IAMC Weekly News Roundup - September 2nd, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – September 2nd, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

‘File chargesheet against Narendra Modi, others in 2002 post-Godhra riots case’ (Aug 30, 2013, IBN)

The lawyer of late Congress MP Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia on Thursday told a magistrate’s court in Ahmedabad that it should reject the closure report of Special Investigation Team which gives a clean chit to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 post-Godhra riots case. Zakia Jafri, whose husband was killed during the riots, has opposed the Supreme Court-appointed SIT’s report and sought filing of chargesheet against Narendra Modi and others for their alleged complicity in the riots conspiracy.

“Relying on the detailed notes on legal and factual aspects…we strongly urge the court to allow our prayers to reject the final report and to file chargesheet against the accused,” said advocate Sanjay Parikh. In his concluding argument before the Metropolitan Magistrate B J Ganatra, Parikh also urged the court to refer to the material submitted, which, he said, “prima facie establishes the commission of crime of conspiracy and abetment besides other independent offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)”.

“At this stage, the court has to make a prima facie assessment to find out whether offence was committed by the accused in order to take cognisance and issue process. For this exercise, this court is neither bound by the label given to the report on investigation or the conclusions drawn by the SIT…A reasonable suspicion is enough to register a crime, not actual proof of its commission which has to be established during the trial,” Parikh said. Further hearing has been fixed on September 2 when the court has allowed the SIT lawyer to submit his reply to Jafri’s contentions.



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British Sikhs to oppose any Narendra Modi visit to UK (Aug 29, 2013, Economic Times)

British Sikhs have expressed opposition to any proposed visit by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to the UK. The Sikh Federation (UK) has joined Muslim groups like theCouncil of Indian Muslims UK (CIM-UK) in their boycott following an invitation for Modi to visit Britain by some Indian groups of the country’s two main political parties earlier this month.

“We welcome the fact that the UK government has not invited Modi, but oppose the tiny minority of pro-Indian Labour and Conservative MPs led by Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP from Brent North, and Sailesh Vara, the Conservative MP from North West Cambridgeshire, who have recently sent Modi invitations and want him to address UK MPs,” said Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK).

The federation, a non-governmental organisation registered as a political party in the UK, claims that Modi has shown “animosity and hatred” towards minorities in India, including Sikhs, Christians and Muslims. “Sikhs in the UK will lobby UK MPs who return to Parliament in early September and the UK government to oppose Modi’s visit, not only because of his involvement in the violence in Gujarat in 2002 but because of his recent discrimination of Sikh farmers in Kutch district by trying to have them evicted,” Singh said. “It demonstrates his policy to make Gujarat, and eventually India, a Hindu state with no place for minorities,” he added.

The move comes after CIM-UK in an open letter addressed to the UK government ministers and political party leaders expressed “utter disgust” over an invitation for the chairman of the BJP’s national election committee. The UK government, like the US, had distanced itself from Modi in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots until late last year when the British high commissioner to India, James Bevan, made diplomatic overtures towards the Gujarat chief minister.



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PIL plea alleges bid by BJP leaders to derail Prajapati case against Amit Shah (Sep 3, 2013, The Hindu)

Through a sting operation, independent journalist Pushp Sharma on Monday claimed to have exposed an alleged conspiracy by some BJP leaders to subvert the course of justice in the case against the former Gujarat Home Minister, Amit Shah, in the case of killing of Tulsiram Prajapati in 2006. The journalist alleged that the BJP leaders, including MPs Prakash Javadekar and Bhupendra Yadav, had conspired to get blank vakalatnamas executed by Tulsiram’s mother Narmadabai to plant their own lawyer on her behalf and weaken the case against Mr. Shah. Tulsiram was a witness in the alleged custodial killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in November 2005.

Mr. Sharma has moved a public interest litigation petition in the Supreme Court through his advocate Kamini Jaiswal, seeking a CBI inquiry and action against the accused for obstruction of justice, and protection for himself and Narmadabai. The sting operation supposedly revealed that multiple vakalatnamas were obtained from Narmadabai through the journalist. “I know Mr. Javadekar for the past six years. In January 2012, he asked me to arrange a meeting of some lawyers with Narmadabai to facilitate payment of compensation to her by the Gujarat government. Since it was a noble cause, I volunteered. In June last year, at the official residence of Mr. Javadekar, I was told that I had to get vakalatnamas executed by Narmadabai for processing the compensation,” Mr. Sharma said at a press conference.

Suspecting that something was amiss, Mr. Sharma then decided to secretly record the developments. “I was introduced to an Indore-based lawyer who sent a subordinate along with me to Narmadabai’s residence in Ujjain. He got her thumb imprints on multiple blank vakalatnamas,” he alleged. Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said: “It is evident from the transcripts that those who were in the legal defence team of Amit Shah desperately wanted the multiple blank vakalatnamas. Prima facie, it appears to be an attempt to derail investigations and the trial. They had also obtained vakalatnamas for the High Court and the Supreme Court and could have used them at any stage in various ways to weaken the case.”

Mr. Bhushan said that although CBI counsel would pursue the case, if the BJP came to power at the Centre, the agency would be under its control. “The only person to oppose any dilution in the prosecution’s case would be the complainant. But then, they could have got their own lawyer appointed on her behalf using these vakalatnamas.” Refuting the allegations, Mr. Javadekar said: “I have learnt that they have gone to court. If the court takes cognisance, we will reply.” Claiming that there was nothing incriminating against him in the recorded conversations, Mr. Yadav said: “I am told that he [Mr. Sharma] was earlier arrested by the Delhi Police in an extortion case.”

In the petition, Mr. Sharma submitted that he had previously carried out a “Rent a Riot” sting operation exposing how riots could be engineered for a price, which won him an award from the International Press Institute, Vienna. He also exposed the shoddy probe by the Uttarakhand Police into the disappearance of Swami Shankar Dev, the guru of Baba Ramdev. This led to a CBI probe. He alleged that he was implicated in false cases, including the one registered by the Delhi Police after his sting operation against the force at the Najafgarh station. That case is pending trial for the past four years.



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Asaram gets 14-day taste of jail, Jodhpur Police say case against him ‘very strong’ (Sep 2, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Self-styled godman Asaram will spend the next 14 days in Jodhpur central jail, after a sessions court on Monday remanded him in 14-day judicial custody on charges of sexually assaulting a minor girl at his Jodhpur ashram on August 15. District and session judge MK Vyas also turned down Asaram’s lawyer’s plea that the godman be sent to hospital as he was not feeling well, said state’s counsel and additional advocate general Anand Purohit.

Purohit said the prosecution told the court that Asaram will be provided health facilities if the need arises. Asaram’s lawyer, meanwhile, moved a bail application and the hearing on his plea is expected on Tuesday. Jodhpur deputy commissioner of police Ajay Lamba said the police did not seek an extension of police remand as the investigation had been completed. “Our case is very strong and we have vital evidences against the accused. We are moving in the right direction. We will file chargesheet in the case soon,” he added.

Asaram remained calm during the hearing and told the court that he was unwell. Though disappointment was writ large on his face as he came out of the courtroom after the ruling, he asked his supporters to be patient and keep on meditating. He was taken to Jodhpur central jail, where he would be kept in a barrack number 1. The 74-year-old Asaram was on Sunday remanded to police custody for a day after being grilled by Jodhpur Police for about four hours.

Earlier, asked about reports that Asaram was suffering from a neurological disorder, the DCP said, “It has been proved to be a lie. His son can say what he wants to say. We can’t comment on any body’s statement”. “A team of doctors said he is perfectly OK. He is mentally and physically fit,” Lamba said, adding he will be soon produced before court to seek more time for investigation. The DCP, however, refused to reveal the results of the potency test. “The accused is also taking food whenever served,” the DCP said. Asaram had on Sunday cleared a potency test conducted on him at the SN Medical college in Jodhpur.He was also taken to his Manai Ashram, about 30 kms from Jodhpur, where the girl was allegedly sexually assaulted.

Police had conducted a physical verification and tried to create the scene of crime. Asaram has denied sexual assault charges lodged against him by the schoolgirl. His arrest followed an FIR filed by the girl alleging she was sexually assaulted by Asaram at his ashram in this Rajasthan city. Meanwhile, Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal told a news channel that sending Asaram to jail was an “insult to Hinduism”. But a spokesman of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) said he didn’t see a conspiracy in Asaram’s arrest and the truth will come out once the law takes its own course.



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For Malegaon, NIA moves to discharge 9 Muslims (Aug 30, 2013, Indian Express)

In a relief to the nine Muslims earlier arrested in the Malegaon 2006 serial blasts case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) told a Mumbai court Thursday that it has found “no evidence” to link them to the attack. “The evidence collected by NIA in further investigation is not in consonance with the evidence collected earlier by the ATS and CBI. No evidence was found in support of the conclusion drawn in final report filed by ATS and supplementary final report submitted by CBI recommending prosecution of nine accused,” the NIA said in its first official statement. The ATS had earlier filed a chargesheet against 14 men with alleged SIMI links. Of these, nine were arrested immediately after the blasts, and released on bail in November 2011.

The NIA’s statement was filed in response to the discharge applications filed by eight of the nine men. Special MCOCA judge Yatin D Shinde will decide on the applications on September 7. In its seven-page reply, the NIA pointed out contradictions in the ATS and CBI claims, listing reasons for not finding “evidence” in their claims. For instance, it said, the ATS chargesheet said soil samples recovered from the godown of one of the accused, Shabbir Masiullah alias Batterywala, showed RDX traces. But when the NIA examined two “star witnesses”, both Malegaon residents, on whose statements the case was built, they reportedly denied that they had gone to the godown or testified to any recovery from the spot.

The case, originally handled by the Maharashtra ATS and later handed over to the CBI, was transferred to the NIA following a confession made by Swami Aseemanand, an accused in the 2007 Samjhauta blasts case. Aseemanand confessed before a magistrate that the Malegaon blasts were executed by a Hindu group. Though the NIA chargesheet did not name Aseemanand as an accused, sources said a supplementary chargesheet will soon be filed naming the other accused.

Besides Masiullah, the others who were arrested in the case are Noorul Huda Samsudoha, Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali Mansuri, Salman Farsi Abdul Latif Aimi, Farogh Iqbal Ahmed Magdumi, Shalik Mohammad ali Alam Amanat Ali Shaikh, Aasif Khan Bashir Khan, Mohmed Zahid Abdul Majid Ansari and Abrar Ahmed Gulam Ahmed.



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Mumbai serial blasts convict Manoj Kumar held in Kerala (Aug 29, 2013, Indian Express)

Absconding Mumbai serial blasts convict Manoj Kumar Bhanwaralal Gupta alias Munna was arrested from his wife’s house in Kannur district, Kerala, on Wednesday. A special TADA court had issued an arrest warrant against Gupta in April after the Supreme Court upheld his life sentence. Gupta has been absconding since. On receiving information linking Gupta to Kerala, the CBI alerted the Kannur police, who kept tabs on his house in Athazhakkunu, Thiruvananthapuram.

Gupta has, however, been hiding in UP and other states since April. He had gone to Kannur to meet his family once, but managed to elude the CBI. He was spotted on Tuesday night and taken into custody immediately. The Kannur police said he will be handed over to the CBI. The police said Gupta had married a woman from Kerala in 2007. “After he was released from prison, Gupta stayed at various mosques. During one of these stays, an Imam from Kerala, in a mosque near Mumbai, arranged his marriage with a woman from Kerala,” they said.

The CBI had found that Gupta, the 24th accused in the case, was a close associate of Tiger Memon, who was responsible for the Mumbai blasts. The Supreme Court held that Gupta had a key role in the conspiracy behind the blasts. The TADA court had previously acquitted Gupta of conspiracy charges in 1996.



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Rajasthan BJP lawmaker seeks anticipatory bail in riot case (Aug 30, 2013, Business Standard)

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator in Rajasthan moved a courthere Friday seeking anticipatory bail in the case of the 2011 communal violence in Bharatpur district that left 10 people dead, said a lawyer. Anita Singh, legislator from Nagar constituency in Bharatpur, was among the 43 people recently booked by the the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on various charges in connection with the violence in Gopalgarh area of the district between Gujjar and Meo communities.

The clash occurred Sep 14, 2011 over a piece of land, with one group claiming that it was for a burial centre and the other that it was for a pond. 40 people were also injured in the clash. Anita Singh’s lawyer A.K. Jain said that the legislator has been booked for obstructing government servants in carrying out their duty among some other charges. The lawyer said that the anticipatory bail application was filed in the district judge’s court Friday.

“The application will come up for hearing on Monday,” Jain said. “We had sought anticipatory bail after CBI filed an application in the special court for CBI cases in Jaipur seeking arrest warrant against 43 people including Anita Singh, Congress legislator from Kaman constituency Zahida Khan and several other local BJP leaders,” said Jain.



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BSF officer, cop posed as IM men to extort: Police (Aug 30, 2013, Indian Express)

A Delhi Police constable, a retired Border Security Force (BSF) officer and a serving BSF officer were arrested on charges of attempting to extort Rs 30 lakh from a Noida-based doctor. The three allegedly pretended to be members of terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) to extort from the doctor, who is from Kashmir. Police said the accused have been identified as Pavan Kumar (45), a retired BSF officer who had previously served in Delhi and Kashmir, Paramjeet Bhati (30), a BSF officer, Vikas Choudhury (28), a Delhi Police constable posted in Police Lines.

On August 16, Dr Vinay Bhatt received a letter from “IM members”, demanding Rs 30 lakh, police said. Bhatt told police that he received many extortion calls from different numbers till August 31. Police put Bhatt’s phone on surveillance and arrested the accused. “On August 28, we arrested the three.

Pavan Kumar was the mastermind. He visited the doctor for treatment a few months ago and was impressed by the amount of money the doctor earned,” a senior police officer said. Police said the accused used a software called ‘Crazy Call’, which helped scramble phone calls made to Dr Bhatt. “Paramjeet made the threatening calls,” the officer said.



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Muslims take out huge rally rooting for Samaikyandhra (Sep 1, 2013, The Hindu ()

Thousands of Muslims participated in a Samaikyandhra rally held in the city on Saturday, which was one of the biggest shows of strength by people demanding that the State be kept unified. Muslims from various parts of the city and suburbs reached the Gandhi statue opposite GVMC office in the morning to participate in the rally organised by the Visakha Muslim Joint Action Committee and marched to old Head Post Office junction via Dabagardens, Jagadamba junction and Kotha road.

All through the route they raised slogans in support of Samaikyandhra. The large number of people, with many wearing white skull caps, attracted people. At Jagadamba junction, a mass namaaz was organised and prayers were made for Samaikyandhra. Moulana Abdul Rehaman led the prayers. At the public meeting, speakers demanded that the Central Government keep the State united as it was the wish of the people. Chairman of the JAC I.H. Farooqui said the huge response from Muslims displayed their strong wish and this should taken note of by the leaders in Delhi.

He pointed out that large areas of Wakf lands in Visakhapatnam district were sold and spent on the Haj House and other projects in Hyderabad. Hence the Haj House belongs to all Muslims. Also, Muslims of other parts would not accept the argument of the people of Telangana that Hyderabad belonged to them alone.

Convenor of JAC S.K.ALI said that the division of the State would lead to many problems for Muslims. President of All Mosques Federation F.R Khan discussed Muslim reservation, Wakf Board funds and the future of minority students.



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Delhi woman gang-raped by cops, their friends; 4 arrested (Aug 31, 2013, DNA India)

A Delhi-based woman was allegedly gang-raped and her male friend assaulted by two police constables and their three friends here on the outskirts of the national capital. Four of the accused, including the two PAC constables, have been arrested for the incident that took place yesterday, and the PAC jeep used by them has also been seized, SP (City) Yogesh Singh said, adding that a hunt is on to nab the fifth accused.

The 25-year-old was with her property dealer friend in the B-Block of Sector-105 area last night when the five men came in the jeep, assaulted him and raped the woman, Singh said. They also took away her mobile phone and ATM card, which they used to buy fuel for their jeep, he said. The woman, a resident of Old Shahadara in Delhi, said in her complaint that she had come to meet her friend.

“The woman said that between 7 and 8 pm, five men, including the two PAC constables entered their room, overpowered her friend and then raped her,” a police officer said. “On getting information about the rape, police swung into action and arrested four of the accused. Two of them were identified as PAC head constable Banshi Ram Sharma and constable Subhash. Other two accused were Arun Kumar and Bunty, their friends. One Jeetu is absconding,” the SP (City) said.

PAC 49 battalion circle officer’s jeep, which was used by the accused, has been seized, he said. A case under sections 376 (rape), 392 (robbery), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 334 (voluntarily causing hurt on provocation) has been registered at Noida’s Sector 39 police station, and further investigations are on in the case, police said.



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Opinions and Editorials

Little resonance for Hindutva – Editorial (Aug 26, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Over the last few days, the yesteryear poster boys of Hindutva, Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia, realised not only their fading appeal but also the increasing irrelevance of a confrontational topic that they dust off occasionally – the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. The people of Uttar Pradesh cold shouldered the renewed efforts to bring the temple back to the forefront of the national agenda – which, is now preoccupied with a flailing economy. The absence of any significant mass support for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) yatra around Ayodhya is reassuring. It shows that the people have evolved from the days of the early 1990s when communal confrontations shook the very foundations of India. The younger generation, which is demanding better governance from our politicians, is not easily swayed by cynical politics. But this reading of the situation must not make us complacent.

The VHP’s plans for Ayodhya, far from being an act of piety, are clearly designed for political ends. The BJP, an associate of the Sangh parivar along with the VHP, may still be tempted to fall back on some identity politics as the 2014 election nears. A huge increase in its UP tally is essential for the BJP to stay in the reckoning to form a government at the Centre. If the political climate in the country polarises into a binary situation, based on the single question of whether you are for Narendra Modi or against him, the possibility of religious mobilisation becomes more possible. While we cannot fault the administrative measures taken by the Samajwadi Party-led government in UP to avoid a showdown, the diatribe that is sought to be built by its leaders is a worrisome sign. The high decibel cacophony involving the BJP and the SP leaders in the state evokes the dark memories of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when both parties sought to gain from religious polarisation.

The last decade has been relatively calm in UP in terms of the communal situation, but the last 18 months have been troublesome. Ever since the current government led by Akhilesh Yadav took office, there have been nearly 150 communal clashes in the state. At least a dozen of them have been serious. An ongoing cow protection movement in the state has been a major source of friction in the state. Altogether, the situation in UP has never been worse in the last decade. So while we certainly have reasons to be proud that divisive politics is not easy to sell to India’s younger generation, we must constantly be aware of the tenuous nature of our social harmony. While the state must take strong administrative measures to ensure that hate is not propagated, the responsibility is more on our political parties to desist from disharmonious mobilisation, howsoever tempting that may be. Given the grave challenges that India faces to bring back the economy on track, we can ill-afford such social tensions now.



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‘If My Wife And I Had Not Been Present There, We Would Never Have Believed Our Own Daughter’ – By Priyanka Dubey (Sep 2, 2013, Tehelka)

…In the past ten days, they have undergone a lot of mental agony. On the night of 15 August, their daughter was allegedly raped by their godman in Jodhpur. After filing a complaint in Delhi on 20 August and getting a medical checkup of Roshni done, they went to Jodhpur for a judicial enquiry after which they returned to Shahjahanpur. According to a neighbour, Kishan Agarwal, some reporters from the electronic media asked him inappropriate questions. Without his permission, a microphone was clipped on his collar and before he could realise what was happening, he was on television. “As it is, the family had not recovered from the shock,” claims Kishan, “and then this incident happened. It distressed him so much that he refuses to meet the media. But after receiving a written request from TEHELKA, he agreed to meet our correspondent.

The family stays on the first floor of the house in the backyard of the compound. As we enter the drawing room, we see Dharam Singh, a 50-year-old man, dressed in a soiled kurta-pyjama. He is crying as he talks to someone on the phone. In a heavy voice, he pleads on the phone, “No… no matter what happens now, I will not take back the case. Our condition is very bad. My wife and daughter both are very ill. If he is not sent to jail and roams around free, he will keep threatening us. We are under a lot of pressure. The police have not even arrested him yet. After what he did to our daughter, how can I take my complaint back?” Meanwhile, his relatives tell us that he has been receiving phone calls not only from acquaintances and ‘well-wishers’, but also from ministers and intermediaries. They added that officials from the ashram tried to threaten the family using their younger son. His son studied at the Chhindwara Gurukul run by the Asaram Trust, where his daughter used to study too. The ashram authorities refused to allow him to leave. After a prolonged struggle, he got a ‘Transfer Certificate’ from the ashram on 26 August and was handed over to them.

The assault has not only scarred the family physically and emotionally, but has also left their religious belief shaken. Here’s an account in his own words. On how he came to know of Asaram Bapu: ‘In the beginning we didn’t have anything. Then I started a small transport business. It grew steadily. About 10 years ago, I came to know of Asaram. There is something about him that wins the hearts of the people, mesmerises them. We fell for his charm and my family and I became his devotees. We were among the earliest devotees from Shahjahanpur. We made him popular here. We had such deep faith in him that we even constructed an ashram for him on 7 acres of land in Tilhad district some 8 or 10 kilometers from here. We handed the land over to his son Sai Narayan. Selflessly, I spent lakhs on this man. And today he is trying to lure us with money. He says, “Take money and forget about the case.” The way he has bought everyone, he wants to buy me too.

On what happened to his daughter: ‘She had been studying in Asaram’s Chhindwara Gurukul for the past five years. My younger son also studied there. There was never any issue. Everything being said about Roshni’s health is false. She has always been perfectly healthy. But for no reason, they started her treatment. My daughter told me that she didn’t have any problem, but suddenly the Gurukul sevikas told her that she was under the influence of spirits. They told me that she would have to perform a puja for one whole night. They took her away and at night, four or five of them sat around her in a hall. They made her recite the mahamrityunjay mantra. She told me later how she had got a headache after that. The next day we received a call from the Ashram informing us that our daughter was unwell. The sevikas told us that only Asaram Bapu could heal her. We were told to meet Asaram on 15 August in his Jodhpur ashram. My wife and I reached Chhindwara and took our daughter along with us to Jodhpur.’

‘We were told to go there at night on 15 August. Behind the Manai Ashram of Jodhpur there are some cottages. Asaram had called us there. When we reached there, he told us to meditate by looking into his eyes. We were overjoyed that someone people crave to meet is asking us to look into his eyes. But now I know that it was just a plot to hypnotize us. He asked us to leave our daughter as he was going perform some incantations on her to cure her. We told him it was late and we had no place to go. Moreover, we did not want to leave our daughter alone. So he told us we could rest in the hut next door, while he attended to our daughter. We worshipped him like God and trusted him so we went to the other cottage leaving our daughter with him. Even then we were reciting his bhajans. When Roshni returned after about one-and-a-half hour later, she was crying. When I asked what had happened, she asked to leave immediately. I got suspicious. When we reached home, I told my wife to ask her what happened there. After much insistence, she told her that when we had left, Asaram took her to another room from a door at the back. There, Asaram told her that he would heal her and that she was going to become a great orator. Then he asked her to remove her clothes and raped her. He threatened her that if she told anybody about it, her family would face the consequences. Had Roshni told me there, I would have picked a stone and hit Asaram with it. There wasn’t even much security there. He destroyed the life and honour of our daughter. We will never forgive him.” …



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Bit Players’ Scripts – By Prarthna Gahilote (Sep 9, 2013, Outlook)

A lot of hope was rekindled in the BJP two months back when it decided to muzzle all dissidence and present a united face for electioneering. The monsoon session infused fresh energy: BJP parliamentarians found enough ammunition to attack the government on issues of corruption, the worsening state of the economy and matters of national security. With the Lok Sabha polls barely nine months away, the downslide of the UPA (despite the little boost provided by the passage of the Food Security Bill) must become the BJP’s surest bet to turn up trumps. But there may still be a long distance for the party to travel between building itself as the only alternative, cobbling up the required numbers and managing both the strident voices keen to project the BJP as a one-man—that is, Modi—show and the vocal doubters. While some senior leaders in the BJP are wont to periodically voice doubts, more or less subtly, over projecting one leader as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 polls, the worry over the issue has spilled over even to the RSS headquarters. The Sangh is likely to discuss the matter threadbare in Delhi next week, when it congregates in the capital for a high-level meeting.

Sources confirm that senior leaders at the Sangh headquarters in Nagpur have been deep in discussion about Modi’s conduct and the current tone and tenor of the cadre support for him. Nearly two months after Modi was declared the chief of the campaign committee, Sangh leaders are debating if the Modimania that seemed to have enthused and fired both the BJP and the RSS cadre in June is just as crackling now. The RSS senses a dent in the surface. A senior pracharak voices the doubt: “What was the need for Modiji to do a US presidential campaign-style retort to the prime minister’s speech? If (Sitaram) Kesriji was called a man in a hurry, will this not make Modiji look like a man in a hurry? The sense of disappointment is not just limited to us but can be seen in the cadre as well. Modiji’s two recent speeches, first in Hyderabad and then in Bhuj, haven’t gone down well.” Many in the BJP also agree with this view, calling Modi’s efforts an “unnecessary petty exercise.” Modi’s August 15 speech not just found a veiled criticism from party veteran L.K. Advani but even alliance partner Shiv Sena. …

This quietly critical assessment of Modi in action from within the BJP and the NDA is the reason the shrill clamour on the ‘Modi for PM’ front from Bihar two weeks back gave party president Rajnath Singh a real scare. Faithfuls from the state, convinced that it was time to play the Modi card fully, adopted a resolution at the Bodh Gaya state executive meeting that Modi be declared the prime ministerial candidate. It was led by Sushil Modi, former deputy chief minister, and came like a bolt from the blue. For the Delhi leadership, the Bihar unit’s demand was not just ill-timed but could cause trouble. Explains a highly placed source, “The central leadership had no idea this was being planned. We were shocked. Rajnathji was under tremendous pressure to immediately quell all speculation.” So, Sushil Modi received a sharp reprimand from Rajnath who reiterated that the “decision rests with the parliamentary board.” …

The party’s hopes hinge on ‘harvest states’ like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, representing about a 100 seats. The electoral arithmetic in the states is not a dead cert, though. In many ways, the BJP’s performance in the assembly polls will be seen as reflecting on Modi as the man anointed to lead the party in the general elections. For Modi, therefore, there is much at stake here. With three of the four major assembly (Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) polls looking dicey for the BJP, lack of allies at the national level and the absence of an absolute electoral calculus may finally prevent Modi from conjuring the magic that he has so far promised. ‘Should Modi fail to deliver’ is the thought that’s lending strength to the perpetual intrigue and individual aspirations of Modi’s erstwhile rivals in Delhi. Among those who stand prominent as possible challengers are party chief Rajnath Singh, L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. For now, aligned with Modi, Rajnath not only nurses a quiet prime ministerial ambition but has also positioned himself as one of the three leaders in the party (Jaitley and Modi being the other two) who should remain relevant in party affairs in the months to come.

Set against this scenario, the BJP seems caught between a rock and a hard place. There are some in the BJP who argue that Modi’s ambition for 2014 actually stems from the realisation that this would be his last chance to push himself centrestage. A senior leader says, “Modi knows that the numbers will fall short. The effort therefore is not so much to grab 7 Race Course but to strengthen his own position, capture the party in Delhi and then purge it.” If that be true, the future will be shaky for a party heavily dependent on cult creation.



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Anatomy of Terror Trials – By Manisha Sethi (Sep 2, 2013, Twocircles.net)

This case is fairly representative of the manner in which UAPA cases are framed and prosecuted. Elusiveness of charges is matched only by infirmity of evidences. Media trials, which link the accused to acts of terror they are not even formally charged with, are conducted; and bail applications rejected repeatedly. The prosecution hopes till the last moment that no one will miss the required sanction. Only, not all are as lucky as these men from Kota. An Ujjain court ruled that lack of credible independent witnesses would not come in the way of its war against terror because. The desire to uphold national security can sometimes outweigh the commitment to rule of law and justice.

Some would argue that framing of innocents in false charges is a result of the law’s gross misuse by police. That law, any law, by itself is simply an instrument that is abused by biased, ignorant, ill intentioned policemen—implying that there are possible good uses to which UAPA could be employed. But look a little more closely: at the heart of UAPA are the twin arteries of membership (of unlawful organizations) and conspiracy (of furthering the activities of the unlawful organization). Both, membership to an organization that no longer exists legally, and nebulous charges of conspiracy are notoriously difficult to pin down. Any surprise then that Khandwa police in its most high profile operation yet ‘seized’ membership forms of SIMI – duly filled in by the accused – conveniently lying around their homes? That seized literature constitutes the bulk of evidence of conspiracy? The courts found Maoist literature apparently seized from Seema Azad and Vishwavijay sufficient basis to hand out life sentences to the couple. Binayak Sen’s conviction by the Chhattisgarh sessions court also hinged on the recovery of magazines and pamphlets from his house, all of which were freely available.

Each amendment has brought into the ambit of ‘unlawful’ an ever-growing circle of acts and actors, strengthening the subjective basis of its application, virtually creating a suspicion state. Opposing POTA introduced by the NDA government, S. Jaipal Reddy had laid out four grounds of objection to the legislation: “First, it is destructive of the basic democratic liberties; second, it has been demonstrated empirically in our own country that this a remedy worse than the malady; third, it has been prompted, by malignant political motives; and fourth, it jettisons the basic established principles of criminal jurisprudence without a necessary protective shield.” However, the Parliament attack weathered away the resistance to this draconian law – and almost as a replay, the Mumbai attack in November 2008 drummed up support for a tough law against terror in the form of amended UAPA.

Short of admitting confession as evidence – much to the chagrin of Advani – the new, improved UAPA 2008 looked remarkably similar to TADA (which incidentally P. Chiadambaram had inaugurated in 1987 as Minister of State for Home). It extended the period of remand to 180 days while rendering the bail provisions extremely stringent. Appealing to his colleagues to pass the amended bill without insisting on a referral to the Standing Committee, PC assured them that Parliament could “revisit the Bills and make the improvements in course of time”. Indeed, he promised, “If any improvements have to be done, we can always come back and look at the Bill when we meet again in February.” The Parliament has only returned to the law to add more muscle to it.

Having already included terror funding and holding of terror camps as offences in UAPA 2008 (and voila you will suddenly find these charges surfacing in the FIRs—but again with the sketchiest possible details), the Parliament in its last session explicitly incorporated economic offences under the definition of terrorist acts. Amendment of section 15 now declares the production, distribution of “high quality counterfeit currency” as a terrorist offence, and not simply a financial one that was up till now dealt with under sections 489B, 489C, 489D of the IPC. Punjab Police’s partiality towards TADA’s powerful provisions, or Maharashtra police’s quick recourse to MCOCA over ordinary criminal law, has been too well documented to not know that police favour draconian laws when they are available. …



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Women, Safety, and the City of Mumbai – By Sameera Khan (Sep 7, 2013, EPW)

Why Mumbai?” Eight years ago, while researching women’s presence in the public space in Mumbai, my colleagues and I “Were often asked with much bewilderment, “But why are you studying Bombay/Mumbai?” For Mumbai has always been recognised as that affable Indian city where women seem to have it all. Certainly when compared to other Indian metros, women in Mumbai are privileged in their access to public space. In most areas of the city, a woman hailing a cab alone at 10 pm, for example, is fairly acceptable. A woman out on a work assignment in central Mumbai would undoubtedly be considered secure. But regrettably in more recent years, this taken-for-granted safety of women in public has taken a beating. Few now care to ask us, “Why Mumbai?”

The recent gang rape of a young photojournalist (while her male colleague was assaulted and tied up) out for a work assignment on the evening of 22 August 2013 in the abandoned Shakti Mills compound in Mahalaxmi, an area in the centre of the city, has got everyone suitably outraged, but it is unquestionably not the first violent assault of its kind. From 853 recorded incidents of crime against women in 2001 to 1,781 such cases in 2012, Mumbai’s contribution to crimes against women, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, now stands a little over 5% of the national total. When compared to Delhi (City), its favourite jousting partner, which now accounts for over 13% of total crimes against women, Mumbai may seem relatively safer. But the country’s commercial capital has recorded 649 rapes (registered under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code – IPC) and 1,652 cases of molestation (registered under Section 354 of the IPC) in the last three years. Mumbai runs neck-to-neck with Delhi in molestation cases (or assaults on women with the intent to “outrage her modesty”, as the law puts it) with a 13% rise in their number in 2012.

In the last year, crimes against women have piled up fast. On 18 August, a 24-year-old American woman had her face, neck, and arms slashed with a blade on a local train; in late July a nurse was molested in a local train; and in May a masked man flung acid on a woman who was starting a new job in the city. In November 2012, a Spanish woman was raped in her apartment by a robber; the same month another woman had some chemical flung on her face by a former boyfriend; and in August 2012 a lawyer was murdered by the security guard of her building. The list of rapes, molestations, and acid attacks goes on and on. These are public incidents (private or domestic violence, according to the NCRB, is higher) that have been recorded by the police. The bulk of assaults remain unregistered. As investigations into the Shakti Mills gang-rape case now show, the same five men possibly raped at least four women rag-pickers weeks before they assaulted the journalist. It is no surprise that those women did not report the rapes – in the work they do they are usually harassed by the authorities, and to trust law enforcers to protect them must have seemed rather hopeless.

Besides the horrific fact that this probably emboldened these men to continue raping other women, the wider concern is whether we (I mean the city, police, and the media) would have been similarly enraged and out on the streets if the rape victims had been poor women. Recall that a similar sort of outrage was expressed when a middle-class college girl was raped by a policeman on Marine Drive in April 2005, but that it was missing when a teenage rag-picker was raped, also by a policeman, near the airport only six months later. It does seem that crimes against the bodies of middle-class women, especially those committed by lower-class men, receive more attention and rouse our anger than crimes against others. The questions less asked when we straighten up with pride about Mumbai and its relative friendliness to women is, “What made Mumbai safe?” and its converse, “What has changed that it no longer feels so comfortable?” …

Working women have been a part of Mumbai’s fabric for so long that it is hard to remember a time when the ladies compartments on local trains was not filled to overflowing or when many women had to battle to get into so many all-male bastions of work. This includes the media, which with the gang rape of one of its own fraternity, has been stunned into realising that it probably needs to agitate more strongly for a safer city for all. Finally, there are other changes that have also had implications for women’s safety. The insane real estate market keeps the wealthy in “the city” and throws out others to less-developed suburbs and satellite areas, and the worn-out infrastructure and an aged transportation network get less attention than they deserve. 4 Negotiating cities undoubtedly involves an element of risk. But that risk should not be forced on citizens because the city did not put infrastructure and systems in place to help them. This includes round-the-clock transportation all days of the week, public toilets that are open at all times, optimal street lighting, and policemen on duty whose jobs are not to send home a woman at 10 pm so that she may be “safer” (she may not be), but to ensure that she can stay out because they will make sure the street is safe.5 Curbing the everyday harassment women suffer on the street has to be a priority. …



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Employing Muslims in security forces is beneficial in more ways than one – Editorial (Aug 23, 2013, Times of India)

Several government reports and independent studies have indicated that historically Muslims, who constitute about 14% of the population, have been significantly under-represented across ministries and departments, especially in India’s security agencies and paramilitary forces. This could be due to a complex of factors, ranging from discrimination against Muslims to insufficient propensity within the community to come forward and capitalise on the opportunities offered by a modern economy. It’s heartening, therefore, that the share of Muslims in government jobs shot up from 6.93% in 2006-07 to over 10% in 2010-11, according to the latest NSSO data.

This could be a sign of increasing aspiration among India’s Muslims, but credit should also go to a central directive to states to take targeted steps to recruit from the minority pool. This rise from the bottom of the pile is undoubtedly a sign of greater inclusiveness and minority trust and confidence in institutions. Last year’s appointment of Syed Ibrahim as Intelligence Bureaudirector showed that minorities are making slow but steady progress even though economic growth has declined of late because of drifting governance.

While NSSO data indicate that the access of Muslims to more public sector jobs has increased, greater efforts still need to be made to recruit them in central paramilitary and police forces where they have been historically discriminated against. By adopting a general process — rather than a parti-cularistic, quota-system approach — of recruitment, sufficient minority presence in national security organisations will ensure more efficient investigation and fair treatment of riots cases, besides paving the way for effective intelligence gathering in the fight against terrorism. Above all, an equitable distribution of Muslims in the police forces will help accomplish the aims of community policing and within-organisation sensitisation.



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