IAMC Weekly News Roundup - September 9th, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – September 9th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Muzaffarnagar riots: 4 BJP MLAs, Cong leader booked for inciting mob (Sep 9, 2013, Indian Express)

Curfew on Monday remained in force in riot-hit areas of Muzaffarnagar where the death toll climbed to 28 even as 200 persons were arrested and cases registered against 1000 persons, including four BJP MLAs and a former Congress MP. Under fire over the violence, the Uttar Pradesh government transferred Saharanpur DIG DD Mishra and SHO, Phugana, Omveer. Violence-hit Muzaffarnagar falls in Saharanpur range. “The death toll in the violence has reached 28 so far. SHO, Phugana, Omveer has been removed from the post as most of the violence was witnessed in the area…We are also cancelling arms licenses in Phugana, Shahpur, Dhaurakalan as they were misused during the violence”, ADG, Law and Order, Arun Kumar told reporters in Muzaffarnagar.

He said FIRs have been registered against BJP legislative party leader Hukum Singh, MLAs Suresh Rana, Bhartendu, Sangeet Som and former Congress MP Harendra Malik for violating prohibitory orders. Cases have been registered against a total of 1000 persons including some people who are yet to be identified, he said. Meanwhile, UP Governor BL Joshi has sent his report on the Muzaffarnagar violence to the Centre, official sources said in Lucknow. The report was sent yesterday. In the report, the Governor has cited the sequence of events beginning August 27, when three persons were killed in Kawal town of Muzaffarnagar over an incident of eveteasing.

Sources said the Governor has also stated other details regarding the administrative lapses as well as the situation prevailing in the town. Kumar said no violence was reported in the district after midnight last night. Secretary Home, Kamal Saxena said that 45 injured persons are undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Muzaffarnagar. He said the situation in Muzaffarnagar was under control, adequate force has been despatched and senior officers were camping there. Army had yesterday staged a flag march in the troubled district and surrounding areas. Over 200 persons have been arrested in connection with the violence, Saxena said. “As it (violence) is going on in several villages, it is taking time to defuse the situation,” Kumar said. Curfew remained in force in Civil Lines, Kotwali and Nai Mandi town areas of the district.

Officials said apart from army, 10,000 Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel, 1300 CRPF men and 1200 Rapid Action Force personnel have been deployed. The Centre has yesterday sought a report from the Uttar Pradesh government on the violence in Muzaffarnagar and directed it to take strong action to curb riots. Union Home Ministry officials are in regular touch with the Uttar Pradesh government and have assured it of all possible help to control violence in the western UP district. Officials sources said in Delhi the Centre has asked the state government to take necessary steps to ensure that communal tension does not spread to other parts of the state.

If necessary, steps like preventive arrest and house arrest of those who may create trouble to disturb peace should be taken, the sources said. Tension has been running high since three persons were killed in Kawal village on August 27 over an eveteasing incident. The violence had occurred as a meeting was being held in Naglabadhod in defiance of prohibitory orders to demand withdrawal of cases registered in connection with August 27 violence in Kawal. Hukum Singh said he had nothing to do with the violence. “I have not done it throughout my life but since the government has failed on all fronts and the district administration failed, they are searching for a scapegoat. They have easily found the scapegoat in the BJP,” he said. “I don’t indulge in all these tensions. I love all the people of my country,” he said.



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‘Attempts to stoke communal tension around Deoband’ (Sep 9, 2013, Indian Express)

There are many theories for the genesis of violence in Muzaffarnagar, but inside Darul Uloom Deoband and smaller madrasas in its vicinity, apprehensions about a possible communal flare-up have hung heavy for some time now. For most part of the admission season, students on their way to and from their homes have been targeted inside trains in and around Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Jharauda Nada. After Darul Uloom authorities took up the matter with railway officials and the local administration, attacks abated inside trains but the scene of aggression shifted instead to the roads around Deoband, so much so that students were asked to not venture out of the campus unless absolutely necessary. With the new session set to start Monday, fingers are crossed in Darul Uloom.

“There have been attempts to stoke communal tension around Deoband over the last one or two years but over the last few months our students and those from surrounding madrasas were repeatedly attacked by unidentified people. It was obvious that there was an attempt to create communal tension because boys with skull cap and beard were targeted. We spoke to the GRP and the district administration. Things came to such a pass that we told boys who were with us to not venture out of the campus without reason. Classes will start tomorrow so there won’t be so many people coming and going,” said Darul Uloom Mohtamim Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani.

Politicians, particularly those from ruling SP and Congress, blame BJP for increasing incidents of communal tension in Uttar Pradesh. “Affecting communal polarisation was the sole purpose of making Amit Shah the pointsman for UP,” says Congress general secretary and Saharanpur strongman Rasheed Masood who crossed over from SP last year. However, Deoband insiders say the tension is a fallout of the deteriorating law and order situation that has for long been a hallmark of SP being in the saddle. Why, they ask, did the administration allow first the sporadic panchayats and then the Jat mahapanchayat to happen when the atmosphere was already vitiated and section 144 invoked. BSP, meanwhile, is sitting on the fence through the present unrest hoping that the violence will chip off some of the traditional Muslim votebank of SP.

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind president and senior teacher in Darul Uloom Maulana Arshad Madani says the ongoing violence is being projected as a Hindu-Muslim issue for political reasons. “It is just Jats versus Muslims. There are no Gujjars, Rajputs with them so how is it a matter of two religious communities? This is why I met Ajit Singh Saturday and asked him to reach out to his community. They do not seem to understand the need for immediate intervention. His son told me they would call a meeting on 12th of this month,” Madani told The Indian Express hours after he shot off a letter to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi calling for a coming together of SP and Congress in Uttar Pradesh and of Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and Ramvilas Paswan in Bihar. “Or else, Congress will be decimated,” the old Congress loyalist said in the letter.

Jayant Chaudhary, RLD chief’s son and Lok Sabha MP from Mathura, told The Indian Express, “This is rubbish. In fact, it is very dangerous to talk in these terms in these sensitive times. It is not the time of pin blames. It is a time for appealing restrain and calm.” Ajit Singh, who has considerable influence in the peasant class in the region, said, “The state government deploys 8,000 security personnel to stop the non-existent VHP yatra but failed to recognise the need to provide adequate forces to the region that has been witnessing continued tension and violence. The government failed to act against those prominent political leaders who have been instigating the people with hate speeches leading to the flare-up.”



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Communal tension grips Belgaum in Karnataka ahead of Ganesha festivities (Sep 8, 2013, The Hindu)

Police stepped up patrolling and rushed additional contingents to Anagol, a suburb area of Belgaum, after two groups belonging to different communities clashed leading to communal tension on Sunday morning, police said. At least six persons were injured in the clashes and stone pelting. Situation has now been described as ‘under control’.

Trouble broke out after an argument between different groups over putting up a banner near Rajahans Galli. The heated arguments between groups soon led to clashes and people supporting the different groups gathered and clashed. Senior police officers including Northern Range IG KSR Charan Reddy and district SP Dr. Chandragupta rushed to the troubled areas, which fall in Tilakwad police station limits.

Of the injured persons, four were shifted to district government hospital, while two others were taken to KLE Prabhakar Kore hospital, police said. Police took into custody some persons in connection with the clashes.



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‘Attack on 2002 Gujarat riot protesters planned’ (Sep 6, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)

Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar appeared before the metropolitan court on Thursday. There, she recounted the entire episode of attack on her at Gandhi Ashram on April 7, 2002, in a public meeting to condemn the communal riots after the Godhra carnage in the state. Patkar has filed an application before the metropolitan court seeking further investigation into the 2002 attack on her at the Sabarmati Ashram. She has also sought SIT investigation into the incident.

Speaking in Hindi for 90 minutes, Patkar described the entire day’s event of the day – from her arrival in Ahmedabad to the attack on her – before magistrate AJ Desai. “From media reports and photographs, I recognised the people who attacked me. They were Amit Shah, councillor in AMC at the time of incident, Rohit Patel, a Congress worker, Amit Thakker, a worker in BJP’s youth wing, and DK Saxena. I have mentioned their names in the complaint I had filed. I can still recognise them,” Patkar said.

“I reached Gandhi Ashram at around noon and was talking to three media persons when a group arrived on the scene. They were shouting slogans against me and my role in Narmada dam project. I requested them to calm down and suggested discussing the issue another day as the public meeting at the ashram was about communal riots and urging people to maintain peace. However, they continued with slogans against me. Their language was abusive,” Patkar said.

“Before the first group could finish, another group arrived at the scene and started shouting similar slogans. Subsequently, a third group reached there and a tall man started beating me. He hit me on my chest and hand. Someone grabbed my hair. A few others held me tight so that I wouldn’t escape. They also repeatedly banged my head against the wall. A few other social workers, who were part of public meeting, and journalist Prakash Shah intervened and saved me. They locked me in a room where I could hear the slogans. It continued for another 45 minutes or an hour,” Patkar added.

“I could see policemen but they were doing nothing. Had Shah and others social workers not intervened, they would have killed me. I think the attack on me was planned,” she said. Further hearing of the case is scheduled to take place on October 7, where the defence will cross-examine Patkar.



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Prosecute Narendra Modi, asks Coalition Against Genocide (Sep 8, 2013, Twocircles.net)

Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, and for continued violations of human rights in Gujarat, today called on the Central government to initiate prosecution of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, following the written confession of disgraced Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Gujarat, DG Vanzara who has been in prison since 2007 on trial for several extra-judicial killings, including that of 19 year-old Mumbai student Ishrat Jahan in 2004. The explosive letter has shaken the nation for the gravity of the charges it contains against Mr. Narendra Modi and his Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah. Mr. Vanzara has revealed that the “fake encounters” in Gujarat, were a conscious policy adopted by the Modi administration. The fact that these killings furnished the ‘halo of a brave chief minister’ to Modi is an indication of the cold-blooded political chicanery behind the encounters.

“I categorically state that officers and men of the Crime Branch, ATS (Anti-Terrorist Squad) and Border Range, during the period 2002-2007, simply acted and performed their duties in compliance with a conscious policy of this government,” wrote Mr. Vanzara, once considered a confidante of Modi and Shah, in his resignation letter. This is the first time that a police officer of Mr. Vanzara’s rank, has publicly cited Mr. Modi’s approval of the killings committed in the name of fighting terror, and his endorsement of the state police’s brutality in return for political gain. Mr. Modi’s disregard for the rule of law has been known since the carefully orchestrated Gujarat pogrom of 2002, which according to human rights organizations and revelations by senior officers such as Sanjeev Bhatt and R. B. Sreekumar, took place with Mr. Modi’s complicity.

In a separate development, an independent journalist released a video showing senior BJP leaders discussing how to shield Mr. Amit Shah, currently out on bail, from the fallout of the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case. The video is a “smoking gun” that corroborates Mr. Vanzara’s charge that the Gujarat police’s impunity in murdering innocent people through fake encounters was backed by a conscious policy of the Gujarat government under Mr. Modi. “The Central government needs to act on Mr. Vanzara’s revelations, so that those who hold innocent human lives cheap, and are willing to expend them for political gains are held accountable under the law of the land,” stated Mr. Raja Swamy, a spokesperson for CAG. “The PIL filed in the Supreme Court, pleading for the court’s direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take Mr. Vanzara’s confession, should be speedily heard and appropriate orders passed for a CBI investigation and prosecution of Mr. Modi,” added Mr. Swamy.

Mr. Vanzara’s letter and the video from the sting operation also explain why so many senior IPS officers are currently serving time in jail for fake encounters. As Mr. Vanzara pointed out, the state government has a motive in keeping them in prison so that the probe is not transferred to the CBI from the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID). “The people of Gujarat have suffered enough. This dark night of state terror must give way to a new dawn, of respect for democracy, the rule of law and the sanctity of human life,” said Dr. Ubaid, a co-founder of CAG. “This is the time for the judiciary to demonstrate its independence and its adherence to the dictum. ‘Be you ever so high, the law is above you,'” added Dr. Ubaid. The Coalition Against Genocide is composed of a diverse group of organizations and individuals in the United States and Canada that have come together in response to the Gujarat genocide to demand accountability and justice.



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Prajapati encounter: Sting CD points finger at Javadekar, Jethmalani (Sep 4, 2013, Indian Express)

The sting operation – which is the basis of a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court – refers to BJP leaders Prakash Javadekar, Bhupendra Yadav, Ram Lal, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani and former additional advocate general of Madhya Pradesh Manoj Dwivedi – as allegedly conspiring to shield former state Home minister Amit Shah in the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case. Javadekar is allegedly seen in the recording as saying that Chief Minister Narendra Modi is in the loop and the latter has appointed Shah to supervise the matter.

The freelance journalist who did the sting operation and then filed the PIL, Pushp Kumar Sharma, has provided a commentary to a series of stings that he carried out on people involved in the alleged conspiracy. According to Sharma, he had a good rapport with Narmada Prajapati, Tulsiram’s mother, as he used to meet her for writing a book on encounters. Yadav sought his help to approach Narmada so as to enable her to get compensation amount. According to Sharma, in lieu of the compensation, these politicians wanted Narmada to sign a vakalatnama of a lawyer of their choice so that they could control the case as per their wish and weaken it against Shah.

When Sharma realised that a vakalatnama had been signed by Narmada and subsequently there was no word from the politicians, he spread a rumour that she had signed a fresh vakalatnama. He alleged that the said politicians expressed their unhappiness regarding this during the sting operation. As per Sharma’s recording, the efforts to shield Shah involved Jethmalani, Yadav, Javadekar, Lal, and Dwivedi. In fact, Dwivedi was given the task of finding an on-record advocate for Narmada, so that the case against Shah could be weakened.

The one-and-a-half-hour-long CD contains a series of stings of Yadav, Javadekar and Lal, apart from those of Rubabuddin Sheikh and Azam Khan, witnesses in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. Rubabuddin is heard saying in the CD that minister Purshottam Solanki had indirectly offered Rs 35 crore to hush up the matter.



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More victims of Asaram Bapu out there? Cops receive fresh complaints (Sep 6, 2013, Rediff)

Jodhpur Police have said they have received fresh complaints against Asaram Bapu, who is currently behind bars over charges of sexual assault of a minor. The police have dispatched teams to the Ahmedabad ashram of the self-styled godman to collect evidence in the case against him. Many victims have started coming forward with their complaints against Asaram, police said, without disclosing the nature of the complaint or the identity of the alleged victims.

They have also offered to help police in their investigation. Police have denied reports that they have in their possession CDs or video clippings given by Asaram’s aide Shiva. “We have not received any such CD or video clipping so far, showing bapu or any of his activities. We have obtained some evidence from the interrogation of Shiva and are in the process of its verification,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Ajay Pal Lamba said.

Police teams have been sent to Asaram’s ashram in Ahmedabad to collect evidence in the case. Lamba said that the case is under investigation and they are yet to interrogate Shilpi, the warden at the Chhindwara Gurukul, where the girl was a student. Shilpi allegedly sent the girl to Asaram. “She is on our radar and we will arrest her at an appropriate time,” he said, adding Asaram’s driver and cook will also be interrogated. Police will also cross-examine Shiva and Shilpi and if needed.



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‘Islamic terror’ branding by media, not polarisation, responsible for discrimination (Sep 9, 2013, New Indian Express)

Discrimination against Muslims in renting out homes is not just due to the larger communal polarisation but also triggered by the fear factor over what has come to be dubbed as “Islamic terror.” While it is only a miniscule section of the minority community that has taken to divisive activities, the wrong picture painted about Muslims by the media and security agencies has intimidated people from accepting members of the minority community as their tenants. Homeowners to whom the Express spoke to contended that such pressures to deny homes to Muslim families stems not from personal bias against the community, but from lingering social issues.

“It stems from different things. There is a perception among the public, fuelled in part by media reports that our homes could become spawning grounds for activities of subversion,” a house owner said, requesting anonymity. “Even the police victimise the Muslim community. No homeowner wants to have that looming over his head that if any untoward incident occurs, the owner of the house could be investigated by the police for the activities of the tenants,” he added. Agreeing, Jamat-e-Islami public relations secretary, Abdul Hakkim, said the blanket stereotyping of the community is the major reason why financially backward Muslims tend to cluster in specific areas in Coimbatore.

“Most Muslims tend to be small-to-medium businessmen. The number of those in government service is negligible and there tends to be a sense of mistrust of the community, resulting in various forms of social boycott, with refusing homes being just one facet,” he added. In contrast, in less opulent neighbourhoods like Podanur and Ukkadam (where Muslims are concentrated) it is relatively easier to get homes on rent. A R Basheer Ahamed, president, Coimbatore District United Jamaat, an umbrella organisation of 125 mosques, said, “It is true that discrimination exists for every minority, and the denial of homes to Muslims is camouflaged in numerous ways. Like some home owners put up boards saying that they would not entertain non-vegetarians tenants.”

According to him, the only avenue to battle persistent stereotyping and discrimination is to have constructive talks with other communities and also Hindutva outfits such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu Munnani. Renowned sociologist Sudha Sitharaman, who was part of a fact finding committee deputed to Kashmir in the late nineties, pointed out that the discrimination, though localised and pronounced in certain pockets in Tamil Nadu, is part of the fallout from both national and international issues. Sudha said that Afghanistan’s opium wars, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and the selective and false perception of history of Mughal rule in India, have had effects on how Muslims are perceived to be anti-national by society at large.

“When I was in Kashmir, the security forces did not even carry out any checks as they believed that I was a Hindu. But Kashmiris face severe repressive measures and forced checks every day. Such issues do influence how people perceive a community,” she argued. “The Sachar Committee report of 2006 shows just how deep the problem is for Muslims who want to rent homes. If things are to get better, we need to find ways of fighting this mindset that all Muslims are conservative, aggressive and anti-India,” she added.



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Vishwa Hindu Parishad disrupts Hyderabad’s Kashmir Film Festival (Sep 7, 2013, DNA India)

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) supporters disrupted the Kashmir Film Festival on Saturday on the contention that the movies to be screened at this film festival are ‘anti-Indian’. The VHP activists took strong objection to screening of the movie Kashmir in front of my eyes and resorted to violence by vandalising the property at the venue.

One of the protestors, Rahul, claimed that he had earlier alerted the police to stop the screening of the movies since these were anti-Indian, and he objected to his arrest from the spot and said that he had come to assess the scenario.

“They are arresting me though I have peacefully told them not to screen the movies here and I am insisting again that these movies are anti-Indian,” he said.



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Delhi cop held for raping 40-year-old woman (Sep 4, 2013, Times of India)

A Delhi Police constable has been arrested for allegedly raping a 40-year-old woman in a hotel in Mahipalpur. The constable, identified as Anil, was posted with the Parliament House security and has been placed under suspension. A departmental enquiry has been ordered against him. The woman alleged that the cops did not take immediate action as it pertained to their department.

The victim belongs to Dehradun, Uttarakhand, and was familiar with the accused constable since many years. The woman said in her statement that she had come to Delhi to participate in a religious function at Hanuman Temple in Connaught Place on Monday. Anil called her up and allegedly asked her to come to Mahipalpur but the woman refused. He then sent someone to pick her up. Once she arrived, the accused took her to a hotel room and raped her.

The woman approached the police after which a case of rape was registered at Vasant Kunj north police station on Tuesday and the constable was taken into custody. Constable Anil was produced before the court and was remanded to police custody for questioning.



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Opinions and Editorials

Politics Behind The Muzaffarnagar Riots – By Virendra Nath Bhatt (Sep 8, 2013, Tehelka)

Communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and the subsequent intense communal polarization in the Jat belt of Uttar Pradesh is all set to give a big blow to the electoral prospects of the Ajit Singh led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) as the traditional Jat-Muslim alliance is now in tatters. Political analysts however argue, besides the RLD, the Bahujan Samaj Party also stands to lose if the communal polarization persists till the next 2014 parliamentary election. “It was a well planned riot, facilitated by the district administration and engineered with the aim of ensuring polarization among the voters on communal lines. The RLD will lose heavily in the next elections as the Jats have finally shifted to the BJP. As far as the political situation here is concerned, Ajit Singh stands politically finished in Western UP”, said Mufti Zulfikar Ali, Sahar Mufti of Muzaffarnagar. “It remains doubtful whether the Samajwadi Party will benefit of the communal divide since the grievances of the common people have always been against the government and the ruling party”, he added.

Asserting that it was a planned riot Mufti said, “I reiterate my charge that this communal riot had a clear political motive and was thrust upon the common people ofMuzaffarnagar by the district administration. If the government was sincere in its commitment to maintain communal harmony, law and order, then why were the series of Panchayats by the Jats, allowed by the administration, amidst the communally surcharged environment, and even as prohibitory orders were enforced in the district”. Mufti maintained “the process of alienation of Jats from the RLD started in May 2011, after the death of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Mahendra Singh Tikait. After his demise, his son Narendra Singh Tikait started the process of Hinduisation of the Bhartiya Kisan (BKU) Union which alienated the muslim farmers from the organization”. Adding “Ajit Singh joining the Congress led UPA was not seen as a good move by a sizeable section of the Jat community”.

Also accusing the BSP of contributing into the riots and the communal polarization Mufti Zulfiukar said, “Kadir Rana, the BSP MP, from Muzaffarnagar, delivered highly provocative speech last Friday (6 September), while addressing a meeting of muslims at a local mosque, only to mobilise more muslims votes to his fold”. He added “the district administration has also lodged a criminal case against the BSP MP under Section 153 of the IPC for spreading hatred between communities”. “I admit that this communal riot has caused a huge strain on the traditional Jat-Muslim social coalition in Western UP, which has been in existence since 1857, the first battle for independence”, said Kokab Hamid, senior RLD leader and four-time MLA from Bagpat.

Hamid charged, “This alliance has not broken. Herculean efforts have been made to demolish this alliance and drive such a deep wedge between the two communities which could never be bridged. But, we won’t let this happen. Chaudhary Ajit Singh is scheduled to meet the leaders of both the communities to douse the fire of communal hatred, and bring political conjugality”. “SP and BJP are playing a friendly match in UP by stoking the fire of communal hatred only to consolidate their respective vote banks on communal lines and win some extra seats in the forthcoming elections”, said Dr Taslim Rahmani, National Secretary of the Welfare party floated by the Jamaat-e-Islami, in 2008.

He said, “Both the parties conducted a rehearsal of dirty politics when a mountain was created out of molehill by the VHP sponsored 84 Kosi Yatra from Ayodhya, on 25 August”. He demanded “It’s high time that the Center takes serious notice of the explosive situation in UP and intervenes before the fire of hatred ignited by the Samajwadi Party and the BJP engulfs other parts of the state”. Arguing that the BSP stands to lose more than the RLD, he said “a big number of muslims in Western UP have already moved away from the RLD. They voted for the BSP in 2007, 2012 assembly polls and the 2009 parliamentary elections. The SP hopes that because it is the ruling party in UP, it can cause a dent in the muslim votes by incidents like these, which is very unfortunate”.



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Why DG Vanzara’s Letter Matters. And Why It Should Bother Narendra Modi – By Rana Ayyub (Sep 3, 2013, Tehelka)

Suspended police officer DG Vanzara has been in jail for the past six years for his role in four fake encounter cases. In a damning 10-page resignation letter to the Gujarat government, the former DIG,ATS, Gujarat Police, says a lot of things that should be a cause for worry to Chief Minister Narendra Modi. EXCERPT: “Gujarat CID/Union CBI had arrested me and my officers in different encounter cases, holding us responsible for carrying out alleged fake encounters. If that is true, then the CBI investigation officers of all the four encounter cases of Sohrabuddin (Sheikh), Tulasiram (Prajapati), Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan have to arrest the policy formulators also as we, being field officers, have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government, which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters… I’m of the firm opinion that the place of this government, instead of being in Gandhinangar, should either be at Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai or at Sabarmati Central Prison in Ahmedabad.”

This is one of the most damaging excerpts from the letter written by Vanzara from his prison cell at the Sabarmati Central Jail to the Gujarat government earlier this week. The suspended IPS officer offered his resignation, blaming former Minister of State for Home and now the Uttar Pradesh poll in-charge of BJP, Amit Shah, for his decision. In what has come as a major embarrassment for the Modi dispensation, Vanzara, an accused in the Ishrat Jahan and three other fake encounter cases, has lashed out not just at Shah, but also indirectly at Narendra Modi, who he refers to as his god and then criticises for refusing to take action against Shah or controlling his unconstitutional activities. EXCERPT: “I have been maintaining my graceful silence only because of my highest respect for Narendra Modi, whom I used to adore like a god. I am sorry to say my god did not rise to the occasion under the evil influence of Amit Shah, who usurped his eyes and ears and has been successfully misguiding him by converting goats into dogs and dogs into goats for the last 12 years. Amit Shah introduced the dirty policy of use the officers and throw them by deliberately spreading disinformation about them.”

Damaging as it is, the letter might have many serious ramifications for Narendra Modi and the BJP, which has nominated the Gujarat CM as the poll in-charge of the 2014 General Election. Significantly, the BJP top brass is slated to meet senior RSS officials in the capital on 9 September. The agenda for the elections as well as the decision on the the formal announcement of its PM candidate is likely to be discussed. This adds a new dimension to the fake encounter cases being probed by the CBI. But the question that arises is why has Vanzara, who was among the officers closest to Modi and has been in custody since 2007, gone all out to speak and critique his own government. In 2007, Modi began his election campaign with a speech in which he praised Vanzara for being a valiant officer. Why is it that the same officer now wants to speak the truth? Vanzara’s letter comes close on the heels of statements given by his colleague in the ATS and co-accused in the Ishrat Jahan case, GL Singhal, who also provided the CBI with an audio sting scooped by TEHELKA last month.

Those close to Vanzara say that he was upset with rumours about him being circulated in the media that he had so far remained silent because of his loyalty to Modi’s government. He was appalled at the callous manner in which he and his fellow officers were being treated by the same government. EXCERPT: “I realised that this government was not only not interested in protecting us, but it also has been clandestinely making all efforts to keep me and my officers in jail so as to save its own skin from the CBI on one hand and gain political benefits on the other … The logic is very simple, ie, government and police officers, are sailing in the same boat and have to swim or sink together. No one should try to outsmart the other and try to swim at the cost of the other, neither the government nor the police officers” …

Vanzara’s statement could not have come at a worse time for Shah, who has been termed as Modi’s Achilles heel. In fact, some senior BJP members suggest that Shah was brought to Uttar Pradesh to save Modi the political embarrassment of being chief minister of a state, whose senior minister could be behind bars soon. Vanzara, whose statement might not hold evidentiary value, unless he gives a similar statement to theCBI or gives proof of the same, has perhaps already made a dent in Modi’s prime ministerial prospects. Talks of his coronation have already taken a backseat. What could be even more damaging are indications of similar statements by at least three other senior IPS officers, who are now in custody, coming out in the public domain. It was no surprise then that most of the senior BJP leaders refused to comment on the case. More than a confession, Vanzara’s letter looks more like a warning to Modi and Shah. As he remarks towards the end: “It would not be out of context to remind (Modi) that he, in the hurry of marching towards Delhi, may kindly not forget to repay the debt which he owes to jailed police officers who endowed him with the halo of Brave Chief Minister.”



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Fallen God – Editorial (Sep 5, 2013, The Hindu)

The 10-page resignation letter of suspended Gujarat cadre IPS officer D.G. Vanzara – one among over 30 policemen currently in jail in connection with a chain of post-2002 encounter murders – is so much a case of damning with ‘high’ praise that on a first reading it could be misunderstood as a defence of Narendra Modi and his government. The letter is, indeed, worded in a manner to suggest that the chief recipient of Mr. Vanzara’s ire is Modi-confidant and BJP general secretary Amit Shah who, with his “evil influence,” usurped the Chief Minister’s “eyes and ears.” Mr. Modi himself is described by Mr. Vanzara, who was Deputy Inspector-General of Police until his 2007 arrest, as “a God” whom he adored.

The one-time celebrated top cop also fully justifies the liquidation of terror suspects as a necessary outcome of the Gujarat government’s “pro-active policy of zero tolerance for terrorism.” However, the deceptive eulogy is merely a cover for a full-blown attack on Mr. Modi, whom Mr. Vanzara accuses of “marching towards Delhi” without a thought to the jailed police officers who merely followed the Chief Minister’s orders; if anything, Mr, Modi owed a “debt” to the officers whose actions “endowed him with the halo of a brave Chief Minister among a galaxy of other CMs.”

The mocking and sarcasm do not stop here. Arguing that those at the helm of decision-making too needed to be put in jail for pursuing a “conscious” policy of “alleged fake-encounters,” Mr. Vanzara suggests that the Gujarat government shift its offices to the prisons where the arrested policemen languished. So what is the real message in the letter? To start off, it exposes the deep schism between the Modi administration and its own police force. The sense of betrayal so acutely evident in Mr. Vanzara’s long lament comes from the differential treatment given to the police officers and Mr. Shah, who is himself an accused in two cases of encounter killings. The Gujarat government secured the release on bail of Mr. Shah while the officers were left to their own devices.

More seriously for the State government, Mr. Vanzara confirms that suspected terrorists were killed under orders from the highest quarters. The accused officer, of course, puts a veneer of patriotism on the murders, insisting that but for the systematic purging of the suspects, Gujarat would have become another Kashmir. But no civilised country can permit the extra-judicial killing of its citizens, which is why Mr. Vanzara is cooling his heels in jail. The desperate police officer’s lament that he was merely following orders will not get him off the hook. But it does leave Mr. Modi and his government with much to answer for.



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It’s time to face Gujarat’s past – Editorial (Sep 2, 2013, Hindustan Times)

We know that BJP president Rajnath Singh has many sterling qualities, but face reading is not one we had heard about. At a recent party meeting, Mr Singh said of the BJP’s possible prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, “Friends, I have read his facial expressions whenever I have interacted with Narendra Modi(on the riots) and he looks so sad.” As a former chief minister Singh should know that looking sad is very different from actually expressing regret for the cataclysmic events of 2002.

He is right in saying that no chief minister wants anarchy and law and order problems in his state. But since the riots did happen on Mr Modi’s watch, he cannot evade part of the responsibility for them. It is true that the Muslims of the state have moved on to the best of their ability. It is also true that they enjoy a measure of economic wellbeing. But the taint of the riots remains to this day largely because of the fact that there does not seem to have been an actual expression of remorse on the part of the Modi administration.

If, as the BJP is taking pains to convince the people, that the nation needs the contribution of the minorities and their goodwill to forge ahead, it might not be a bad idea to publicly say that the riots were a blot on democracy and that such events should never happen again. The BJP today seems to think, and perhaps rightly so, that it is in with a chance at forming the next government. In which case, its message has to be inclusive and it should not fear addressing the issue of the riots head-on.

Mr Modi is focusing on development as his main plank apart from, of course, the shortcomings of the UPA government. But Mr Singh, as the party president, ought to do more than talk of his understanding of facial expressions. There is nothing to stop him from clearly saying that the state administration was found wanting in not stopping the riots. It is not good enough to blame the Congress for what he calls ‘secularitis’ and accuse it of sowing the seeds of division.

Whether he likes it or not, the BJP is not perceived as a minority-friendly party and it is this that he must seek to correct. To this end, he should in his capacity as the party chief ask some of the party’s satellites like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal to stop harping on the building of a mandir and to stop trying to create communal disharmony. Let us hope the next time he reads Mr Modi’s face, the sadness has evaporated on account of Mr Singh having made efforts to at least get the Gujarat chief minister to express regret for what can only be described as a most unfortunate chapter in the party’s history.



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Life At An Austin Ashram, A First-Person Account – By Karen Jonson (Sep 16, 2013, Outlook)

In 1991, American writer Karen Jonson wasn’t in love and was in a dead-end job when she joined an ashram, the Jagad¬guru Kripalu Parishat (JKP) in Austin, Texas, attrac¬ted by local guru Prakashanand Sara¬swati’s talks “about god and loving god”. The JKP proclaims the divi¬nity of Kripaluji Maharaj. In the beginning, she was happy to be among a group of people who had the same feeling and purpose, picking green beans by the moonlight, cooking meals, acting in skits. After living in the ashram for 15 years, she quit in 2008, three years before Prakashanand was found guilty on 20 counts of child sex abuse. Jonson published a tell-all book, Sex, Lies and Two Hindu Gurus, which JKP followers dismiss as a ‘Christian conspiracy’. Here Jonson tells Debarshi Dasgupta how her spiritual quest went awry:

In hindsight, I always had some small doubts about both Kripalu and Prakash. But I had no proof of anything. I was also very religious and wanted to believe what they were telling us, about achieving God realisation and becoming a gopi in divine Vrindavan. All we had to do was ‘surrender’ to them, they said. So I tried really hard to do that, and whenever I stumbled, I believed it was because of my own lack of devotional qualities. So whenever I had doubts, I would push them back into the corners of my mind. But the major onset of scepticism occurred when Kripalu was arrested in Trinidad for raping a young woman in May 2007. It was while he was on a ‘world tour’ that year for a few months. He had just spent about four weeks in the JKP ashram in Austin where I had lived full-time since April 1993. His plan was to go to Trinidad, then Canada, then come back to Austin.

Some uncomfortable events took place when he was in the Austin ashram, called Barsana Dham at the time (the name was changed to Radha Madhav Dham later, after Prakashanand fled to Mexico on his own cases becoming public). For the first time ever, I was invited to Kripalu’s bedroom to perform a secret ritual they called ‘charan seva’. I had never heard of it before. But I later learned that many of the women in JKP’s ashrams participated in this ritual, which took place several times every day at specific times. During this ritual, 5-6 women are brought into the guru’s bedroom. He is lying on his back in the middle of his bed on several pillows with his arms and legs spread out. The women each climb up on his bed and kneel near one part of his body, the thigh, calf and feet. (At that time, one foot was not available for massaging due to an injury, which I later learned was tuberculosis that had gone into his bone.) We had been instructed to “press him very hard.” So we just pressed hard on whatever body part we had.

My first time was his left thigh. The room is very dark so it was hard to see what else was going on. Also, my attention was very focused on massaging him correctly, as instructed. While pressing him as hard as I could, his hand reached down to mine and tried to nudge my hand up to his groin. At the time, I naively thought he wanted me to massage him higher on his thigh, so I tried, but there was really nowhere else to go. He nudged me again. And again I went a tiny bit higher, but that was it. Then it was over and we were told to leave. “Jao!” I had four more pressing sessions. In two, nothing that I know of happened. But then I wasn’t really expecting anything. But one time, when I was on the left thigh again, I saw movement on his groin from the opposite side. While focusing on my pressing, I also kept glancing over. It looked like another woman, who I knew, was massaging his penis. I really could not believe my eyes. I kept glancing, but was in shock. But I now knew that is exactly what was happening. …



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Forget Corruption. Brazenness Just Acquired A New High-Water Mark – By Shoma Chaudhury (Aug 31, 2013, Tehelka)

The idea of public scandal is crucial for the health of any society. For political parties, it ought to be a survival instinct. The most shocking aspect of the missing coal files, therefore, is not just that they are missing, but that the Congress government feels it can breeze through the storm of being caught out. Corruption may be a common political malaise. But brazenness just acquired a new high-water mark. These missing coal files, in fact, sum up everything that is wrong with the UPA leadership in one word: it’s missing. A year ago, TEHELKA had published acomprehensive investigation on the contours of the coal scam: how Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had presided over a colossal mismanagement of one of the country’s most precious natural resources – delaying the introduction of auctions, and allowing vested interests a free hand, against his own better judgement. Perhaps the incentive was kickbacks for the party; perhaps it was to retain power at any cost; perhaps it was to keep some key businessmen and co-Parliamentarians in good humour. Certainly, the scam seemed very secular: it involved businessmen and political parties of every hue.

But since that original damning accommodativeness, the track has kept getting worse. PM Singh seems to be doing everything in his power to cover up his failures, not just ofcorruption, but misgovernance. Earlier this year, there was the scandal of former law minister Ashwini Kumar tampering with the CBI report submitted to the Supreme Court. And now there is this: 200 files missing from the coal ministry. It’s almost tempting to say, the CBI need investigate no further: The cover-up is the exposé. What’s significant though is that the cover-up does not seem to be driven only by specific cases, but an urge to hide the fact that the whole process was arbitrary and infected by cronyism. This seems to be a peculiar Manmohan Singh characteristic: the prime minister does not mind his government covering itself in muck, but he abhors looking dirty himself. And so, despite Parliament being stalled again and again – despite almost no legislation being passed over the past two years – the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy does not deign to speak to the House.

Unfortunately for the country, however, the coal scam is not an aberration. This absence of process, of cohesive vision – of sheer leadership – seems to infect every aspect of the government. Do a story on the Right to Education: it’s a mess. Do a story on water management: it’s a mess. Do a story on nuclear energy: it’s a mess. On 2G spectrum: a mess. Public access to health: a mess. Agriculture: a mess. Defence procurements: a mess. Economy: a mess. Infrastructure: a mess. Private-public partnerships: a mess. Land acquisition: a mess. Environment: a mess. Public distribution: a mess. Foreign policy: a mess. The litany could go on much longer. Even in its core DNA – its supposed allegiance to a liberal, secular politics – theCongress is suffering from a crisis. Speaking at a function recently, the PM urged the country to oppose “communal forces in elections” as also in “day-to-day life”. But his government scores a red on that as well. Communal forces – both from the Hindu Right and the Muslim Right – flourish in Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, all of which are run by Congress governments. Neither the prime minister nor his chief ministers have done anything to curb that. On the flipside, as many innocent Muslims languish in jails in Congress-ruled states as otherwise. And, there is little to distinguish their social indices in different states.

The dramatic face-off between the speeches of the incumbent prime minister and the self-appointed contender, this Independence Day, therefore, encapsulated a peculiar dilemma India is faced with today. There is very little to choose from. On the one hand, we have a prime minister who is a cipher. On the other, an aspirant who fills every television screen. He is decisive and is capable of muscular oratory. But he has absolutely no qualms about public scandal either. A thousand Muslims died on his watch, but he will not regret it; talk of corruption swirls around his state but he refuses to appoint a Lokayukta. He grants arbitrary largesse to corporate cronies and cooks up figures at will for his speeches. His officers conspire and kill. He lives by one mantra: power is his birthright and he will have it. And then, there is a third player. But he could well be a chimera. Elections are round the corner, and he is yet to condescend to even make his debut.



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