IAMC Weekly News Roundup - October 8th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 8th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Narendra Modi trained by RSS in ‘Nazi tradition’: Digvijaya Singh (Oct 2, 2012, Times of India)

Digvijaya Singh on Tuesday slammed Narendra Modi over his allegation on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign trips, saying he has been trained well by RSS in the “Nazi tradition” of false propaganda and BJP’s “cheap intentions” have been proved by trying to politicise a health issue. Comparing the Gujarat chief minister with Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of Nazi government in Germany, the Congress leader picked on his favourite target RSS alleging it trains its cadres in “disinformation campaign”.

In his posts on the microblogging site Twitter, Singh said, “Sangh trains it’s cadre in disinformation campaign. Obviously Modi has been trained well! Sangh has modelled itself in the Nazi tradition. “Sangh training to it’s cadre. Jhoot bolo zor se bolo aur baar baar bolo (Tell a lie, tell it loudly and tell it hundred times). Doesn’t it remind you of Hitler’s Goebbels?”

Singh’s attack againt Modi and RSS came a day after Modi alleged that Rs 1,880 crore was spent from state exchequer for Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign trips citing a media report. In the night, he offered to publicly accept his mistake if the claim turned out to be false.

“I had said this thing based on the report of a newspaper. If my information is wrong, today I say that I will publicly accept this mistake”, Modi said addressing another rally in Junagadh.

Digvijaya Singh said the incident “establishes the motive of BJP and Narendra Modi, their malafide cheap intentions. They want to politicise even an issue like health”. The Congress president had gone thrice to an undisclosed destination abroad in last more than a year for a surgery.



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Missing Patia convict caught, jailed for 31 years (Oct 6, 2012, Times of India)

A special SIT court that heard the Naroda Patia massacre case on Friday awarded a 31-year jail term to one convict – Suresh alias Shehzad Netalkar, who had been absconding for the past few months. Earlier on August 31, designated judge Jyotsna Yagnik sentenced 31 convicts to imprisonment of various terms ranging from 24 years to imprisonment till death as was the case of Babu Bajrangi. The court also acquitted 29 persons giving them the benefit of doubt. Netalkar was not present on that day in court.

After he was produced in court by a special team which nabbed him from Nandurbar, the court appreciated the team’s efforts to nab the absconder. Before the court, Netalkar said that he evaded summons as he had family responsibilities. He also said that he wanted to return, but under compulsion to fulfill certain family responsibilities, he chose to stay away. He broke down in the courtroom.

His advocate G S Solanki sought mercy from the court saying that Netalkar’s son has also been convicted and there is nobody else to look after the family. On the other hand, special prosecutor Akhil Desai and victims’ lawyer Shashad Pathan sought exemplary punishment in this case.

After hearing the lawyers on aspects of sentencing, the judge punished Netalkar with 31 years’ imprisonment. The court held that he was one of the main conspirators who actively participated in violence the entire day on February 28, 2002. The court said that killing 97 persons is not a crime that could be viewed sympathetically. “Expression of sympathy will be thoroughly misplaced looking at the massacre and killing of innocent people in this case,” the court observed.

The court has put Netalkar in a set with eight accused – the others being Naresh Chhara, Morli Sindhi, Haresh Rathod, Suresh Langado, Premchand Tiwari, Manoj Sindhi and Bipin Panchal. All have been given 31 years’ imprisonment for actively participating in conspiracy and violence. “This reveals their commitment, their priority of life that tremendous bias and their involvement throughout in the crime that went on for the entire day…These accused are such who have not spared a single minute of that day for any other task of their lives and that right from 9.30 am to 8 pm, they were very much on the site unceasingly and continuously committing the crimes,” the court noticed in order.



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Gujarat govt blocked RTI info on Narendra Modi’s own foreign jaunts (Oct 3, 2012, Indian Express)

Even as Chief Minister Narendra Modi is repeatedly demanding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh disclose the amount of public money spent on Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign trips, it now turns out his own government failed to furnish similar details about his trips abroad sought by activists under the Right to Information Act. Ramesh Joshi, a native of Kutch who runs an NGO Kutch Ladayak Manch in Mumbai, had sent a RTI query to the Chief Minister’s Office on August 23, 2012, seeking details of “how much money the Gujarat government had spent on Modi’s foreign trips since he became chief minister till August 15, 2012”. He had also sought detailed records of such expenditure.

To this, public information officer at the CMO, D B Zala, had replied, “Your query is very detailed and connected to various government departments and public bodies, so this information will have to be collated.” Zala added it was not the responsibility of the CMO to collect and give out such information. Quoting rules, he said, “To create information is outside the scope of a public body. If the related information is available with various public departments, collecting such information will amount to ‘creating’ such information.”

Zala went on to suggest to Joshi, “If you still want the information, you can apply to different government departments.” Joshi told The Indian Express that he had asked the Gujarat government to provide information on the money spent on Modi’s helicopters, chartered planes and foreign trips. “If the state government doesn’t keep such important information, there is not way the CM should raise fingers at someone else,” he said.

Similarly, Trupti Shah, a Vadodara-based activist, had filed an RTI application seeking details of travel expenses of Modi and his ministers during “Women Empowerment Sammelans” in 2007. However, five years later, Shah is yet to get answers. According to Shah, the chief minister, along with his ministers, had visited 27 places across the state to organise these meetings ahead of the 2007 Assembly elections.

In one of the replies from the General Administration Department of the state government, Shah was informed that “as per information provided by the CMO, CM doesn’t mention the travelling expenses, so as far as travelling expenses of the CM is concerned, it is nil”. In a press release on Tuesday, Shah said the last hearing in her case was held on September 26 in which Chief Information Commission officials reportedly expressed helplessness saying they had sought the information from the CMO but were refused.



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Sohrabuddin encounter: Amin’s bail plea rejected (Oct 6, 2012, Indian Express)

The bail petition of suspended IPS officer N K Amin, who is lodged in jail in connection with the Sohrabuddin encounter case, was rejected by the Gujarat High Court on Friday.

The court said since the trial of the case has been shifted to Maharashtra by the Supreme Court, this court doesn’t have jurisdiction in the matter.

Amin had moved his petition on the ground that CBI who is investigating the case doesn’t have material evidence against him in the case. He also cited medical reasons for his bail.



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1,528 victims of fake encounters in Manipur: PIL (Oct 2, 2012, Times of India)

The Supreme Court on Monday took serious note of a PIL alleging that there had been apathy on the Centre and Manipur government’s part to bring to book the guilty among armed forces and state police, which allegedly were responsible for 1,528 extra-judicial killings in last 30 years. The impact of the magnitude of extra-judicial killings of innocent citizens in Manipur was visible on a bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Ranajana P Desai, which had been instrumental in getting the CBI to go full throttle and unearth larger conspiracy behind two such fake encounters in Gujarat, where alleged criminals Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati were killed by police officers.

The bench took judicial note of the PIL by NGOs – Extra-judicial Execution Victims families Association of Manipur through Neena N and Human Rights Alert through Babloo Loitongbam – and issued notices to the Centre and the Ibobi Singh government. It asked the Centre and state to file their responses by November 5. Asking petitioner’s counsel senior advocate Colin Gonsalves to make other required officials party to the PIL, the court requested the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to respond to the macabre incidents and appointed advocate Menaka Guruswami as amicus curiae to assist the court in the case.

The petition gave details of each of the 1,528 people killed in fake encounter since 1979. It said though the SC upheld the constitutional validity of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 15 years ago, it had issued certain dos and don’ts to the security forces. But, these guidelines were seldom followed, it alleged. “By way of example, petitioner cites details of 10 cases where eyewitnesses exist, but the killings had been justified as encounters with militants,” the petitioner alleged. Even though the PIL detailed the killings by the security forces and police, it did not reflect on the killings resorted to by militants in the state, which could have resulted in eliminating an equal number of persons in the state.

“In almost all cases, young boys attending to their daily chores were picked up randomly by security forces and killed in cold blood. In several of these cases eye-witnesses, parents and neighbours were present when the victims were gunned down,” the petitioner said. “What are even more frightening are the breakdown of the criminal justice system and a complete denial of the protection of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. There is not a single instance where the perpetrators of the heinous crimes – torturing and killing of young in cold blood – have been brought to justice,” the petitioner said.

“Out of the 1,528 killings, petitions relating to 20 murders were taken to the Guwahati High Court where these are still pending. The cries of anguish had fallen on deaf ears,” it said and alleged that not a single investigation or departmental inquiry against the alleged perpetrator had been taken to logical end. The petitioner said in a functioning democracy eyewitness accounts would be immediately acted upon leading to registration of murder cases, but “in Manipur such FIRs are not accepted at the police station, no investigation is done and no disciplinary action is taken”.



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Cops to be sensitised to handle minority community (Oct 8, 2012, Indian Express)

With prejudices against minority community at police stations being reported at the higher echelons of the police establishment, a review has been initiated to create a pool of implementable ideas to sensitise the police staff at the ground level. Among the many initiatives are visits to schools, madrasas, dispensaries and Unani clinics starting this month. “It has been brought to our notice that classification on the basis of religion exists in police stations and this is a serious issue,” said a senior officer.

According to senior officers, the first meeting on the issue was held at the office of the Directorate General of Police on Wednesday with the focus on “interactions with the minority community”. While the Nashik Police Academy has introduced soft skills in the curriculum from this term, cases have come forward indicating the bias that the community, especially people living in poor pockets, face when they visit a police station. The prejudices also extend to the manner in which their complaints are probed or entertained.

One of the immediate suggestion is weekly visits to local dispensaries and Unani clinics that surround slums and small pockets. “We have thought over it and the best access points need to be tapped. Clinics around slums is a space where the community will visit. With health as a major problem in slums, this is one place that we would like to tap to build bridges with the community,” said a senior officer. Accordingly, cops will now be made to visit dispensaries and interact with local doctors and patients. “They will have a number to call in times of need and have a face of a cop to remember.”

Schools and madrasas have also been identified as a meeting point. “Winning over the youth is very important. Police personnel will visit schools and madrasas and interact with principals, teachers and students. They will also ensure that they network among the community, exchange numbers and become more accessible,” he added. “The station house officers are our best opportunity and we are going to train them to interact with the community. These are initiatives to get them to interact, understand their issues better and not differentiate on the lines of religion.”

In a separate meeting at the commissionerate level, a need to understand ways to penetrate into the community and gain its trust has been imitated after the lessons learnt from the Azad Maidan riot. One of the reasons for the mismanagement was the lack of trust for the uniform. The police are now also looking to adopt measures to educate the personnel on the different sects in the community and the various etiquette unique to each.



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Malegaon blast: SC refuses interim bail to Purohit, others (Oct 4, 2012, The Hindu)

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to grant interim bail to ex-Army officer Shrikant Prasad Purohit, Pragya Thakur and other accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. A bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad refused to grant any interim relief after senior advocate U R Lalit appearing for the accused contended they have been behind bars for four years and their petitions are not being heard by the apex court. “We will not give interim bail at this stage,” the bench said.

The bench further said that “it’s not our fault” that the petitions are not being heard on a regular basis, after the State government sought adjournment of the case. The court adjourned the case for three weeks. The bench also extended its interim order restraining the National Investigation Agency from interrogating the accused. On January 4 this year, the apex court had extended its stay of the Bombay High Court order allowing the agency to interrogate him and had also impleaded the NIA on the bail plea of Mr Purohit.

On December 16 last year, the bench had stayed the operation of the High Court’s order. Mr Purohit had approached the apex court challenging the High Court’s October 20, 2011 order allowing NIA to take him from judicial custody to interrogate him. Mr Purohit was arrested and issued a charge sheet in connection with the Malegaon bomb blast that took place on September 29, 2008 leaving seven persons dead. According to the prosecution, the accused had formed an organisation Abhinav Bharat Trust at Pune in 2006 with headquarters at the address of co-accused Ajay Rahirkar. It was registered on February 9, 2007. They had allegedly taken an oath to strive to turn India into a Hindu rashtra called Aryawart.

It was alleged that the members met from time to time to discuss various aspects for achieving their goal. Accused Shankaracharya is stated to have recorded conversations at the meetings and these recordings are the foundation of the case against the blast accused. Approval for applying provisions of MCOCA in this case was granted on November 20, 2008, and the applicants were booked for offences under this stringent act. Mr Purohit and Mr Rahirkar along with others were issued charge sheet for offences under various enactments including MCOCA.

On July 31, 2009, the special judge had held that charges against them under MCOCA did not survive and discharged them. He had directed that the case be placed before a regular sessions court to try them for other offences and therefore rejected their applications for bail. The state had challenged the order discharging the accused from offences under MCOCA before the high court.



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FDI in single-brand retail fails to gain momentum: Report (Oct 3, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Foreign investment in single-brand retail has failed to gain momentum despite hike in FDI limit to 100% from 51% earlier, property consultant Knight Frank said in a report. The share of foreign investment in single-brand retail out of the total FDI inflow into the country has declined from 0.03% in December 2011 to 0.02% in June 2012, the consultant said.

It noted that the primary reason which put down the interest of foreign players to conditions on sourcing from small scale industry. “Notwithstanding the increase of FDI limit in single brand retail from 51% to 100% in January 2012, investments failed to pick up in the subsequent six months (January 2012-June 2012),” Knight Frank said.

“This happened even as the country witnessed an overall FDI inflow of USD 16.74 billion during these six months. As a result, the share of FDI in single brand retail fell from 0.03% in December 2011 to 0.02% in June 2012,” it added. However, it said that there would be improvement in the FDI inflow in single-brand retail over the next 6-12 months as conditions on ownership and sourcing has been eased.

“Single brand retail was opened to foreign investment in 2006 with a cap of 51%. This cap constrained foreign retailers desirous of entering India albeit with a full control. The limit, subject to fulfillment of certain conditions, was hiked to 100% in January this year,” Knight Frank said. The report said that the recent reforms measures announced by the government would have a positive impact on the realty sector, particularly commercial segment. “The entry of foreign retailers would not just address the high vacancy in retail real estate but also help in the growth of such developments in future,” it added.



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Four rapes add to Haryana’s shame (Oct 3, 2012, The Tribune)

A 19-year-old newly married girl of Banwasa village under Baroda police station in Gohana was allegedly kidnapped on September 28 from a level crossing in Gohana town by four youths, gangraped and released on October 2. A married woman – Maafi of Banwasa village – was allegedly involved in this crime.

The accused have been identified as Sunil and Sanjay of Khandrai, Anil of Ahmedpur Majra village and Sarvan of Hadtari in Panipat district. The rape was confirmed in the medical examination conducted at civil hospital, Gohana. The victim was married about three months back to Sunil of Adiana village in Panipat district. The victim and the accused belonged to Dhanak caste.

The victim stated to the police that on September 28 she was at her parent’s house in Banwasa village when Maafi informed her that her husband Sunil was waiting for her near a railway level crossing in Gohana town and had asked her to meet him. She was allegedly kidnapped near the level crossing by Sunil, Sanjay and Anil in a car and taken to some unknown place. Later, they were joined by Sarvan of Hadtari village and they all raped her by turn.

She was released by the accused at Gohana bus stand. After returning home, she narrated the incident to her parents. A case has been registered against Sunil, Anil, Sanjay, Sarvan and Maafi. The police claimed all accused, except Anil, had been arrested. Maafi was produced in the court late evening and the others would be produced in the court tomorrow.



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Tension after Dalit priests not included in church rituals (Oct 7, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Tension prevailed at Tiruvadanai, about 70 km from here after some Dalit Christians reportedly indulged in violence, questioning non-inclusion ofsix Dalit priests in specialrituals in a church in connection with its silver jubilee celebrations, police said.

SusaiManickam,priest of Oriyur Punitha Arulanandhar church said about 200 priests and nuns coming in a procession to the church were blocked by Dalit Christians who questioned the motive for suspending the six priests and said they would not allow celebrations unless the priests were included in the ‘Tirupali’ pooja and special prayers.

Police said they then indulged in violence, breaking festoons and street lights. Church officials decided to suspend the celebrations in order to hold talks with the Dalits as a tense situation prevailed and negotiations with them failed.

Meanwhile people in seven coastal hamlets in Rameswaram hoisted black flags in support of Dalit Christians and demanded that caste Christians allow Dalits to participate in the rituals. They also hoisted black flags at the Paraloka matha church in the island in protest, police said.



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Opinions and Editorials

The two faces of Narendra Modi – By Simantini Mukherjee (Oct 8, 2012, The Hindu)

As the Gujarat Assembly elections approach, the Indian voter is deluged with two conflicting images of Narendra Modi. The battle lines appear to be drawn between those who glorify the achievements of Modi the administrator, and those who view the Gujarat Chief Minister through the prism of the 2002 carnage. In a climate rife with recurrent scams, lack of governance, economic slowdown and political instability, the first of the two images is a persuasive one. Without dwelling long and hard on the administrative prowess of Modi – for that entails a debate different from this one – it is not too difficult to see that Modi presents to the urban Indian electorate, an alternative leadership capable of leading the country out of its morass.

However, are the two faces of Narendra Modi mutually exclusive? Does a rejection of Modi automatically signal our preference for a politics of corruption and malfeasance? Alternately, do the sympathisers of Modi believe that his politics of development will trump the politics of communal hate, once he is voted to power? The flaw in both of these propositions lies in the assumption that the two faces of Modi are orthogonal to one another. In fact, not only do they share a close relationship, but also constitute the core of a politics where religious chauvinism or other forms of social authoritarianism become pre-requisites for economic development.

There are many examples of rapid economic development under authoritarian regimes. South Korea recorded miraculous growth under a military regime, until democracy was established in 1987. Singapore too emerged as an example of a shining economy under authoritarian rule. There are also cases of democratic establishments sliding into authoritarianism in times of adversity. There is perhaps no example better than Germany of the 1920s. Reeling from the adverse economic clauses in the Treaty of Versailles, particularly in the years of the Great Depression, the Germans elected Hitler on planks of anti-Semitism and Pan-Germanism.

In a multi-cultural democracy such as India, the presence of a wide array of cross-cutting cleavages means that it is almost impossible to garner majorities along a single axis. The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is a classic example of such a government comprising political parties with widely varying casteist, communitarian and regional agendas. As a result, it functions at a low level of efficiency, and frequently degenerates into chaos. The lack of political stability also engenders corruption, as politicians pursue self-serving agendas in their limited time in office. The severe maladministration under UPA rule is then a symptom, at least partly, of the fragile political equilibrium in our country. Conversely, Narendra Modi’s success as an administrator has much to do with the political majority he enjoys in the Gujarat Assembly. Taking over from Keshubhai Patel in 2001, Narendra Modi reversed the sliding fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the State, and did so in a lasting manner. It is also a well-known fact that the religious polarisation following the carnage of 2002 was central to Modi’s electoral fortunes a few months later. Ever since then, he has steadily consolidated his reputation as an able administrator, albeit authoritarian in his approach.

Is there fertile ground for Narendra Modi to replicate the Gujarat story on a nationwide scale? Viewed objectively, the answer would be, no. The sheer heterogeneity of identities and interests in national politics will probably ensure that polarisation along the axis of religion will be difficult, if not impossible to accomplish. In particular, the upsurge of regional parties in national politics, as well as the emergence of States as the centres of political decision-making, will pose considerable challenges to the unbridled exercise of authority by Narendra Modi. In that case, what promise does a government led by Narendra Modi hold for India? Which of his two faces can we expect to see, should he assume the office of Prime Minister? Given the widespread consensus on Modi’s authoritarian attitudes, it is not premature to assume that he will pull out on all stops to acquire the mandate necessary to implement his ideals. The manner in which such a politics will pan out may not be crystal clear immediately; however, if history is an indicator of things to come, the two faces of Narendra Modi will almost certainly parade side-by-side.



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Is ‘Hindu’ our identity and Nationalism? – By Ram Puniyani (Oct 7, 2012, Countercurrents)

Religious identity has come to the bigger prominence in the social-political space during last few decades. The rise of communal and fundamentalist politics has vitiated the popular perceptions about ‘who are we’ and this in turn has deepened the divides in the society. Recently RSS supremo, Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat stated (September 2012) that, “When we use the word ‘Hindu’, we refer to everyone in the Indian society – be it Hindus, Muslims or Christians – since it is a word that gives us our identity and nationalism.” Will it be acceptable to all Indians? The statement operates at two levels, one religious and two political-national.

Are we all Indians, Hindus, as being stated by Bhagwat? It is true that the word Hindu itself came into use since around 8th century, when those coming from the West, Iraq, Iran to this side of the continent coined the word Hindu for those living on East of Sindhu. In their language word H is used more often for S, so Sindhu becomes Hindu. This word initially begins as a geographical category. Later various religious traditions, Brahmanism, Nath, Tantra, Siddh, and Bhakti, prevalent in this part of the continent started being called Hindu, and Hinduism became the broad umbrella for these different religious traditions. Today while in some parts of the World word Hindu still has geographical meaning, here in India and broadly at most of the places this word is primarily used as a religious category.

Ambedkar, pained by the ignominies hurled on untouchables by Hindu caste system, expressed his sorrow by stating that, I was born a Hindu; that was not in my hands but I will not die a Hindu. He embraced Buddhism and left the Hindu religion. As communal politics started coming up to oppose the emerging Indian Nationalism, the feudal sections and Kings came together to give a religious colour to their opposition to emerging nationalism. In contrast to Indian national movement, they, feudal-lords-kings, posited Muslim Nationalism or Hindu nationalism. The parent organization which in due course gave rise to religious nationalist organizations, was United India Patriotic Association (UIPA) formed in 1888. In the formation of this organization Nawab of Dhaka and Raja of Kashi were the main people. Later some other middle class educated elements also joined in. This UIPA was the parent organization from which Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha emerged.

While Islam, being a Prophet based religion, did not require any redefinition, Hinduism being an umbrella of various religious tendencies required to be defined for providing a base to Hindu religious nationalism. That’s how Savarkar came up with the definition that all those whose Punyabhu (Holy Land) and Pitrabhu (father land) is in this part of the World are Hindus. This was a political definition of Hinduism, as Savarkar was championing Hindu nationalism and wanted to exclude Muslims and Christians from being a part of nationalism envisaged by him. This definition of Savarkar also included Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs into Hindu fold, calling them as mere sects of Hinduism, which is not unacceptable to the followers of those religions. As these religions are also full-fledged religions.

Now to say, as Bhagwat is doing, that all Buddhists, Jains, Indian Muslims and Indian Christians have a Hindu identity is far from true. It is in a way a political imposition of Hindu identity and thereby Hindu rituals etc. on religious minorities. In the similar vein, nearly two decades ago Murli Manohar Joshi, another RSS Pracharak, then BJP President, stated that we are all Hindus, Muslims are Ahmadiya Hindus, and Christians are Christi Hindus and so on and so forth. …



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Straining to be heard – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Oct 6, 2012, Frontline)

For Mohammed Amir, 14 years of his life have become like pages in a book that he will never forget. After being picked up by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police in Old Delhi in 1998 for his alleged role in hatching a conspiracy against India together with a few Bangladeshi militants, he spent those years shuttling between prison cells and courtrooms and helplessly watching his carefully moulded life collapse. His father died of shock and his mother became paralysed for life. The social stigma that followed his arrest ruined his family business. He was acquitted earlier this year as there was no evidence against him, but he has not completely escaped the suspicious gazes of people around him. He will not get back those lost years, but he expects some compensation from the government. Amir is not the only victim of the Indian state machinery. There are countless Muslim victims who were framed on charges of terror and sedition, only to be released after having spent a good part of their youth behind bars. Civil society activists have recorded many such cases in documentaries, reports and public hearings. At a time when Muslims across the world have been taken aback by the hate-inducing depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in the derisively titled film Innocence of Muslims, such fabricated cases point to a larger trend of anti-Islamic propaganda, perpetuated particularly by the United States and its allies.

The militant but largely non-violent protests by Muslims in India against the film must be seen in this context. The community’s socio-political environment is marked by its own insecurity and the Indian state’s indifference to such fabricated cases. Hence, the protests against the online screenings of the film throughout the world on websites like YouTube have also resonated with the community’s resentments against the U.S., which is seen as the biggest perpetuator of anti-Islamic propaganda. For the Muslim community in India, the film has also become a rallying point to target the country’s role as one of the main allies of the U.S. in recent times. One of the consequences of this alliance is perceived to be increasing Islamophobia in the Indian subcontinent, which leads to the victimisation of innocent Muslim youth. The Shahi Imam of Punjab condemned the movie and demanded that the Indian government ban it. He also criticised U.S. President Barack Obama. “How could the liberal President Obama not know that a film was being made in his country which could hurt the sentiments of billions of Muslims across the globe and put… world peace in danger?” he asked in a press release. Protests in Chennai saw the demonstrators burning an effigy of Obama. In Hyderabad, hundreds of people gathered in protests to condemn the controversial film. Shahbaz Khan, city president of the Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) minority cell, told a national daily: “The film can still be watched on YouTube. We have demanded that the government take necessary action to completely block the film on the Internet. Otherwise, we will stage a protest in front of the American embassy. We have also spoken to other parties and organisations to join the protests in the future.” In many parts of India, Muslim parties and organisations staged roadblocks and protested in front of U.S. consulates.

The rising protests indicate that the community’s anger is not just against the film but also against the broader alliance of the U.S. and India. In many protests, it was pointed out how India had significantly moved away from its non-alignment policy and had been toeing the U.S. line in foreign policy. This may serve the Indian diplomatic agenda against Pakistan, but the victimisation of Muslims has a negative impact on the psyche of the country’s largest minority. The Centre for Policy Analysis, based in New Delhi, recently conducted a public hearing where it presented many fabricated cases of terrorism involving Muslim youth. In its statement, it noted: “There is rising concern across the country about the large-scale arrests and harassment of Muslim youth by the security forces of the state. Young men are being picked up without explanation, taken into police custody, beaten and tortured and eventually thrown into jail awaiting trial for years on end. Several have died in custody, the latest case being of Qateel Siddiqui who died in mysterious circumstances in the Yerwada Jail, Pune. He was arrested last November and killed in a high-security prison for a case in which his complicity had still not been established. There has been silence about the disappearance of Fasih Mahmood, the engineer picked up in Saudi Arabia. Except for denying any knowledge of his whereabouts, there has been no response from the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government about efforts to trace an Indian citizen whose family is now running from pillar to post in search of justice. Urdu journalist Syed Kazmi remains in jail on charges of terrorism, with the police still to file a charge sheet against him.”

A recent report by a civil society group, the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA), formed in the aftermath of the 2008 Batla House encounter, has documented 16 cases in which young Muslims were booked on charges such as treason, sedition and terrorism. In all 16 cases, the accused were acquitted by the courts. The report, “Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a ‘Very’ Special Cell”, comes on the fourth anniversary of the Batla House incident, which was perceived by many activists as a faked encounter. The JTSA released two reports earlier on, “Encounter at Batla House: Unanswered Questions (2009)” and “The Case that Never Was: The ‘SIMI’ Trial of Jaipur (2012)”. Both reports say that the Special Cell of the Delhi Police and the Intelligence Bureau have collaborated to frame innocent young Muslims as operatives of various secessionist and terrorist organisations. The third report by the JTSA seeks to question the most pertinent “common sense” in terror-related cases. It says: “When human rights activists, or families of those arrested in the charges of terrorism, allege foul play on part of the investigating agencies, the usual response is this: Surely, there must have been some involvement, or else why would the police arrest him, and not me?” Using court judgments and official documents in its report, the JTSA makes a firm conclusion: “The evidence that the report presents shows clearly that the acquittals were not simply for want of evidence (a common reason cited by the police when it loses the case). What judgment after judgment comments on is the manner in which the so-called evidence provided by the police and the prosecution was tampered with and fabricated, how story after story as presented by the prosecution was unreliable, incredulous and appeared as concocted.”

According to the JTSA, the 16 cases recorded by it are “the proverbial tip of an iceberg, and simply indicative of the extent of the malaise affecting our policing and criminal justice system”. For the victims, it has been a story of loss and persecution. “Their businesses were destroyed, family members underwent humiliation and trauma of being associated with ‘terrorists’, children had to abandon their studies and the normality of everyday life, parents passed away in grief and despair, no apology, no rehabilitation has come their way,” the JTSA report says. For the police, the report observes, such cases have become a route for promotions, gallantry awards and the President’s medal. The officers involved in all the 16 cases received out-of-turn promotions and gallantry awards. The report adds: “To those who say that there is no smoke without fire… the reasons behind the police – the special case in this case, but this could be true for any other investigating agency as well – framing innocents can be many: to settle scores, to teach a lesson, to buy favours, to dispose of petty informers past their usefulness, to ‘help out’ colleagues in other parts of the country,” it says. It adds that the 16 cases documented by it provide instances of such manoeuvring by the Special Cell, which, it says, feeds on the Islamophobia that exists in the post-9/11 world. The delayed criminal justice system and the impunity enjoyed by the investigating agencies make matters worse. The report says that between 1992 and 2012, a large number of those arrested in terror-related cases were acquitted of all charges by the courts; a recent Right to Information inquiry revealed that the conviction rate in these cases had been a paltry 30 per cent. This is attributed to the inefficiency and bad investigating skills of the police or poor infrastructure. …



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Means greater than ends – Editorial (Oct 1, 2012, The Hindu)

The Supreme Court’s recent judgment overturning the convictions of 11 persons mainly under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) cuts through the clutter to arrive at the essence of justice-delivery in terrorism-related cases. There is undoubtedly an element of drama in the judgment, which makes reference to a recent Hindi film. Yet the line – “My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist” – succinctly captures the trauma of a community that has carried the cross of terrorism for far too long and whose members feel defensive and answerable each time terror strikes anywhere in the country. Nonetheless, laudable as the judgment’s human rights approach is, its greater significance lies in going beyond and taking an unequivocal position on the principles of fair investigation and trial, which have somehow come to be seen as dispensable in terrorism cases.

In the case under question, the prosecution had argued that disregarding a key requirement of TADA was a technical error which, therefore, could not become a ground for setting aside the convictions. Although the draconian TADA lapsed in 1995, some safeguards were introduced in the law while it was in force, and among them was the addition of a section which made it mandatory for every FIR registered under the Act to have prior permission from the District Superintendent of Police.

The prosecution first tried to falsify evidence by producing a copy of the DSP’s permission. When the Court established that no such permission existed, it argued that the permission was a technical requirement that ought not to have a bearing on the case. The judges rejected the argument saying TADA was an extraordinarily harsh law that could not be interpreted liberally. In the country of the Mahatma “the means are more important than the end,” the judges said, enunciating a truth that the police and the investigating agencies have tended to overlook in their rush to solve terror cases. Thin or fabricated evidence and shoddy investigation do not necessarily help the cause of fighting terror.

Far from it, they allow the real terrorists to escape while tarnishing the reputations of innocents. Case after case of arbitrary detentions made on the flimsiest grounds or on trumped up charges, have come to light recently via lower court judgments that have expressed amazement at the state of terror prosecutions in the country. Disturbingly, police forces across India have tended not to take the right lessons from this, seeing terror acquittals as “technical” verdicts arising out of the difficulty in gathering evidence, rather than as a sign that their investigative abilities need serious and urgent improvement.



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Ethical Cleansing, Not Ritual Purity – By Yogendra Yadav (Oct 15, 2012, Outlook)

Anna Hazare may not be part of the proposed political party that is yet to emerge from the womb of what was an unprecedented movement against corruption. The questions he has raised, however, must be answered. Not just because they are his questions; he being the symbol of probity in public life. They need to be answered because these are questions that crores of ordinary Indians, the ANA (Aam Non-political Aadmi), would like to pose. And, quite simply, because they are good questions. The first query is about the very need for a foray into politics. This has been answered by the experience of the Jan Lokpal movement itself. The protesters demanded an independent, effective and strong anti-corruption agency. The political establishment agreed to the principle, both houses of Parliament passed a unanimous resolution and the prime minister wrote to promise that it would happen. Yet nothing happened. As soon as the political class felt that the protests were losing steam, they were back to their old games. Business as usual. I’m not suggesting that the Lokpal Bill is doomed to rot in lawmaking limbo forever. It may still be passed. But its fate will depend not on its rational or moral force; it will depend on the political pressure that the ruling establishment feels.

What befell the Jan Lokpal movement was no different from what has happened to a score of popular movements, including such irrepressible ones as the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the anti-POSCO movement, the anti-nuclear plant agitation and the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. Anyone who tries to effect a fundamental change in any one aspect of our public life will have to take on politics. Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy realised that the only way to get the marginal voices heard was to organise protests and exert pressure, in other words, “do politics”. If politics is about shifting the balance of power in a society, then not resorting to politics is not an option. Politics is the yugdharma of the times we live in.

Perhaps Anna won’t dispute it. His real question – and it’s one voiced by many in the social movement space – is: why form a party? Why can’t we continue doing politics the way we have: through protests, agitations, representations and negotiations, instead of directly entering party politics? Clearly, it would be short-sighted to overlook the substantial achievements won by social movements that have adopted this method. We owe some of the most progressive measures of our times – Right to Information, Forests Rights Act and, to some extent, NREGA and Right to Education – to this indirect mode of doing politics. It must continue. At the same time, it is hard to not notice the limits of this method: its success depends upon the very political class that so often is the source of the problem. Given a favourable situation, the indirect path succeeds. More often than not, it doesn’t. The demand for a parliamentary act providing basic security to unorganised labour has been hanging for more than two decades. Besides, this route is not viable if the goal is to bring about a fundamental change – one that might threaten the interests of the political class. This Parliament is unlikely to pass any legislation that controls the education mafia, not to speak of the big corporates that fund all political parties. In other words, movement politics is necessary but insufficient; in itself it can only be the second-best option. For those who dare to think big and press for fundamental systemic changes, there is no substitute for a political instrument of their own.

So why not adopt a policy of selective intervention? Anna has indicated his preference for supporting a few honest candidates across parties. Other people’s movements have tried different versions of selective intervention: contesting panchayat elections first, putting up independent candidates, using elections to create public awareness about popular issues and so on. The trouble is that these experiments have not been very successful. The high threshold for viability in our electoral system discourages voters from voting for even the best of Independents. The system of party whips means that our elected representatives are slaves of their party high command, not servants of the electorate, who carried them into power. Not doing anything during the election is not an option either. It is no secret that some of the finest people’s movements are milked by some of the wiliest politicians during elections. Clearly then, the best option is a direct and open intervention by presenting an alternative.

This is where the other and more difficult set of questions come in. Is it possible to move away from the high command style of ticket distribution that makes leaders unresponsive to their own workers and supporters? Changing this structure is not going to be easy. The proposed party seeks to make a radical departure from existing practice. The basic idea (as articulated in a document released along with the vision statement) is to institute a ‘primary’ where the candidate is selected by the party workers in the locality, not by the party’s central or state leadership. At least six months before the elections, the party will solicit nominations, asking for details of public service, assets, criminal records etc. These will be verified; false declarations and dubious records (communal, criminal and corrupt activities or character deficits) will be screened out. The remainder will be encouraged to reach a consensus, failing which all party members from the constituency will vote to elect their candidate. We do not know how well this system will work. But there is good reason to believe someone who has ‘won’ her ticket from her constituents is more likely to be responsive to them. ANAs must look at this possibility. …



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Plight of workers – By Sagnik Dutta (Oct 6, 2012, Frontline)

The human costs of becoming profitable are enormous for a Maharatna company trying to increase productivity. According to D.D. Ramanandan, president of the National Coal Organisation Employees Association, a large number of contractual workers are hired by private contractors. “About 52 per cent of the coal is produced by about 3.5 lakh contract workers hired by various contractors to whom the work has been outsourced,” he said.

Ramanandan, who has been with Coal India Limited since 1977, has seen a decline in working conditions in the post-liberalisation era. “The lot of workers had improved after the nationalisation of companies in 1973. However, with liberalisation a large number of workers have been outsourced to private companies who hire them. This is a strategy to cut down on manpower costs. In 1973, Coal India was producing around 60 million tonnes of coal with 7.2 lakh workers whereas it now produces 434 million tonnes of coal with about 3.5 lakh workers,” he explained. The contract workers, who work under hazardous conditions, do not enjoy any social security benefits or basic amenities such as proper housing, drinking water and education for children.

Ramanandan compares the present insecurity with the situation following nationalisation. “After nationalisation, workers were granted casual leave for the first time. Service conditions, housing and sanitation had also improved substantially,” he said.

In January this year, a joint tripartite committee of CIL raised the wages of workers to Rs.427 a day and made a provision for dearness allowance adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index. However, the issue of regularisation of contract workers continues to be a sticking point.



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