living by vending peanuts, snacks, tea and the like on trains, attacked one batch of kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya. The state and its police should have done their duty by arresting the petty criminals living in Signal Falia who are alleged to have gathered the mob and carried out the attack on the train. Instead, revenge was incited and violence was allowed; hundreds of innocent Muslims in Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat were made to suffer barbarity of the worst kind. The ordinary Gujarati is non-violent. He is more interested in business and trade. But he has a deep sense of grievance against Muslims for historical reasons, dating back to Mahmud of Ghazni’s attacks on Somnath. In the 1970-80s, Congress leaders in Gujarat flirted with bootleggers and smugglers, whose money helped them in their elections. They’d also get gangsters to start a riot or two in the pols of Ahmedabad when disruption was required. As a result, over the decades, the Gujarati middle class’s distrust of Muslims grew. Modi played on this to consolidate his political hold on Gujarat and enhance his personal appeal as a ‘Hindu’ leader. Now, he has his eyes set on the prime minister’s gaddi.

But vindictive and unjustified harassment of officers opposed to him will only cut into Modi’s support base. I know one good IPS officer whom Modi has victimised for reasons known only to him. Kuldeep Sharma is a really outstanding IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre. In 1985, when I served briefly as DGP of that state, Sharma was the superintendent of police in charge of the Kutch district. He was very popular and competent, and I noticed the implicit faith people of the district placed in him. Later, when I was in Punjab, Sharma volunteered to come and fight terrorists there at a time when most IPS officers were reluctant to do so. I had him transferred to Punjab, but my batchmate, Anant Kumar Verma, who was then Sharma’s boss as the RAW chief, approached prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and got the transfer reversed. Verma told Rajiv that Sharma was too precious an asset to let go of and that RAW’s operations would suffer considerably if that were to happen. I mention this only to point out how competent and indispensable Sharma was. So I was quite surprised to learn Modi was after Sharma and had even got his brother, an IAS officer, arrested on corruption charges. Sharma himself was given the post of commissioner for sheep and goats, a job usually entrusted to an IAS officer incapable of tackling anything more challenging. I had to write to the Union home minister to intervene, since a very competent IPS officer was being sidelined and wasted to satisfy the chief minister’s ego.

And now we have the case of Bhatt, who along with four or five other IPS officers is being targeted and harassed by Modi in order to send a message to others. I agree that Bhatt does not enjoy a reputation for justice or impeccable integrity; nor is he believed to be as competent as Sharma. But arresting a senior IPS officer without cause is completely unacceptable. I did not have a visceral dislike for Modi, like many do. In fact, I admired the successes he had achieved on the economic front, and even more, I admired the fact that the bureaucracy in Gujarat, unlike in most other states, had been kept on a tight leash. But Modi’s use of revenge and dominance against his own senior officers and his use of violence in pursuit of ideology has obliterated any semblance of morality or reason that he possesses. Hence I have since revised my views about the man. He is obviously very ambitious, and ambitions of the overriding variety can bring out the worst in any human being. That he is very vindictive can be gauged by his totally warped action against Bhatt. Modi does not seem to realise that the consequences of this action would be the opposite of what he had intended. I am happy that IPSs officers of Gujarat have got together to condemn his petulance.



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A fight for truth amid web of lies – By Shweta (Oct 16, 2011, Deccan Chronicle)

IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt had moved the supreme court accusing narendra modi of complicity in the post-godhra riots, and was arrested following a complaint by a police constable. his wife shweta talks about her husband’s lone battle. My whole world came crashing down the moment Sanjiv was taken into custody. It came like a bolt from the blue. We had no idea that he was going to be arrested. In fact, the whole operation reeked of lies and deceit. The officers who came home told him that they were taking him for interrogation regarding the complaint filed by police constable K.D. Pant. It was only later that fateful night that we came to know that he had been arrested by the Ghatolia police, and then taken to the Ahmedabad crime branch in a clandestine operation orchestrated by the most powerful man in the state.

We call ourselves a democracy. But it is shameful that in a country like ours, this is the treatment meted out to an honest, upright officer. His only fault was that he chose to stand up for what he believes in. He made the mistake of speaking out against the government and the system, and was punished for it. What was more shocking was how even people he called his friends completely let him down. Officers who worked with Sanjiv came to my house and raided the premises ruthlessly, without showing any consideration to me or even my father-in-law. On the night of the arrest our house was raided thrice by the Gujarat police. Over 35 to 40 policemen searched our home for more than two hours without any intimation. These are the same policemen who have at sometime or the other worked under Sanjiv. They ill-treated our family. Suddenly all of Sanjiv’s colleagues started disassociating themselves from us. Even junior level officers didn’t take my calls on the night when Sanjiv was taken to the Ahmedabad crime branch. A man who was so popular among his peers was suddenly left with very few friends.

My two children too have not been spared the trauma. The children of an honest IPS officer are now being labelled as children of some criminal. My teenage daughter, who is studying in Mumbai, had to rush to Ahmedabad after learning about her father’s arrest. I feel so guilty about the fact that I haven’t even been able to provide any emotional support to my in-laws, who are heartbroken. What parent can survive the humiliation and pain of knowing their innocent son is languishing in jail and being treated like a criminal? The way the government has treated Sanjiv clearly shows that he is being framed for speaking against the Narendra Modi government. Tell me, where was Pant (a constable with Sanjiv in 2002 at the time of the Godhra carnage) for nine years? Why didn’t he file a complaint at that time? Sanjiv was arrested after Mr Modi got relief from the Supreme Court.

This clearly shows the arrest was a planned move by the government. Moreover, Sanjiv is also a witness in three critical cases, and despite Mr Modi being the main accused in one of them, we never got any protection. In fact after he was suspended, Sanjiv’s security too was withdrawn. Is there any justice in any of this? I am very worried about Sanjiv’s situation while in custody. I spend sleepless nights thinking about how he is being treated. Even when I wrote to senior officials like director-general of police Chitranjan Singh and Ahmedabad police commissioner Sudhir Sinha, they gave me no assurance regarding Sanjiv’s safety in jail. I really thought officers of that stature would be more understanding towards their colleague and fellow IPS officer. Till date I have got no reassurance that nothing untoward will happen to him while he is in custody.

It was only because I feared for Sanjiv’s life that I was compelled to write to Union home minister P. Chidambaram requesting him to provide adequate security to Sanjiv in jail. I never wanted to become part of the political game between the BJP and Congress. And my fears were clearly not unfounded. Now there are rumours of Sanjiv being tagged as a Congress agent. It’s just been over a week since this whole nightmare started and I already feel tired and hopeless. I am almost certain that there is no redemption. I know we will never get justice here. It is a quagmire here in Gujarat. No one will ever have the courage to speak up or take a stand against the Modi government. My husband was an exception and the state has made an example of him. It is the government’s warning. They have proved that this is the consequence of talking against the man who is poised to become the prime minister of the country that claims to be world’s largest democracy. There is no starker irony than this.



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Rattling along – Editorial (Oct 13, 2011, Times of India)

The political symbolism defining L K Advani’s latest project, the Jan Chetna Yatra, is drearily predictable. That the veteran BJP leader has embarked on yet another yatra and that too from Sitab Diara in Bihar, the birthplace of Jayaprakash Narayan, on the latter’s birth anniversary, is hardly ingenious. True, the yatra was originally planned for launch from Gujarat. By flagging off from Nitish Kumar’s Bihar, Advani could well be trying to kill two birds with the same stone – undercut Narendra Modi’s popularity within the BJP as well as project himself as the NDA’s consensus PM candidate. Having said that, neither the symbol of the rath nor the allusion to the JP movement denotes a modern, contemporary idiom. Instead, it confirms that Advani and the BJP continue to be stuck in old-school politics.

While the anti-corruption/anti-black money theme of Advani’s yatra reflects the public mood of the times, it highlights a poverty of new symbols in politics. If anything, Advani’s Ram rath yatra in 1990, the original political experiment that led to the BJP’s rise on the national stage, was highly regressive. The subsequent demolition of the Babri masjid, sparking off communal riots, is a dark chapter in Indian politics. That two decades later Advani’s rath continues to chug along, albeit under the new slogan of fighting corruption, is disappointing.

Just like Anna Hazare’s crusade today, the Bihar movement in 1974 was also born out of popular frustration against endemic corruption. At that time too, the Indian economy was caught in a pincer between low growth and high inflation, leading to mass disaffection with a Congress-led government. While too much shouldn’t be made of this, some of the UPA government’s authoritarian reflexes today – such as arresting Anna Hazare, or proposals to roll back some RTI provisions and clamp down on media freedom – are also reminiscent of the 1970s. That stakeholders in the system would find it expedient to hark back to earlier times represents a huge disconnect between the polity and the aspirations of 21st century India.

India has come a long way since JP and Advani’s Ram rath. It’s a youthful country that wants better governance and immediate action on pressing problems. Instead of grasping at straws from the past, we need creative solutions for the future. Advani’s anti-corruption plank won’t sound convincing, for example, unless it includes a clarion call against the Reddy brothers who carry considerable clout with the BJP-run government in Karnataka. There’s little point invoking symbols and slogans from the JP or Anna movements, the BJP needs to come up with some fresh ideas of its own.



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Targeted attack – By T.K Rajalakshmi (Oct 8, 2011, Frontline)

The Kasbah, or the old part, of Gopalgarh town in the Assembly segment of Kaman in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district is nondescript save for its undulating roads and crowded marketplace. Nine members of the Meo Muslim community were killed here on September 14 when the police fired at their mosque while rioters belonging to another community attacked them. Of the 23 people injured in the violence, 19 were Meos. According to the post-mortem reports, three people were killed by police bullets, one person died of burns, another died when hit by shrapnel, while the rest of the deaths were caused by sharp weapons. On September 26, Shabbir, 40, of Pathravli village in Gopalgarh, succumbed to injuries at Sawai Man Singh hospital, Jaipur, bringing up the death toll to 10. This part of Rajasthan is contiguous with the Meo Muslim-dominated areas of Haryana. The Meos of Bharatpur share many cultural traits with other communities living in the region, and such violence in the area had not been reported in the past. The dispute that triggered the violence was over a few bighas of land behind the mosque, which also included a “pokhar”, or waterhole. The violence seems to have been one-sided because all the dead and most of the injured belonged to one community. Meos of the area allege that the police colluded with the rioters. That State Home Minister Shanti Dhariwal defended the firing by the police has not helped matters.

The mosque in question was used, along with another one in Gopalgarh, by people from the surrounding 38 villages. Members of the Gujjar community asserted their claim to the waterhole, which they used for their livestock. In response to a case filed by Meo Muslims in the Pahadi district court, the tehsildar of Pahadi issued on September 13 an order under Section 30 of the Land Revenue Act asking the Gujjars to vacate the land. The agitated Gujjars allegedly beat up the imam, Abdul Rashid, who lived in the Kasbah near the mosque after news of the order spread. Tempers rose, and soon agitated groups of the two communities got together to debate further action. The next day, leaders of the two communities met to try and resolve the matter. However, rumours seemed to fly thick and fast, and members of both communities reportedly gathered near the mosque. It is not known what provoked the police action, though the police version is that they fired to prevent an armed confrontation between the two groups. The mosque, built about a decade ago, is constructed on a mound. It is flanked by an idgah, a burial ground and a smaller mosque in the rear. Most versions suggest there were no deaths before the police arrived on the scene and started firing at the mosque. Besides, most of the victims were Meos, a fact that seems to suggest a deliberate attack on the community rather than a skirmish between the two communities. It is not clear why the Meos, who form the majority in the area and were, by some reports, heavily armed, could not defend themselves or inflict significant harm on their attackers. There are other disturbing suggestions left by the violence. Frontline, which was granted permission to visit the mosque briefly, found it badly vandalised. Most of the victims were apparently killed inside the mosque, and there were bloodstains on the floor. An iron door had deep serrations on it, indicating that an attempt had been made to hack it open. A metal trunk lay unlocked; its contents had been looted and the lid had deep marks on it, suggesting that an axe or some sharp tool had been used to prise it open. Two bodies, burnt beyond recognition, were found in a well in the idgah compound; ropes and an empty fuel canister were found nearby. Footage of the burnt corpses, taken by an organisation called Anhad much before the police spotted them, were given to the media.

Though Meos form the numerical majority in Gopalgarh, Gujjars and other caste Hindus have a sizable presence and many of them live in the Kasbah and the adjoining area. There are also a few Meo families in the Kasbah, mostly of the butcher (kasai) caste, including that of the assaulted imam. The mosque, which is among the more imposing structures in Gopalgarh, is less than 700 metres from the local police station. Questions are being raised on how matters could reach such a stage with the police station so close, and why the police action had such a tragic consequence. Local Meos who witnessed the violence are unhappy with the police action and the administration’s role. Yakub, who saw the firing, said people had assembled at the mosque for evening prayers when a police vehicle driving down the Sikri road began firing towards the mosque. He said, “We saw armed Gujjars descending from the end where we wash ourselves.” Some makeshift shops owned by Meos in the Kasbah were also vandalised. Yunus Saleem, a middle-aged Meo whom Frontline met at the Dar-ul-uloom Mohammadiya madrassa at Mil Khelda, said: “There is a feeling among ordinary citizens that the administration is always partial. Why is it that in every such incident, only our people get killed?” Indeed, about half of the 19 policemen at the local police station are Gujjars. Meos, therefore seldom approach the police station for help. Zahida Khan, the Congress legislator from Kaman Assembly segment, was present at the meeting where the two communities were trying to come to a settlement on September 14 before matters went out of hand. Zahida, daughter of the late Choudhary Tayyab Hussain, a well-known Meo leader and two-time Lok Sabha member, told Frontline that there were communal elements present at the Gopalgarh police station who were trying to incite people against her. “There was a threat to my life, too,” she said. Anita Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Nagar Assembly segment, was also present at that meeting. So was, according to local people, Gyan Chand Ahuja, the BJP MLA from Ramgarh in Alwar district. He reportedly played a role in stoking the fire. There were also others who wanted a flare-up, according to local Meos, and they included advocates and teachers owing allegiance to right-wing Hindutva groups. Ramzan Choudhary, an advocate, said: “At 1-45 p.m. on September 14, I spoke to the personal assistant of the State Home Minister, informing him that the situation had become volatile. He assured me that things were under control.”

Samaideen, a young Meo from Andhwadi, said that like him, most of the Meo youth did odd jobs such as repairing, building, painting and lifting loads. In all the seven villages from where those who died in the violence hailed, there was not a single Meo who held a government job. Two of the deceased were from Andhwadi. Maulana Khursheed, a father of two children, was one of them. His father, Abdul Rehman, said, “He was good in studies, so he was called Maulana. He studied at Deoband. He was the only earning member.” He said no one from the administration had met him or the family of the other deceased boy from the village. The State government has ordered a judicial inquiry. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been asked to investigate the incident. Sunil Dutt, Inspector General of Police, Bharatpur Range, told Frontline that a first information report registered by the station house officer at Gopalgarh named 23 Gujjars and 21 Meos. He said that a team led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police was conducting a primary investigation. He claimed that “radical speeches” had been made from the mosque. When asked how it came about that all the victims were from one community, he did not have an answer. “What do you think the police should have done?” he asked. When Frontline visited the area, curfew had been relaxed in the daylight hours from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., but the Kasbah was largely desolate. A barber shop was open and a few youngsters strutted around aggressively. Frontline met Samandar Singh, a Gujjar who was very reluctant to speak. His father, an elderly man, was rather aggressive: “We do not know how this happened. Ask them [the Meos]. We were not there. Why are you asking all these questions?”

However, Samandar Singh opened up eventually and said that what had happened was unfortunate. “The fight was over the waterhole. They wanted to make a graveyard there. They spread rumours that the imam had been beaten up. They announced that they would finish us off,” he said, corroborating the police version. The Meos have not denied that some foolhardy youngsters might have made some inflammatory statements. But they point out that had the police fired on Meos in areas where Gujjars lived in order to save them, some among the latter would also have been injured. The Meos have traditionally voted for the Congress. But members of the community Frontline spoke to expressed unhappiness that a Congress delegation comprising Members of Parliament Rashid Alvi, Viplove Thakur, Deependra Hooda and Vijay Bahaguna spent very little time interacting with witnesses and families of the victims. The delegation blamed the police for the excesses and was also critical of the State Home Minister. A BJP delegation visited the area, too. A Communist Party of India (Marxist) delegation led by State secretary Basudev and Rajya Sabha member Tapan Sen was told that after a compromise was arrived at between the two communities, some “anti-social elements” spread rumours and the police, instead of verifying them, fired indiscriminately at the mosque. The delegation felt that unless the issues of political, social and economic backwardness of the area were not addressed, vested interests would utilise the situation. Kirori Lal Meena, the independent Member of Parliament from Dausa, who has aspirations to form a third front along with former Congress and BJP leaders, has been actively taking up cause of the Meos. The competition unleashed by political parties over this issue has also unfortunately driven wedges among the Meos. Frontline spoke to Sher Mohammad, an aide of K.L. Meena, regarding raising other issues of development that concerned the community. He answered that at present, the only thing relevant was the death of the 10 persons. …



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Show The Right Cheek – By Saba Naqvi (Oct 24, 2011, Outlook)

In the twisted mind of Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, it was some sort of glorious act. “God give us the power to complete our mission,” he tweeted before it. The mission: a coward’s attack on eminent lawyer and human rights activist Prashant Bhushan by Bagga and two of his friends, Inder Verma and Vishnu Gupta. On October 13, the three men walked into the lawyer’s Delhi office and thrashed him, an act that acquired spectacular dimensions because it was captured live by a TV channel that happened to be there to interview Bhushan. The next day, when the three were remanded to judicial custody in a Delhi court, their supporters viciously attacked some citizens who had come out in support of Bhushan�”which was also captured on live TV. A little-known outfit, the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, has hence come into the limelight. Inder Verma, one of the men who assaulted Bhushan, also claims to be president, Sri Rama Sene, Delhi unit. The men say they attacked Bhushan because he had supported the idea of a plebiscite in J&K and asked for a repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. On their Facebook page, they wrote: “If someone breaks my country I will break their head.”

There was a somewhat cruel irony in the fact that Bhushan was physically attacked by right-wing hooligans at a time when the Anna Hazare movement�”of which he is a crucial part�”is being accused of getting its organisational muscle from the RSS. Which is precisely why several conspiracy theories are doing the rounds about the Bhushan attack. And true or false, such speculation does reveal the confusion that still prevails about the Jan Lokpal movement, particularly now that it has taken on a political dimension with the campaign against the Congress in the Hisar bypolls. First is the theory that the Sangh parivar sees Prashant Bhushan as the awkward member of Team Anna, the man hardest to manage when said investments have to be encashed. Bhushan has been associated with too many human rights causes, counts too many “comrades” among his friends and is the one Team Anna member unrestrained in his critique of the parivar and Narendra Modi. As far as the right-wing brigade goes, he is the “unpatriotic anti-nationalist” inside Team Anna. The traitor within. Hence goons were sent after him.

Theory number two is that perhaps the powers that be had a hand in instigating the attack as Bhushan has become a real headache, both for members in the ruling dispensation and the corporate sector. Indeed, when news of the attack was first flashed, there was apprehension that some Congress worker angry with the political actions of Team Anna had gone nuts and slapped him around. There are also murmurs that given the Sangh taint is an embarrassment for Team Anna, an attack by extremists pledging allegiance to an ultra-right ideology can be a face-saver, “evidence” that the movement is not being carried on the shoulders of the RSS. India Against Corruption (which manages the Anna movement) writes on its website: “It is a peoples’ movement and every Indian ought to and is welcome to participate in it. The movement consists of people from all shades of political opinion, including the Left, Right and Centre. But the RSS is not part of the leadership…not connected in any way in running the movement.” But as the RSS sees it, after years of failure, the Anna initiative is something worth backing. It’s good strategy to prop up something that has already knocked the wind out of the Congress sails. In internal meetings, the assessment is that the BJP is in a position now to take advantage of the disarray in UPA-II. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was only being honest when he declared, as part of his Vijayadashami address, that the cadre was told to join the Anna movement. But such proclamations are certainly embarrassing for some individuals in Team Anna.

Meanwhile, one of Bhushan’s assailants has also been linked to the Sri Rama Sene that has in the past vandalised M.F. Husain exhibitions and repeatedly attacked Valentine’s Day celebrations. Leaders of the group have also defended saffron terror planners like Colonel Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya. The three men who attacked Bhushan last week have also in the past disrupted public engagements of Arundhati Roy and Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The RSS, of course, denies any overt association with anyone who goes over the edge, although the kind of hatred such individuals harbour continue to be fed by the Sangh ideology. But to plan conspiracies, one needs to think, plot and trigger actions. It is unlikely that these individuals who attacked Bhushan could really fathom all the dots being connected here. It probably happened just the way they said it did�”‘he needed to be bashed on the head for he was speaking against the nation’. They too saw themselves as self-appointed guardians of the public good.



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Don’t dilute RTI – Editorial (Oct 13, 2011, Deccan Herald)

The highest achievement of the UPA-I government was perhaps the enactment in 2005 of the right to information law which redefined the relationship between citizens and government. After six years, the government seems to be developing second thoughts on the legislation, judging from the comments being made on it by ministers. Corporate affairs minister Veerappa Moily has found that it transgresses into the independent functioning of the government.

Law minister Salman Khurshid thinks that misuse of the act has adversely affected the “institutional efficacy and efficiency” of the government. There are demands from some ministries to keep the Prime Minister’s Office outside the purview of the law, obviously as a result of the inconvenience caused by the recent disclosure of a finance ministry note. There seems to be a design behind the demands.

The very fact that the government is now troubled by the citizen’s enhanced right is reason for continuance of the law and even strengthening it. For the first time citizens can demand information, scrutinise decisions and interrogate the government on their basis. Many of details of the recent scams relating to the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh housing society and the 2G spectrum allotment came to light because of the use of the right to information. It is not just the big scams that were unravelled.

Thousands of public spirited persons were able to find out how their small neighbourhood government offices worked. Some of them even had to pay with their lives for using their right. It is wrong to claim that the prospect of disclosure of information in future delays decision-making and forces officials to be overcautious. They will in fact be forced to take the right decisions and own responsibility for them. This is what good governance needs. There are enough safeguards in the law against frivolous demands and disclosure of information which is not in public interest.

The government seems to have been unnerved by the genie of citizens’ power which was bottled up for decades. Those who say that the law is obstructionist and hampers the functioning of government should correct their notions about governance, shaped by entrenched practices of secrecy and confidentiality. Greater transparency will ensure greater accountability of the government and expand the democratic space. The government should desist from any attempt to amend the act and to dilute and weaken its provisions. The need is actually to strengthen it in areas like increased protection for RTI activists.



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