IAMC Weekly News Roundup – September 10th, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Amit Shah, close aide of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi named in Tulsi Prajapati charge sheet
- SC wants Sohrabuddin trial shifted out of Gujarat
- 15 year-old tortured in custody in Odisha
- Naroda Patia massacre: Court asks SIT to nab absconding accused
- Court orders SIT to furnish complete documents to Zakia Jafri
- It’s Nitish Kumar vs Narendra Modi in Gujarat Assembly polls
- Arrest Raj and Uddav for hate speech, orders court
- ‘Spread goodwill, not ill-will in Assam’
- Souharda Vedike demands probe into alleged terror plot
- Chargesheet filed in Qateel murder case
Opinions & Editorials
- Unfit for Any Post – By Hartosh Singh Bal
- Justice delayed, but not denied – By Rasheeda Bhagat
- Naroda Patiya verdict: a hard-won victory – By Dr. Shakeel Ahmad
- Karnataka police – copying the Gujarat police – By Adv Saquib Ahmed
- A sad tale – By R.K. Raghavan
- Conspiracy of the guns – By RN Ravi
Amit Shah, close aide of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi named in Tulsi Prajapati charge sheet (Sep 4, 2012, Indian Express)
Former Gujarat minister Amit Shah, a close aide of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was among 20 people named by the CBI in its charge sheet in the Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter case for allegedly entering into criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence. Former state police chief P C Pande, IPS officers O P Mathur, D G Vanzara and Geetha Johri and Dy SP R K Patel were also also named in the charge sheet submitted in the court of judicial magistrate D R Joshi at Danta in Banaskantha district. The three senior IPS officers named in the charge sheet included two who retired. The charge sheet, however, was not taken on record by the court due to question of jurisdiction. The court will decide in the matter after conducting hearing next Monday. Prajapati, an eye witness in the encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, was killed in fake encounter allegedly by Gujarat police at Chhapri, in Banaskantha district on December 28, 2006.
In a major blow to the ruling BJP, Shah, who was arrested by the CBI in the Sheikh encounter case in 2010, has now been charged in the second fake encounter case of Prajapati for murder, criminal conspiracy, destruction of evidence as also under the provisions of Arms Act. Shah is out on bail in the Sheikh encounter case but has been barred from entering Gujarat by the Supreme Court. Former DGP Pande, who was widely criticised for his role as police commissioner of Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots, has also been made accused in the Prajapati case. Pande was chief of state police when the encounter took place in 2006. Mathur, retired ADGP who was then (in 2006) heading CID crime and the then IGP CID crime Johri, who was heading investigation in the Sheikh case, have also been booked as accused in the case. Mathur currently heads Raksha Shakti University of the state government, while Johri is managing director of Gujarat Police Housing Corporation.
The other two who have been added by the CBI in its charge sheet includes retired DySP Patel, Investigating Officer of Tulsi encounter case and Rajasthan Police inspector Abdul Rehman. In its charge sheet, the CBI has also retained names of 14 police officers including four IPS officers Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian, Dinesh M N and Vipul Agarwal, who were earlier made accused in the same case by state CID. As the CBI was about to begin the process of registration of the charge sheet, advocate Mitesh Amin on behalf of IPS officer Pandian, one of the accused in the case, objected to the filing of same on grounds of jurisdiction. “We gave an application opposing the filing of charge sheet in this court on the grounds that none other than special CBI court has jurisdiction over the case which is probed by the agency and this is not the competent court to take cognisance of the charge sheet,” said Amin. “Even in the order of Supreme Court, it is specifically mentioned that this case should be proceeded in the special CBI court,” he argued, adding that the only court which could take cognisance of the charge sheet was the one where FIR was filed.
Opposing his argument, advocate for CBI Ejaz Khan, contended that filing of the charge sheet is a procedural aspect. “Accused have no right in deciding in which court charge sheet should be filed,” he said. The judge then adjourned the proceedings till Monday when he would decide whether the charge sheet could be filed in his court or the special CBI court in Ahmedabad. The court further said that the charge sheet and all relevant documents will remain in its safe custody in sealed cover till the final decision on the issue of jurisdiction is taken.
- ‘CBI chargesheet in Tulsi case proves cover-up by Guj cops’ (Sep 5, 2012, DNA India)
- ‘Shah spoke to cops 54 times before Prajapati killing’ (Sep 9, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Prajapati encounter: Guj Home Minister was in touch with police, says CBI (Sep 9, 2012, Indian Express)
- ‘Guj govt adopting adversarial attitude in Sohrabuddin case’ (Sep 6, 2012, Statesman)
The trial in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, which involves former Gujarat minister Amit Shah as the prime accused, is likely to be shifted outside Gujarat, as the Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed its “strong reservations” against holding the trial in the state. A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai observed that while the CBI’s appeal for cancelling his bail had to be now decided one way or another, it might also pass an order on shifting the trial outside Gujarat on the next date of hearing.
“As far as the bail (cancellation) is concerned, you are right that it has been pending for long and it must end now, one way or another. However, so far as the trial is concerned, I have my strong reservations against holding the trial there. It must go to some other state, like to Bombay in Maharashtra,” said Justice Alam when senior advocate Ram Jethmalani requested the court to end the “exile” for Shah in the wake of the upcoming Assembly poll in Gujarat. BJP leader Shah, who was arrested by the CBI in July 2010 and spent over three months in jail, has been in a kind of self-imposed exile since November 2010. He had assured the court that he would not enter Gujarat when the CBI had sought the bail cancellation.
Jethmalani reminded the court that his client was a politician and he got to be there for the Gujarat polls. “Let him be there under constant surveillance but don’t keep him away from his political life,” he said, also opposing CBI’s plea for transferring the trial. Jethmalani told the court that CBI was not justified in asking for cancellation of bail after 18 months now and and that he would be adducing his arguments on cancellation of bail as well against the transfer on the next date, September 4. Jethmalani requested the court to also order for day-to-day trial in the case.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who is appearing as an amicus curiae, threw a spanner in the case and said the CBI had failed to investigate if there was an inter-state “politician-policemen nexus” element involved in the encounter. “Police officers of three different states, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, have been found to be involved in this encounter….Has it irked the CBI that there could be a politician-policemen nexus?” questioned Subramaniam.
- CBI plugs holes in Sohrabuddin case (Sep 3, 2012, Times of India)
- If Shah enters Gujarat, Sohrab case goes out: SC (Aug 28, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Ishrat case: Has Verma resumed investigation? (Sep 9, 2012, DNA India)
- Pandian leads pack of Dirty Harrys in riches (Sep 9, 2012, Indian Express)
A 15-year-old dalit boy was allegedly tortured in custody in front of his father in Odisha’s Kendrapara district earlier this week leading to the ordering of a departmental inquiry into the incident. Official sources on Wednesday said State Human Rights Commission has also sought detailed report on the incident following the outrage among the people and demands for punishment of the concerned police officer.
Fifteen-year-old Ranjan Jena of Rajagada village, a standard nine student of a government high school, was summoned to Rajnagar police station for allegedly playing on the road with his friends on Monday. He was allegedly made to do sit-ups and then beaten up in front of his father and other villagers inside the police station by a police officer. The boy was later hospitalised.
His father Gopinath said the boy was ‘beaten black and blue’ inside the police station. “My son is physically and mentally hurt.” The local police, however, said the boy was a perpetual mischief monger and to discipline him he was asked to do the sit-ups. Kendrapara superintendent of police Sarthak Sadangi said allegations regarding police excesses were being looked into and disciplinary proceedings would be initiated against the accused official in the event of the inquiry finding him guilty.
- Acid attack: Dalit alleges ‘weak police case’ (Sep 4, 2012, Times of India)
- Goa policemen suspended for misbehaving with girls (Sep 5, 2012, IBN)
- Shivali suicide: Traffic cop, lensmen booked (Sep 7, 2012, Indian Express)
- Fugitive police inspector nabbed in narcotics case (Sep 7, 2012, Times of India)
A special court has directed the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) to nab and produce before the court an absconding convict in the Naroda Patia massacre case by September 17. Designated judge Jyotsna Yagnik has set two weeks’ deadline for the probe agency to apprehend Suresh alias Shehzad Netalkar. He jumped bail and did not turn up for pronouncement of verdict on August 29, when he too was convicted with 31 others.
The court summoned the guarantor Bhikhabhai Mithabhai, who gave assurance to the court about the accused’s presence as and when required while Netalkar was released on bail. The guarantor refused to have known Netalkar. This infuriated the court and the lawyers, who were involved in securing Netalkar’s bail were also summoned immediately. They admitted that they took liberty with a view to helping a member of their community during the time of distress.
The judge said that Netalkar cannot be permitted to play mischief with the process of administration of justice, and it would not be tolerated. The court has warned all those involved of action against them in case Netalkar did not turn up. In this case, all 31 persons have been convicted of the post-Godhra massacre. While the court pronounced sentence against them, it has reserved its sentencing in Netalkar’s case with observation that he must be given an opportunity to make a submission regarding quantum of punishment.
- Court slams Gujarat Police over Naroda Patiya riot case (Sep 4, 2012, Indian Express)
- Naroda verdict may spell trouble for top cops, ex-minister (Sep 1, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Police ‘questioned’ 20-day-old baby in Naroda, said he was 20 yrs old (Sep 6, 2012, Indian Express)
- ‘Tight police security could have averted Naroda Patiya massacre’ (Aug 29, 2012, Deccan Herald)
A local court on Thursday directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which probed the complaint against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others with regard to their alleged roles in 2002 riots, to furnish “complete and legible copies” of the documents to Zakia Jafri, the complainant in the case. “SIT is directed to furnish the complete and legible copies of the documents, which it submitted with the (closure) report, to the complainant by September 7,” Metropolitan Magistrate B J Ganatra said in his order on Jafri’s plea.
Court also directed SIT to file a detailed affidavit on the issue of documents it had collected during the probe. Following the probe-closure report filed in February by SIT, Jafri – whose husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri died in the riots – was provided with copies of final report and other documents including statements of witnesses, running into over 20,000 pages.
Jafri then filed an application, saying that several of the documents were illegible. She also demanded the copies of interim reports filed in the Supreme Court by SIT member A K Malhotra, and Chairman R K Raghvan’s comments on that interim report. The court rejected this demand, but allowed Zakia an inspection of all the documents submitted by SIT.
- It’s too much, ask Zakia to file protest plea: SIT to court (Sep 8, 2012, Indian Express)
- Guj govt seeks death for convicts of 2002 Ode riots (Sep 5, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- High Court dismisses PIL against extension of Nanavati Commission (Sep 7, 2012, Indian Express)
- Modi is ‘crime manager’: Ex-CM Keshubhai (Sep 8, 2012, Times of India)
Carrying further its reservations over Narendra Modi, the JD-U, which runs a coalition with BJP in BIhar, has decided to contest Assembly elections in Gujarat on its own. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose antipathy to Modi is well known, will also campaign for the JD-U candidates in Gujarat, where elections are due this year end. Giving indications of the party’s plans, JD-U President Sharad Yadav told reporters “BJP is the larger party in the NDA. We will go for alliance with BJP wherever it wants us, but barring in Gujarat”. He was replying to a question whether JD-U contesting elections separately in a state ruled by BJP will not give impression of a rift in the NDA.
Both party chief Sharad Yadav as well as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will campaign in Gujrat aggravating further the strains between Kumar and Modi that have come to the fore on more than one occasion. Yadav, however, sought to downplay the development by maintaining that the JD-U never had an alliance with the BJP in Gujarat. He refrained from answering repeated queries on why the JD-U is making an exception of Gujarat when it is ready to contest with BJP in alliance in all other states. Yadav also refused to specify how many seats his party wants to contest in Gujarat saying it is for the state unit to decide. There is speculation that the JD(U) state unit plans to contest 100 out of the 182 assembly seats in Gujarat in the coming Assembly elections.
Yadav, however, said,”we have been fighting separately from BJP in Gujarat for a long time. We are as a part of the NDA alliance in many states, while in many others like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, we fight separately. There was never an alliance in Gujarat.” To a specific query whether the Bihar Chief Minister will go to campaign for JD-U candidates in Gujarat this time, Yadav said that Kumar and he himself as well as a large number ministers of Bihar government had gone to campaign for the party candidates in last Gujarat assembly elections as well. “Both of us (Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar) have campaigned there earlier also. We will do it this time as well,” he said. JD-U, which is the ruling party in Bihar in alliance with BJP for around eight years, has been contesting elections in alliance with that party in Jharkhand and Rajasthan as well.
The alliance between the parties in West Bengal and Tamilnadu has been off and on many occasions, Yadav said. Yadav, however, sought to steer clear of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s remarks that Sushma Swaraj is the only leader in BJP who is “deserving” and will be a “great choice” as Prime Minister. Bal Thackeray is a senior person. Many others persons have also given statements on this issue. It is getting too much now. The Prime Minister’s post seems to become a pakodi (snack). We have never fallen into this trap nor will we ever. “The general elections will happen in 2014. Polls are not going to take place before that. We will decide it then. BJP is the leading party in NDA. It will decide within its party first and then it will be discussed in the NDA,” Yadav said.
He also reminded that there are many persons in the past and present whose name did rounds for the top post in the country “but the Lok Sabha has 540 members. The Prime Minister’s post is not a pakodi, which anybody will cook and eat so easily”. Thackeray’s comments yesterday had evoked a cautious response from the BJP which said it has a number of “capable” leaders to fill the top slot. BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “BJP has many leaders who are competent to become the Prime Minister and are acceptable in the country… a decision on this will be taken by the BJP and other NDA partners at the time of elections”.
- Nitish Kumar to campaign against Narendra Modi in Gujarat (Sep 10, 2012, IBN)
- Nitish vs Modi: JD(U) not with BJP in Gujarat elections (Sep 10, 2012, Daily Bhaskar)
- JD-U will fight Assembly Polls in Gujarat on its own (Sep 10, 2012, Economic Times)
- Nitish takes on Modi in 100 seats (Sep 10, 2012, Sunday Guardian)
A local court on Thursday ordered the arrest of MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray for issuing provocative statements against Biharis living in Maharashtra. Chief judicial magistrate (CJM) SP Singh, while passing the order on a complaint lodged by a local advocate on Wednesday, also directed the Muzaffarpur senior superintendent of police (SSP) to lodge an FIR with the town police station in Muzaffarpur against the Thackerays. The CJM also asked the SSP to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.
Complainant Sudhir Kumar Ojha told HT on Thursday that the court of CJM had earlier admitted his petition under Indian Penal Code sections 124A, 153, 153A, 504 and 120B, which related to “sedition and wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot and others.”
Ojha, in his complaint, alleged that the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief and the senior Shiv Sena leader had made statements on different occasion to provoke people. “I read the statement of both the leaders of Maharashtra, appeared a couple of days ago in print and electronic media. Their statement was against the state and very malice towards the integrity of the county. It also maligned the image of a common man of Bihar,” Ojha said in his written complaint.
- Raj Thackeray in a cleft stick — Hindutva or influx? (Sep 4, 2012, DNA India)
- Thackerays are ‘infiltrators’ in Maharashtra: Lalu (Sep 9, 2012, Rediff)
- No Indian community can claim majority status: Shashi Tharoor (Sep 4, 2012, Indian Express)
- Cong slams Advani for ‘Ram Rajya’ remarks (Sep 5, 2012, Rediff)
A group of prominent policy makers, scholars, activists and intellectuals have called to ‘Reduce rhetoric, spread goodwill, not ill-will’ in Assam in the wake of the violence that rocked Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District Council and adjoining areas in later part of July that drove lakhs out of their homes and left about 98 persons dead from Bodo and Muslim communities. Participating in a discussion on the current traumatic situation in Assam at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi under the aegis of the Centre for NE Studies at JMI the leading citizens observed that the situation in the BTC remained tense while lakhs were rendered homeless and fearful of returning with trauma writ large on their faces.
“In addition, hate speech and abuse of new media has created a situation where tens of thousands fled their places of work and residence, in places like Bangalore and Pune, and returned to the NE Region,” they said adding governments need to firmly handle acts of hatred and racial discrimination instead of merely curbing hate speech.
“As has been seen, the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh remains an explosive and unresolved issue 27 years after the signing of the Assam Accord. This surely represents as much a failure of all sides in this process as of the Centre and State governments. It is our view that the Centre and state governments must assert in no uncertain terms that those migrants who have illegally slipped across the Indo-Bangladesh border to any part of the country since March 25, 1971 — the agreed cut off date — will be tackled under due process or even through a system of Special Courts to speed up the process. Thisis a problem facing all of India,” the group said.
“This (illegal migration) primarily represents a labour flow from Bangladesh, and needs also to be raised with Dhaka. Tragically, however, passions are whipped up by the use of unverified figures on either side, leading to greater anger, suspicions and fear,” they observed. Welcoming the Assam government’s decision to update the 1952 National Register of Citizens, the group expressed concern over reports, which say that in all least 10 districts the records are incomplete or unavailable and suggested that that needed be sorted out by looking at the available data in the Registrar-General’s Office in New Delhi.
- Confidence building measures in violence-hit Assam (Sep 4, 2012, IBN)
- Looking beyond the communal to diagnose Assam (Sep 4, 2012, Yahoo)
- Muslim youth in Assam form a platform for inter-community dialogue (Sep 4, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- No detail about illegal Bangladeshi migrants: Govt (Sep 6, 2012, IBN)
The Udupi and Dakshina Kannada district units of Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike have demanded a probe into the arrest of some persons in Bangalore and Hubli for being involved in an alleged terror plot.
Addressing presspersons here on Friday, president of Udupi district unit of KKSV G. Rajashekhar said that such a probe should be conducted by efficient police officers with a secular outlook. If the suspected terrorists were proved to be real terrorists, they should be punished. The selective leaks by the police department about the alleged terror plot were being projected in a colourful manner by a section of the media. There was a grave danger that such reporting would affect the legal process.
Mr. Rajashekhar said that till the court declared the accused as criminals, they should be considered as innocent persons and the media should not portray the suspects as terrorists. The reporting was such that it was casting aspersions on a particular community. All these tendencies should be avoided by the media.
- ‘Minorities feeling insecure in State’ (Sep 9, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Terror suspect’s father seeks fair, quick investigation (Sep 6, 2012, The Hindu)
- Climate of fear grips Hyderabad as Muslims apprehend more terror arrests (Sep 5, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Nayeem Siddique’s father says his son is framed (Sep 5, 2012, Deccan Herald)
The Yerawada police on Wednesday filed the charge-sheet in the murder of the 28-year-old Indian Mujahideen (IM) suspect Mohammed Qateel Jafir Siddiqui on June 8 in Yerawada Central Jail. Police had arrested Sharad Hiraman Mohol and Alok Bhalerao, two criminals lodged in the same jail for the murder. Mohol and Bhalerao had allegedly strangulated Qateel with a drawstring, which they later destroyed. Qateel had been brought to Pune on transit remand from Delhi by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad.
Qateel’s role in various terror attacks was being investigated by several investigating agencies across India. Senior inspector Koshor Jadhav of Yerawada police station said, “The two were booked under Section 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) and 34 (common motive). There are no additional charges.” Sources said the investigators have submitted a 350-page charge-sheet. The state government had suspended the then jail superintendent and had ordered an inquiry by the state CID.
After primary investigation, police had stuck to the theory that the murder was the fallout of a petty dispute and had said there was no other motive. Jadhav added, “The dispute took place as Qateel used to talk to the duo arrogantly, which did not go down well with them.” Meanwhile, Qateel’s brother, Shakeel, who is in their hometown Darbhanga in Bihar said over phone, “We feel there is scope for more investigations. Justice has not been done. We were allowed to speak to Qateel when he was in Delhi and Bangalore. But we were not allowed to talk to him once he was taken to Pune.”
- Shehla Masood murder trial starts in Indore court (Aug 31, 2012, Rediff)
- Qateel Siddiqui’s family wants narco-test on Mohol, Bhalerao (Sep 8, 2012, Indian Express)
- Shehla might not have been killed in her car’ (Sep 2, 2012, Times of India)
- Another witness doesn’t turn up, warrant issued (Sep 1, 2012, Hindustan Times)
Opinions and Editorials
Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat and the poster boy for growth in India, may be in trouble finally. At least he should be. On Feb. 28, 2002, a mob killed 97 Muslims, including 36 women and 35 children, in the town of Naroda Patiya, in Gujarat state. Some of the victims were repeatedly raped; others were hacked to death or burned alive. It was the largest and most gruesome case of mass murder to erupt in retaliation for the deaths of 59 people, mostly Hindu pilgrims, in a train fire. And it happened on Modi’s watch. The mob was led by Maya Kodnani, a legislator from the right-wing BJP party ” Modi’s own ” which back then was in power both in the state of Gujarat and in Delhi. Yet five years after the riots, Modi appointed Kodnani minister for women and child welfare in Gujarat. When a court ordered her arrest in 2009, she disappeared for over a month.
The law has finally caught up with her. Last week, she was convicted of murder, criminal conspiracy and arson and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Modi’s defenders have long argued there is no evidence to implicate him or his administration in the 2002 violence. In late July, a month before the Kodnani verdict, Modi spoke to the editor of the Urdu paper Nai Duniya. Asked if the riots were preplanned, he said, “It is all a lie. Instead, think about how many Muslims were protected then!” But in her ruling last week, Judge Jyotsna Yagnik noted that throughout the inquiry Kodnani had been “tremendously favored by the then investigating agencies,” at least before a Supreme Court-appointed body took over. “All care, at the cost of the duty of the investigating officer and even the interest of the victims, was taken to see to it that Kodnani’s involvement does not come on the books.”
The investigating agencies in question report directly to the Modi administration, and are part of the same police force that was accused of deliberately allowing the violence in 2002. How inconvenient for Modi. Recent polls suggest he is the frontrunner for the post of prime minister in the next general election, which is due by 2014. Though he is unlikely to get the job ” the BJP probably won’t win a majority on its own and its most important partner clearly opposes Modi ” he has been busy polishing his image, forcefully defending his role during the 2012 riots in detailed interviews with select publications. In July Nai Duniya’s editor, an Indian Muslim, asked Modi about the idea of an undivided India ” an India reunited with Bangladesh and Pakistan ” which the BJP had promoted in the past. Modi said, “You people find your mouth watering today, it is because the combined number of Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan can come together, and with the help of Indian Muslims, create tension in India.”
Modi’s dismissals of any evidence that undermines his image apply even to areas deemed to be his strengths, like development. Last week, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal that focused on Modi’s largely exaggerated economic achievements, the reporter, Amol Sharma, threw in one tough question: What was Modi’s administration doing to combat persistently high malnutrition rates in Gujarat? “Gujarat is by and large a vegetarian state,” Modi replied. “And secondly, Gujarat is also a middle-class state. The middle-class is more beauty conscious than health conscious ” that is a challenge. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they’ll have a fight. She’ll tell her mother, ‘I won’t drink milk. I’ll get fat.’ We will try to get a drastic change in this. Gujarat is going to come up as a model in this also.”
A model? How? Children under the age of five also suffer widely from malnutrition in Gujarat, and presumably they’re not arguing with their mothers over getting fat. Modi’s glibness about hunger denies the seriousness of the problem, in Gujarat and elsewhere in India, and undercuts his reputation as an apostle of progress. Despite his popularity, Modi is unfit to hold public office, let alone the post of prime minister of India.
- Amit Shah’s absence leaves a void in Modi’s poll plans – By S Muralidharan (Sep 8, 2012, First Post)
- Why the Naroda-Patiya verdict is a big blow for Modi – By Praful Bidwai (Sep 7, 2012, Rediff)
- Struggle for Gujarat’s soul – By Peter Ronald deSouza (Sep 7, 2012, Indian Express)
- Naroda Patiya ruling shows the system works in India – By Sheela Bhatt (Aug 29, 2012, Rediff)
The sight of BJP MLA and former Gujarat Minister for Women and Children, Maya Kodnani, being led by a policewoman to a special court in Ahmedabad, where the judge, Jyotsana Yagnik, sentenced her to 28 years imprisonment for her implicit involvement in the 2002 riots, must have warmed millions of Indian hearts. Particularly those of the relatives of the Muslims who were butchered in the 2002 post-Godhra carnage in Gujarat. Even more heart-warming is the “life imprisonment till death” award given to Babu Bajrangi, former Gujarat chief of the Bajrang Dal. This prime accused in the butchering that took place in Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad was trapped in a sting operation by a Tehelka editor, whose spy camera captured Bajrangi boasting that, after the Godhra carnage, he had mobilised about 30 people on the night of February 27 and taken “revenge for Godhra”. The most heart-searing and stomach churning brutality in Naroda Patiya was the butchering of the pregnant Kauser Bano, whose stomach was ripped open and the foetus foisted on the tip of a weapon. The “hero” of that atrocity was none less than Bajrangi. Recounting the burning and hacking of Muslims in that sting operation, he had gloated: “I felt like Maharana Pratap after killing them. I don’t care if I’m hanged.” The same sting operation had also established the involvement of Dr Kodnani, a gynaecologist, in the Naroda Patiya operations.
Eyewitnesses who deposed before the special court, survivors and families of victims have welcomed the judgment; one of them said simply: “Our real Eid is today, not last Monday.” A record number of 32 convicts have been given life imprisonment by Judge Yagnik. That it took 10 long years for a substantial and definitive punishment to be meted out – appeals to higher courts will of course be made – is a pointer to the Gujarat administration doing its best to stall investigations into the carnage. The Judge noted as much when she said that Kodnani was “tremendously favoured by the then investigating agencies.” Kodnani, who continued to be a Modi confidante for years after the riots, till the criminal and judicial net closed in on her in 2007, made the outrageous plea that she was a “victim of politics”. The judge gave her a fitting reply by saying that, as an MLA, she was expected to serve the people as their representative. Instead, she was found “plotting and planning the conspiracy along with Babu Bajrangi to attack the Muslims. She led the mob and incited them to violence.” Commenting on her “victim of politics” plea, Judge Yagnik described her as the kingpin of the violence and said the Gujarat police had actually helped her. She was elevated to a minister in 2007, despite the serious allegations against her vis-à-vis the 2002 riots. Apart from being helped by the investigating agencies, all care – against the interest of the victims – was taken to see that “Kodnani’s involvement does not come on the books.” This negated the plea that “she was ever a victim of politics”.
The judgment comes as a huge black mark on the Modi administration, to which hosannas are being sung at various forums on it being an ideal ‘development’ model for other States to emulate. In a scathing open letter to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was busy answering laudatory questions from fans on Google hangout after the judgment came out, suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt wondered about the timing of the chat, even as Modi’s “trusted lieutenants” (Kodnani and Bajrangi) and “misguided foot soldiers” were given sterling punishment. “Was it perchance that you smartly distanced yourself from all these unfortunate people at an opportune moment,” he asked wryly. Asking Modi if he had ever looked at the “real face behind the mask”, Bhatt added: “Have you ever introspected about your true self, concealed behind the meticulous imagery created by your media managers?” Of course, Bhatt’s letter will be treated with the customary contempt that Modi and his close circle of admirers and advisors reserve for any criticism against the Gujarat Chief Minister. But the judgment, which fell short of awarding death penalties as these were, according to the judge, against “human dignity”, has once again unleashed the ghosts and terrible memories of 2002. It is very well for many intellectuals, who are no admirers of the BJP’s brand of Hindutva, or the hate politics of the more strident Sangh outfits such as the Bajrang Dal, to say that the country has to forget 2002 and move on. Try telling this to the aggrieved. The relatives of those who were killed, raped or burnt in the 2002 outrage need to get justice.
Another ridiculous factor is that any discussion/writing on 2002 has BJP supporters pouncing on you on two counts. Condemn Godhra first is one, and what about the 1984 butchering of Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, is the other. Of course, the state administrative machinery failed to check the brutalisation of the minorities in both these cases, as it has so done many times earlier and in between. A short chat with a Muslim friend, an advocate in Ahmedabad, revealed an interesting trend. A host of lawyers, he said, are extremely unhappy at Judge Yagnik’s judgment. “How can you pinpoint and establish culpability on a few individuals in a riots case. And that too, give them such harsh penalties as 28 years of imprisonment for Kodnani and imprisonment till death for Bajrangi, they are asking,” he said. Conjure up before the mind’s eye the image of a heavily pregnant woman’s belly being ripped open with a sword and the foetus pulled out. Or an elected representative, a doctor at that, who has taken the Hippocrates oath to save lives, openly inciting people to attack, burn, kill.
Once you do this, no punishment appears too harsh. How Modi’s spin doctors and media managers handle this setback to his government will be interesting to watch in the coming days. But this judgment will go far in boosting people’s faith in the judiciary. However delayed, justice has not been denied. For the aggrieved, the disadvantaged and the insecure sections in Gujarat, such judgments will bring closure to the wounds of 2002, more than any homilies on the need to move on.
- Naroda Patiya verdict: What it signifies – By Girish Patel (Sep 4, 2012, DNA India)
- The XI that won the Gujarat Test – By SA Aiyar (Sep 9, 2012, Times of India)
- The tale of two killings – By Kuldip Nayar (Sep 7, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Slip, Sliding Away – By Vir Sanghvi (Sep 15, 2012, Tehelka)
On Friday, country welcomed judgment in Naroda Patiya massacre case of Gujarat, in which special court convicted 32 persons. The judgment is very significant since country has seen many riots and carnages, but for the first time big political leaders faced the heat for the acts committed. The credit for this hard-won victory goes to the witnesses who stood with courage against all odds and to various organizations who provided them with necessary sustenance. During Gujarat Carnage-2002, Naroda Patiya witnessed most gruesome incidences accounting for most deaths and enormous property loss. Thus, the Naroda Patiya case was very prominent in the mind and heart of all the organizations like Islami Relief Committee Gujarat (IRCG), Action Aid, St. Xavier Social Service Society (SXSSS), Gujarat Sarwajanic Relief Committee (GSRC), etc., working for relief and rehabilitation. Coordination committee of around 40 NGOs was formed and for better efficiency, distribution of tasks among NGOs was done. In this distribution of tasks, IRCG was assigned task for rehabilitation of the victim survivors and some legal work like providing basic legal assistance to the victims of Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaam. Thus, IRCG did Herculean task of reconstructing and repairing 550 houses of Muslims, 75 of non-Muslims, along with a community center, a mosque and a madrassa at Naroda Patiya, and 35 houses and a mosque at Naroda Gaam.
During the course of action, it was felt that the pre-condition to success of any case against the culprits was that the witnesses are saved from any fear or allurement coming over them. Thus, separate project for witness protection was taken up under convenorship of IRCG in coordination with Action Aid and SXSSS under which all the important witnesses of Naroda Patiya and other major incidences were shifted to rehabilitation colonies at Vatva and Juhapura. Also, efforts were made to tackle financial needs of victims-witnesses, so that they could be saved from allurements coming from the culprits. The task of keeping keen eye on police investigation in Naroda was taken care by Action Aid, where Adv. Somnath Vatsa played laudable role. With regards to Naroda Patiya case, Adv. Somnath Vatsa had prepared very detailed report on the charge-sheet and had brought out all the lacunas of the charge-sheet. Day-to-day need for legal assistance to victims/witnesses was taken care by Action Aid advocate. Just after some days of carnage, it became very evident that police was not doing truthful and wholehearted investigation to book the culprits in the case. Not only investigation of Naroda Patiya case, the investigations in other major cases like Visnagar, Sardarpura, Dipda Darwaja etc. appeared shoddy and just cover-ups. In year 2007, Tehelka released tapes of its sting operation, Operation Kalank which played a huge role in bringing out the culprits to open, bragging their misdemeanors on camera and admitting to crimes committed by them. Tehelka in its report has given credit to adv. Somnath for his collaboration in their analysis of police investigation and charge-sheet.
Thus, to fix this issue, IRCG along with NHRC filed petition before Supreme Court seeking reinvestigation in major cases and transfer of major cases out of State. In 2008, SC appointed SIT for reinvestigation of 9 major cases of Gujarat carnage, including Godhra train case, Naroda Patiya, Dipda Darwaja-Visnagar, etc. Since 2008-09, Citizens for Justice and Peace started to take interest and intervened in Gujarat cases. Much help and assistance was received from their efforts. Subsequently, the role of CJP increased gradually and other organizations went into backdrop. Looking back at the chain of events in Naroda Patiya and other cases, there were two major incidences which could have jeopardized success of the case. The first, when due to imprudent activities of a well-known lady social worker, some very important witnesses of the case were arrested by police at Vatva, Ahmedabad. However, the said matter was resolved with great wisdom and the said witnesses were got released from clutches of police. And the second incidence, when there was infighting in CJP, and resultantly complaints were filed alleging witnesses tutoring etc. It was very possible that like Baroda Best Bakery case, witnesses in this case to get convicted. However, the problem was successfully solved and the case of Naroda Patiya could be saved from infighting at CJP.
In this way, through coordinated efforts by all the above organizations like IRCG, Action Aid, SXSSS, GSRC, CJP, etc., the victims of Naroda Patiya received some justice. Also the judgment in Naroda Patiya case will hopefully serve as deterrent for the future riot mongers. Also, despite the Naroda Patiya case verdict being hailed from all the quarters, it has to be said that the police persons who helped during riots, who carried out cover-ups during investigation, and many political leaders like Jaydeep Patel and Govardhan Jadhafiya despite being named by the witnesses, remained out of clutches of prosecution. The moral of the story is that to attain justice in the Indian situation, it requires a comprehensive assistance (covering all the needs of the victims) and coordinated efforts (by all NGOs fighting for justice) and long sustainable and untiring effort.
- Delivering Justice – Editorial (Sep 15, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Nip Communal Polarisation in the Bud – Editorial (Sep 2, 2012, Peoples Democracy)
- A little justice for victims of terrorists and rioters – By Annie Zaidi (Sep 9, 2012, DNA India)
- India and secular democracy – By Asghar Ali Engineer (Sep 8, 2012, Twocircles.net)
With the recent arrest of 18-odd people in the so-called cases of conspiracy to kill prominent BJP leaders and attack the buildings of importance, the Karnataka Police has just imitated rampantly used theme which the Gujarat police has been continuously using since the Gujarat riots. It seems that to appease their political masters and to further their political motives, the Karnataka police is now copying their counterparts in Gujarat and are indiscriminately arresting Muslim youths. After the Gujarat riots, to further rub salt on the injuries of the Muslim community and to harass them and to encumber them in their fight for justice against the perpetrators of Gujarat riots, the Gujarat Police started arresting Muslim youths on various flimsy and fabricated grounds of conspiracies so as to put the whole community on defense and in self apathy and deter them from getting any justice whatsoever in the riot related cases. The Gujarat police and especially the ATS (Anti terrorist squad) rounded up several youths and framed numerous cases against them under various sections of POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and IPC (Indian Penal Code) for hatching conspiracy. In almost all the cases, the police came up with an identical list of political persons who were supposed to be targeted by these so-called “conspirators and terrorists”. The list would include the name of Chief minister Narendra Modi, BJP member Mayaben Kodnani, Bajrangdal member Babu Bajrangi, VHP member Jaydeep Patel and Pravin Togadia etcetera. The revenge theory was used to the best as all these political persons allegedly played a major role in the Gujarat riots. Further accusations were made against these arrested persons that they received training in Pakistan and that they went there through various routes and that they are member of terrorist organization like, HuJI, LET, ISI, etcetera. It is pertinent to note that in most of the cases no evidence is provided even to base such accusations.
The Gujarat ATS went one step ahead in fabricating cases and used encounter as the means to give some credence to these fragile conspiracies. After the encounters, the Police would report fabricated stories to the media that the accused were on a mission to Kill Modi. This exemplified the deceased as a monster and vitiated the atmosphere to such an extent that even questioning the encounter was looked down upon. The Gujarat government itself accepted that the encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauserbi, Tulsi Prajapati, and Ishrat Jahan and three others were not encounters but they were murdered in cold blood by the police. After the recent Supreme Court judgment, all the encounters since 2002 are now under investigation. Now I would like to draw out instances of cases where accusations have been made against Muslim youths for conspiracy, for getting arms training in Pakistan, for being members of banned terrorist associations and offences against them were registered under various sections of POTA/ Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act/ Arms Act/ IPC and how all of these conspiracies share identical themes and the identical judgments that they all received from the court of law. As per the F.I.R. registered on September 30, the then police chief K R Kaushik had intelligence information that a JeM terrorist, who was an accused in the killing of a constable, was coming from Mumbai to Gujarat And that he had received terrorist training with the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan and was out to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and other BJP and VHP leaders like L K Advani and Pravin Togadia.. He then passed the information to the then JCP P P Pandey who directed Vanzara to probe whether Sameer Khan was part of the Akshardham terror attack. Khan was said to be arrested on the afternoon of September 27, 2002. The police were granted a 14-day remand of Sameer Khan and thereafter he was transferred to judicial custody. He was again arrested on a transfer warrant in the Constable Vishnu murder case. On the night of October 21 at 1 am, Sameer Khan was taken to the spot where Vishnu was killed. As per the police theory, Sameer Khan snatched PSI K M Vaghela’s revolver and tried to run away, but was shot dead by the police. In the court, the police had presented 12 co-accused in the case alleging they had helped him procure fake documents, including a passport and driving licence under a false name of Nawab Khan. According to the police, Sameer had gone to Pakistan on January 13, 1998. However, the passport officer testified in the lower court that a passport under the name of Nawab Khan was delivered only on March 27, 1998. The lower court refused to frame charges and dismissed it.
The state government then filed an appeal in Gujarat High Court, which too observed that there was no evidence to prove that Sameer Khan went to Pakistan on the date mentioned by the police and so “an adverse inference is required to be drawn against the investigating agency”. The court also held that no weapons were recovered from Sameer. Conspiracy for Plantation of Bombs in Six buildings at Ahmedabad 2002 after Godhara Carnage FIR No. I-CR No. 01/2006 ATS Police Station, Sessions Case No. 71/2006 In this case, the police had arrested 6 persons, again, on the charges of conspiracy. As per the F.I.R., in 2002, after Godhra train massacre, communal riots had flared up in Gujarat, in which Muslim people had incurred loss of life and property, and to avenge that, Islamic terrorist organizations from Pakistan like Jaishe Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Toiba etc. started instigating Muslim youths to join and accomplish the malicious intentions of targeting top leaders of VHP and BJP and to plunder places of economic interest in Gujarat and to cause bomb blasts at religious places. As a part of such Jehadi terrorist activities, Akshardham was attacked and former Home minister Shri Haren Pandya was killed. The F.I.R. further mentions that these persons as part of conspiracy to take vengeance of the 2002 riots against Muslims have planned to plants bombs and blow up several buildings. Ironically, the complaint of the complainant also starts from 2002 and it has been stated that one of the accused went to a mosque on 27.5.02 on his birthday and in the mosque he was crying thinking about all the deaths and destruction that the Muslims suffered during 2002 riots. It is further alleged that in the complaint that the accused there met with a person named Zahid @ Abu Talha from Riyadh, Saudia Arabia who instigated him to take revenge and for that he would supply money and weapons. It is also alleged in the complaint that this Zahid @ Abu Talha was a member of Jaish-e-Mohammad and I.S.I. of Pakistan. Offences were registered U/s 120B, 121, 121A, 122, 123 of IPC and Sec. 25(1)A, 27, 29 of Arms Act and Sec. 4 of Explosive Substance Act and 17, 18, 19, 20. 23(1), 38, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004. In the judgment, the Hon’ble Judge observed that the investigating officer accepted that he had made no inquiries about that person Zahid @ Abu Talha and also made no efforts to search him. The Hon’ble Judge further observed that there are no recovery from these persons and that all the facts of the complaint of the complainant about conspiracy are nothing but hearsay. The Sessions Court acquitted all the accused persons.. Here, I want to point out that this Zahid @ Abu Talha is just a fictitious character who is said to be based in Saudi Arabia and his name is reported in few other cases also but in all the cases, no direct or indirect inquiry is made against him as is evidence from the excerpt of the judgment above.
FIR No. I-CR No. 894/2003 Satelite Police Station Sessions Case No. 279/2006 In this case, the police had arrested 4 persons, again, on the charges of conspiracy and carrying out a bomb blast. The accused persons are same as were in the previous case except for two persons who were accused in that case but are not in this case. Like in the previous case, here also, the ATS alleged that these persons as part of conspiracy to take vengeance of the 2002 riots against Muslims and as part of their plan to plant bombs and blow up several buildings, they carried out blast at Nehrunagar Cross Road. Offences were registered 120B, 307, 121, 122, 123 of IPC and Sec. 3 & 4 of The Explosive Substance Act and 17, 18, 19, 20. 23(1), 38 and 39 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004. The Sessions Court observed in its judgment that there are no recovery from these persons and that the important witnesses in the case, that is, the investigating officers who were serving as P.I and Dy.S.P. of ATS that they made contradictory statements and made statements against what is on record and made false statements about the proceedings they carried out in the investigation. The Sessions Court acquitted all the accused persons in the case. Conspiracy to create terror in Gujarat by planting Bomb at various important places of Gujarat FIR No. I – CR No. 02/2006 Registered with Anti Terrorist Squad Police Station Sessions Case No. 96/2007 In this case 6 accused persons were arrested for conspiracy. It is alleged in the F.I.R. that in the year – 2002, the Muslim community suffered death and destruction in Gujarat Pogrom and these persons came into the contact with the prohibited Islamic Terrorist Organizations like Lashkar-E-Taiyaba and Harkat-ul-Jehade Islami (HuJI) and that they are working under the instructions of I.S.I. of Pakistan, and that they got the terrorist training through Azam Chima @ Baba of Pakistan and got the weapons, explosives and financial help of Rupees one lakh through Havala, to sent some more Muslim youths from Gujarat to Pakistan for taking Jehadi Training. They were sent to Tehran by flight of Iran to go to the Pakistan for training on 09.12.2005 by preparing the VISA and other documents. They had planned to target the offices of the R.S.S. and Bajrang Dal and planned the conspiracy to blast Gujarat Kandla Pipe Line, Somnath Temple, Ahmedabad Sabarmati Railway over-bridge by bomb blast and to fulfill this objective and to spread terrorism and anarchy, the local Muslim youths were instigated. Offences were registered against the accused persons under section 120B, 121, 121A, 122, 123 of IPC and Sec. 4 & 5 of Explosive Substance Act and 17, 18, 19, 20. 23, 38, 39 and 40 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004. The Sessions court in it order found that no evidence has been proved to support the case that the conspiracy was made to attack any places like the offices of the R.S.S. and Bajrang Dal and to blast Gujarat Kandla Pipe Line, Somnath Temple in Gujarat as is stated in the complaint. Some of the accused were already arrested in New Delhi and that a separate case in New Delhi is going against them there. The Sessions court also said in its judgment that the fact mentioned in the complaint that these persons were thinking about taking the vengeance of the 2002 riots are totally based on fictitious and imaginatory ideas of the police. All the persons who were arrested were acquitted.
Haren Pandya Murder Case FIR No. RC 2 (S) SIC/I New Delhi 2003 – POTA Case No. 10/03 15 persons were arrested for the murder of Mr Haren Pandya who was shot dead at Ahmedabad. The Hon’ble High Court in its order while acquitting the accused of the offence and quashing the order of the Sessions Court mentioned that the careful and meticulous mentioning of only five gunshots throughout the relevant evidence for the prosecution makes the whole prosecution case a possibly well-orchestrated concoction of a story away from the whole truth of the matter. The discussion of ocular, ballistic and medical evidence and the ham-handed rejection of the expert’s opinion as discussed hereinabove, only strengthened the argument for the appellants that the conclusions drawn by the trial Court were perverse and illogical. Also Malegaon in 2006 and 2008, on the Samjhauta Express in 2007, in Ajmer Sharif in 2007 and Mecca Masjid in 2007. In all the above cases, more than 30 Muslim youths were arrested under various sections of MCOCA and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for terrorist activities and for bomb blast. The police initially rounded up 300 Muslim youths for the blast in Mecca Masjid. The Sessions court acquitted them all and the case is now filed against persons belonging to right-wing Hindu organization for these offences. In the Meccas Masji Blast case, the court not only acquitted them but then the government went on to grant compensation ranging from 3 Lakhs to 20,000 to more than 100 people for wrongful arrest and detention. Code: In all the above cases, the very first reaction of the media is that the police arrested youths who were on the verge of doing catastrophic and dastardly activities against the nation. The media leaves no stone unturned in projecting these persons as savage beasts who can even kill people from their own community to create hatred for people of other communities as was in the case of Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and Ajmer Sharif blast case. The media stigmatized them and their family. They laud police every time such so-called conspiracy is “unraveled” by them or when any encounters of such “conspirators” are carried out. The media seldom asks questions about the veracity and antecedents of these facts and blatantly disseminate them to the common people further creating a stereotype wherein people of minority community are made to look like they are against the nation. They rarely give any other version than the one provided to them by the police, let alone having their own independent inquiry about the accused persons. The family or the lawyers of the accused are never given a chance to put their case before the people. When the case falls flat in the court and this happens most of the time, the defense generally taken by the Police is that they had evidence against the alleged conspirators but they were not substantial but a closer look at the remarks made by the Hon’ble Sessions court and the High Courts busts this myth created by the Police of their genuineness in arresting people. In all of the above cases, it is specifically mentioned that the police fabricated and concocted the alleged conspiracy. In most of the cases, the accused were released not on the grounds of benefit of doubt but due to lack of evidence. In the Haren Pandya case, the High Court observed that the case of the prosecution case is possibly a well-orchestrated concoction of a story away from the whole truth of the matter and in another case, the Hon’ble sessions court observed that the investigating officers of the case made contradictory statements and made statements against what is on record and made false statements about the proceedings they carried out in the investigation and such kind observations are made throughout in the orders of the above-mentioned cases. Pertinent to note here is that in Mecca Masjid Blast case, out of the 32 persons who were arrested, many were pursuing professional courses like engineering and medicine. The mala fide action of the police destroyed their careers and ruined their hope of living a life of dignity in the society. It is an irony that a student who was in the final year of M.B.B.S. is given a rickshaw as compensation for the time he spent in prison. Like Gujarat where the innocents were arrested and booked for conspiracy and other offences by the police to serve their political masters, it seems that the same game is now being played in Karnataka with the arrest of 18-odd youths.
- Did Someone Say Dirty Tricks? – By Saba Naqvi (Sep 17, 2012, Outlook)
The Mumbai top cop, Commissioner of Police Arup Patnaik, has been eased out without completing what was believed earlier to be a mandatory two-year tenure, as prescribed by the Supreme Court of India (in its response to the public interest petition filed by Prakash Singh) for all sensitive police positions. Of course, the shift has been dressed up as a “promotion” to the higher rank of Director General of Police (DGP). An unexceptionable administrative move indeed. Every Indian Police Service officer would like to reach the highest that the service can offer before hanging up his boots. Patnaik cannot therefore complain, and will not. Except that this elevation comes within days of a huge controversy over his handling of two demonstrations, one on August 11 by the Raza Academy at the Azad Maidan and the other on August 21 by the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). It is true that the Commissioner did not exactly cover himself with glory on the two occasions. In the first he was accused of underestimating the crowd that was likely to gather; in the second, he allowed a procession by the MNS when it had permission only to hold a public meeting. It is anybody’s guess whether these actions were his own or were dictated by his political bosses. In either case, he went down in the esteem of objective observers of the scene, who feel he should have asserted himself and enforced the law on the organisers of the two disruptive events. Those belonging to the Raza Academy, or as also its sympathisers, were all praise for the restraint shown by the Mumbai Police at Azad Maidan despite grave provocation by some of the participants. They went to the extent of calling Patnaik a professional officer. The latter seemed to take it as a handsome compliment going by the way he was shown beaming on television.
This is how trouble apparently started for Patnaik. His detractors led by the MNS were irked by this praise and were quick to mount a massive campaign against the beleaguered Commissioner. On August 21, they flexed their muscles by defying his ban on processions – a public meeting alone had been permitted by the police. The sole redeeming feature was they made sure that, unlike the Raza Academy organisers, the MNS gathering was peaceful even though it was an unlawful assembly when it came in a procession to Azad Maidan, disrupting normal life in one of the busiest areas in the city. Raj Thackeray and company spat venom on Patnaik and his alleged indifference to the Academy’s misconduct on August 11 and the deliberate ignominy it caused on that day to the policewomen on duty. They openly demanded the Commissioner’s ouster. It was believed that at least to prove a point the government, for a while, was determined not to act against Patnaik. To belie this assessment, there were inspired leaks that action to shift the Commissioner was imminent. The deliberate misinformation here has since become irrelevant, not merely because of his shift to an inconsequential job but also because those responsible for the leaks may never be traced. Such is the power of those who wield influence both in government and outside. They are normally too powerful for policemen to alienate. The whole unseemly episode raises at least two issues: first, the police inability to enforce the law on public demonstrations and the prescribed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) against those determined to defy them because they have the numbers or are backed by political or sectarian groups a ruling party can hardly antagonise; and, second, a lack of concern for the likely harm that could flow from a government’s preference for expediency over the need to conserve the morale of the police force.
Information flowing from neutral and sane members of the enlightened Mumbai society – there are still a large number of such citizens in what is recognised all over the country as a civilized city – makes one believe that, as elsewhere in India, the Mumbai Police has little autonomy of action. (I understand that the authority to transfer even sub inspectors has recently been appropriated by the Home Department, leaving the Commissioner as just a figurehead, who has to run up to the Sachivalaya every other day to pay obeisance if he has to get sanction for every one of his proposals made in the interests of his force.) The popular inference is that on August 11 Patnaik had been advised by the powers that be that he should be tactful in handling the Raza Academy’s protest against the ethnic killings in Assam. In police parlance, “tact” is synonymous with avoidance of force, even when some group misbehaves and takes the law into its own hands. A few friends tell me that that the Raza Academy has a penchant for violence and that hordes of its followers descended on Azad Maidan on August 11, arriving by train, and the police neither stopped them nor gauged their mischief potential. This was the sequence of events on that troublous day when Mumbaikars were held to ransom. The police were not only outnumbered but also reluctant to use adequate force to disperse the misbehaving crowd. Any possible display of authority came too late, and this is what the MNS complained about. A few former Mumbai Police officers blame Patnaik for this debacle. Not only did he appear to buckle under oral directions from those above, he also seemed to have displayed poor judgment of the whole situation. To make matters worse, it is widely reported that he got into an ugly argument with one of his immediate subordinates against whom he allegedly used rude language. According to this account, this officer and other colleagues, aggrieved over Patnaik’s attitude, complained directly to Home Minister R.R. Patil, who took the initiative to ‘sack’ Patnaik. The promotion to the rank of DGP came as a compromise at the instance of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Just consider the opposite scenario. If Patnaik had opted for strong retaliation against the mob indulging in despicable acts, including alleged molesting of policewomen, he would have been accused of being “tactless” by everyone in town, including those at the Sachivalaya. This is the predicament of the Indian police. Damned if you did, and damned if you did not. Patnaik is, therefore, an obvious scapegoat who cannot protest. He is not alone here. He belongs to a large distinguished crowd spread all over the Indian police, which is littered with victims of political caprice. All accounts speak of low morale in the Mumbai Police. The slide started more than a decade ago, with frequent reports of misuse of authority in appointments and transfers. Julio F. Ribeiro, the fearless former Police Commissioner, is a lone voice that makes uninhibited comments on this subject. His unremitting tirade against corruption in police administration and his plea for non-interference in operational matters have both gone unheeded. Coalition politics has unfortunately extracted its price, especially when the Chief Minister belongs to one party and the Home Minister to another. This dichotomy has spelt ruin, and the Mumbai Police may not recover from its deleterious effect. To cap it all, there is open display by the constabulary of its preference for a regional outfit which strongly believes in keeping one religious group at bay and openly campaigns against “outsiders” (read those from Bangladesh and north India) flooding the city that belonged only to the local Maharashtrian population.
The harm that such regional chauvinism on the part of the constabulary – the cutting edge of the police – can cause to desirable basic standards of policing is immense. This is a real tragedy if one considered the glorious image of the Maharashtra Police, especially the fabled Bombay Police, decades ago. The problem is nobody in the polity talks of restoring lost standards. Everyone in that firmament spends all the time exploring how best to misuse the police to settle scores with their adversaries. It is not as if only the Maharashtra Police suffers from this malady. Other States are no better. Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry watches helplessly because, constitutionally speaking, policing remains the State’s domain. A constitutional amendment that makes this a dual responsibility could help marginally, although it could lead to confusion to start with, at least until sanity in politics becomes a reality. I end this column with a tinge of sadness. It is now time to say goodbye after 11 years of writing. I will cherish forever the hospitality of the Frontline Editor and his amazing staff. My loyal readers – who extended beyond my large circle of friends – were an even greater motivation for me to labour fortnight after fortnight. This journey was worth all the moments of tension imposed by a strict deadline if I have been successful in conveying the message: the Indian criminal justice system needs to be nursed tenderly by every one of us.
- Urdu Media On Mumbai Police Comm. Patnaik’s Transfer – By A. Hameed Yousuf (Aug 27, 2012, Milli Gazette)
- The message of Azad Maidan – By Syed Zubair Ahmad (Sep 2, 2012, Twocircles.net)
It has been over a month and the conflagration in Assam is not yet fully doused. In its trail are some 80 dead and several hundred thousand homeless. Several thousand panic-stricken North-easterners in different parts of the country, fearing reprisals, rushed home to safety. Governments – the Union and the state – instead of confronting the pathology that breeds such scenarios are scrambling to set right their optics through cosmetic measures. The Centre dispatched a CBI team to Kokrajhar, the epicentre of the riots, to do its magic. As expected, the CBI could not cast its spell. Instead, it got into a controversy. Bodo organisations dubbed it partisan because a Muslim officer led the team. Induction of the CBI to the scene of an active riot is nothing but a red herring to con the people and deflect their ire from a predatory government that has long ceased to be a protector of its citizens and wilfully abandoned its part of the social contract. In recent years, a dangerously sinister situation has emerged in Assam. The state has got into symbiotic relations with, one after another, numerous non-state militias. It fosters them with the taxpayers- money, ignores their day-to-day retail and wholesale criminal depredations and uses them in pursuit of its cynical politics to gain and retain power.
Between them there is a conspiracy of cynical silence. In this insidious equation between the two, the ordinary folks are mere disposable variables and inconsequential collaterals. It all began with the Union and the state governments soliciting the Bodo Liberation Tigers, a militia with track records of insane violence, with a hefty moneybag and unexpected political powers in February 2003. The BLT leaders received hundreds of crores of rupees as solicitation money besides an institutionalised hegemony over 35 per cent of the state-s territory and its inhabitants that became the Bodoland Territorial Area District. It is public knowledge that the prodigal leaders of the outfit, awash in cash spoils of the deal, showered expensive gifts, including BMW and Mercedes cars, on their beloveds and fiancés. Political power was handed over to them on a platter – not by the people but on their back! It was left to the BLT to decommission as many of their foot soldiers and weapons as they chose to notify. They retrenched mostly their elderly cadres and old weapons and retained their core lethal capacity disguised as volunteers of sorts. They are used for suppressing any potential challenge to the BLT-s hegemony, including the likely emergence of an alternative Bodo voice. They are the main suspects in several riots including the current ones. In the 2006 elections they helped a teetering Congress party retain political power.
When a sullen and intransigent National Democratic Front of Boroland, a rival militia not yet in cahoots with the state, killed more than 50 innocent non-Bodos in three days of a frenzied death-dance beginning 2 October 2004, the birthday of arguably the greatest prophet of non-violence in modern history, and in its wake wrote to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi asking him to send his troops to barracks and have a deal with them, he promptly obliged them. Counter-insurgency was stopped and a charade of peace-talks began. In order to determine the size of the moneybag, as an interim sop, when asked to submit the list of their cadres, they gave a staggering list of 1,027 to the state intelligence chief. Central and state agencies were unanimous that the outfit was never near so large and at the time did not have more than 150 boys. In December 2003, the outfit was decimated in Operation All Clear of Bhutan, where its critical assets were located. However, the grossly inflated claim was promptly accepted by the state even without a semblance of scrutiny. They received fatter solicitation money commensurate with the projected size.
While at “peace”, the NDFB continued its violent depredations. Its traumatic terrorist act – the high intensity serial blasts on 30 October 2008 in lower Assam – killed 90 and disabled for life more than 350 people, shocked the country and catapulted Assam onto the map of international terrorism. An outraged state in one voice cried for justice and demanded the state immediately call off the farcical “show of peace” with the promiscuous killers. Insensitive to the collective despair and popular outrage, the state refused to stop mollycoddling the killers. The tragicomedy again came to the fore when the outfit abducted Vilas Bardekar, a senior officer of the Indian Forest Service, and released him after 80 days on 1 August 2010, only after extracting Rs 1 crore in ransom. The state, at peace with the abductors, acted as a broker in the safe transfer of the ransom money. On 11 February 2010, Gogoi, flanked by his police chief, three-star generals of the Indian Army and senior officers of the Union home ministry, shook hands with 412 purported gunmen of the Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front, a tribal militia. They had wreaked widespread havoc on common folk and had chosen, at their convenience, to respond to the enticing solicitations of the state. Of them, more than 250 were innocent boys who had nothing to do with militancy and were forcibly corralled, from villages, into the fold by the KLNLF days before the public show. When I brought this to the notice of then Union home minister P Chidambaram, in Gogoi-s presence, they exchanged cynical glances and moved on with the insidious farce.
These boys were soon trained into hardcore terrorists in the designated camps of the outfit under the benign eyes of the state. The Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel Garlosa), a Dimasa tribal militia, was raised in 2005 with patronage of a minister from the same tribe in the state cabinet for securing his shaky seat in the elections due the next year. It unleashed unrestrained terror in the North Cachar Hills district and killed over 300 persons, mostly labourers engaged in infrastructure development works. The intensity of their terror compelled the Centre to set the National Investigation Agency – the main anti-terror entity created in the aftermath of the 26 November 2008 attack on Mumbai – after them. The NIA, indeed, had a tough time chasing the terrorist leaders who enjoyed state protection. Finally when they were nabbed outside Assam, the state government hired a bungalow in Guwahati, notified it a jail and lodged them there with all conveniences, including orderlies, cook, laptops and telephones. Chidambaram was persuaded to rein in the NIA and facilitate their release soon. Luxuriant friendliness has been extended to renegades of the United Liberation Front of Asom, a militia with pan-Assam pretensions and considered emotionally closer to the state government. In fact, other militias in cahoots with the state often accuse it of being stepmotherly to them in comparison. The happy coexistence of the state with non-state militias is a matter of state policy. With the air of an evangelist, Chidambaram informed the Parliamentary Committee of the home ministry on 9 February 2011 that the non-state militias were not “criminals” and the policy of his government was of “forgiveness and reconciliation” with all of them! Of course, no compassion or justice for thousands dead and disabled by them! So long as the gun is the preferred currency of power and exchange between state and non-state actors and people are mere collateral, peace will neither be redemptive nor sustainable. Isn-t it preposterous even to think of it?
- Bodoland: The Burden of History – By Udayon Misra (Sep 15, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- In The Beginning Was The Loaded Word – By Yasmin Saikia (Sep 17, 2012, Outlook)