In this issue of IAMC News Digest
- California court revives Indian man’s asylum claim; cites Hindutva extremism as real threat
- CAT stalls Modi govt’s action against senior police officer
- Don’t force us to call in a Central agency: HC to Gujarat govt
- Prajapati killing: As CBI snapped at its heels, CID began hotfooting & fell flat
- Nellie weeps and waits – even 28 years after the massacre
- Without any religious representation, Govt Religious Committee recommended mosque demolition
- Hazare vote for Modi, Nitish, doubts people’s poll judgement
- Don’t politicise black money case: SC
- Cop arrested for woman’s suicide in custody
- Retired dalit officer’s room “cleansed” using cowdung water
Opinions & Editorials
- Sunil Joshi and the dragon that killed him – By Mustafa Khan
- Crimes by men in uniform – Cover Story2
- Games exposed – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta
- The Anna Hazare phenomenon – R.K. Raghavan
- Assam: Alienating The Natives – By Ram Puniyani
- Reservation for Dalit Muslims – By M Naushad Ansari
California court revives Indian man’s asylum claim; cites Hindutva extremism as real threat (Apr 6, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle)
A federal appeals court on Tuesday revived the political asylum claim of a Bay Area man who applied to stay in the United States after Hindu extremists in India burned down his home and his brothers disappeared after complaining to police. Immigration courts had dismissed Ayubbhai Vahora’s claim, and ordered him deported, because he filed it more than a year after entering the United States with a falsified passport in April 2001. The courts said Vahora could have applied for asylum within the deadline based on the police abuse he reported suffering before leaving India.
But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 that the subsequent violence in Vahora’s home region – where Hindu rioters slaughtered Muslims in retaliation for killings on a train – amounted to “changed circumstances” that extended the one-year deadline. “Vahora has a legitimate, non-fraudulent asylum claim,” the court majority said. “The conditions in his home country have changed greatly, due to increased persecution of Sunni Muslims.”
The opinion by Robert Timlin, a federal judge from Los Angeles temporarily assigned to the appeals court, drew a vehement dissent from Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. “Illegal immigrants can now sit on their asylum claims indefinitely, assured that virtually any change in country conditions will excuse their lateness,” said Kozinski, who invited the government to seek a rehearing from the full court. Vahora’s village was in a primarily Hindu area in the state of Gujarat. The court said he was arrested and beaten by police in 1992, after reporting Hindu destruction of the local mosque, and again in 2000, when he was held for 15 days.
After traveling to London and hearing that police in India were questioning his wife about his whereabouts, he left for the United States. His lawyer said he lives in the Bay Area but did not specify a city. Vahora said he was still hoping to return to India, but changed his mind after violence erupted in Gujarat in 2002. After a fire on a train that killed 59 Hindu pilgrims, Hindu mobs killed about 2,000 Muslims and destroyed Muslim properties, including the Vahora family’s home and farmhouse. Vahora testified that one of his brothers tried to file a complaint with police in August 2002 and has not been seen since then.
After more violence the following month that included destruction of the family’s rebuilt home, another brother went to the police to find out about his sibling, was warned he would be arrested and went into hiding, Vahora said. He filed for asylum in December 2002. The immigration courts, part of the Justice Department, found his testimony credible but said he should have filed within the one-year deadline, because he already had enough information by then to expect mistreatment in India. But the appeals court said the Gujarat riots and their impact on Vahora’s family showed that conditions in India were much worse, and substantially increased his chances of proving he would be persecuted if deported.
- NIA for probe into ‘Hindu terror’ cases from ’03 (Apr 8, 2011, Indian Express)
- Plotters advanced schedule for 2006 Malegaon blasts: CBI (Apr 9, 2011, Times of India)
- NIA takes over probe in Mecca Masjid, Ajmer, Malegaon blast cases (Apr 7, 2011, Indian Express)
- CBI to probe common links in Malegaon, Mecca and Ajmer blasts (Apr 6, 2011, Milli Gazette)
The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) scrapped Gujarat government’s charge-memo to one of its senior most police officers, proposing to hold a departmental inquiry against him for allegedly harassing another IPS officer by registering a criminal case against him under the Official Secret Act.
New Delhi-based CAT’s principal bench quashed the state’s ‘charge-memo’ against its Additional Director General of Police Kuldeep Sharma saying “the undeniable impression that can be gathered is that he (Sharma) has fallen out of favour of the state government.”
The CAT’s bench comprising its chairman Justice VK Bali and member LK Joshi, quashed Gujarat government’s charge-sheet against Sharma, a 1976 batch IPS officer, on a petition filed by his counsel I H Sayeed, accusing the state government of harassing him for opaque political reasons.
“From totality of the facts and circumstances of the case,” the bench said, it is clear that Sharma “is adversely affected in his service career on all counts, be it his posting against a ex cadre post, downgrading of his Annual Confidential Records or not giving him vigilance clearance for central deputation.”
The bench acceded to Sharma’s contention that he has been shunted to an insignificant, out-of-cadre post of managing director, Gujarat sheep and wool development, despite “an unblemished service credentials spanned over a period of 33 years.”
- Sohrabuddin: Suspended Raj cops wants trial outside Gujarat (Apr 6, 2011, Indian Express)
- Cops’ lawyers restricted from arguments (Apr 8, 2011, Times of India)
- Jaimat Ulama-i-Hind to hold a convention on Muslim issues in Gujarat (Apr 10, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Voice spectrography: HC notice to Babu Bajrangi, Jaydeep Patel (Apr 7, 2011, Times of India)
The Gujarat High Court, while hearing the Ishrat Jahan encounter case on Friday, gave some scary moments to the state government, asking the latter not to compel it to hand over the probe to a Central agency. “Don’t compel us to hand over investigation of the case to a Central agency,” a Division Bench hearing the case told the government. The court was unhappy over its directions not being heeded to entirely by the Gujarat government and felt there was an attempt to see that Satish Verma, one of the three members of the SIT formed by it to probe the case, was not allowed to function. The Bench comprising Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari has been hearing the petition moved by the parents of Ishrat Jahan and Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, who were killed along with two others in an encounter by Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) in June 2004.
Acting on the petitions, the court had formed an SIT comprising three IPS officers, two from Gujarat-cadre, Mohan Jha and Satish Verma, and one from Delhi-cadre, Karnal Singh. The SIT had submitted its probe status report before the Bench recently and the court had kept hearing on the same on Friday. After reading the report, the court asked Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, who appeared on behalf of the state government, as to why certain officers have not been transferred from their key postings as demanded by the SIT. The AG told the court that almost all the officers have been transferred as sought but added he would have to check what were the “pressing” reasons for not transferring others. He assured the court that he would make a statement in that regard in the next hearing after “taking stock” of the situation.
At this point, Justice Patel, speaking on behalf of the bench, said that if this is the approach of the state government, then “we will be compelled to assign the case to some Central agency, if not CBI, like NIA (National Investigation Agency)”. The court was surprised to hear that Karnail Singh, chairman of the SIT, had been transferred from Delhi to Mizoram. The court said it was not intimated to it by anybody. The court was informed that the Mizoram government had not given Karnail Singh permission to function on his Gujarat assignment. The court observed that it should have been informed about the transfer as a courtesy. The court also expressed unhappiness with the report submitted by the SIT, calling it a “poor progress of investigation”. It seems out of the three SIT members, only Satish Verma seems to be doing the investigation, the court said.
- Gujarat hampering Ishrat Jahan shootout probe: Court (Apr 8, 2011, Deccan Herald)
- Ishrat Jahan SIT’s interim report contains vital findings about the encounter (Apr 7, 2011, DNA India)
- If SIT probe is hampered, Ishrat case will go to CBI: Court warns Gujarat (Apr 9, 2011, The Hindu)
- SIT’s progress report in Ishrat case unsatisfactory: Gujarat high court (Apr 8, 2011, DNA India)
Prajapati killing: As CBI snapped at its heels, CID began hotfooting & fell flat (Apr 9, 2011, Indian Express)
The state CID (Crime) filed a 1000-page chargesheet in the Tulsiram encounter case in a Danta court on July 31, about three-and-a-half years after the encounter but remained silent on the motive, saying it had no connection with the Sohrabuddin killing. The CBI, which has been probing the 2005 Sohrabuddin encounter, had, however, insisted that the two encounters were linked.
The CID gave a clean chit to former Minister of State for Home Home Amit Shah, who was not mentioned in its chargesheet in the Tulsiram encounter case at all. The agency, however, booked seven police officers including the then Banaskantha SP Vipul Aggarwal, sub-inspector Ashish Pandya and four other policemen who were a part of Banaskantha SOG. The chargesheet mentioned the names of D G Vanzara, Dinesh M N and Rajkumar Pandian, all three police officers who are accused in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, but did not show them as accused in the Tulsiram encounter case.
However, the CID filed a supplementary chargesheet the next day (August 1) in which it Vanzara, Dinesh and Pandian for conspiring in Prajapati’s encounter. Tusliram Prajapati was killed in an encounter in Chapri village near Ambaji in Banaskantha in December 2006. The Banaskantha SOG, then headed by Vanzara, claimed Prajapati was killed in retaliatory firing by SOG while he was trying to escape from its custody. The CID chargesheet cited forensic reports, medical records, circumstantial evidence and videography of the reconstruction of events, including two CDs and statements of 137 witnesses, to back its claims.
- Supreme Court: evidence raises suspicion that Prajapati encounter was fake (Apr 9, 2011, The Hindu)
- Fake encounter case blow to Modi (Apr 9, 2011, The Telegraph)
- Noose tightening around former Gujarat Minister Amit shah (Apr 8, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Tulsiram Prajapati case: Will the CBI file a fresh FIR? (Apr 9, 2011, Times of India)
How could we dig grave for each one? We would dig a pit and bury 50-60 people, recalls Mohd Abdul Khalique while tears roll on his cheek down to the waving beard. Nothing could be more horrific than this scene: mothers are lying dead while their infants sucking from their breast. Saying this he and his co-villager Mohd Safeeruddin, both in sixties, again weep. It was Friday, 8 am, recounts Khalique the six hours of bloody horror which began with marauders burning homes forcing residents to run and gather and later to be butchered. Khalique lost father, mother, brother and sister.
Mohd Safeeruddin (He lost his mother, wife and son): It was Friday but we could not offer prayer. They had put bomb in the mosque. There were nine thousand people in the eight villages and they were surrounded by 40 thousand people. They killed us because we had voted in the election. Abdul Mannan (He lost father-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew): “They started by burning homes after homes from one side while tribals came with weapons from the other. They surrounded us, hundreds were killed. I was also surrounded by the marauders. Only Allah knows how I escaped,” says Mannan who was then 26. “We ran and ran and took shelter in a CRPF camp. There was a Muslim major. He helped us lot. The local police station OC betrayed us.”
“We remain in camp for one year. The government gave us Rs 5000 for each deceased and promised to give more. They also promised to give job to each family, house and road. They day is yet to come.” Haji Serajuddin (Many of his relatives were killed): They burnt a village. People came out, ran and gathered in a field. They surrounded them from all sides and butchered them. After six hours of horrific bloodbath, the entire field was dotted with dead bodies and their parts. Nabi Hussain (His elder sister and her kids were killed): There is no home in the eight affected villages where one or two or three from the family were not killed during the pogrom.
The women, children and older people could not run and they were killed. They also shot me in the leg. I still ran away and reached the main road, sought help from passing CRPF personnel in a van. They helped us. Taizul Haque (His two sons, mother and niece were killed): “About one thousand villager including me had taken shelter in the mosque but when they came to burn it we ran away towards the hill. They continued killing people for six hours from 9 am to 3 pm until when the CRPF came,” says Haque who is now the secretary of the same mosque.
The toll in Nellie and neighboring seven villages officially stood at 2,191. These Muslims were killed here in Nagaon district of Assam in broad daylight because they had taken part in the election and cast their vote, rejecting the diktat of those who were opposing the election. The Assembly elections were held a few days back in the same month of February as the President Rule in the state was reaching the limit of one year. Those behind the movement against ‘foreign’ nationals were opposing the elections.
- Single member panel to probe ‘communal violence’ case in Rewari (Apr 9, 2011, Express India)
- Divided by riots, Muslims, Bodos queue separately (Apr 8, 2011, Indian Express)
- Clashes erupt in Karimnagar after indo-pak match (Apr 1, 2011, IBN)
- Officials step in to sort out Hindu-Muslim fight over Sohna land (Mar 31, 2011, Indian Express)
Without any religious representation, Govt Religious Committee recommended mosque demolition (Mar 31, 2011, Twocircles.net)
In a shocking revelation, it has turned out that the Delhi Religious Committee, which had recommended the demolition of Masjid Noor in Jangpura, doesn’t have any religious representatives at all. After several RTI applications to the Delhi Government Home Department under which the committee comes, the Zakat Foundation of India got to know that there is not even a single religious, let alone any Muslim, representative in the committee. Talking to TwoCircles.net, head of ZFI, Dr. Zafar Mahmood said, “How can it be that a committee known as Religious Committee doesn’t have any religious representative? It’s simply ridiculous and a joke on the name of law and administration.”
The present Religious Committee of Delhi Government consists of Principal Secretary GS Patnaik, Joint Commissioner of Police Ajay Kashyap, Joint Secretary (home) RN Sharma, DSP Special Branch Ajit Sangla, SDM Vasant Vihar, RK Thakur, SDM Defence Colony, Lallan Singh, SDM Patel Nagar Pramod Kumar besides several faceless government employees including Paramjeet Singh, SY Ram, Manoj Kumar, Ramesh Chandar and AK Saini. Actually in its RTI query the ZFI had asked for the minutes of the meeting of the committee held on June16, 2009 in which it had recommended to demolish the mosque in Jangpura locality. But the department denied disclosing the details of what actually happened and what was discussed in the meeting on the pretext that the details can’t be made public as they aren’t covered by the RTI Act.
But the fact is that the people in the committee don’t want to get their hypocrisy exposed that’s why they didn’t want to give out information which can very much be accessed under the RTI Act. Dr Mahmood has now decided to appeal in the Central Information Commission against denial of information. The department of Home also failed to provide the copy of the actual order of the Lieutenant Governor, Tajender Khanna giving out the final orders for the demolition. In fact, the recommendation by the concerned officer of the department of Home has been treated as the approval of the Governor, argued Dr Mahmood, who has served in Indian Revenue Services.
- Obscene posters in Ankleshwar dargah, probe team formed (Apr 7, 2011, Indian Express)
- ‘Rethink on scholarship to minority students likely’ (Apr 5, 2011, Times of India)
- Azamgarh hosts Muslim Educational Conference (Apr 7, 2011, Milli Gazette)
- IDB approves funding Muslim institutions (Mar 30, 2011, Times of India)
Having forced the Congress-led UPA government to form a joint committee with civil society representatives for framing the Lokpal Bill, social activist Anna Hazare today singled out two chief ministers of states ruled by parties other than the Congress – Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Narendra Modi (Gujarat) – as worthy of emulation. “The kind of model that Gujarat and Bihar chief ministers have presented, that model should be emulated by all other chief ministers… I am saying this on the basis of the kind of works Bihar and Gujarat CMs have done in the field of rural development,” Hazare said during an interaction at the Press Club here today. He added: “I have described these chief ministers as good only partially. I will call them 100 per cent good only when they also accept the Lokpal kind of system.”
Later in the evening, when his statement threatened to generate controversy, Hazare issued a clarification saying he had been “misinterpreted”. He has repeatedly asserted that his movement is “apolitical”, despite elements of the Sangh Parivar backing it. “I praised only the development work done by Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar in rural areas. Alongside I clarified that I am equally opposed to any form of communal disharmony.” He said his only goal was “to save this country from corruption”. Expressing confidence that the Lokpal Bill will eradicate corruption by about 90 per cent, he suggested that the remaining 10 per cent could be taken care of by electoral reforms with the provision of “right to reject”. So, he advocated the need for “none of the above” button in electronic voting machines.
At the same time, the activist whose fast drew supporters from across the spectrum of the general public, across the country, doubted the intelligence of ordinary voters in making choices during elections. “I will forfeit my deposit if I contest any elections,” Hazare said, implying that good candidates seldom won. “Ordinary voter does not have awareness. They cast their vote under the influence of Rs 100 or a bottle of liquor or a sari offered by candidates. They don’t understand the value of their vote.” In fact, Hazare further advocated, “those who do not exercise their vote should be stripped off all public benefits”. Interestingly, asked when they would declare their assets like other members of the joint committee that would frame the Lokpal Bill (who had to do the same being elected representatives), Hazare and his colleague Arvind Kejriwal were evasive. “We will put this issue before the committee… that there is a question regarding this issue,” Hazare said. Pressed for a reply, he added: “The assets should be made public. Why should one fear?”
Kejriwal chose to underline that their position was different from people in “executive positions”. “Why is an asset declaration demanded? Because the person exercises certain executive powers,” he said. Again, when pressed, he added that he had no problem with civil society representatives declaring their assets. However, he evaded setting a time frame for it. Hazare said the misunderstanding with Baba Ramdev over the presence of both Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant in the joint committee had been resolved. Incidentally, Shanti Bhushan, when asked about the matter today, said: “We don’t need to do yoga in the panel, but we need experts/specialists.” Ramdev too claimed the matter had been resolved, saying the issue of nepotism had been raised by the media. “I only said volunteers wanted Kiran Bedi on the panel,” he said in Haridwar.
Hazare asserted that the meetings of the joint committee be made public through video-conference to ensure transparency. Should the Bill get stuck in Parliament, he warned, he would hit the streets again. Associate Kiran Bedi chipped in to add: “August 15 is going to be a turning point. It should be over by then, or we will go to the streets again.” Asked whether he saw himself as Mahatma Gandhi or Jaiprakash Narain, Hazare said he did not deserve even to sit close to the Father of the Nation. “I have done some small work… Don’t compare me with Gandhiji.” Hazare replied in the affirmative when asked whether he strived to set up an organisation to fight corruption. It would take time, he said, but “I will set up an organisation in the whole country”.
- Be prepared for a bigger battle, Hazare tells supporters (Apr 9, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Lokpal bill in monsoon session, fast track courts for corruption cases (Apr 9, 2011, Indian Express)
- No nepotism in Lokpal Bill panel: Anna Hazare (Apr 10, 2011, Central Chronicle)
- Power hungry politicians won’t accept ‘tough’ bill on corruption: Hazare (Apr 9, 2011, Indian Express)
The Supreme Court on Friday asked all the contending parties in the black money case to refrain from politicizing the issue which was of larger national interest. An apex court bench of Justice B Sudarshan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar said this after senior counsel Ram Jethmalani told the court that the conversation between Maharashtra police officer Asok Deshbhratar and tax evader and money launderer Hasan Ali Khan points to 10 Janpath (Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence). “The issue before us is very serious one. Let us not unnecessarily politicize it. We will do it in the interest of the country and we should not politicize it,” said Justice Sudarshan Reddy.
The apex court counsel for self restraint came in the wake of the hearing of a petition by eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani seeking directions to the government to take steps to bring back black money stashed away in tax havens. Even as the court asked the contending parties to exercise restraint, it asked the government to state its position on disclosing the names of the people, other than Hasan Ali Khan, involved in stashing away black money in foreign banks based in tax havens. It may be recalled that there are some names that had been disclosed to the apex court in a sealed cover, but are being held back from public domain on the grounds that the tax evasion proceedings against them have yet to be initiated.
The court also asked the government to state its position on its repeated suggestion on constituting a multi-disciplinary special investigating team to investigate money laundering cases. The court also asked the centre to file a reply on the affidavit by Maharashtra police officer Ashok Deshbhratar seeking direction to the state government not to obstruct him “in any manner” from travelling to Delhi to meet his advocates and attending the apex court hearing on black money. Appearing for Ashok Deshbhratar, Ram Jethmalani told the court that the state government has issued order to Deshbhratar not to travel to Delhi to meet his lawyers in order to assist the court on the information available with him on money laundering activities of different people.
Jethmalani gave to the court a CD of the recording of the investigation carried out by Ashok Deshbhratar of Hasan Ali. The court was also given the transcript of the CD recording. The Maharashtra government was also Friday impleaded as one of the parties to the case. Meanwhile, the centre too Friday gave to the court the video and audio recording of its investigation of Hasan Ali and others being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate in money laundering case. The matter will come up for hearing next week. The court was also given latest status report on the ED’s investigation.
- Corruption a major poll issue in Tamil Nadu (Apr 2, 2011, Central Chronicle)
- SC asks police for action report on ED official’s threat (Apr 8, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Anil Ambani quizzed on stakes in Swan Telecom by PAC (Apr 5, 2011, The Hindu)
- 135 IAS, IPS babus on ACB radar (Apr 10, 2011, Central Chronicle)
Sub-inspector Munir Shaikh of the Malwani police station was arrested on Thursday by the crime branch for compelling a woman to commit suicide. He has been remanded in police custody till April 11. This is Shaikh’s second arrest in the case. In December 2010, the Malwani police had arrested him under sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 343 (wrongful confinement for three or more days) and 348 (wrongful confinement to extort confession or compel restoration of property) of the IPC. He was later released on bail of Rs 25,000.
A few days later, the victim, Kunda Shinde, succumbed to her injuries, following which the police slapped section 306 (abetment of suicide) on Shaikh. Since then, the sub-inspector had been absconding. The case was later handed over to the crime branch. According to the police, Shaikh had approached the sessions court for anticipatory bail. After it was rejected, he filed a plea in the high court, which, too, did not grant him relief, but told him that he could approach the Supreme Court within 10 days. “On Thursday, he informed the crime branch through an advocate that he wanted to surrender. As soon as he did that, the court sent him to police custody,” said a police officer.
The case originated on December 14, 2010, when Rupali Sawant approached the Malwani police station, alleging that Kunda had stolen gold ornaments worth Rs 3 lakh from her house. Shaikh, who was given charge of the matter, called Shinde and her daughter Sonali to the police station and detained them for more than 24 hours. A police officer said Shaikh should have registered an FIR and should have produced the Shindes before a court. But Shaikh released them only on December 16. But on December 21, he detained her again, along with her husband Chindu. This provoked her into hanging herself with a nylon rope inside her cell.
However, an alert constable freed her from the noose in the nick of time. She was admitted to hospital, where she died on December 31. “Shaikh detained Shinde and her daughter without registering the arrests or making an entry in the police diary,” an officer said. “If he was not confident about the two being behind the theft, he should have let them go after questioning.”
- Four months on, man held for kidnap, rape (Apr 7, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Witness identifies Kurla rape accused (Apr 8, 2011, Times of India)
- Seven booked for demanding dowry (Apr 3, 2011, IBN)
- Pregnant woman found dead, parents claim foul (Apr 10, 2011, Central Chronicle)
In a shocking incident, the office room and furniture used by a senior government official belonging to a Scheduled caste community here were ‘cleansed’ by sprinkling cowdung water, allegedly by some employees shortly after his retirement from service. A K Ramakrishnan, who retired as Inspector General of Registration on March 31, has moved the State Human Rights Commission seeking an inquiry into the incident.
He said in the complaint that he had reliable information that some employees in the office sprinkled ‘cowdung water’ over the tables, chairs and even inside the office car used by him while in service. He said he believed that the ‘cleansing’ was performed as he belonged to an SC community and it amounted to violation of his human rights and civil liberties.
After registering a case based on the petition, SHRC Chairman Justice N Dhinakar sent a notice to the Secretary Taxes, seeking a report on the allegation by May 7, SHRC sources said. Asked about the incident, Ramakrishnan said he would vigorously pursue the case as he considered it as an insult to the socially depressed class.
“I take this not just as a personal insult. This is a humiliation heaped on the socially depressed classes as a whole. If this is the experience of a person who had held the topmost post in a government department, what would be the situation of ordinary people belonging to the lower rungs of social strata?” Ramakrishnan told PTI.
“All these five years when I worked as IG of Registration I had bitter experiences. But I have suffered them without getting worked up. But what has happened even after my retirement is really painful,” he said.
- Mob violence as builder’s men open fire in Patna Dalit hamlet (Apr 7, 2011, The Hindu)
- 10 injured in Dalit-Nayaka clash (Mar 31, 2011, Deccan Herald)
- DMK MP, 5 others held for assaulting Dalit (Mar 29, 2011, Times of India)
- ‘Dalit women sarpanches a harassed lot’ (Apr 1, 2011, The Hindu)
Opinions and Editorials
It was deliberately crafted around the worked up anniversary of Bankimchand Chaterjee’s novel Anand Muth. It fits well in the core strategy of Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh. RSS uses the refusal of Muslims’ to sing Vande Mataram to prove Muslims are unpatriotic. Though actually the full song violates Muslims’ fundamental belief of worshipping one God, the full song is about worshipping motherland and is taken from Bankim Chaterjee’s novel which is about collaborating with Britishers to eliminate Muslims. As a town with a sizable Muslim population, Malegaon was seen by the RSS as a convenient place for whipping up communal passion against them. Thus the meeting at the famous temple at Mosampul in Malegaon included Shiv Sena leaders Dada Bhuse, Sanjay Dusane, Rama Mistry, Pramod Shukla, Anand Bhika Pawar, Narendra Maharaj, Raja Ram Jadhav, Kailash Teesge, Tarabai Shirsat, Chayabai Shewade. Bhuse and Pawar pointedly said that the national song was against the British and its reactionary fervour was still not dead as others had taken the place of the British in modern times. (Malegaonvi Shiv Sena turfe Vande Matram, Lotkmat 8 Sept. 2006). The basic approach of RSS, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and VHP and their later day avatar of Jai Vande Matram, Abhinav Bharat, was to target Muslims by means of terrorism. By then terrorism had acquired the weltanschauung of anti-Muslim connotation.
It was primarily this worldview that led to the attacks on Muslims on September 8, 2006. Sunil Joshi played a crucial role in it. It would be preposterous to say that he was an associate of SIMI and he used Muslims to bomb Muslims. However, the lie has gained currency that well motivated and devoted members of Students Islamic Movement of India let him penetrate their movement. In the first place the government at Delhi could never produce a single instance of SIMI involvement in the bomb blasts yet it prevailed upon the Supreme Court to continue banning SIMI after every two years. Sunil Joshi was a hardcore communalist and would not divulge anything against the right wing extremists of Hindutva. To say that Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur organized the second terrorist attack in Malegaon on September 29, 2008 to avenge SIMI’s alleged killing of Sunil Joshi is simply subterfuge. The only assumed link in the second attack is that Sadhvi’s motorcycle was parked under the SIMI office at Bhiku Chowk. She wanted to give a warning to SIMI that she was capable of taking them on according to the pet ideology of the Hindu right, of a bomb for a bomb. The well designed plot did not have the SIMI office as a target at all. Those who brought the motorcycle of Joshi (she had sold it to him) to the chowk did not want to park it there. They tried their best to park it at their chosen target at the Nukud corner where the crowd of Muslim women buying bangles and ornaments for Id was the biggest.
That would have caused a huge casualty may be in thousands. But the lady police who had cordoned off the approach from Bhiku chowk to Nukad corner had steadfastly refused to let the motorcyclist enter the corner. It is this approach lane to the Nukad corner that is aptly named after Martyr Hemant Karkare. Both the terrorist attacks of 2006 and 2008 were mounted by inner core group of Bajrang Dal which has the temerity of changing names to avoid detection and bad publicity. Similarly, saying that Joshi’s “overall behaviour was something not expected by a woman (read Pragya)” and that is why she got him killed is dodging and diversionary. Then the question ultimately asked is who really got him bumped off. And why. It could be that Pragya played into the hands of someone far superior. It could be a well placed man like Indresh Kumar or equally senior Parveen Togadia. They have enormous sums at their disposal. Of course, Harshad Solanki took instructions from her on the day he and his cohorts killed Joshi. The pugmarks are still there but the dragon is still elusive. The dragon could be an organization or agency or its individuals working as splintered entities. This comes handy for the purpose of avoiding detection or later manipulation. The assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse, had got himself circumcised in JJ Hospital of Mumbai, to implicate the Muslim community. He had never left RSS and according to his accomplice and brother and father of Himani Savarkar, Gopal, his whole family was nurtured on the ideology of RSS.
In those days there was no group like Bajrang Dal to carry out extensive destructive work. Bajrang Dal is the armed wing of RSS. It is this group which has the expertise of making bombs, using advanced weapons of mass murder and training to carry out difficult tasks. It has suicide squads and splinter groups designed to carry out violent attacks and deflect attention from the parent body as well as the mother of all groups, RSS. Durga Vaheni is the female counterpart of Bajrang Dal and Pragya rightfully belonged to it. Lt Col Purohit, had trained and supplied RDX from his flat in Pune. He gave it not just to the Bajrang Dal activists of Nanded but also those who attacked Malegaon Muslims in 2006 and 2008, be they Abhinav Bharat or Jai Vande Matram. Attacking Samjhauta express was even more daring. It shows an all India recruitment of terrorists. The definite and sure involvement of the army is indisputable. Shrikant Prasad Purohit was in the intelligence wing of the army working in the so called counter terrorism section. On October 15, 2008 even before his name appeared anywhere for 2008 attack in Malegaon the lieutenant colonel had sent a letter to his superior. In it he wrote not to report but to confide to a sympathizer and obtain advice from him. The lieutenant colonel wrote to Major Bhagirath Dey “The blasts which took place in Gujarat and Malegaon are on the same day and same time using the same technique. I had learnt that it is Mr Indresh Kumar of the RSS, who is instrumental in carrying out these actions.
It is likely that senior RSS officials like Indresh Kumar are playing into the hands of ISI, knowingly or unknowingly.” (Malegaon blast case: Purohit’s letter indicts Indresh, Sadhvi Pragya. India Today March 3, 2011). This disclosure reads like a report of an intelligence officer to his superior. But the army’s silence for over more than two years would amount to either Purohit trying to save his skin or mutually worked out strategy of bailing out a fellow officer from a seemingly disastrous situation. There could be different explanations. That the army is itself neck deep in it or RSS is. The headquarters of RSS at Nagpur was the Camelot of different assignment in different parts of the country. The visor, the armour and the swords and spears were replaced by bombs and bomb makers. According to Swami Asimanand, Indresh Kumar had told him that bomb making was not the work of the swami, it was for Sunil Joshi. He had given 50000 rupees to Joshi for the work. (‘RSS leader Indresh provided money for making bombs’ Zee New January 8, 2011)True to its nature the modern day Camelot was in touch with its knights in shining armour. The reports were coming in from someone (“Pophale”?) on duty in the police control room of Malegaon on September 8, 2006.
- Battling odds – By Payal Saxena (Apr 17, 2011, The Week)
- The wrong arm of the law – Cover Story1 (Mar, 2011, Sabrang)
Allegations of police excesses and partisan behaviour have gone unacknowledged with the official report of the Justice BK Somashekara Commission apparently not recommending any stringent action. Eyewitness accounts of the conduct of three officers from Dakshina Kannada, Sathish Kumar, SP, Dakshina Kannada; Jayanth Shetty, DSP, Mangalore (rural); and MK Ganapathy, inspector, Mangalore (east), reveal disturbing aspects of police misbehaviour. Immediately after the attacks on churches and prayer halls, on September 24-25 2008, the PUCL, Transparency International India and other human rights groups had called for disciplinary action against these officers as well as the commissioner of police, Bangalore. On September 25, 2008 a report in The Times of India, Bangalore, described how Inspector Ganapathy, who claimed that he was acting on instructions from the higher echelons of the force, had begun demanding land records, corporation licenses, etc from churches and prayer halls.
The inspector-general of police (western range), Ashit Mohan Prasad, denied that any such instructions had been issued and was quoted by the newspaper as saying that this was probably being done by local officials at the behest of local, vested interests. Instead of protecting the lives of persons belonging to the minority communities that were being targeted, the police have been found to have promulgated motivated orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (power to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger), facilitated the transportation of stones for stone-throwing on victims and employed the indiscriminate use of tear-gas shells. In almost all the cases of attacks on churches and prayer halls, the police had violated the basic rules of police service by obliterating all traces of the attacks and thus destroying the evidence (Chapter II, Promulgation of Order under Section 144 CrPC, Justice Saldanha Report). Subsequently, over 200 false cases were registered against innocent members of the Christian and Muslim communities.
“It is true that, mercifully, nobody died in these incidents. The record however indicates that over 418 persons sustained fractures, that as many as 198 persons sustained head injuries and that over 1,000 persons sustained painful injuries to different parts of their bodies, some of them extremely painful. More importantly, it was these stones that were used to start every one of the incidents and it is in this background that I record the clear finding that these stones, which come under the category of dangerous implements or weapons, had been procured and used by the state machinery in collusion with communal elements… This can neither be defended, condoned or justified and can only be condemned. I do not share the view that merely because the individuals concerned and responsible for these atrocious criminal acts cannot be singled out, the liability which devolves on the state is in any way diluted” (Chapter III, The mystery of the Lethal Rock Pebbles, Justice Saldanha Report).
“The police violence committed inside the primary school at Kulshekar is unpardonable and unprecedented and does not seem to have occurred anywhere else in the world; where police officers and the police in partnership with the other assailants stormed a primary school with 607 young children and a staff of over 35 women teachers and nuns and resorted to unmitigated violence on them was savage, barbaric and unpardonable” (Chapter XIX, Summary of Findings and Conclusions, Justice Saldanha Report).
“The police storming the church at Pemannur, obstructing and stopping the mass and assaulting the celebrant priest and then standing on top of the altar and directing the assault of the congregation followed by total vandalisation of the entire church and the theft of all the holy objects by the SP, apart from being downright criminal, are absolutely reprehensible. The further use of outdated tear-gas shells containing toxic gas inside the church… can only be defined as an attempt to murder. The same applies to the assault by the police on the congregation after they were brought out of the church with their hands above their heads, all of whom were heavily bleeding and were already injured, and the savage attack that followed was downright criminal and inhuman” (Chapter XIX, Summary of Findings and Conclusions, Justice Saldanha Report).
- Botched probe – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Apr 9, 2011, Frontline)
- ‘It was all pre-planned’ – By Swami Agnivesh (Apr 9, 2011, Tehelka)
- Investigators’ plight – By R.K. Raghavan (Apr 9, 2011, Frontline)
- Media as collaborators – Cover Story3 (Mar, 2011, Sabrang)
The ghosts of Commonwealth Games 2010 came back to haunt the Union government when the high-level committee (HLC) headed by V.K. Shunglu, instituted to probe the allegations of corruption in the Games in October last year, indicted many top government officials, including Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Tejendra Khanna and Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, apart from many officials of the Organising Committee. Shunglu, a former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, was assisted in the committee by Shantanu Consul, a retired member in the Personnel Department. It prepared three detailed reports showing procedural flaws in organising the Games. This has come as another embarrassment for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, which is already under attack for the corruption and irregularities in the 2G spectrum allocation. In the first report on irregularities in awarding broadcasting rights for the mega event, submitted on January 31, the panel recommended strict action against the then Chief Executive Officer of Prasar Bharati, B.S. Lalli, and former Director General (Doordarshan), Aruna Sharma. Lalli has since been suspended and Sharma sent back to her parent cadre. The report said: “Contracts were awarded by Prasar Bharati for various Host Broadcast activities without ensuring reasonableness of rates, overruling suggestions received. Prasar Bharati received and supported highly inflated bids. Most of the decisions to support and award the inflated bids were taken by Director General (Doordarshan) and the then Chief Executive Officer despite strong contrary views. The procedures and best practices in the selection of service providers were ignored or bypassed to favour certain entities. Superfluous legal advice was obtained on matters requiring management decisions and this can only be viewed as an attempt to foreclose the option of decisions based on sound financial and management principles.”
Apart from this, the report said there had been deliberate delays in scheduling and that finally led to an emergency situation justifying spending above what was required. The report pointed to a nexus between the state-run Prasar Bharati and the private broadcasters SIS Live, a U.K.-based broadcasting firm that won broadcasting rights, and Zoom Communications, to which a major portion of the broadcasting was subcontracted. It also said that Prasar Bharati had promised to cover 10 of the 17 events itself and that only seven events had been proposed to be outsourced. Why most of the events were outsourced at a later stage was beyond recorded reasons, the report said. This, in turn, deprived Doordarshan, the state-run television channel, of substantial revenues. It also said that Gopal Subramaniam helped make inappropriate changes in the contract between Prasar Bharati and SIS Live at the last moment and this led to the releasing of 60 per cent of the money before the event as against 30 per cent of Rs.246 crore mentioned in the original contract. This led to a loss of at least Rs.135 crore. The report further stated that “the legal reference can be viewed as attempts to foreclose the options of financial and management scrutiny on merit of the issues in terms of the contract and instead use the legal advice to cover or justify the management, financial and ethical misdemeanour.” Gopal Subramaniam responded by telling a national daily that he had spent 23 hours on the above only with a view to bringing the parties together in a sensible understanding and that he had no pecuniary or professional interest at all in the matter. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, too, has mounted defence on the allegations and said that most of the decisions were taken by an oversight committee to prevent failures during the Games and they were not illegal, as the Shunglu report assumes.
The second report, which was submitted in the last week of March, says that much of the financial losses in the CWG Village, arguably the most important residential and practice site for the participants, were because of deliberate delays in decision-making, undue favours made to the project developer, Emaar MGF Constructions Pvt. Ltd, by the Delhi Development Authority (the nodal agency for the city’s real estate development) and a ‘bailout package’ to the project developer for the losses incurred by it. The report says: “According to the Project Development Agreement signed on 14th September, 2007, DDA and Emaar MGF were to share the residential apartments in the ratio of 1:2. This was effectively changed to 1:0.63 with the decision to bail out the Project Developer through purchase of 333 apartments from Emaar MGF’s share of the apartments. It should be noted that the Project Developer had asked for [Rs.] 321 crore as loan at normal rate of interest or purchase of 250 apartments. It was DDA’s decision to purchase 333 apartments… The ‘bailout package’ was premeditated, suggestive of the outcome preceding the process.” It further says the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi showed his readiness to bail out the private company, rendering losses to the state-run DDA. The report says: “According to DDA documents, the decision to adopt the PPP mode for developing the Commonwealth Games Village was taken keeping in view constraints of scale, time, quality, specifications and the need for 4,000 rooms during the Games period. Based on their recommendation, government approval for implementation of the project on a Public Private Partnership mode was granted. However, the PPP mode of execution, little understood by DDA, was distorted to such an extent by the Project Developer and DDA that it virtually ceased to be a PPP project. Instead it became a project implemented by DDA and constructed by the developer through a sub-contractor.” The report points out that such procedural problems are suspicious as they finally end up getting financial benefits to one party or the other and, thus, incurring huge losses to the state exchequer. The third report of the Shunglu HLC enlists detailed procedural problems and delays in improving the city’s infrastructure, a project that was a part of the CWG preparations. The Delhi government, headed by Sheila Dikshit, was complicit in all these procedural corruptions, the report says. The Delhi government, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) were in charge of 25 specific CWG projects relating to road transport, flyovers, foot-overbridges, streetscaping and tourist infrastructure. In all, the HLC identified 52 projects that were under construction before the CWG and involving an amount of Rs.7,156 crore. The HLC report scrutinises 19 of them involving an expenditure of Rs.3,054 crore.
The report says that deliberate delays led to the escalation of costs and benefited many people involved in the projects. It says: “The design consultants were given very little time for preparation of design, estimates and bid documentation – Barapullah Nala, Salimgarh by-pass. Tenders were invited and, at times, accepted even before AA&ES [administration approval and expenditure sanction] of the project; instead of specific prequalifications for high value projects, a general panel of prequalified contractors were allowed to bid. High value packages were split to enable existing prequalified contractors to bid. Arbitrary additions were made to the list of prequalified contractors. Four contractors captured 60% of PWD work by value, on their terms, to the detriment of economy and efficiency.” It further says: “It is likely that the conduct of key members of Works Advisory Board, including its Chairman, was complicit in causing ‘undue gain’ to contractors.” In addition, the HLC reports say that the committee received complaints that a large number of candidates who were not qualified were appointed to various posts in the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games. “It has been represented that several of these candidates are relatives of VIPs or friends of office-bearers of the Organising Committee. It has been stated that some have been given salaries disproportionate to their qualifications and experience,” it says. However, in its 19-page rebuttal, the Delhi government says that the Shunglu report is the product of paranoia and “assumes that every policy bespoke of a grand construct of corruption…. It is not just full of contradictions and anomalies but has caused damage to the image of the government and political executives.” It also says the report did not give any opportunity to the Delhi government to rebut its observations, which are mostly speculative and presumptuous. “What does one make of a report which begins by stating that ‘even though, city infrastructure was ‘adequate’ for hosting the Commonwealth Games 2010 even in 2003, the Delhi government embarked on an ambitious programme to upgrade infrastructure at a considerable cost?'” the Delhi government asked. But, even as it criticised the HLC report and asked many questions, it did not reply to the observations of the report.
The Shunglu report says that the delay in the execution of the projects, which were started way back in 2003-04, was caused deliberately to inflate costs in the remaining compressed time. The Delhi government asks: “Who are the conspirators? Is it the elected government which faced an election in 2008, considering that election is always an unpredictable phenomenon for any elected government without any certainty of resumption of power? If the re-election of the ruling party was not certain, then was the delay done to benefit another government – possibly to the opposition?” Despite the Union government promising “stern action” against those found guilty, the HLC reports have been criticised as being too speculative. Many observers believe that the roles of the Union Sports Ministry and that of the Organising Committee headed by Suresh Kalmadi were not properly investigated. And there is an opinion that it focussed more on procedural delays resulting in financial losses than on deliberate and large-scale corruption. Notwithstanding the criticisms, the HLC reports contribute a lot to the understanding of the corrupt practices in the organisation of the CWG in India. Several projects done by the MCD, the NDMC, the DDA, the Public Works Department, the Central Public Works Department, the Ministries of Sports and Urban Development, the Games Organising Committee and the Government of India enterprise RITES, among others, are under the scanner of the enforcement, investigating and vigilance agencies for alleged financial irregularities. The Central Vigilance Commission is inquiring into over 30 complaints relating to the corruption in the Games-related works. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered four first information reports (FIRs) naming some of the close aides of Kalmadi for alleged criminal conspiracy and financial irregularities in executing the contracts. The CBI has also questioned Kalmadi and Organising Committee Secretary-General Lalit Bhanot, among others, in connection with the cases. Now it remains to be seen how the UPA government acts against those proven guilty, as was promised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- Enter The Dragnet – By Arindam Mukherjee (Apr 18, 2011, Outlook)
- Money as power – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Apr 9, 2011, Frontline)
- Scam Advantage – By Reshmi Padma (Mar 11, 2011, Outlook)
- Cash delusions – By Praful Bidwai (Apr 9, 2011, Frontline)
Jantar Mantar in New Delhi is a hot favourite of the average tourist in the summer season. As the temperatures soar this year, the monument is drawing even greater crowds, mainly to savour the electric atmosphere generated by a 72-year-old school drop-out from an indigent labour family of Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district. To say that Anna Hazare is a phenomenon is to state the obvious. The spot he has chosen in the heart of the national capital for his fast-unto-death action is not far from Parliament, which in his eyes stands wholly discredited. The numbers he has drawn till now have astonished the whole nation. Despite glib words of praise for the principle that motivates Anna, there is unmistakable chagrin among those in the corridors of power – whom he is challenging. They claim that they alone are vested with the authority to decide what kind of legislation should be drafted to tackle corruption in high places, and not the likes of Anna Hazare. They look upon him as an usurper who has to be put in his place somehow. There is a growing feeling that those in South Block and North Block are reading the situation wrongly. They seem to assume that if they hold on for just a few more days, the gutsy man would wilt and the common person would forget that such a protest ever happened. Interesting days are therefore ahead in the battle against the kind of corruption that has come to envelop the country.
During a television debate in which I took part this week, one person in the clued-up audience said it would be better to go to jail rather than live in a ‘free’ India that has been soiled by the ugly contours of dishonesty in public life. Such is the desperation in the mind of the citizen who has now to pay for every service to which he or she is entitled free of cost as a law abiding and taxpaying citizen. Many of my friends abroad ask why the harassed Indian has not yet risen in revolt, but is taking the situation lying down. It is difficult to respond to the question meaningfully. Things seem to be changing, however, with Anna’s arrival on the scene. While I would not like to exaggerate his impact, I will not underrate him either – as many in authority in Delhi would seem to be doing. Anna could prove to be the Pied Piper who will be remembered for many years, and the undoing of many who currently enjoy power despite their dubious reputation. Anna has already claimed one scalp in the form of the Agriculture Minister, who chose to exit from the Group of Ministers charged with the task of drafting the Lokpal bill. Others may follow. The point is that Anna is no longer inconsequential as many had thought before he launched his satyagraha on April 5.
Some people are critical of the way Anna has given no options to the powers-that-be. He is described as obstinate and impractical. In particular, many legal pundits, of the likes of Harish Salve, are apprehensive that he is derailing and hijacking the democratic process while trying to do good for the nation. The suggestion is that no one, however mighty he or she may be, can be allowed to subvert or bypass the democratic institutions in which law-making authority is vested by the Constitution. This stand is, however, blind to the very rationale for Anna taking to the streets with his case. In his view, the track record of all legislators is poor and they have betrayed the trust reposed in them by the electorate. He is convinced that left to themselves the law-makers will continue to hoodwink the public through their tokenism in the struggle against corruption – a criticism that is based on the weak Lokpal bill that the government has framed. Anna and those around him, such as Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, point out how the Jan Lokpal bill has vastly improved upon the official Lokpal bill, offering hope for drastic action being taken against bribe-takers. To be specific, the civil society bill will cover bureaucrats and judges also, in addition to the Prime Minister, Ministers and Members of Parliament. It will not be a hollow, toothless recommendatory body as the one that is envisaged by the official bill. It will go far beyond that and function as a prosecuting agency, with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) being a part of it.
Despite Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal’s appeal that the situation should not degenerate into a ‘they’ vs. ‘us’ confrontation, the fact remains that it has become one. There are certainly two parties to the issue, and neither is relenting. Anna Hazare says he had written several times on the subject to the Prime Minister, without any response. This is why he had no alternative but to go on a fast, just as the Mahatma did while fighting the alien ruler. The government, mainly in the form of Mr. Sibal, believes it cannot abdicate its absolute authority, and cannot cave in to the pressure that strikes at the roots of the Constitution. Amid this wrangling, there is a definite danger to Anna’s life. You are not dealing here with a young person, and a 72-year-old individual has limited physical reserves. There does not seem to be a full appreciation of the risks involved. If it is the government’s assessment that even in the worst case scenario there is no possibility of a popular uprising because Anna is a political lightweight, my feeling is that the government is being unethical and is playing with fire. If the government believes that Anna is being unreasonable in seeking to pressure constitutional authority, in a way that will also be tantamount to disrespecting the Father of the Nation. It will, in the process, discountenance whatever the Mahatma stood for.
It will therefore be advisable for the Prime Minister to bundle up enough courage and handle the situation himself, instead of depending on those around him. The right step would be for Dr. Manmohan Singh to visit Jantar Mantar without further loss of time in order to persuade Anna to call off his fast, and also explore a compromise. The two men have many things in common, including a belief in the fundamental values of probity and civility in interpersonal relationships. If they cannot do the trick, nothing else will. Finally, Anna’s demand for a robustly independent investigating agency strikes a chord in many of us who have been demanding autonomy for the CBI, which remains an appendage of the executive to be manipulated at will by it. If the CBI has done reasonably well in investigating the 2G spectrum scam, it is because of the power derived from the court monitoring the process. How many cases can the courts thus keep track of and give genuine apolitical supervision? India undoubtedly needs an Ombudsman of the kind Anna is demanding. This has worked very well in many parts of the globe, especially in Europe. Call it by any name, including the Independent Commission against Corruption of Hong Kong, a truly strong Ombudsman is badly needed in India at the present juncture, when the country’s image has received an unparalleled beating. India is now a laughing stock in the comity of nations. Right-thinking people, drawing inspiration from Anna Hazare, can definitely bring about a turnaround. We owe this to this country’s future generations.
- Wielding The Broom – By Anuradha Raman, Smruti Koppikar (Apr 18, 2011, Outlook)
- Democracy doesn’t take dictation – By Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Apr 9, 2011, Indian Express)
- Beyond Clicktivism – By Debarshi Dasgupta (Apr 18, 2011, Outlook)
- Make it better – Editorial (Apr 9, 2011, Indian Express)
In the recently concluded assembly elections in Assam (March-April 2011), one of the issues which was whipped up by BJP was about the Bengali speaking people especially the Muslims of Assam. Most of the Bengali speaking Muslims are projected to be from Bangla Desh, and the communal parties and groups are using this myth to enhance their political capital, which is mostly based on spreading hate against minorities and bringing to fore the issues related to identity. In different parts of India also, the issue of Bengali Muslims has been raised too often. The Bengali speaking Muslims, Bangladeshis and also those from West Bengal, are projected to be Bangladeshis, and are presented to be threat to security. This point was raised time and over again in the acts of terror committed in recent years by the gang of Sadhvi Prgaya Singh Thakur to Aseemanand types belonging to Abhinav Bharat, Sanatan Sansthan etc. Many a time Bangladeshi groups were named in these acts of terror done by Hindutva groups and their connection with local Bangladeshis was propagated to the hilt. In Assam the issue of Bengali speaking Muslims has been brought up time and over again and this point has also been used at the time of elections to polarize the communities along religious lines.
On the contrary, many a Muslims, especially Bengali speaking one’s, irrespective of their prolonged stay in Assam, have been labeled as D voters, i.e. Doubtful voters and are not allowed to vote. The mechanism to prove that you are a bona- fide citizen lies on these hapless poor, who have been waiting for years to get this D category removed from their names. BJP has been arguing that Congress is shifting the Bangladeshis to the areas where they need to increase their voting percentage. One recalls that a massive anti Muslim pogrom was unleashed in Nellie in 1983. That time a tribe was instigated to massacre the Muslims on the ground that Bangladeshis have voted in the election and nearly 5000 Muslims were done to death. This issue of ‘Bangladeshi Muslims’ has also been electorally encashed by All Assam Students Union, which has been infiltrated and supported by RSS. As such the issue of Bengali speaking Muslims has been very vexed and has a long history. Once the British annexed Assam in 1826, they saw this area as a potential one where the neighboring overpopulated Bengali people can be planted. They started a ‘Human Plantation program’, as per which the Bengalis, who were having land pressure and crowding in undivided Bengal, were encouraged to come to Assam and a large number of those who came to Assam were Muslims from Bengal. They worked hard to develop the land and agriculture in Assam. They were hard working and contributed massively to the development of Assam.
The issue became complicated with partition of India by the British. With partition tragedy many Hindus migrated to neighboring states. Later during the repression of East Pakistan by Pakistani army many a people fled East Pakistan and some of them did come to Assam. Most of these were Hindus. The process had other side also with the rise of communal politics in Assam, nearly 6 lakh Assamese, Muslims, also migrated to Bangla Desh. In other parts of India also many a people from Bangla Desh migrated mainly due to economic reasons. In Mumbai and Delhi communalists raised the bogey of Bangladeshis as a security threat. Citizen’s inquiry committees, comprising of noted Human rights activists investigated the issue of Bangladeshi ‘threat’ in Mumbai in particular. One such investigation done by Shama Dalvai and Irfan Engineer pointed out that the number of Bangladeshis, which is claimed to be 3 Lakhs in Mumbai holds no water. As such it is difficult to estimate their number but rough estimate can go to 20000 of them in Mumbai. Most of these Bangladeshis are involved in painstaking Zari embroidery work and their women folk work as house maids, at atrociously low wages. Their living conditions are cramped, near gutters and in outskirts of suburbs. Most of their time is spent in making the two ends meet with great amount of difficulty.
Similar is the situation in the other metros, especially Delhi, where also the communalists have tried to use this phenomenon to their political advantage. One does observe that migrations, legal and illegal, to supposedly ‘greener pastures’ is the trend amongst the poor and those trying to climb the social ladders to higher levels. In India itself we see innumerable people from Nepal and many a Tibetans have been given asylum. We also observe that many an Indians had migrated to Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, US and UK in particular. The migration to later two countries is a dream for many. The idea behind such migrations is purely social and economic, to overcome the misery and deprivation or to latch on to upwardly mobile channel. Tragically this issue has been used for the politics of communal divide. In Assam the British did pursue the policy of divide and rule, as in other places in Assam also they tried to put Hindus against Muslims. With the Human plantation program in 19th Century, the local Assamese were not very happy, and British encouraging Hindu camp versus Muslim camp added to the problem. Later British also tried to draw the physical ‘Line System’ trying to make people settle in separate localities according to their religion.
This added to the worsening of the problem of inter religious community divide. Added on to this there is a geographical aspect adding to the problem. The mighty river Brahmaputra keeps changing its course too often. Those settled on the banks have to leave their home and hearth looking for new place for survival. Those displaced are generally amongst the poor and that adds to the issue, they are mostly labeled as Bangladeshi immigrants. There is an urgent need to look into the communal issue in Assam. The D voter system is contributing to massive dissatisfaction amongst the people. It is also a very poor state, needing to be put on the rails of development. Such irritants created by historical circumstances and geographical compulsions are used for political gains by some. We need to bring in affirmative action to cultivate the spirit of fraternity amongst all the people of Assam; we need to counter the false propaganda about religious communalists to cultivate the sense of inclusive society all over to ensure that the path for progress and struggle for human rights is pursued relentlessly.
- Elections come and go. But the immigrant issue goes on forever – By Kunal Majumder (Apr 9, 2011, Tehelka)
- Peace-time promises – By Sushanta Talukdar (Apr 9, 2011, Frontline)
In response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), the Supreme Court, on January 4, 2011, stated that it would examine the constitutional validity of Ranganath Misra Commission recommendation for inclusion of dalit Muslims and Christians in the scheduled caste list to make them eligible for quota in education and jobs under the constitutional scheme. (The Times of India, January 5, 2011). Earlier, on January 25, 2008, on the similar issue, the Supreme Court had issued notice to the Centre seeking its reply to the petition filed by Akhil Maharashtra Muslim Khatik Samaj, wherein it was pleaded that there were Dalits within the Muslim community who needed reservation and demanded their inclusion in the SC list. The judge then had referred to the strict dictates of Qur’an prohibiting caste system within Islam and it asked the petitioner if Islam permitted caste system. (Times of India, Jan. 26, 2008). Now, the Supreme Court, on January 21, 2011, has framed questions to test the validity of the demand based on the above said Ranganath Misra Commission recommendation. The issue has been listed for February 24, 2011 for the final hearing challenging the Presidential Order of 1950 limiting reservation to dalits among Hindus, Sikhs and Budhists. The Solicitor-General, on behalf of the Government, has said that any amendment to identification of caste and the basis of the Presidential Order of 1950 has to be left to the Parliament and could not be done through courts. (The Times of India, January 22, 2011)
Caste system in Muslim society: The existence of caste system or reservation for Muslim dalits/backward classes has always been a controversial issue. It is an undisputed fact that though there is no caste system in Islam; the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s sayings are crystal clear that all human beings are equal, Indian Muslims did develop a hierarchical structure by recognizing numerous biradaris. Some Muslims established superior status for themselves as ashraf or noble on the basis of their foreign descent, while some indigenous converts are commonly referred to as ajlaf or ‘lowly’. Some Islamic jurists too, deviating from Islamic teachings, in the name of kufu, i.e., parity in marriage between the parties, legitimize caste system. Muslim law of marriage recognizes the doctrine of kufu in all vital aspects including social status and descent, which, in India, means nothing but casteism. The Sachar Committee Report, on the existence of castes among Indian Muslims, says: “the present day Muslim society is divided into four major groups (i) the ashrafs, who trace their origins to foreign lands, (ii) the upper caste Hindus who converted to Islam, (iii) the middle caste converts whose occupations are ritually clean, (iv) the converts from the erstwhile Untouchable castes – Bhangi (scavengers), Mehtar (sweeper), Chamar (tanner), Halalkhor (Dom) and so on”. (p. 192) On the level of backwardness, the Sachar committee finds that ‘out of every 100 workers about 11 are Hindu OBCs, three are Muslim-general and only one is Muslim OBC (p. 209)’, whereas the population of OBC Muslims is as much as 75% of the total Muslims’ population. The Sachar Committee’s findings further suggests: “the incidence of poverty is highest among Muslim-OBC (38%) followed by Muslim General (35%)… Overall, the conditions of Muslim-OBCs are worse than those of Muslim-General …Within the Muslim community a larger percentage of Muslim OBCs fall in low income category as compared to Muslim-General.” (The Muslim OBCs and Affirmative action)
The committee recommends that ‘being at the bottom of the social hierarchy, the arzals [SCs] are the worst off and need to be handled separately. It would be most appropriate if they were absorbed in the SC list or at least in a separate category”. Similarly, the Justice Rangnath Misra Commission finds prevalence of castes among various sections of the Indian citizenry. It concludes: “The caste is in fact a social phenomenon shared by almost all Indian communities irrespective of their religious persuasions”. (Para 16.3) Historically, a good number of dalits converted to Islam. But after conversion their socio-economic status remained impoverished, backward and downtrodden. Most of them continued with their traditional professions as artisans, peasants and labourers, except those which were considered impure or unacceptable in Shariah. Nevertheless, of late, some of these Muslim caste groups became organized and have given themselves Muslim nomenclatures. They identified and associated themselves with Islamic personalities. For example, the butchers designated themselves as Qureshi; the weavers as Ansari; the tailors as Idrisi; the Bhishtis as Abbasi; the vegetable vendors as Raeen; the barbers as Salmani; the carpenters and blacksmiths as Saifi etc. By joining the fold of Islam they did not get such a boost to their talents and abilities that they could face equal competition with all others. Like any other socially identifiable group, Dalit Muslims too started searching their place in governance; in the services, particularly, at par with their counterparts among Hindus. In a democratic set up this is quite a natural and justified aspiration. They demand caste-based reservation as given in the constitution. They argue that according to Kumar Suresh Singh Report of SCs, there are some 35 Muslim castes that have SC background and are engaged in occupations traditionally associated with SCs. They demand that Muslim SCs be included in the SC category. If Sikhs and Budhist SCs, which religiously don’t sanctify casteism, can be given reservation, why not Muslim SCs?, they argue.
The Presidential Order of 1950: The Presidential order of 1950 bars dalit Muslims from reservation. This appears to be inconsistent with Article 14, 15, 16 and 25 of the Constitution that guarantee equality of opportunity, freedom of conscience and protect the citizens from discrimination by the State on grounds of religion etc. This denial of reservation is seen by many to be with an eye on the balance of power which is tilted in favour of Hindus. This seems to be an allurement to keep dalits within the Hindu fold. On the other hand, it attracts dalit Muslims to embrace Hinduism. Hence, the required amendment will surely be a step towards secularism, justice and equality. On this, Justice Rangnath Misra Commission states that ‘the caste system should be recognized as a general social characteristic of the Indian society as a whole, without questioning whether the philosophy and teachings of any particular religion recognize it or not”. It recommends that ‘Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 should be wholly deleted by appropriate action so as to completely de-link the Scheduled Caste status from religion’. The Constitution prohibits any discrimination between the citizens. Hence, any religion-based discrimination conflicts with its letter and spirit. Role of Muslim organisations: However, on the issue of reservation Muslim leaders are divided. One group demands reservation for the Muslims as a whole, arguing that the constitution talks about protective discrimination in the context of class not caste. Jamia Nizamia of Andhra Pradesh had issued a fatwa against the state govt. move to provide reservations for Muslims on the lines of castes. However most of the prominent ulama of the country, cutting across the lines of sects and organisations, had reacted sharply against the fatwa. Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari of Jama Masjid, Delhi, had declared that the fatwa will harm the interest of the community. Similarly, Dr. Abdul Haque Ansari, ex-President of Jamate-Islami, in his presidential address to the workshop on Sachar Committee Report, had called the categorization of Muslim as ‘bad in taste’. He questioned: ‘if the entire community stands as backward class, where does the question of other categorization along caste line arise?’ Caste vs Class:
In the famous Indra Sawhney Case the Supreme Court had decided that ‘a caste can be and quite often is a social class in India’. Further it conceptualizes: ‘If it is backward socially, it would be a backward class for the purpose of Article 16(4). Among non-Hindus, there are several occupational groups, sects and denominations, which for historical reasons are socially backward. They too represent backward social collectives for the purpose of Article 16(4). Identification of the backward classes can certainly be done with reference to castes among, and alongwith, other occupational groups, classes and section of people. (AIR 582 SC 1993). Syed Shahabuddin, ex-MP and President of All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat, says: “if caste can be interpreted as class, why not religion; that all Muslims are, socially and educationally, marginalized and deprived”. However, on the other hand, his alternative suggestions ‘to limit reservation to non-Ashraf only who constitute 90% of the community and thus about 12% of the national population. With their average level of backwardness being almost equal to that of SC/ST, they would be entitled to a separate sub-quota of 11%’ (‘Muslim Community, Muslim OBCs and Reservation’, Muslim India, May 2007) appeared to be more justifiable and acceptable to the pasmanda Muslims. The dalit/pasmanda groups’ major arguments are that according to the Indian constitution religion-based reservation is invalid; that if the reservation will be given to all Muslims, the ashraf, who have historically been forward in all aspects, will corner the benefits of reservation; that if for the purpose of endogamy and khilafat caste could be the criteria, why not for reservation also. They also argue that all Muslims are equally deprived is statistically incorrect. True, by and large, Muslims are deprived and face discrimination, but within the community backward Muslims, including Muslim SCs, are more under-privileged than ashraf Muslims. Advocating this view Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of JNU says that ‘en bloc reservation of Muslims is not a viable idea. Inclusion of Muslim Dalits as OBCs makes the most sense’. However, though most of the Muslim organizations support a separate reservation for dalit/pasmanda Muslims through their routine resolutions, by and large, they feel shy in talking about reservation for dalit Muslims publicly or initiating any concrete step. Many consider it insignificant. But at this time when the issue is being discussed in the national media and is being finally heard in the Supreme Court, instead of shoving the issue under the carpet or being a silent spectator, it is their duty to rise to the occasion and build public opinion. They should realise that this issue needs special attention and there should be no roadblock in the way of dalit/pasmanda Muslims getting fair and proportionate share, for they are, as suggested by the Sachar report, ‘cumulatively oppressed’. Repeated appeal to the Muslim community to maintain unity in the name of Islam is O.K., but foregoing the constitutional benefits, would not be a wise idea. May be some day in the future reservations will be based solely on the community’s impoverishment, but until then caste-based reservation seems to be perfectly justified and demandable. True, the Muslim community must reject the proposition of fragmentation, but they should apply the same principles of social justice as much within the community as it demands for itself within the nation.
- Reverse reservation – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Mar 26, 2011, Frontline)