IAMC Weekly News Roundup - September 24th, 2012 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – September 24th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Communal Harmony

When young hearts beat fast for peace and communal harmony (Sep 23, 2012, Twocircles.net)

In a bid to spread the word of peace, harmony and brotherhood and also awareness about environment, Mission Bhartiyam, A&A (Art and Architecture group) and FACT (Federal Alliances of Creative Talents) organised a gathering of artists, photographers and musicians on Friday 21st September at in India Gate lawns here in Delhi. The event involved competitions for painting, sketching, photography and waste material utilization techniques. The themes were environment and peace. This event was the second gathering of A&A fans in India and had taken place simultaneously in 15 countries. It is organized every year to spread awareness about the twin challenges of environment and peace through art.

Prashant Nautiyal of A&A, remarked, “Art is an effective medium to communicate information to the masses. It is attractive and appeals to anyone.” Rohit Bhardwaj added, “so we used this form to communicate about the twin challenges of environment and peace among the common masses.” With this event, FACT, an organisation of young artists, will display their works among the common masses. Rajneet Fidato, of FACT, remarked that “this will not only encourage the young talents but it will also make art more effective.” AR. Paramjeet Singh remarked that “we cannot move ahead without peace and social harmony”.

With this event, Mission Bhartiyam, an India-based NGO, also concluded its “Tree for Harmony” event. “Tree for Harmony” event involved planting trees labeled as “harmony trees” to spread the word of peace, harmony and prosperity in South Asia. “Harmony trees” also stood for communal harmony and against discrimination on grounds of caste, class, gender and religion. This event started with the “World Ozone Day” which was on 16th September and was done in schools, colleges, public places in four countries – India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Aditya Dubey, of Mission Bhartiyam, said that “like trees, which grows freely and in everyone’s house, we should not discriminate against anyone and we should all grow together”. Pankaj Pathak talked about the south asian essence to the event. He remarked, “Without peace with our neighbors, we cannot work for peace and prosperity within our country”. We had also planted a “harmony tree”. It was planted by eminent poet Kumar Anupam and Satish Mehra, who had been involved with tree plantation for 35 years.

The group organized the event in India Gate lawns because the idea was to spread the message across the common masses and to tell them, what they can do to change the world. The activists also distributed pamphlets suggesting simple ways to work for a sustainable environment. M. Reza Z. Karfar, an Iranian student in Jamia Millia Islamia and a member of A&A concluded with the note that “without peace within our hearts, we cannot talk about world peace”.


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Make Hitler your idol instead of Vivekananda: Sanjiv Bhatt to Narendra Modi (Sep 19, 2012, Times of India)

Decrying Narendra Modi for using Swami Vivekananda as his political mascot and challenging his knowledge on Hindu philosophy, suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt has written yet another letter to the chief minister. Bhatt, a known Modi baiter had accused him of instructing state machinery to allow Hindus to vent out their anger against the minority community and earlier written a letter after the Naroda Patia riots case verdict. “Did you ever think of Vivekananda or his ideology when thousands of innocent children of divine light were mercilessly massacred under your watch or when inconvenient and expendable individuals were liquidated at your instance?

Did the voice of Swami Vivekananda ever prick your conscience in the eerie silence of continuing subjugation and dominance?” Bhatt has written to Modi in his letter on Wednesday. In the letter earlier this month, Bhatt had accused the Modi of ‘abandoning’ his ‘loyal lieutenants’ after the Naroda Patia verdict. Now, he has condemned Modi of using Vivekananda for his political campaign. Modi has launched a state-wide Swami Vivekananda Yuva Vikas Yatra. “Your megalomania for grandeur and self-consuming hunger for power can be appropriately graced by historical figures like Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Bernard Munyagishari, Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic. Any of these icons would be appropriate mascots for the on-going Gujarat government funded Yuva Vikas Yatra,” said Bhatt.

Challenges Modi’s understanding of Hindu philosophy, Bhatt writes “it seems that you are not adequately acquainted with the major philosophical underpinnings of the thought systems of Hindu Philosophy”. “We know that Swami Vivekananda believed that ‘Religion is the idea which is raising the brute unto man, and man unto God’. But you seem to have conveniently reduced God to a particular religion, a wholly misconceived religion that converts some of your enthusiastic and gullible followers in to heartless brutes who are potentially willing to kill innocent people. “Where does Swami Vivekananda or his venerable ideology fit into your diabolical scheme of Realpolitik?” said Bhatt in the letter.



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Naroda Patia case: Judge raps RK Raghavan over missing convict (Sep 22, 2012, DNA India)

A designated judge of the Naroda Patia massacre case has taken serious note about the disappearance of a guilty who had been declared accused of the riot case. Judge Jyotsna Yagnik has asked the SC appointed Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) chairman, RK Raghavan to constitute a team to bring back Suresh alias Sehjad Chhara.

Chhara has been absconding since the court pronounced its verdict and held him guilty with 31 other accused including Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi. He was not present in the court, while the court issued its verdict in which he was charged with murder, conspiracy and other charges.

Earlier, the court took serious note over Chhara’s disappearance and asked SIT sleuths to trace him. However, 20 days have elapsed and is untraceable. The court on Friday against held hearing of the case, the court took serious note and asked SIT chairman Raghavan to form a special team. Earlier, judge Jyotsna Yagnik awarded life imprisonment up to 28 years to Maya Kodnani and 30 other accused.



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Tulsi fake encounter case: CBI’s ex-ADG is accused No. 17 (Sep 21, 2012, DNA India)

The case of former Gujarat director general of police (DGP), PC Pande, is unique. It is perhaps for the first time that a former additional director general (ADG) of the CBI has been named by the probe agency as a murder accused in a case. Pande, who is accused of conspiracy and murder in the charge sheet filed in the Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter case, was appointed as ADG in the CBI in February 2004. He was later shifted to another central agency before returning to Gujarat where he became the state DGP.

The CBI had filed the charge sheet in the court of Judicial Magistrate (First Class) in Danta, Banaskantha district. On Thursday, the Danta court allowed copies of the charge sheet to be given to the accused. Sources said that the CBI was initially in a dilemma whether or not Pande should be named as an accused in the case as he had served in the probe agency in a very senior position. However, the evidence against him that came up during investigation of the Tulsi case was so overwhelming that the agency had no option but to charge him for serious offences, the sources added.

The CBI has stated in the charge sheet that Pande’s role in the Tulsi encounter began in the days when investigation into the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter was initiated. The probe agency has alleged that he shielded the police officers involved in the Sohrab case from a departmental probe. The charge sheet further alleges that Pande wanted to ensure that the role of his ‘patron’, former minister Amit Shah, and IPS officers DG Vanzara, RK Pandian and Dinesh MN in the Sohrab encounter did not come to light. As Tulsi Prajapati was a witness to the abduction of Sohrabuddin and his wife, Kauserbi, he was killed, says the chargesheet. Sohrabuddin’s brother, Rubabuddin, had written a letter to the Chief Justice of India accusing the Gujarat and Rajasthan police of involvement in the disappearance of Kauserbi and his brother’s ‘murder’.

In response to the letter, the Apex Court wrote to the state government for a proper investigation into the encounter. According to the Tulsi case charge sheet, the Apex Court’s letter was addressed to the then Gujarat DGP, PC Pande, who deliberately did not take any action for some time. In furtherance of a criminal conspiracy with his alleged patron and key accused Amit Shah, Pande allegedly directed inspector general of police (IGP) Geetha Johri to enquire (not investigate) into Rubabuddin’s allegations, the charge sheet says. The CBI has noted that Pande had enjoyed the unstinted support of Shah. After his retirement he became the first retired IPS officer to be appointed chairman of Gujarat Police Housing Corporation.



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Batla House encounter still a sore point (Sep 20, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The Batla House encounter, which had left ties between area residents and Delhi police in tatters, remains a sore point four years on. The police have tried, and failed, to peacefully enter the area to conduct raids, while area residents still mistrust the force. “We have been demanding a judicial enquiry over the Batla House encounter, because we feel it was fake. We have stopped trusting the police as they have started picking young men without reason,” Zafar Abbas, of Jamia Nagar, said. In July, the Delhi police’s crime branch had arrested a “spy” from the area, triggering massive protests as local residents blocked the Noida-Badarpur highway for hours.

“The area’s residents have become scapegoats, as they are targeted after any crime. The locality has been in the grip of fear. Young men are especially vulnerable,” explained Ikhlaq, a resident of Shaheen Bagh. The support for Zia-ur-Rehman, who is facing trial in connection with blasts during the civic September 2008 elections, was enough to prove that the residents are not going to accept the police’s version.

“Rehman contested from Jamia Nagar and lost only by 517 votes. The 7,677 votes he got was an effort by local people to tell the authority that they are with him,” he added. “We have been often tagged as terrorists and people regard Batla House with suspicion. A win for Rehman would have changed the image of the area,” 24-year-old Sartaj said. Last week, the residents of Jamia Nagar took a team of policemen hostage and roughed them up when they went to arrest a suspected auto-lifter. The team comprised eight policemen in mufti. But local residents “created a ruckus”.

On the other hand, the Delhi police are trying their best to bridge the gap with the local people. Earlier this year, a coaching centre for underprivileged boys and girls for competitive exams was opened inside Jamia Nagar police station. A senior police officer who did not want to be named said such moves could encourage more Muslims to the Delhi police.”They know the locality better than anyone else. If an area resident joins the Delhi police, the residents would feel comfortable,” the officer added.



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Ghaziabad violence: Three officers suspended (Sep 17, 2012, Times of India)

Even as the situation remained tense in Masuri, policemen stationed there shudder to think about the violence and hope that nothing of that sort ever happens again. Meanwhile, three police officers were suspended on Sunday for their “failure” to provide intelligence inputs and control the situation during Friday night’s violence.

Cops said that the drama outside the police station continued for around an hour. “The crowds soon spread in all directions and took control of the entire area. “On finding the situation out of control, the SP (rural), ADM, SDM (Sadar) Keshwar Kumar and me hid till additional forces came to control the frenzied mob,” said Sajid Hussain, chairman of Dasna Nagar Palika, who had come to enquire about the situation. The rioters did not stop and started pelting stones in which the SP (rural) was injured.

“We tried to calm the mob and hold discussions, but when they did not stop we were forced to lob tear gas shells at 8pm. Even after that the agitators did not stop and we ordered lathi charge to disperse the crowd. We also fired rubber bullets,” said ADM RK Sharma. “We made all attempts to calm the agitators for one hour and 10 minutes. When we found our lives in danger, then I finally ordered firing at 8.40pm to disperse the mob,” Sharma added.

“Masuri station officer, P K Singh, Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) SSI Jal Singh Saini and SI DP Singh have been suspended for their failure to control the situation and provide intelligence inputs,” said SSP Ghaziabad, Prashant Kumar. District authorities have also recommended the transfer of circle officer (Sadar) Ajay Kumar and suspension of CO LIU Mohini Pathak and sub-divisional magistrate Keshav Kumar, Kumar added.



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Terror toll: 16 framed (Sep 18, 2012, The Telegraph)

Mohammed Amir Khan was branded a terrorist by Delhi police when he was 18. The son of a Delhi toy shop owner was accused of masterminding 19 bombings in Delhi, Rohtak, Sonepat and Ghaziabad between December 1996 and October 1997. But after he had spent 14 years of his prime in a solitary cell in Tihar and other state jails, a Delhi court acquitted him in January this year for lack of evidence.

Acquitting him in one case after another, the judge said: “Suspicion, however strong it may be, does not take the place of evidence.” He is now free but the terrorist tag has left his life in a shambles. His ailing father died while arranging money to fight his case, and his mother suffered brain haemorrhage which left her paralysed and speech-impaired. Amir is one of 16 Muslim youths acquitted by the courts for lack of evidence after the police had apparently picked them up at random and framed them in terrorism cases.

The Jamia Teachers Solidarity Action, a civil rights group, has highlighted the injustice to these 16 in a dossier titled “Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a Very Special Cell”. It will be released tomorrow. “The 200-page document relies solely on the court judgments to bring out the pattern in which the (Delhi police’s) special cell operates,” said Manisha Sethi, president of the group and a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia. “In many cases, the courts have indicted the police for framing innocents and concocting evidence. We are hoping the dossier will help strengthen the demand for compensation for the victims and punishment for the guilty policemen.”

One of the 16 is Syed Maqbool Shah, a Kashmiri who spent 14 years in Tihar for alleged involvement in the Lajpat Nagar blast that left 13 persons dead in May 1996. Acquitting him in 2010, Delhi High Court said all the charges against him were based on speculation. Shah, who has returned to Kashmir, was arrested when he was 17. He wrote a diary in jail titled Apni Aap Beeti (What I Went Through). The 500-page chronicle in Urdu details how he was tortured.

Sethi said the process of illegal detention, torture, imprisonment and trial had exacted a heavy toll on all the 16 victims. “There has been no rehabilitation, not even an apology.” The Jamia Teachers Solidarity Action was formed after the Batla House encounter in Delhi in 2008, where the police shot dead two alleged terrorists whom many in the neighbourhood believe to have been innocent.



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Don’t use my name: Anna Hazare snubs Kejriwal (Sep 19, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Nearly two years after they came together to lead one of the most popular anti-corruption movements of recent times, Anna Hazare and his one-time closest aide Arvind Kejriwal split on Wednesday. “It is unfortunate that the team has separated…I will not join any party or any group. I will not go for their campaign. I will only campaign and devote my life to jan lokpal,” Hazare said after a marathon eight-hour meeting with his former colleagues.

Taking things to almost the point of no return, Hazare said India Against Corruption (IAC) should not use his name or photo during any political campaign. Two prominent names of former team Anna, former top cop Kiran Bedi and former Karnataka lokayukta justice Santosh Hegde decided to side with Hazare, but an overwhelming majority endorsed Kejriwal’s view of forming a new political party.

Kejriwal did not speak to the media, but in his tweet after the meeting, stated, “Country is on sale. It is passing through a very difficult phase. I will do everything possible for me to save my country.” Out of the 42 IAC members present at the meeting, 34 supported Kejriwal, including Manish Sisodia, and father-son lawyer duo Shanti and Prashant Bhushan.

Hazare rejected the online and SMS poll conducted by the IAC on the issue of forming a political party, saying “internet and Jantar Mantar cannot determine the outcome of the country”.



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ED to begin action against Ramdev’s 34 companies (Sep 24, 2012, Indian Express)

In further trouble for yoga guru and anti-corruption campaigner Baba Ramdev, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has decided to proceed against his close aide Acharya Balkrishna and 34 companies he heads under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Last month, the ED had issued showcause notices to Ramdev, Balkrishna, his trusts Patanjali Ayurved Ltd and Divya Yog Mandir and his Jharkhand Mega Foods for alleged foreign exchange violations.

According to ED documents accessed by The Indian Express, there is fresh evidence to show remittance of forex worth Rs 27.5 crore by the two trusts run by the yoga guru in violation of RBI norms. Patanjali Ayurved has reportedly made investments abroad worth Rs 4.35 crore while Vedic Broadcasting Ltd has remittance of Rs 4.4 crore towards “professional fee”. Approximately Rs 2.5 crore has allegedly been invested by Patanjali in two companies – Herboved Inc in USA and Patanjali Malagasy Sarl in Madagascar. The ED suspects these to be companies owned by Ramdev’s trusts.

Despite repeated efforts, Ramdev’s spokesperson was not available for comments. “Once the CBI files the case of forgery (by Acharya Balkrishna) in the passport case, we will register a case under the money laundering Act,” said a senior ED official. All the 34 companies associated with the yoga guru and his three trusts are headed by Balkrishna. The ED suspects that Patanjali Ayurved Ltd and Vedic Broadcasting Ltd exported goods at high over-invoiced rates to various foreign companies and its own joint ventures and wholly-owned subsidiaries.

ED investigations also point out that the FDI received by the Jharkhand Mega Food Park from Dubai-based GenX Venture Capital and Lunar General Trading and Liberia-based Micky Shipping Ltd is in violation of the RBI guidelines. The ED says the RBI was not told about the investments and suspects it could be a pretext of bringing unaccounted money from abroad.



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Girl ‘dragged’ into car, but cops don’t slap abduction charge (Sep 22, 2012, Indian Express)

Despite allegedly dragging a 19-year-old into their vehicle in full public view, with an intention to abduct her, three miscreants have not been booked on charges of abduction by the Chandigarh Police. The police, according to the victim, had initially booked the three youths on charges of criminal intimidation, an offence which is non-bailable in Chandigarh. However, charges of criminal intimidation (Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code) were not included in the FIR. All other sections under which the three have been booked are bailable offences. “When I had approached the police alleging that the three youths had attempted to outrage my modesty, I was given a slip which contained sections of criminal intimidation along with other charges. However, the same charge was not recorded in the FIR,” said Komal Kohli, a resident of Mohali, adding that the slip was still with her. The incident had happened around 3:30 pm on Wednesday near Sector 42 market.

While Sector 36 SHO Bhupinder Singh said “I was never told about this allegation that she was dragged by the youths”, the victim said “police are telling a white lie”. “I had repeatedly told them that the youths dragged me inside the vehicle,” she told Chandigarh Newsline. Assuring that appropriate action will be taken on the victim’s statements, Inspector General of Police P K Srivastva said “the charges will not be minimised at any cost”. “I have not read the FIR. I will look into the matter,” said Senior Superintendent of Police Naunihal Singh. The trio, in their early 20s, Lakhbir, Karan and Khushwinder, were arrested but released on bail in a few hours. Lakhbir is the son of a sweet shop owner in Sector 21 while Khushwinder is the son of a driver and his mother is a clerk.

“I fail to understand why the police are going soft on the accused who have been booked for non-bailable offences,” said Komal’s father Harish Kohli. “When my daughter and her friend have informed the police that the accused tried to pull her into their car, why were they not booked on charges of abduction?” Maintaining that an abduction case should have been registered, advocate N K Nanda said, “When the girl has alleged that she was dragged in the vehicle, the police should have registered a case of attempt to abduct at least.”

On Wednesday, Komal and her friend Himani Khurana, both final year BA students of the government college in Sector 42, were walking to the local bus stop when Komal was allegedly attacked by three youths. “We were crossing the market when three persons in a Swift car stopped by and started passing lewd remarks on us. We ignored them for a while but when they continued, Komal retaliated and two of them came out of the car and started slapping and beating her,” Khurana said. “One of the accused then held her hand and tried pulling her into the car when she bit his arm.”



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Can’t trace four witnesses in Aarushi case, CBI tells court (Sep 22, 2012, Indian Express)

The CBI on Friday failed to produce any prosecution witness in the Ghaziabad court where dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar are being tried for the 2008 murder of their teenaged daughter Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj. The CBI told the court that four witnesses, for whom summons had been obtained, could not be traced. The CBI, which earlier failed to trace Bimla Sarkar and Chandra Bhushan, said there was no sign of Sanjay Singh and Sanjay Thakur as well.

While Bimla Sarkar worked as a maid at the Jalvayu Vihar house of the Talwars, Sanjay Singh and Chandra Bhushan were guards in the colony. Sanjay Thakur, an employee of Rajesh Talwar, was present when Rajesh Talwar handed over his golf set to the CBI, the agency claimed. According to the CBI, injuries on the bodies of Aarushi and Hemraj matched the contours of a golf club.

Of the 13 material witnesses who the CBI was to examine, five are still to be questioned. While four cannot be traced, Kalpana Mandal, also a maid at the house of the Talwars, had gone on leave when the killings took place in May, 2008. She was not questioned despite being produced in court. The CBI said she had stopped supporting the prosecution case. Another witness, Umesh Sharma, the driver of the Talwars, was declared hostile in court.

At the next hearing on September 25, the process of bail for Nupur Talwar is set to begin. Her lawyers hope to see her out on bail either the same evening or the next morning. She has been in custody since April 30 this year.



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Opinions and Editorials

Mobocracy and the Rule of Law – Part I – By R B Sreekumar (Sep 22, 2012, News First)

Multi-faceted imbalances and contradictions in India generate numerous clashes of interests and confrontations. Often citizens misguided by self-seeking leaders indulge in suicidal pursuits injurious to their own intrinsic needs, debilitating unity and integrity of our motherland and requirements of The Rule of Law. The protracted communal clashes in Gujarat in the year 2002 were motivated by religio-centric electoral opportunism of Bharatiya Janata Party to transform the remorse and agony of majority community over the ghastly Godhra Train Fire incident (59 dead) into political capital and votes. The man made and State facilitated tragedy of riots, having ingredients of a genocide, as defined in the UN Covenant on genocide 1948, left nearly 1500 persons killed, millions of worth of property destroyed and elimination of centuries old symbols of Islamic heritage, architecture, art, education and religion. The collateral damage of loss in image and blot on India’s symbiotic syncretic traditions are unredeemable.

In the context of the recent epoch making judgment by Judge Dr.Jyotsna Yagnik, on the gravest of massacre incidents in 2002 riots in Naroda Patia (Ahmedabad City) – 97 killed, a critical appraisal of both constitutional and informal Institutions, viz, the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary, the Media and the Civil Society, is appropriate for drawing due lessons to ward off future disasters. Citizens had expected a healthy, sober and active response from the Legislators – MLA, MP, – in the Post-Godhra-Train-Fire period, like, their tours in the constituencies and areas of influence, pacification of the people in order to stop ignition and conflagration of hatred and belligerency against the minority community to which the perpetrators of Godhra Train Fire killings belonged to. Unfortunately except in certain areas of Saurashtra and South Gujarat elected representatives not only remained lethargic but many aligned to the Sangh Parivar had planned, instigated, prepared and committed gruesome anti minority atrocities. Conviction of Mayaben Kodnani, the then MLA, for her culpable role in the riots is illustrative of villainous part taken by legislators from BJP and not an exception.

True to the spirit of Hindu communalism, and the avowed political ideology of BJP, vast majority of its elected leaders had abetted and remote controlled the anti-minority pogrom. However, the Police and the Executive Magistracy, (the Collector and his Staff) avoided documentation of data on their complicity in the riots in most violence-affected areas. Significantly, those BJP leaders who remained neutral or tried to ensure amity and order, viz Kashiram Rana in Surat, Vallabh Katharia in Rajkot and Suresh Mehta in Kutchch had to face the wrath of Narendra Modi and since 2002 they had to sink themselves into political oblivion. Amazingly even legislators from secular parties, except a few, had played safe and did little to counter the steady rise and spread of communal hatred and frenzy in their constituencies. The people’s representatives’ riposte to the situation had ranged from escapism, desertion and inaction to incitement and infliction of terrifying violence on minority community. Most of the ruling party legislators, who associated and aided the rioters, were reelected in the subsequent election to the Assembly and Lok Sabha, thanks to the magic of communal indoctrination, inadequacy of vision and political maturity among the voters. Now, let us hope that judicial verdicts would go a long way to discipline legislators and their supporters. They should absorb the fine print of Naroda Patia judgment.

During 2002 riots the three main components of the Executive- the Police, the Executive Magistracy, and the Auxillary services – tasked to maintain law and order, an imperative of the Rule of Law, became promoters of statelessness and mobocracy, by intentionally creating an ambience facilitating extensive anti minority crimes and subversion of the Criminal Justice System (CJS), through micro level manipulation of the Station House Officers and Investigating Officers of riot related cases. In nearly 2/3rd of the State area, police functionaries willfully did ignore the legal and administrative architecture structured in the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP), enshrined in the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), the compilations like (a) Communal peace, (b) Communal riots (strategy and approach), (c) Riot Schemes, (d) Gujarat Police Manual, (e) Police Acts, (f) Recommendations of Justice Reddy and Justice Dave Commissions on 1969 and 1984 – 85 riots respectively and so on. All those responsible for acts of omission and commission are culpable under Sections 166, 186, 217, and 218 Indian Penal Code of 1860. But, both Gujarat Police and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Dr.R.K.Raghavan had turned a Nelson’s Eye to practically all acts of grave criminal negligence by the Officers in the ranks of DySP to DGP. So far, only two Police Inspectors were arrested for genocidal crimes and one Head Constable was convicted in Bilkis Banu mass rape case.

Why the SIT did not find anything abnormal in the inaction of the police in Naroda Patia Muslim habitats, where the marauding Hindu crowds indulged in violence from 8.30 am to 7.00 pm on 28/02/2002, as acknowledged by the Court verdict? Why the Ahmedabad City Police Leadership had failed to rush adequate police staff for initiating decisive interventionist action to contain violence? In fact, indications are that Ahmedabad city police had acted as facilitators and enablers for the rioters, still none had taken cognizance of this sinful delinquency. This was the story, more or less, in all locations of major mass violence – Gulbarg Society, Sardarpura, Kiliad, Ode, Dipala Darwaza and so on.



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Savarkar and Gandhi’s murder – By A.G. Noorani (Sep 22, 2012, Frontline)

On July 12 Swapan Dasgupta made an interesting disclosure in the evening on television. L.K. Advani had told him that according to Morarji Desai, V.D. Savarkar was complicit in Mahatma Gandhi’s murder but got away with it. Morarji was Home Minister in the Province of Bombay and he had once stated on oath, “[I] kept myself in touch with the investigation that was going on in the Bombay Province.” He knew the truth. So did Jamshed Nagarvala, Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the Bombay Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) Special Branch Sections One and Two. He was responsible for the gathering of political intelligence and was close to the Home Minister. Union Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on February 27, 1948: “I have kept myself almost in daily touch with the progress of the investigation regarding Bapu’s assassination case.” It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that “[hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through” (Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, Volume 6, page 56). Not surprisingly Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a member of the Cabinet, incongruously pleaded with Patel on behalf of Savarkar, whom he had succeeded as president of the Hindu Mahasabha, on the very day the Special Court was set up. Patel replied, “As regards Savarkar, the Advocate-General of Bombay, who is in charge of the case, and other legal advisers and investigating officers met me at a conference in Delhi before I came here. I told them, quite clearly, that the question of inclusion of Savarkar must be approached purely from a legal and judicial standpoint and political considerations should not be imported into the matter. My instructions were quite definite and beyond doubt and I am sure they will be acted upon. I have also told them that if they come to the view that Savarkar should be included the papers should be placed before me before action is taken. This is, of course, insofar as the question of guilt is concerned from the point of view of law and justice. Morally, it is possible that one’s conviction may be the other way about. “I quite agree with you that the Hindu Mahasabha, as an organisation, was not concerned in the conspiracy that led to Gandhiji’s murder; but at the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that an appreciable number of the members of the Mahasabha gloated over the tragedy and distributed sweets. On this matter, reliable reports have come to us from all parts of the country. Further, militant communalism, which was preached until only a few months ago by many spokesmen of the Mahasabha, including men like Mahant Digbijoy Nath, Prof. Ram Singh and Deshpande, could not but be regarded as a danger to public security. The same would apply to the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh], with the additional danger inherent in an organisation run in secret on military or semi-military lines” (ibid., pages 65-66).

As an experienced criminal lawyer, Patel distinguished between acquittal in a court of law and the guilt which the evidence in court establishes “morally”. He wrote to the persistent Mookerjee again: “As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organisations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of government and the state. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure” (ibid., page 323). Morarji’s disclosure should cause no surprise. This is what Robert Payne wrote of Savarkar in The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi in 1969: “Among those who sat in the dock he alone seemed to be well cast for the role he was playing. Some inner fire burned in him, in that deathly pale face which had been reduced by illness and suffering to the dimensions of a skull. He had been placed under house arrest within eight hours of the assassination, and the only surprising thing is that he was not arrested earlier, for he was the prime suspect, the one man who would inevitably be suspected of the crime. Suspicion would have fastened on him even if he had been living in London. “The prosecution had no difficulty in showing that Nathuram Godse had organised the conspiracy, but it was a vastly more difficult task to prove the direct complicity of Savarkar. He claimed that he was ill during the months preceding the assassinations, saw very few people, and had not been in communication with Godse or Narayan D. Apte for more than a year. “[Digambar] Badge, the informer, claimed that on January 17, three days before the assassination, he accompanied Godse and Apte to Savarkar’s house in Bombay at nine o’clock in the morning. While Badge waited downstairs, Godse and Apte went upstairs to Savarkar’s study to receive the last darshan of their political leader and to obtain his final instructions. Five or ten minutes later they came downstairs accompanied by Savarkar, who said: ‘Be successful and come back.’ … Savarkar bore a heavy moral responsibility for the murder, and when he presented himself as a man who deplored the death of Gandhi with every fibre of his being, he was never convincing.

“In 1909 he had shown that he was perfectly capable of ordering a young Indian to murder Sir Curzon Wyllie. To his biographer Dhananjay Keer, who wrote an account of Savarkar and his times, he claimed full credit for the murder. He had given Madanlal Dhingra a nickel-plated revolver, saying curtly: “Don’t show me your face if you fail this time.” Dhingra had acted like an automaton, blindly obedient to him, convinced that he was sacrificing himself on the altar of India’s freedom, and throughout the trial Savarkar continually encouraged him in the belief that he was a martyr whose name would be remembered for centuries. The London police strongly suspected Savarkar of complicity in the crime, but there was never enough evidence to convict him. He was finally convicted of complicity in the murder of Mr A.M.T. Jackson at the Nasik conspiracy trial and sentenced to transportation for life. “The memory of this earlier murder hovered like a ghostly presence over the trial at the Red Fort, never mentioned in court, forgotten except by the oldest members of the audience who crowded the public benches. Savarkar had achieved respectability, and his crimes had taken place so long ago that they could be discovered only in the crumbling pages of ancient newspapers” (pages 616-7). More, he had attained an iconic status as the author of the concept of Hindutva, in a tract by that name (1923). He was at pains to stress that it was not synonymous with Hinduism. He was a confirmed atheist. … Savarkar was put under surveillance. “Jimmy Nagarvala’s Bombay investigation had yielded little new after its first 48 hours. The Bombay Watchers’ Branch continued its vigilance at the gates of Savarkar Sadan, but the Machiavellian leader inside was too clever to reveal his mind. And yet, some malignant radiation seemed to emanate from that house. Something in the constant flow of Savarkar’s followers in and out of its premises spoke to Nagarvala’s policeman’s instincts. ‘Don’t ask me why’, he told Sanjevi [the head in Delhi], ‘but I just know another attempt is coming. It’s something I can feel in the atmosphere here'” (ibid., pages 429-30).

But there is much more to Morarji’s belated comment. He gave evidence at the Gandhi murder trial. The Times of India of September 1, 1948, carried the text of Chief Prosecution Counsel C.K. Daphtary’s application to Judge Atma Charan the previous day. The portion concerning Savarkar read thus: “In cross-examination of the Honourable Mr Morarji Desai, counsel for accused number seven [V.D. Savarkar] asked the following question: ‘Did you have any other information about Savarkar, besides Professor Jain’s statement for directing steps to be taken as regards him?’ “Witness answered the question as follows: ‘ Shall I give the full facts? I am prepared to answer. It is for him [Savarkar] to decide.’ Counsel for accused number seven thereafter stated that he dropped the question. The prosecution submitted that the question, answer and the statement of counsel should be recorded but Your Honour declined to do so. It is submitted that the question, the answer and the statement of counsel for accused number seven should have gone on the record.” The restraint is hard to understand, especially since Moraji had explicitly told Bombay’s Legislative Council on April 8, 1948, that “Savarkar’s past services are more than offset by the present disservice”. In all such murders, the case against the top figure would rest on the testimony of one of his accomplices who turned approver. In this case it was Digambar Badge. In his judgment, Judge Atma Charan meticulously analysed Badge’s testimony on oath: “The examination and the cross-examination of the approver went on from 20.7.1948 till 30.7.1948. He was cross-examined for nearly seven days. There was thus an ample opportunity to observe his demeanour and the manner of his giving evidence. He gave his version of the facts in a direct and straightforward manner. He did not evade cross-examination or attempt to evade or fence with any question. It would not have been possible for anyone to have given evidence so unfalteringly stretching over such a long period and with such particularity in regard to the facts which had never taken place. It is difficult to conceive of anyone memorising so long and so detailed a story if altogether without foundation….

Justice Kapur’s findings are all too clear. After listing the information available to Nagarvala, he concluded: “All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group. In his crime Report No. 1, Nagarvala had stated that ‘Savarkar was at the back of the conspiracy and that he was feigning illness’. Nagarvala’s letter of January 31, 1948, the day after the assassination, mentioned that Savarkar, Godse and Apte met for 40 minutes ‘on the eve of their departure to Delhi’ on the strength of what Kasar and Damle disclosed to him. These two had access to the house of Savarkar without any restriction. In short, Godse and Apte met Savarkar again, in the absence of Badge and in addition to their meetings on January 14 and 17 (page 132). P.L. Inamdar, advocate for one of the accused and a Hindu Mahasabhaite, wrote of his astonishment at Savarkar’s acquittal: “All I remember even today is that I had tried to look hard at [Judge] Atma Charan, asking myself if he was the same Atma Charan who had one day said to me: ‘Believe me, I shall do full justice to the case which you have so ably put up'” (The Story of the Red Fort Trial 1948-49, Popular Prakashan, 1979; page 147). Inamdar mentions how anxious Savarkar was about his fate. On February 22, while in detention at the Arthur Road Prison in Bombay, Savarkar gave a written undertaking to the Commissioner of Police: “I shall refrain from taking part in any communal or political public activity for any period the government may require in case I am released on that condition” (Exhibit D/104 in the case). This is not the conduct of a man innocent of the crime. No appeal was filed against his acquittal. Yet another undertaking was given to Chief Justice M.C. Chagla and Justice P.B. Gajendragadkar in the Bombay High Court on July 13, 1950, while he was in detention. “He would not take any part whatever in political activity and would remain in his house” for a year. These were part of a sordid series of abject, demeaning apologies. The first was on July 4, 1911, within six months of his entry in the Cellular Jail in the Andamans, where Advani wanted to build a memorial to him. The second and third were in October and November 1913 to Sir Reginald Craddock, Home Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. “I am ready to serve the government in any capacity they like…Where else can the prodigal son return but to the paternal doors of the government,” this “nationalist hero” wrote. The fourth and fifth were submitted in 1914 and 1917. The sixth came on March 30, 1920. Its text was published in full inFrontline (see the writer’s article “Savarkar’s mercy petition”, Frontline; April 8, 2005). The seventh was submitted in 1924 (Frontline, April 7, 1995). The ones of 1948 and 1950 were the eighth and ninth. Which other political figure had such a disgraceful record of abasement before the British during the Raj? Gandhi’s murder was also one in a series—Curzon Wylie’s in London in 1909, A.T.M. Jackson, Collector of Nashik, in 1910; and the attempted murder of Acting Governor of Bombay Ernest Hotson in 1931. In each case Savarkar used others as his pawns. Those who laud him ignore this long and consistent record from 1911 to 1950 because they value his doctrine.



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Is there a case against Kazmi? – By G Vishnu (Sep 29, 2012, Tehelka)

On 6 March this year, Delhi Police claimed a breakthrough in their investigation into the Israeli Embassy car blast case with the arrest of Syed Ahmed Kazmi, 50, a freelance Urdu journalist who specialised in West Asian affairs. Apart from a shocked family, it left the media fraternity bewildered at the police’s assertion that the arrest was cleared at the top level – with consent coming from the home ministry. TEHELKA was amongst the first to raise questions on the police theory. Now, six months after Kazmi was arrested on charges of conspiring with the blast accused, a close look at the investigation and the chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police Special Cell raises serious doubts about the credibility of the case. On 13 February, a powerful explosion ripped through the car of Tal Yehoshua, wife of the Israeli defence attaché, on Aurangzeb Road, injuring her and the driver seriously. On 6 March, a week after Delhi Police revealed that they had names of the suspects, Kazmi was detained outside the India Islamic Centre, Lodhi Road. Just hours before his arrest, Syed Ahmed Kazmi was sitting in a television studio commenting on the building tension between the West and Iran. Since the arrest, his family has been running from pillar to post trying to prove Kazmi’s innocence.

On the other hand, the Delhi Police – that has from the beginning termed the case as holding ‘international ramifications’ – has carried out investigations that are perplexing, to say the least. Whereas at first Delhi Police claimed that two other suspects were detained in Bangkok on 13 March, a 16 March press release by Delhi Police named four Iranian nationals. Kazmi was charged with conspiring with the other accused. It is unclear, to this day, who the detained suspects were. At the very outset, the chargesheet filed by the Special Cell reveals several loopholes. Consider one of the findings in the beginning: “On discreet enquiry, it was revealed that Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi was out of the country during the latter half of February 2012,” it reads. But what the Special Cell found through ‘discreet enquiry’ was actually a media trip Kazmi had undertaken to Syria, as part of a 20-member delegation of journalists from India to assess the conflict there. “There was nothing discreet about it. We went to Damascus and Hama. More than a 100 journalists from all over the world were part of the Syrian government-sponsored trip,” says John Cherian, New Delhi bureau chief of Frontline.

A more startling inconsistency comes from the testimony of witnesses. Tal Yehoshua, the Israeli victim of the attack, had stated that the attacker who planted the magnetic explosive device on her car was riding a ‘black, big/sporty motorcycle’. The chargesheet claims that Houshang Afshar Irani, the Iranian national who planted the bomb, hired the motorcycle for Rs 500 per day from the owner of Hotel High 5 Land – who too has claimed the colour of the bike to be black. At the same time, two other witnesses of the blast have stated the colour of the bike to be red. The Delhi Police has refrained from sticking to a particular colour of the bike. Even though it is claimed that Irani was in touch with Kazmi during 2011, Delhi Police has not substantiated it with any evidence, in the form of call records for instance.

Another gaping hole comes in the form of the allegation made by Delhi Police, that traces of TNT were found in room No. 305 of Hotel High 5 Land, Karol Bagh, where Irani allegedly stayed from 29 January to 12 February 2012. “Delhi Police landed at the hotel on 26 February. Strangely, room No. 305 remained unoccupied all 14 days, even as all other rooms, including the adjacent ones, were occupied. How is it possible that even the cleaning staff never entered the room those 14 days?” asks Kazmi’s counsel, Mahmood Pracha. He goes on to point that whereas Delhi Police had earlier claimed that Irani left the country on 13 February, after the blast, details recorded in the chargesheet show that Irani left India on 29 February. Delhi Police, however, says it was an error in the cover letter of his air ticket (Malaysian Airlines). But Mahmood Pracha disagrees. “Even if we concede this, why hasn’t the Delhi Police attached immigration details from the Delhi airport in the chargesheet? Has the Iranian government even confirmed the authenticity of the passport? Do they even know who Afshar Irani really is?” asks Pracha. …

The family has been furnishing necessary details to the Enforcement Directorate explaining the foreign remittances to their bank accounts. The money, Kazmi’s wife claims, came from their eldest son, Ali Quazim, who’s based in Sharjah. She has also enclosed details of the tax filings done by Syed Kazmi in the past five years. On 11 September, in a bizarre twist, the Delhi Police Special Cell tried to arrest Kazmi’s nephew. “Some policemen in plainclothes tried to arrest my cousin as he was coming out of his house in Shaheen Bagh. They claimed to be from Mumbai ATS, but their ID cards said they were from the Special Cell,” alleges Shauzab. But the Delhi Police spokesperson has maintained that the said policemen were from Anti Auto-Theft Squad, and not the Special Cell. However, Kazmi’s family members are not buying the explanation. They feel it is just an intimidating tactic employed by the Special Cell to thwart their efforts in getting justice.



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The plunder under his watch – By Ashish Khetan (Sep 29, 2012, Tehelka)

Last Diwali, Giriraj Sharma, the resident editor ofPatrika in Raipur, received two awkwardly big gift boxes from Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh’s office. Upon opening the boxes, Sharma told TEHELKA, he found one packed with dry fruits, while the other had three compartments – one had a high-resolution video camera, the second had 51 crisp notes of Rs 1,000 denomination and the third had a miniature throne made of gold.

Raman Singh has been occupying the chief minister’s throne since 2003. The extravagant gift was meant not just to indulge the journalist but also to convey an offer that if he wished, he could have a share of the spoils of power. Sharma returned the gift with a note of thanks. More importantly, Patrika continued to hold a mirror to the state BJP government, highlighting the abuse of power and the nexus between the government and big money.

Raman Singh retaliated by withdrawing all government advertisements to the newspaper. Patrika was barred from covering Assembly proceedings, its office was attacked by a mob of BJP workers, its reporters are almost never entertained by the ministers and bureaucracy for any information and the editor is never extended an invitation to an event presided over by the CM.

The witch-hunt didn’t end at that. The CM personally wrote a two-page note, terminating the services of the wife of Patrika’s state bureau chief – she was a Class III employee – on bogus charges. The file shows that the termination proceedings were initiated at the CM’s behest. It is unheard of that a CM takes personal interest in the service matters of a clerical employee and personally sees to it that the person is terminated. The Patrika Group has filed a writ petition against the state government in the Supreme Court, claiming a violation of its fundamental rights like freedom of speech and equality before the law.

Incredibly, in a state with 23 daily newspapers and more than a dozen news channels, the two-year-old Patrika’s Raipur edition happens to be among a handful of media organisations that have maintained objectivity in their reportage. Government ads constitute the single biggest source of revenue for the newspapers and news channels operating in the state. The Department of Public Relations’ annual budget is roughly Rs 40 crore. It is not surprising then that the CM has kept the charge of public relations with him since 2003.



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Assam: Illegal immigration is not the issue – By Amaresh Misra (Sep 19, 2012, Times of India)

Barring Sikkim, the British India Assam province (formed in 1873 and then again in 1912 after a 6 year, unsuccessful merger with East Bengal during the failed British move to divide Bengal in 1906) comprised all areas of today’s North-East region of India. Post-1947, from 1960s onwards, when Nagaland acquired separate statehood, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh achieved statehood, through an intricate process, that reached fruition only by the late 1980s. Undivided Assam was home to 200 tribes out of the 430 recognised tribes in India. Back then, an estimated 25 per cent of the North-East’s 31 million inhabitants belonged to tribal groups. Presently, Scheduled Tribes (comprising of 23 notified groups), form 13 per cent of Assam’s population (around 30 million). Out of the total ST population, Bodos constitute 40.9 per cent, making them the single largest tribal component of Assam’s tribal mosaic that includes a host of plains and hill STs like Miris, Karbis, Rabhas, Kacharis, Lalungs, Barmans, Borokachars, Deoris, Hajais, Mechs, Dimasas, Hajongs, Singhphhos, Khamptis, Garos, Chakmas, Hmars, Khasis, Jaintias, Syntengs, Lyngngams, and Kukis.

In the 1980s, the All Assam Students Union (AASU), began a movement targeted specifically against non-Assamese, chiefly Bengali and Hindi-Urdu speaking Hindus and Muslims. The AASU metamorphosed into the Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), which ruled Assam for two terms and joined the BJP dominated NDA Government from 1998-2004. Despite holding initial promise-like addressing Assam’s backwardness-the AASU led movement degenerated into chauvinism. Thousands of Bengali Muslim men, women and children, living since ages in Assam, were killed in the horrific Nellie massacre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_massacre). Complex factors-including the dubious role of forces bearing loose affiliation with AASU or downright communal entities like RSS that had infiltrated both the Assam state machinery and AASU-lay behind Nellie. The massacre marked the grim culmination of the identity politics of the era, started by the British in the 1830s. Since Nellie, displacement of alleged ‘migrants’ became widespread all over the North-East. Following is a list of displaced communities in post-Independence Assam, given by M Burhanuddin Qasmi, a Mumbai based Assamese intellectual, in an article written for the ‘Radiance Weekly’: (a) Na-Asamiya or the New Assamese Muslims, Bengalis, Santhals and Nepalis from Assam; (b) the Bengalis from Tripura, (c) the Reangs from Mizoram; (d) the Nagas, Paite and Kukis from Manipur, (e) Chakmas from Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram (http://www.radianceweekly.com/64/629/presidential-elections/2007-06-24/notheast/story-detail/northeast-a-tale-of-apathy-ithousands-living-under-open-sky-for-14-years.html)

Bodos began demanding a separate State from 1980s onwards. Broadly, there were two components-mass and armed struggle-in the Bodo movement. Initially, organizations like All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) were joined in by several Bodo underground groups. Details of the internecine fight between Bodo groups-leading to several assassinations of Bodo leaders by Bodos themselves-are beyond the scope of this article (seehttp://frontlineonnet.com/stories/20120824291601000.htm). But it can be safely assumed that led by Hagramy Mohilary, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) emerged as the dominant group by 2003. Earlier, the Government of Assam and India had signed a Bodo peace accord in 1993 with the then leading Bodo outfits. Later, in the 1990s, other Bodo groups-including the BLT-denounced the accord and resumed armed struggle. In 1998, severe Bodo Vs non-Bodo violence erupted in lower Assam. Bengali Hindus were killed in large numbers. In 2003, a new accord initiated by the NDA Government (with the approval of the Tarun Gogoi led Congress Government in Assam), created a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) having power over 40 subjects-excluding law and order-in four contiguous quarters of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalgiri and Chirang, forming a compact 27,100 square kilometre Bodo Territorial Autonomous District (BATD) area. These four boroughs in turn, were created out of the eight districts of Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon,Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup, Darrang and Sonitpur of lower Assam.

The BATD thus comprised almost 35% of the total land area in the Assam State. The Sixth Schedule in the Indian Constitution provides for the creation of autonomous districts/areas/regions/councils within a State. Assam already has functioning autonomous councils in North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong in Assam’s Barak valley. But the 2003 NDA Government included a strange clause in the BTC agreement. Clause 4.1 of the agreement says that “provision of Para 1(2) of Sixth Schedule regarding Autonomous Regions will not be applicable to BTC” (http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/assam/documents/papers/memorandum_feb02.htm) Now, if one looks at the Sixth Schedule, the said Para allows for formation of autonomous regions within autonomous Districts in areas where several tribes live together. Bodos make up for 30% of the total population in the four districts and 3082 villages marked as coming within the BTAD. Clause 3.2 of the BTC agreement says that 95 villages-apart from the 3082 already included-would also form part of BTAD-provided they possess “not less than 50%”of tribal population. It is these 95 villages where violence is rearing its head again and again. One can see why-tribal population of these villages is well below 50%. According to some estimates tribal population is as low 25% in these villages. The BTC agreement specifically states that no Indian/ non-tribal citizen shall be barred from inheriting or purchasing land in the BTAD areas. So owning property by non-tribal people in BTAD is legal.

Severe lacuna in the BTC agreement can be seen in two respects. First, though the agreement is specifically with the Bodos, a general definition of the tribal population has been mentioned in an indiscriminate manner. In fact, though rights of non-tribals are classified, tribes other than Bodos living in the BTAD areas have not been specified in terms of their rights and privileges. It was this lacuna that led to the 2008 violence, where Bodo groups attacked Santhal Adivasis of Bengali-Bihari origin who have been living in lower Assam for the past 50-100 years. One may infer from this that the 2003 BTC agreement gave preferential treatment to Bodos. The politics of that period-wherein the BJP led NDA Government was trying to woo Bodos as a political force-definitely played a part. It is instructive that it was during NDA rule-with RSS backing-that British era identity politics was given a formal, legislative shape. Bodoland politics expose the RSS mindset. The RSS likes to projects itself as a ‘nationalist’ force and an ‘uncompromising’ pillar of Indian unity and integrity (ekta aur akhandata). But the RSS believes in xenophobic-right reactionary-chauvinistic-not democratic-nationalism. In the Indian context, where diverse polities with different ethnicities operate, RSS often finds itself in the classic Catch 22 situation. Its adherence to a larger, homogenous- prejudicial idea of India comes in conflict with the variety of right reactionary sub-nationalisms that attract it naturally! An alliance between a national and a regional right reactionary force is obvious-as was seen in the 2003 understanding of the NDA with BLT cadres. At the same time, this unity represents a contradiction because the regional right reactionary trend tends to gravitate towards separatism. And separatism of any form corrodes the very idea of monolithic India that the RSS seeks to champion! …



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The real questions from Kudankulam – By Rahul Siddharthan (Sep 14, 2012, The Hindu)

I work at an institution funded by the Department of Atomic Energy (which, however, does no nuclear research: the DAE funds a wide variety of institutions and areas in science). About a year ago, I had an e-mail from a journalist who wondered why scientists (including colleagues at my institution), who were so outspoken in their opposition to nuclear weapons, were silent about nuclear power. I suggested that perhaps most scientists are not opposed to civilian nuclear power. India’s scientific academies may prefer to be silent on most issues of importance, but individual Indian scientists are an outspoken lot – they have contributed to the public debate on a variety of issues, ranging from nuclear weapons in the late 1990s to genetically modified crops more recently. If there were a genuine debate to be had on the safety or desirability of nuclear power, I would expect Indian scientists to actively participate in it. And in fact there is a genuine debate to be had, but it is not an abstract debate about the safety or desirability of nuclear power. It is a concrete debate about the mechanisms for ensuring safety and transparency. Unfortunately, in all the noise about Kudankulam, this issue has received comparatively little attention in the media. Since the Fukushima earthquake, worries about nuclear power have been widespread around the world. One person whose mind was changed was the environmental activist George Monbiot: writing in the British newspaper The Guardian on March 21, 2011, he declared: “As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.” His reason was that despite the magnitude of the disaster, the age of the plant, and the inadequate safety features, which led to a meltdown, nobody, as far as we know, had yet received a lethal dose of radiation. This convinced him that well-maintained plants built to modern safety standards pose little threat to the public. Meanwhile, we are facing unprecedented demands for energy, and global warming, driven by accelerating use of fossil fuels and resulting in rising sea levels and extreme weather, presents the biggest environmental threat to the world – especially, one should note, to poor coastal fishing communities such as the one at Kudankulam.

A little before Monbiot’s article, Randall Munroe, creator of the XKCD web comic, published a comparison of various forms of ionising radiation, measured in microsieverts, drawn from public sources (see http://xkcd.com/radiation). This widely circulated chart (also cited by Monbiot) suggested that the annual radiation exposure from living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant is about the same as that from eating a single banana (each being 0.1 microsieverts); the extra dose that Tokyo residents received following Fukushima (about 40 microsieverts) was about a tenth of the yearly dose from natural radioactive potassium in the body (about 390 microsieverts); and the maximum external dose from the Three Mile Island accident (about 1,000 microsieverts) is about a quarter of the normal yearly background dose (4,000 microsieverts, of which about 85 per cent is from natural sources and most of the rest from medical scans). This is not to minimise the effects of disasters when they do occur. The radiation dose from spending one hour in Chernobyl, in 2010, is much more than the normal yearly “background” dose, and more than the maximum monthly dose permitted for radiation workers in the United States. We need to prevent a Chernobyl-type disaster from ever happening again, anywhere in the world. To quote Monbiot again: “I’m not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective.” When an activist asked me last year whether I would feel safe living near a nuclear plant, I responded that I would consider living in Kalpakkam or Kudankulam much safer and healthier than living in Chennai (or any other Indian metro). She was taken aback, but responded that, nevertheless, the villagers do not feel that way, and we city people should not speak for the villagers. Unfortunately, this has been the quality of the public debate on Kudankulam so far (and on other contentious nuclear projects like Jaitapur). Perceptions on safety matter more than facts. This is not totally a bad thing: public worry over nuclear power, especially since Chernobyl, has probably contributed to its extraordinary safety – just as the perceived dangers of air travel have made it by far the safest form of travel.

India, and Tamil Nadu in particular, faces a severe shortfall of energy. The environmental and societal damage from hydroelectric power is now well-known. Power plants running on fossil fuels, especially coal (the dominant fuel in India), cause incalculably more damage – including in ionising radiation – than nuclear power. Wind power is promising but, when implemented on a large scale, has its own environmental concerns, particularly to migratory birds. Solar panels are expensive, inefficient, and depend on rare earth elements, the mining of which, again, causes environmental damage. Monbiot’s decision to support nuclear energy is not surprising. What is surprising is the reluctance of other environmentalists to do the same. To support civilian nuclear power with safeguards, in the abstract, is not the same as to support a particular power project. There may be valid safety or environmental concerns about a particular power project. There may be concerns about resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced people. The DAE needs to work out how to address these concerns in order to prevent similar problems with upcoming power projects. But it cannot do that on its own. We need independent oversight. Unfortunately, for most of its history in India, civilian nuclear power has been deeply intertwined with the nuclear weapons project. As a result, the atomic energy establishment and the government have opposed any kind of external scrutiny of their projects. That has been changing in recent years. In 2005, India undertook, in an agreement with the U.S., to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities and to place the former under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The safeguards agreement was signed with the IAEA in 2009. However, these safeguards are mainly concerned with proliferation of nuclear materials, not with the safety of the plant itself.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the main organisation concerned with nuclear safety in India. The AERB was severely criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General in August this year on numerous grounds, including not preparing a nuclear safety policy despite having had a mandate to do so since 1983; failing to prepare 27 of 168 safety documents; not having a detailed inventory of all radiation sources; and failure to adopt international practices. Currently a bill is pending to replace the AERB with a Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA). In December 5, 2011, in an article in DNA(Mumbai), former AERB chairman A. Gopalakrishnan argued forcefully for an independent regulatory mechanism along the lines of the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) in France, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the U.S., and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). All these organisations, though appointed by the government, are independent, free of political and corporate influence, transparent, and communicate regularly with the public. Dr. Gopalakrishnan fears that the NSRA, as proposed, will be subject to government pressure and manipulation.

Intertwined with distrust of the DAE is a larger distrust of the Indian government. Given our inability to maintain the railways, highways, postal department, and other necessary infrastructure in good working order, why should our government be trusted to maintain nuclear plants? It is a good question and deserves a good answer. The DAE may be an excellent organisation, but it must be seen to be excellent, and only openness and external scrutiny will provide that. The NSRA bill deserves much greater media attention and debate than it has received so far. Unfortunately, this much-needed debate does not appear to be occurring: the activists, with their maximalist demand for stopping all nuclear power projects, not only discredit themselves, but let the government off the hook. The Indian public is aware of the power crisis and is not inclined to oppose nuclear power. The largest political parties in Tamil Nadu, too, have proven reluctant to back the anti-nuclear protests. The media have largely failed to ask the right questions. As a result, there is no pressure on the government, or on the DAE, to ensure transparency or to institute a genuinely independent regulatory body along the lines of proven international examples. Meanwhile, the protesting locals at Kudankulam, who have now reportedly been persuaded to enter the sea in a “jal satyagraha,” seem to be victims only of unfounded scaremongering. All sympathies to them; but my sympathies, at least, don’t extend to the educated purveyors of motivated misinformation who, in a world of real and imminent global threats, are asking the villagers to act against their own best interests.



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Book Review

Riots and After in Mumbai: Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation

Author: Meena Menon
Reviewed by: Sujata Patel
Available at: B-1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Estate, Mathura Road, Post Bag 7, New Delhi, INDIA 110 044, 2012; pp xcii+267, Rs 595.. http://www.sagepub.in/
Not a City of Gold (Sep 29, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)

This book is on the 1992-93 riots in Bombay (now Mumbai) and its continuing aftermaths: the economic and social disruptions and displacements faced by individuals, families and households and the resultant trauma and suffering that affect the victims, both Muslims and Hindus. It states that its goal is to unravel how these individual and family histories affect the general health of the city. It argues that violence and displacement ultimately lead to divisions, polarisations and subsequent ghettoisation of both Muslims and Hindus. This process creates further fissures and divisions and affects the city’s growth and ultimately the well-being of its population. It uses testimonies from the violence-affected victims and buffers these with secondary literature (collected between February 2007 and November 2009) to state that there were lacunae in the governance of relief programmes and argues that the victims continue to see and feel themselves as victims rather than migrant actors framing a new life for themselves in the city. This victimisation, the book argues, is accentuated due to the lack of legal redress – the testimonies vouch for the state’s apathy towards the victims. And yet, time and again, the author asserts that her research suggests that most victims hanker for their past lives, not only because rehabilitation was tardy. They remember their pre-riot life as being both satisfying and happy with intra-community relations being harmonious and peaceful. According to them the riots and the subsequent trauma and fear forced them to choose and accept a “false” alternative: the need for security. The author argues that many Muslims think that this choice and this decision has led the Muslim community to assert orthodoxies and has pushed Muslim women further on the path towards conservativeness. Also, the book records narratives of hope: the strength of some individual women and men to fight the negativities of the communal divide, the organisation of new collectives against communalism by women residents (mahila mandals) as also by the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as Yuva.

The book is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter, titled The City of Gold focuses on the Shiv Sena as a communal organisation and the instigator and organiser of the violence against Muslims. This chapter also gives a brief introduction of Bombay and its growth as a megapolis. The second chapter traces the growth of communal ideologies in the city tracing these to the late 19th century and the movement for cow protection which spread across most of north and western India and had a major impact on Bombay’s growth as a modern city. In the next set of chapters, the author uses her own investigations as a journalist and interlacing these with secondary reports, such as the testimonies given to the inquiry commission chaired by justice B N Srikrishna, introduces the reader to the “real” impact of the riots. The next two chapters are based on the trauma and sufferings of families in two localities in north Bombay: Jogeshwari east (where the riots started in 1992-93) where many families, both Hindus and Muslims faced deaths, arson and looting and from where in some areas, Hindus shifted out creating thereby a ghetto where now mainly Muslims live. The second one is on Naya Nagar a neighbourhood which grew to become a Muslim ghetto with constant relocations of displaced Muslim families from across the city. The next three chapters are titled, “Displacement and Polarisation”; “Loss of Livelihoods”; and “Perceptions of Justice”. The book ends with a conclusion. In these chapters, the author uses testimonies from south and western Bombay localities such as Tulsiwadi, Thakurdwar and Mazgaon and Naupada and Behrampada respectively, to expand on many of the points mentioned above: that of the trauma incurred through displacement, the loss of economic means and the experience of trying to get justice, the argument of Muslims and even some Hindus that they were not treated well and that they were discriminated.

Any reader familiar with the discussions and debates on the violence of 1992-93 would be aware that it was defined as a pogrom and not riots. Why has the author ignored this debate and why does she use the term “riots” rather than pogrom? Second, the subtitle of the book is Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation. Why does she use these words? Does she think that what she has gathered are testimonies of “truths” and what she has reported as attempts in bridging the divide are “reconciliations”? If so, this is a large claim and needs justification both empirically and theoretically. Today, there exists an extensive literature on truth and reconciliation programmes (23 countries had official commissions while in some other countries, such as Ireland there were civil society interventions; also Indian civil rights groups have set up similar bodies). This literature has discussed the strategies used by NGOs to create an ambience for organising “truth” testimonies and has debated the relevance of the long-term measures of reconciliation organised at neighbourhood level to institutionalise “multicultural” sociabilities. This literature is not cited in the text nor is there a discussion on the various methodologies used by the NGOs in Bombay. If the words used in the title of the book are not explained, the same is true for the chapter headings. What are displacement, polarisation and ghettoisation in context to pogroms? On these three concepts too, there is extensive literature. However, in this book, there is little to no discussion of these concepts or an effort to relate the evidence collected with it. Additionally, while discussing displacement, a reader would like to have aggregate data on the number displaced by their community affiliation, information regarding numbers of returned-victims and the number of those who shifted out to other localities and even Bombay. Did all the victims become part of ghettoised neighbourhoods or did some relocate to mixed neighbourhoods?

In this context, it is important to ask what ghettoisation is and how is it different from segregation. There has been a long history of community-based segregations of neighbourhoods in Bombay. Did the 1992-93 violence convert these segregated communities into ghettos? How did the new displacements re-embed on older segregated communities and what were the implications? Discussing the Hyderabad situation (a city which has seen almost continuous communal riots), Ratna Naidu has argued that the everyday discrimination faced by Muslim communities from the state and its various actors has led their housing and urban environment to become dilapidated thereby diminishing their access to urban services. The testimonies in this book also speak of a lack of access to good services. Is it because of such discrimination? The author has suggested in the first two chapters that the main and only reason for the eruption of violence in 1992-93 was the growth of the rightist political movement, the Shiv Sena. But the book does not analyse why it emerged in the late 1960s and elaborate its embeddedness in the political economy of the city, the region and the nation. There exists extensive literature that examines the interconnections between the mobile groups, the political parties and the State, of which some is discussed in the book. There is also other literature that explores the changing economic conditions that have generated conflicts in the city which later reorganises as communal violence. Neither of these debates has been dealt with in the book whilst situating the interviews, though the -interviewees at various points narrate the role played by Shiv Sena leaders, local goons, vigilantes and representatives of the real estate industry and developers in this violence. The most unusual aspect of the book is the fact that secondary sources are used in the introduction and the first two chapters while the last four chapters deal only with the interviews. There is no attempt to have a conversation between the two sources. Also there is no explanation provided for the selection of particular individuals and households for the interviews.

Not only does the book rarely provide aggregate information on the violence, it also does not give tables, maps and other visual material to present to the readers the various sites of violence. Such visual representations would help to locate the various sites of migration of different households whose family members are being interviewed. Amazingly, there are no footnotes and endnotes to clarify information, names (will all readers understand what a “chawl” is?) and locations in the city. Thus sometimes the testimonies do not make sense and the reader is left confused as to where the households were located, where these have shifted and whether these are further relocated. Nor is there clarity in the text about various localities within a larger area. For example, in the chapter titled “Jogeshwari Riots”, we are introduced to the main site of violence, the Gandhi chawl (p 86) but not given any indication where it is in Jogeshwari. Is it in Meghavadi (this being the locality where Muslims were landlords)? And where is the latter? Is it in east or west Jogeshwari? Later we are introduced to Teli chawl (p 98), again without any idea of where it is. In between these two chawls, we are introduced to a discussion on a family which “lives on the other side of the western express highway about near Mulund” (p 97). From which part of Jogeshwari have they migrated? Later there is a discussion on areas called New Shyam Nagar and Ansuya Nagar. Both of these seem to be in a “Bandra plot” (p 104). (Surely this is not the Bandra which is an upmarket western suburb?) There are more examples of such ambiguities in the rest of the chapters. Obviously an enormous effort has been made to collect the information, both primary and secondary. Certainly documenting stories of violence and victimisation is a difficult process and if it traumatises the interviewee to narrate this violence, it also makes an equal emotional impact on the interviewer. Further to transform this emotional experience into written words and sentences is a difficult task. But unfortunately the author has not reflected on this process nor assessed whether memories have been reconfigured in terms of present political contexts and this also includes the interviews conducted by the author, which should be understood as a political act.