IAMC Weekly News Digest – April 18th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Digest


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


IAMC Welcomes the Release of Dr. Binayak Sen on Bail

Supreme Court drops sedation charges against Sen

Friday, April 15, 2011

Indian American Muslim Council (http://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguard India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, welcomes the Supreme Court of India’s decision to grant bail to noted human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen.

IAMC along with its friends in the international human rights community is relieved that the apex court has taken the first step in putting an end to a series of grave injustices committed against an innocent man at the behest of powerful business interests by the BJP led Chhattisgarh Government.

“Supreme Court’s move to drop sedation charges against Binayak Sen restores the credibility of India’s justice system that was severely damaged by the lower court earlier this year” said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC.

“We commend the persistence of all our friends and coalition partners everywhere along with the 22 Nobel Laureates who campaigned for the past 4 years to demand Justice for Dr Sen.” Mr. Khateeb further added.

IAMC demands a thorough and expedited review by the Supreme Court of the alleged conviction of Dr. Sen and hope that the apex court would intervene appropriately to right the many wrongs committed against Dr. Sen by the lower courts.

Indian American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation. For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.

Who is Binayak Sen?

  • He has worked for 25 years as a doctor with tribals in Chhattisgarh
  • Vice President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
  • Criticised state sponsored militia Salwa Judum for rights violations and misuse of powers
  • Was a member of State Committee on Health Sector Reforms
  • Won several awards for contribution to health and human rights including the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights by the Global Health Council

Contact Information


Shaheen Khateeb
phone: 1-800-839-7270
email: info@iamc.com

6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053


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Indian Doctor Granted Bail in Sedition Appeal (Apr 16, 2011, New York Times)

India’s Supreme Court granted bail on Friday to a prominent doctor who is appealing a sentence of life imprisonment after being convicted of sedition for helping Maoist rebels in the central tribal areas of the country. The arrest of the doctor, Binayak Sen, drew international condemnation, and 22 Nobel laureates wrote to Indian leaders asking that he be released from jail as he awaited trial.

Dr. Sen, who had worked for years to provide medical treatment and other aid to tribal people in Maoist areas, was arrested in May 2007 in Raipur in the central state of Chhattisgarh. Government officials contended that he had stepped over the line from helping civilians caught up in violence to helping Maoist rebels. The rebels are considered by the Indian government to be the country’s biggest internal security threat. Operating in hilly and remote areas of central and eastern India, the fighters have killed 843 security personnel and 1,869 civilians since 2008.

Dr. Sen, 61, was convicted of sedition in December. He challenged his conviction and applied for bail while awaiting his appeal, but it was denied by a state court. The Supreme Court, which ruled that Dr. Sen should be granted bail while he appeals the ruling, also appeared to reject much of the government’s case against him, saying that simply possessing Maoist literature was not enough to prove that Dr. Sen had broken the law. The court did not overturn his conviction; that appeal will first be heard in lower courts. Dr. Sen’s wife, Ilina, said, “There is really no evidence of sedition charges or any violence.”

Dr. Sen, a celebrated specialist in rural health care, received the Jonathan Mann Award for global health and human rights in 2008 for creating one of the most successful community-based health-care models in India. Swami Agnivesh, a human rights activist who tried to negotiate between the government and rebels to end the fighting, said, “Many such activists are in jail on the name of helping Maoist rebels in many states without any evidence.”



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AIIMS experts to reconstruct Ishrat encounter (Apr 16, 2011, Indian Express)

Experts from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi will arrive here on April 17 to assist in the Ishrat Jahan encounter probe, Special Investigation Team (SIT) officials said, adding that they will also visit the encounter site at Indira Bridge near Kotarpur on Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar highway. Ishrat, Javed Pillai and two others were shot dead in an encounter on June 15, 2004.

SIT chief Karnail Singh and its two other members – joint commissioners of police Satish Verma and Mohan Jha – will also be present at the site for a reconstruction of the encounter. The visit was due in March-end but was put off since Karnail Singh was transferred to Mizoram, an SIT official said. SIT officials said the entire sequence of the encounter would be photographed and videographed. The SIT is contemplating whether the accused in the encounter would be taken to the spot or not. A reconstruction of the encounter, SIT officials said, would help them compare it with the photographs taken immediately after the actual encounter. This would help them plug loopholes in the photographs that were seized from the FSL by Verma.



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Samjhauta: Forensic test confirms RDX (Apr 12, 2011, Indian Express)

Forensic tests have confirmed use of RDX, along with potassium chlorate and sulphur, in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts in which 68 people were killed, 43 of them Pakistanis. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the blasts, had sent samples from the site to the Chandigarh Forensic Lab while the Haryana Police, which was initially probing the case, had taken the opinion of the Forensic Laboratory at Madhuban in Karnal. The Karnal laboratory had initially suggested that RDX was used in the blasts, which has now been confirmed by the Chandigarh lab, said officials. “Probe agencies collected 20 exhibits during investigations. These included powder material, metallic pieces, yellow coloured liquid, burnt wooden pieces and burnt foam,” said an official.

The forensic report, accessed by The Indian Express, reveals that the first two exhibits sent to the lab were yellow coloured powder. “The result stated that this yellow powder is a mix of potassium chlorate, sulphur and trinitrotoluene (TNT) with traces of RDX. However, the traces of RDX, whose chemical name is cyclonite was less in the Chandigarh lab test, as compared to the Karnal lab,” said a MHA official. The Chandigarh lab report states that 50 per cent potassium chlorate and 40 per cent sulphur, along with 0.6 per cent of trinitrotoluene (TNT) and 1.2 per cent RDX, was detected in the samples.

Similarly, the test conducted by the Madhuban FSL had stated that TNT, potassium chlorate, sulphur and cyclonite (RDX) was used in the bombs. The two reports have helped the NIA to conclude that a cocktail of these chemicals and RDX was used during the blasts. Officials said the suspicion that the Abhinav Bharat and Lt Col Srikant Purohit (accused in the Malegaon blasts) was involved in the attack has furthered deepened with these reports as Purohit was alleged to have supplied RDX for the blasts. “The liquid in the Gehi pet bottles in which a piece of orange-coloured cloth smudged with green colour found inside each bottle was also examined in the lab. The report from the Chandigarh lab says these bottles contains oil of petroleum origin (likely mix of high-speed diesel and kerosene oil) while the Madhuban lab also opined the same but did not infer use of kerosene oil,” the report says.

The agency, which claimed to have made several breakthroughs in the case since it took over the probe last year, had also sent a melted metal piece to the Chandigarh lab but the test could not establish any common explosive and remained inconclusive. “Similarly, the burnt wooden pieces of the coaches destroyed in the blasts were sent to labs. But the test could not establish conclusively as the pieces were burnt, states the report. The NIA officials had earlier said they required more samples from the burnt coaches to establish their case conclusively. But when they contacted the railway officials, they found that the five damaged coaches had been disposed of or renovated.



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CBI’s U-turn: Hindu terror outfit behind Malegaon blast (Apr 15, 2011, Mumbai Mirror)

It has been five years and an interminable wait for justice, but there is now a glimmer of hope for the nine men arrested by Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) for their alleged involvement in the 2006 Malegaon blast. The CBI, which had reopened the case after Aseemanand’s confessions about the role of Hindu fundamentalists in the blast, has found his statements to be prima facie true. Arrested in Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid blast case, Aseemanand had told the court in January that his slain associate from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Sunil Joshi, was behind the 2006 Malegaon blast. Though the Hindu fundamentalist has retracted his confession, CBI investigations have found enough – forensic evidence, witnesses, and circumstances – to establish the role of the saffron brigade in the attack.

Investigations have now found that the blasts were conducted by the same set of people which executed attacks in Purna, Jalna and Nanded districts of Maharashtra. Investigations by different agencies have all established the involvement of Hindu fundamentalists in these incidents. A CBI officer on condition of anonymity said, “Joshi’s associates have been found to be involved in all these blasts including the one at Malegaon. The planning, bomb-making and execution are similar. We have also found witnesses who have corroborated that this group had visited Malegaon before the blast for a reconnaisance.

We have also identified the places they stayed in. As of now there are strong indications that Aseemanand’s confession is true. Our investigations, however, are on to gather more evidence to this effect.” The agency is now suggesting that all the four cases should be clubbed and a single charge sheet should be filed. This comes not only as an embarrassment to the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) but the CBI as well. The case had been transferred to the CBI in December 2006, after the ATS had filed a chargesheet naming 13 accused. This included four absconding accused, one of them a Pakistani. All others were Muslim youth alleged to be associated with banned outfit SIMI and LeT.

Despite an outcry from Malegaon residents, claiming that the arrested men were innocent, the ATS had cited forensic evidence as proof of their involvement. In November 2009, however, the CBI had informed the Bombay High Court that it had no evidence against the nine arrested men. This came after the sole approver in the case Abrar Ahmed Sayyed, 33, turned hostile before the special court. Sayyed had filed an affidavit in the special court, naming ATS officers who had allegedly induced him into “confessing” to the crime he had never committed. Following Abrar’s affidavit, three accused in the case – Nooruludha Samsudoha, Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammed Jahid Abdul Majeed Ansari – had moved the High Court, seeking that a special investigation team (SIT) be set up to probe Abrar’s statement. Despite all this, the CBI in March 2010 filed a chargesheet supporting investigations done by the ATS and the Malegaon police.



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Activists condemn Hazare’s praise for Modi (Apr 16, 2011, Deccan Herald)

After heaping praise on social reformer Anna Hazare for leading a crusade against corruption, activists Friday condemned him for praising Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and said that “reveals a narrow and mercenary understanding of the meaning of corruption”.

The statement has been signed by activists like Teesta Setalvad and John Dayal, among others. “We strongly condemn the recently reported statement made by Anna Hazareji, in which he has brazenly endorsed Narendra Modi, a politician who not only symbolises the politics of division but unconstitutional governance,” the statement said.

“For the veteran anti-corruption social activist, Hazare to endorse a politician against whom a Supreme Court led investigation into conspiracy to commit mass murder and rape, subversion of evidence and pressure and intimidation of key witnesses is still under way, reveals a narrow and mercenary understanding of the meaning of corruption,” it added. Hazare had praised Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for their developmental efforts. He, however, clarified that he was opposed to communalism.



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2G scam: Sharp divisions in PAC over spectrum probe (Apr 15, 2011, Indian Express)

It was an all-out war between the ruling coalition and the Opposition in the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Friday over the probe into the 2G spectrum scam forcing cancellation of questioning of top officials, including the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary. As a result the scheduled questioning of CBI Director A P Singh and Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati was postponed on Friday, as was the hearing of Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekar and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister T K A Nair scheduled for Saturday. Following the fracas, Joshi did not address a press conference which he does usually after every sitting. “The Committee has decided not to have a press conference,” he told reporters. The Committee will now meet on April 21 to decide whether further witnesses should be called. What was simmering for long, spilled over into an open war on Friday with Congress and DMK members questioning PAC Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi of BJP as to why the inquiry into the spectrum scam be continued because the matter was sub-judice.

The debate, sometimes heated, went on for over three hours in all. In an unusual occurrence for a Parliamentary Committee proceeding, even a division was taken on whether witnesses should be called. In the vote seven members belonging to the Opposition favoured calling witnesses while five of the ruling coalition voted against and Law Secretary D R Meena, already summoned, was called in to depose. Congress members K S Rao, Navin Jindal, Arun Kumar Vundavalli and Saifuddin Soz and DMK’s Tiruchi Siva were among those present from the ruling side. The 22-member Committee has seven representatives from the Congress, four from BJP, two each from AIADMK and DMK, and one each from Shiv Sena, BJD, JD(U), SP, BSP and CPI(M). One seat is vacant. At the outset, senior Congress member K S Rao said since the 2G spectrum issue was sub-judice, the PAC should not call witnesses to depose before it. He pointed out that even Reliance ADAG Chairman Anil Ambani, who appeared before the Committee recently, had told the PAC he would not be able to answer all the questions as the matter was sub-judice. Joshi said that the witnesses were not forced to depose and their evidence was not part of the report. “It is just archival material which is not made public,” he told the PAC.

Moreover, Joshi said the Committee had not asked any of the accused to appear before it. Sources in the Opposition said they felt that the ruling party members had come prepared to disrupt the proceedings. One of their objectives was to prevent deposition by Vahanvati. The Attorney General was to be questioned on the opinion he had given as Solicitor General to the Department of Telecom on Swan Telecom. They also see a significance in the timing of the ruling side’s strategy ahead of the questioning of the Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister by the Committee on Saturday. At this point, Joshi is believed to have told members that he could not understand the Congress members’ stand when even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had offered to appear before the Committee. On the issue of sub-judice, the Chairman recalled that Joint Parliamentary Committees had questioned Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parkeh in connection with securities scam cases which were before courts. Congress member Arun Kumar then asked Joshi to summon former Telecom Minister A Raja, the prime accused in the case.

Joshi is believed to have said that summoning an accused involves a long process. Joshi circulated Speaker Meira Kumar’s letter to him in the wake of a turf war with JPC over going into the 2G scam issue. The Speaker, in her letter, had mentioned that differences between PAC and JPC could be sorted out by Chairmen of both the Committees amicably for which there was no requirement for her direction. He also asked the members to show where the Committee had deviated from the laid down rules and procedures. The Committee was only pursuing the line of investigation done by the CAG, Joshi said. When asked about what led to the differences in the PAC, Soz said: “My perception is that the Chariman should have been magnanimous to accept the suggestion of some members to postpone the meeting to a future date, allow members to study the documents, and to have a look at the format on how to proceed further.” “My understanding is that the next meeting on April 21 will be for internal discussion on how to proceed further,” said Soz. Observers of Friday’s proceedings said it could be clear that as and when a report is made there could be a dissent note from members belonging to the ruling side. Sources said Joshi is keen on finalising the report before the end of the term of the present Committee on April 30.



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SC questions delay in Bhopal gas plea (Apr 13, 2011, Hindustan Times)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the CBI for approaching it 16 years after it had diluted in September 1996 the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the accused in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. A five-judge special bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia raised the question on delay and asked the CBI as to why it had not filed the review petition during all these years. Attorney General GE Vahanvati, appearing for the CBI said, “I don’t know why it was not filed by the CBI but a review petition was filed in the case by someone else and it was dismissed.”

He said there was a series of illegal omissions on the part of the accused from 1982 onward which led to that disaster. “I can show series of illegal omissions from 1982 on wards that gives an impression that the disaster was bound to happen,” he said. He further said there was serious security default besides a default in the design in the plant which led to the disaster. The bench was hearing a petition filed by the CBI seeking to recall the apex court’s 14-year-old judgement that had diluted the charges against the accused who were prosecuted just for the offence of being negligent. The petition filed by the CBI sought restoration of the stringent charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder instead of death caused due to negligence against the accused in the case of world’s worst industrial disaster that left over 15,000 people dead and thousands maimed.

The apex court had on August 31 last decided to re-examine its own judgement that led to lighter punishment of two years imprisonment for all the seven accused. The court had issued notices to all of them on CBI’s plea for restoration of the stringent charge of culpable homicide. Besides Mahindra, Vijay Gokhale, the then Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, then Vice President, JN Mukund, then Works Manager, SP Choudhary, then Production Manager, KV Shetty, then Plant Superintendent and SI Quereshi, then Production Assistant were convicted and sentenced to two years’ jail term by a trial court in Bhopal on June 7 last year. The curative petition in the criminal case was filed after the trial court judgement in the 26-year-old case, following which the Centre appointed a group of ministers (GoM) to recommend steps including ways to get the punishment enhanced.



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Activists lambast Gujarat Government for apathy shown towards Minority Scholarship Schemes (Apr 10, 2011, Twocircles.net)

A convention of prominent activists in the field of education today lambasted the Gujarat Government for failing to implement the Central Government Sponsored Minority Schemes thus depriving 50,000 beneficiaries since 2007-08 the year of inception of the schemes. The meeting was jointly convened by the Students Islamic Organisation of India, Gujarat Zone & Federation of Muslim Educational Institutions of India, Gujarat Chapter and was attended by the prominent activists including Kalim Ansari – President SIO Gujarat, Muhammad Shafi Madni – President Jamaat-e-Islami Gujarat, Gyasuddin Sheikh – Member of Legislative Assembly Gujarat State, Kasam Vora – CEO, Gujarat Sarvajanik Education Society, Gulab Khan Rauma – Social Acivist, Patan, Fazal Sheikh – Nodal Officer, Indian Technical Institutes Gondal Region, Juned Sheikh – Social Activist, Amjad Khan – Municipal Councillor Ahmedabad, Dr.Iftikhar Malik – Social Activist Modasa, Abdul Kadir Memon, President -Jamat-e-Islami Sabarkantha and members of SIO of India among others.

The participants were also critical of the Central Government for not pushing the State Government to discharge its duty. The participants felt that the Central Government was well aware of the ill intentions of the State Government and should have tried to implement the scheme through a nodal agency directly reporting to the Centre. If the Central Government would have shown resolve they could have channelised their 75% share and thus prevented at least Rs.10 Crores from getting lapsed every year.

The activists also expressed their displeasure towards lack of clarity in the procedures for easier implementation of scholarship schemes. The participants also agreed to urge State as well as Central government for increasing the number of beneficiaries of entire Minority Community including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and ones defined by the Central Government in all schemes viz. Merit Cum Means Scholarship, Post Matric Scholarships & Pre-Matric Scholarships.They also demanded single window arrangement for all correspondences required for the Scholarships.

The participants vowed to launch an awareness campaign among the masses and also mobilise resources to influence the government machinery and the political parties for sincere implementation of the schemes intended for the Minorities. It was also decided during the meeting to publish a Scholarship Guide and to set up help centres in all the districts of the State for the benefit of the students’ community.



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India police call off Christian survey (Apr 15, 2011, BBC)

Police in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh have withdrawn a controversial survey about the Christian community after criticism. The state police chief said the survey was a mistake and an inquiry would be conducted into how it came about. In an order last month, the police were ordered to find out the exact number of Catholics and Protestants and institutions run by them. Christian groups have described the survey as “religious profiling”.

Madhya Pradesh is ruled by Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has a history of communal riots involving Hindus and Christians. “The survey was a mere goof up by lower-rung officials,” state police chief SK Raut told the BBC. “Though police collect such information periodically to ensure protection to minority communities in the state, the way this survey was ordered was incorrect,” he said. “The state police are collecting details of Christians as if they are all criminals,” Father Anand Muttungal, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the state capital, Bhopal, said. “This is nothing but religious profiling.”

Father Muttungal said although the survey had been halted now, it should be investigated who ordered it. “I think there is an ulterior motive here,” he said. In an order issued on 22 March, all police stations in the state were asked to collect details about the number and location of churches and priests who ran them. The police were also told to find out the source of income of Christian-run institution like schools and hospitals and whether they were receiving any foreign funding.

Father Francis Kariya, a priest who heads a small church in Ashta town, said he was visited by police a couple of days ago. “The policemen said that if I refused to answer all the questions they would initiate legal action against me,” he said. BJP’s parent organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates accuse Christian missionaries of forcibly converting poor tribals to their religion. Christians, on the other hand, accuse the right wing groups of attacking them regularly.



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Maoist camp busted in Orissa, explosives recovered (Apr 10, 2011, Deccan Herald)

A Maoist camp was busted by a joint team of paramilitary troopers and police in Orissa’s Keonjhar district and a huge cache of arms was recovered, an official said on Sunday. The team raided a hilly area in the mineral-rich district on a tip-off regarding the presence of about 10 Maoists, police officer Jitendra Dehury told IANS.

Although the rebels managed to flee and no firing took place, the team recovered huge quantity of explosives, fuse wires, explosive sticks and Maoist kit bags. The team also defused two landmines planted by the rebels at the site, he said.

Maoist literature, medicines, a Global Positioning System (GPS) instrument and several batteries were also recovered, he said. Keonjhar is 240 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.



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Opinions and Editorials

Modi, law-and-order and Hindutva – By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani (Apr 14, 2011, Milli Gazette)

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi has successfully cultivated the image of a no-nonsense, law-and-order enforcing politician among Gujarat voters. This image of Modi as a strong, decisive leader is what his BJP supporters hope will help him establish a foothold at the national level. Modi’s role in the 2002 bloodshed continues to divide Gujaratis and Indians in general. While he remains repugnant to a large number of people, particularly Muslims, human rights activists and educated urbanites with liberal or leftist leanings, many others in the Hindu majority view his actions in 2002 favourably. Negative attitudes towards Muslims remain firmly anchored among Gujarati Hindus. Many feel that they, and not only the Muslim minority, are the true second class citizens of India because of the fringe fanatic rightwing brainwashing that Muslims are appeased.

Muslims often “stepped out of line,” prior to 2002, we often hear, demanding and receiving exceptional treatment by politicians who felt the need to placate them on the basis of perceived injustices carried out by the Hindu majority. That changed when Modi came to power in 2002, they say. While no one will openly condone the bloodshed of 2002, many Gujarati Hindus feel that Modi “put Muslims in their place.” The BJP continues to echo these themes in its national political stance, especially over issues such as Hajj subsidies, the Muslim civil code, the singing of Vande Mataram, or other such religiously sensitive concerns. Modi continues to support a Hindutva agenda in the state, with the recent passage of amendments to the state’s anti-conversion law being seen as a concession to his supporters on the Hindu right. Both supporters and critics of Modi confirm that the state government continues to use administrative tools to marginalize and ghettoize the Muslim minority.

At the same time, most interlocutors tell us that Modi cannot gain anything more by openly pursuing an aggressive Hindutva agenda. He already has the backing of those who applaud his firm stand against Muslims, and he risks alienating swing voters in Gujarat by being too openly communal. Modi understands that, outside of Gujarat, his role in the 2002 riots has damaged both his reputation and that of the state and the country at large. He also realizes that outbreaks of communal violence in Gujarat will harm both his chances in the state and his stake of projecting himself as a national leader, and hence he has given law enforcement agencies clear instructions to act swiftly if violence breaks out, we have been told. Several interlocutors cited Modi’s rapid reaction to the communal rioting in Vadodara in May as proof of his new strategy. Modi allowed federal army troops to establish order, and he even visited hospitalized Muslim victims of the riots in an attempt to portray himself as a leader of all Gujaratis.

Views remain divided on whether Modi’s leadership style will help or harm him if he enters national politics. In public appearances, Modi can be charming and likeable. By all accounts, however, he is an insular, distrustful person who rules with a small group of advisors. This inner circle acts as a buffer between the Chief Minister and his cabinet and party. He reigns more by fear and intimidation than by inclusiveness and consensus, and is rude, condescending and often derogatory to even high level party officials. He hogs power and often leaves his ministers in the cold when making decisions that affect their portfolios. His abrasive leadership style alienated much of the state BJP leadership in 2005. He was able to quell their subsequent rebellion by branding them as corrupt opportunists who were angry because he denied them the tools of political patronage and corruption. Modi enjoys the support of most MLAs in the state because they understand his popularity with voters. His leadership, however, style has created many enemies within the state party.

Meanwhile, Gujarat High Court fixed April 22 for the next hearing on whether Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should be summoned by the Nanavati-Mehta panel probing the 2002 communal riots in the state. Petitioner Mukul Sinha of Jan Sangharsh Manch concluded his arguments and counsel for the state government sought time to argue the matter. Appearing before the bench comprising Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi, Sinha said that the court had the jurisdiction to direct the commission of inquiry to quiz the chief minister. The court earlier asked both the parties as to whether it could direct a commission of inquiry in any manner. Sinha said that questioning of Modi, other ministers and police personnel by the commission was essential as failing to do so would defeat the purpose behind the inquiry. Sinha earlier moved an application before the Justices (retired) Nanavati-Mehta inquiry commission to summon Modi and others over their alleged role in the riots.



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Anna Hazare and his politics : authoritarian, hierarchical and laden with dominant ideology – By Mukul Sharma (Apr 12, 2011, Communalism.blogspot.com)

The anti-corruption movement, spearheaded by Anna Hazare, and the passage of the Lokpal Bill have generated unprecedented interest amongst a wide spectrum of society about the ideas, politics and organisations of civil society in general, and Anna Hazare in particular. Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade merits attention not only for its importance in ensuring a corruption-free society, but also due to its multifaceted nature. Hazare’s politics however has to be seen in a larger framework and in a wider historical context. Howsoever laudable the goals of anti-corruption movement in India today, the movement is not beyond the categories of gender, caste, authority, democracy, nationalism and ultra-nationalism. Far from transcending them, the movement is transforming and being transformed by the implicit deployment of such categories. I wish to place Hazare in the larger context of his environmental journeys, where the elusive but crucial element is one of authority that is exercised due to a large degree of consent and conservatism. Yet, almost all accounts on him, largely celebratory in nature, do not examine the ideology and politics of his works. These are crucial not only to critically assess the present and the future of our anti-corruption movements, but also to interrogate certain brands of civil society activisms and environmentalisms. The rural environmental works by Anna Hazare in Ralegan Sidhi village in Maharashtra have been hailed widely, which are fed by, and feed into, certain dominant political cultures of the state. …

In an environmentally sound Ralegan Sidhi, religious symbols are core vehicles for transformation and imposition. Its embodiment in certain places/people legitimises them. The command-obedience relationship also gets its rationale from the belief that a God or a temple is ‘supreme’ and any decision taken in front of them must be obeyed. According to Hazare, Lord Rama set an ideal before every citizen of how to conduct everyday life by his own example. There is need for Lord Shri Krishna to reincarnate and save the country. It is not only environmental rules, but also rules governing the entire socio-political life of people that make an authority acceptable. Those who make these rules and those who obey them are legitimate; others illegitimate/illegal. Anna Hazare is deeply concerned with rules and norms with a definite model: “The daily routine enforced in the army such as getting up early in the morning, jogging and physical training thereafter, cleanliness of body, clothing, living quarters and the neighbourhood etc. led to development of a disciplined life, benefits of which I am availing of even today. The habit of giving due respect and regard to the seniors by age, post, or competence was inculcated in us… This has helped me in conducting the village development work at Ralegan Siddhi according to the rules and regulations decided by us by common consent.”

Others reciprocate this language. Villagers normally say that their village works like an army. As a commandant, Anna orders and we follow. Army discipline is the ideal. The path of rural development here depends in a large measure on many other ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. No shop in Ralegan can sell bidis or cigarettes. Film songs and movies are not allowed. Only religious films, like Sant Tuka Ram, Sant Gyaneshwar can be screened. Only religious songs are allowed on loudspeakers at the time of marriages. It is emphasised in the village that the villagers themselves decided not to sell bidis in their shops; they themselves do not watch films or listen to film songs. However, the language of acquiescence can be highly brahaminical and hegemonic. Anna Hazare wants to build India into a strong, powerful nation. Narratives of war, army and enemy remain the core references in much of the discourse on nation and rural development. Here, expressions like ‘national regeneration’, ‘wholesome crop of national glory through comprehensive rural development’ are coupled with others like ‘We have to hold the nation. Otherwise, Pakistan will grab it. That is why we consciously send our sons to the army.’

The concept of morality and subsequent codes/behaviours/practices based on it are important elements in the notion of development. Anna’s concern with the moral is couched in his discourse of the nation that exercise control over the private and the public, the personal and the political. For school children there is moral education and practice, comprising physical training, body building, patriotism, obedience, samskars and Hindu culture. Doing surya namaskar and chanting Om is regular for the students. For women, it is stressed that they should certainly look after the household but they must also participate in activities intended to help their community and country. It is stated, ‘Woman is the Universal Mother, The Great Mother. Many such Great Mothers have given birth to Great Sons — Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Swami Vivekananda for instance.’ She is also a symbol of purity, sublime as well as innate strength. It is significant that much of the problematisation of morality of children, youth and village is done in the context of influence of western, modern culture. ‘Western lifestyle’, ‘modern development’ and ‘invasion of western culture’ invariably emerge as repeated expressions, signifying the collapse of morality in modern India. In Ralegan, there are a few Mahars, Chamars, Matangs, Nhavi, Bharhadi and Sutars. Since the beginning of his work, Anna has been particularly emphasising the removal of untouchability and discrimination on caste basis meted out to people, who are popularly referred to as Harijans here. The concept of ‘village as a joint family’, or all inhabitants of the village as ‘almighty God’, has prompted the villagers to pay attention to the problems of Harijans.

The integration of Dalits into an ideal village has two components in Ralegan. One is to assume that they were always there to perform some duties and necessary services and that their usefulness justifies their existence in the present. The other component is hegemonic, designed to get Dalits into a brahaminical fold. It is not only manifested in the way food or dress habits are propagated; it is prevalent in several other forms. In spite of the apparent diversities that characterise the various elements that make up Anna Hazare, there is an underlying thread of unity in his ideological positioning. Not only is this authority deeply rooted in the dominant socio-political tradition of the region; it is often blind to many basic and universal issues of rights, democracy and justice. Personal moral authority, while contributing in harnessing water and other natural and human resources for the betterment of economic conditions of the villagers, simultaneously also raises significant questions about its relationship to the making of a democratic, critical community, free from burdens of force, punishment, coercion, obligation, patronage, charity and piety. The present movement led by him too reflects some of these elements. Placing Hazare in a larger context posits in front of us several such questions.



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A crisis of credibility – By Prakash Singh (Apr 17, 2011, Times of India)

The strength of a country is determined by the credibility of its institutions and not so much by the numerical strength of its armed forces. The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution took great care to establish certain institutions which would work as the bulwark of democracy and ensure justice, liberty, equality and fraternity to citizens. These institutions are unfortunately under attack by a predatory executive.

The institutions whose credibility has suffered in recent years include the Central Vigilance Commission, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Election Commission (EC), the National Security Council (NSC) and even the office of the president of India.

Anna Hazare’s fast and the tremendous popular support it received actually reflect the frustration and anger of the common man at the failure of our anti-corruption institutions. Not that we do not have them. Not that they were inherently weak. It is just that they were, over a period of time, systematically subverted by the ruling class by planting leaders of poor calibre at the head of the organisations, curtailing their administrative powers and choking them financially.

The controversy over the appointment of the chief vigilance commissioner culminating in the Supreme Court order that the high-powered committee’s selection of P J Thomas was invalid was a slap on the face of the government. It is indeed unfortunate that the prime minister and the home minister made such a serious error of judgment. The true story behind the appointment has yet to come out. In any case, the personnel department and cabinet secretariat cannot escape responsibility for the fiasco. And, in the final analysis, why did the president have to approve the recommendation? She also had a constitutional responsibility to ensure that a tainted person did not get her seal of approval.



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What West Bengal Muslim intellectuals say about the Left regime? – By Mumtaz Alam Falahi (Apr 14, 2011, Twocircles.net)

West Bengal native Muslim intellectuals are unanimous in their view that the 30 years of Left regime has done little for the Muslim community. The community has remained backward educationally and economically – and this has been documented by Sachar Committee. They are not sure if the Left Front will get mandate for new term. Why Muslims have gone away from the Left? “The Muslim community in the last four decades has been deprived of education and government job. Thanks to Sachar Committee, Muslims have now come to know about the degree of the deprivation,” says Dr Amjad Hussain, Associate Professor of English, Surendranath College, Kolkata. “After the report, Muslims became very vocal and began protesting against the ruling Left. And now they want an alternative,” adds Hussain who is also Guest Faculty at Alia University.

Ghulam Mohammad, Secretary Islamic Educational and Welfare Trust Champdani, Hoogli says: “Since coming to power in 1979, CPM has suppressed the community in the field of education and economy and thus the community has gradually declined. Not only this, the Left has also crushed Muslim leadership. They did not accept any Muslim leader. They did always talked in terms of the rich and the poor – the Upper class and lower class – not in terms of majority and minority.”

Sheikh Zainul Abedeen, president, Amanat Zakat Mission, says the Left regime did not give job to Muslims and did nothing special for the community – the main reason why Muslims left the Left – but highlights peace and no-riot as the main achievement of the communist government. “True, the government did not give job but they gave security that helped us lot. Being a businessman I have not felt any problem during the regime. About 30 years back I came from the village. No one helped me. I started from zero,” says Abedeen, Kolkata University graduate who owns two middle sized hotels of good standard in Park Circus area in the city.

Will Muslims vote against Left in the assembly poll as they did in last three years? “Very difficult to say because in the last 2-3 months it seems the Left is recovering some lost ground. Now Muslims and other groups are getting hesitant if Mamata will do the needful. However, it is possible Mamata can win,” says Prof Hussain who is also attached with GD Charitable Society that works for educational uplift of the community. Ghulam Muhammad says: “Till Lok Sabha election in 2009 there was no opposition here. Congress was seen as B Team of Left. After emergence of TMC, Mamata is seen as a hope. People have always seen red flag. Now they want change.” What the Left did in last 2-3 years will give some result. And no-riot in last 34 years will also be in the mind of Muslims when they will go to vote,” says Sheikh Zainul Abedeen who also heads a club of intellectuals, civil servants and senior journalists.



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Maoists resort to fasting to get Odisha govt to keep promise – By G Vishnu (Apr 13, 2011, Tehelka)

Anna Hazare’s hunger strike appears to have forced the union government to start the process for restructuring the Lokpal Bill. This is a rare instance of the government responding to a Gandhian method of protest. Away from New Delhi, a similar form of protest has been underway for a while in Odisha. Maoists, led by a senior Maoist Sriramulu Srinivas, led a group of nearly 220 adivasis on a hunger strike in Malkanjgiri jail against the government on the morning of 12 April. Protesting against the government’s inaction on the 14 promises made during Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna’s release, the tribal inmates refused food for over a day. The militant hunger-strike took the jail authorities by surprise. At the noon of 13 April the fast ended, after Malkangiri Additional District Magistrate Sunderlal Seal met Sriramulu to reassure him of government’s intent in meeting those demands. After consulting the Centre, the Odisha government had agreed to fulfill the demands the Maoists put forward during the hostage swap.

These demands included release of women cadre, giving ST status to Konda Dora and Konda Reddy tribes, stopping mega-projects, like Polavaram dam and bauxite mining, in Deomali hills and an end to Operation Green Hunt. Curiously, Malkangiri prisoners were not the first ones to go Gandhian on the government. Earlier, the jailed activists of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) went on a hunger strike in the neighbouring Koraput prison on 3 April. “Tapan Mishra, one of the jailed leaders of CMAS, led nearly 170 tribal inmates into an indefinite hunger strike, demanding the release of women and juvenile prisoners and better conditions in the prison,” said a lawyer who has represented several suspected Maoists in the area.

Sources close to the CPI (Maoist) say that the organisation is furious with the Odisha government for betraying the truce by re-launching the combing operations in the state. In early April the security forces got a major breakthrough when they arrested Maoist divisional spokesperson Ghasi, alias Sannu, in the Semiliguda block of Koraput. Since then, the CPI (Maoist) claims, three more Maoists have been arrested on the Andhra-Odisha border, even though the police say that they have surrendered. While speaking with Tehelka, a source close to the CPI (Maoist) questioned the state government’s intentions in not producing the arrested Maoists in court. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, that gives the police three months’ time for questioning the accused before they can be produced in a court, is widely used on Maoists and sympathisers alike.

Tehelka has earlier reported on the human rights abuses carried out in the area by security forces. One of the negotiators during the hostage crisis in Odisha, Dandapandy Mohanty, told Tehelka that the government has indeed failed to keep its word. “The government had promised fast-track courts, release of women prisoners and a halt of [anti-Maoist] operations. It has broken all these promises,” he said. According to the Odisha government’s estimates, there are nearly 1,500 Maoists in the state prisons, who have been arrested in the last decade. A collective movement inside prisons by them can put the state authorities in trouble.



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Silent Racial Attack On Own Countrymen – By Madhu Chandra (Apr 15, 2011, Countercurrents)

The case of Dhaula Kuan gangrape of 30 years old Mizo girl, an employee at BPO by five men in moving truck on midnight of November 23, 2010 had shocked the whole nation. It was not the first nor was last of the plights faced by people from North East India in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR). The city of Delhi has become a common place for rape and unsafe for women, particularly for those working at night. A woman is raped every 18 hours and molested every 14 hours during 2010 in Delhi according to Delhi police. The plight of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, attack and sexual violence against North East India women in Delhi and NCR are not new phenomenon, it has been repeatedly meted out to people from North East India and particularly women from the region have become easy target to sexual violence.

North East Support Centre & Helpline, an initiative of All India Christian Council and Operation Mercy India Foundation has been whistle-blowing for the last four years through advocacy, documentation, memorandum and delegation to various institutions and government offices, appealing to take up preventive measure to stop crimes, to end racial discrimination, sexual violence and human trafficking. But there is no intervention from law enforcing and government machineries. The plights of the people from North East India have become serious year after year and therefore preventive measure should be enacted effectively. To address the issue through authentic findings, North East Support Centre & Helpline conducted a research during January and February 2011 under the title, “North East Migration and Challenges in National Capital Cities.” The research project report of 40 pages is scheduled to release on International Women’s day on 8 March 2011 and copies will be made available for public usage.

The study was carried out through field interviews, questionnaire and literature research methodologies. The respondents are from two sources – First, 107 respondents from field interviews and questionnaire and second from 96 victims who have reported to North East Support Centre and Helpline during 2005 – 2011. The study was conducted by a team led by Madhu Chandra, Spokesperson of North East Support Centre & Helpline, as partial fulfillment of his doctorate program from South Asia Institute of Advance Christian Studies (SAIACS), Bangalore. The purpose of the study was to explore the trend of North East Indian migration and challenges faced in Delhi and NCR that through an academic research project, a documentation may be produced for law enforcing agents and concerned governments to introduce suitable laws, policies and plan of actions and implement them to end sexual violence, racial discrimination and challenges of human trafficking faced by North East India communities. …



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