IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 29th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

SIT has 9 versions of Narendra Modi’s meeting after 2002 Godhra riots (Apr 26, 2013, Indian Express)

There are a total of nine versions of the controversial February 27, 2002 meeting chaired by Narendra Modi in the wake of Sabarmati Express carnage in which the chief minister is alleged to have directed top officials and police officers to “let Hindus vent their anger”, according to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court. All these versions, including Modi’s own, will be submitted by the SIT before the metropolitan court, which is hearing a petition by Zakia Jafri challenging SIT’s closure report that gave a clean chit to the CM and 62 others who she had accused of complicity in the riots.

Zakia is the widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed by a mob at his residence in Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots. Sources in the SIT, which was asked to probe into Zakia’s allegations, told The Indian Express her version of the meeting quoted Modi asking officials “not to deal with the Hindu rioting mobs”. On the other hand, activist Teesta Setalvad had told the SIT, “Haren Pandya (slain BJP leader) had disclosed to us that CM had specifically said in the meeting that there would be Hindu anger tomorrow and that they should not do anything about it.” SIT told the court on Thursday that these two versions were “concocted” as Haren Pandya was not present in the meeting at all. SIT counsel R S Jamuar submitted that records of Pandya’s cellphone calls on February 27, 2002, showed his location in Ahmedabad.

In yet another version of the meeting, as stated in a report published by “Concerned Citizens Tribunal-Gujarat-2002”, Pandya has been quoted as an unnamed minister. “… At this meeting, specific instructions were give by him (Modi) in the presence of the state home minister on how the police should deal with the situation on the bandh day. We were informed that instructions were given by the chief minister not to take action against any Hindu reaction to Godhra,” the report states. This tribunal consisted of several retired justices of the Supreme Court, including VR Krishna Iyer, High Courts, and activist Aruna Roy, among others.

When Modi himself appeared before the SIT in 2010, he told A K Malhotra (an SIT member), “…As far as I can recollect, G S Raigar, the then ADPG (intelligence), was not present. Sanjiv Bhatt, the then DCP (intelligence) did not attend as this was a high-level meeting. None of my cabinet colleagues were present in the said meeting…”. Then there is the version by suspended DIG Sanjiv Bhatt, who filed an affidavit before the SC claiming he was present at this meeting and had heard Modi saying that Hindus be allowed to vent their anger. To top it all, there is the version by retired DGP R B Sreekumar, who presented as evidence of Modi’s “illegal orders” against minorities the entries from his own personal diary before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) while fighting his case for promotion.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1107915/

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Modi’s Karnataka visit:’Modi go back’ slogans rent the air (Apr 29, 2013, The Hindu)

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the city to campaign for the BJP was opposed by a group of Dalit and secular organisations on Sunday. The agitators, who said that Mr. Modi was responsible for the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, gathered under heavy police presence at Ananda Rao Circle under the banner of Nyakkagi Naavu.

“That Mr. Modi is not being made to campaign extensively in Karnataka is proof of the fact that his brand of divisive politics doesn’t find wide endorsement in Karnataka,” K.L. Ashok of Nyakkagi Naavu told the gathering. He added, “The BJP is trying to shield him from the wrath of the people of this State who have a long history of pro-people and secular movements.”

Even as the protesters shouted slogans saying “Modi go back” and “Karnataka is not Gujarat”, Mr. Ashok said, “The Hindutva experiment has well and truly failed in Karnataka. Even in places such as Hubli, Chikmagalur, Davangere and the coastal districts – where the Sangh Parivar is seen as powerful – there is a growing resentment toward the ideology which has resulted in vicious attacks against not just minorities but also women, Dalits and the youth.”

Dalit leader Indudar Honnapura dismissed the argument that a citizen of India has the right to travel anywhere he wishes. “Mr. Modi is not an ordinary citizen. He is accused of crimes against humanity and is solely responsible for the ‘genocide’ in Gujarat.” He expressed concern over the attempts of some corporations to “airbrush” Mr. Modi’s image by projecting him as a “messiah of development”.

Echoing this view, freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy said, “People of this State should say ‘no’ to Modi and ‘no’ to the BJP.” Lamenting the spate of corruption cases that were exposed during the BJP rule, he said that every marginalised and weak section of society had borne the brunt of that party’s divisive ideology. Mr. Ashok also rejected the claim that Gujarat has flourished economically under Mr. Modi.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/modi-go-back-slogans-rent-the-air/article4665348.ece

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Ishrat Jahan case: Gujarat govt shielding top policeman PP Pande, say sources (Apr 29, 2013, IBN)

Gujarat government and the state police are not cooperating with the investigation in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, said Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) sources on Monday.

The sources have also said former Joint Commissioner of Police PP Pande is involved in the conspiracy of the case. The government is shielding Pande, whose whereabouts are yet not known, sources added.

The probe agency is now set to request the court to issue arrest warrant against him, they said. Pande, who is a 1980 batch IPS officer, has been missing and has not joining investigations.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/ishrat-jahan-case-gujarat-govt-shielding-adgp-pp-pande-say-sources/388497-3-238.html

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Bangalore blast: TN Muslim groups doubt police claims (Apr 25, 2013, Indian Express)

The arrest of three persons by the police for allegedly facilitating the bomb blast in Bangalore last week has not gone down well with an umbrella group of Muslim organisations in Tamil Nadu. Representatives of the Federation of Muslim Organisations comprising 24 outfits on Wednesday met Tamil Nadu DGP K Ramanujam to express the concern among the community members over the arrest, which they alleged was without any evidence. Kichan Bukhari, Peer Mohideen and Basheer were arrested by the special investigation team of the Bangalore Police. Bukhari was an accused in the 1998 Coimbatore serial blast case and had spent over a decade in prison.

Federation coordinator Mohammad Haneefa condemned the blast and welcomed a fair probe. “However, we have doubts about the allegations against the three persons. Bukhari was released after the court found him innocent. Since then, he has been involved in offering legal aid to 48 innocent Muslim prisoners wrongly accused in the serial blasts,” he said. Haneefa said he has been regularly in touch with Bukhari. “I personally find it difficult to believe that he was part of the blast,” he said. The federation would extend legal aid to Bukhari and the other two. A few of the organisations have sought CBI probe into the blast case.

Meanwhile, Bukhari’s wife, Jameela Banu, has filed a writ petition, Habeas Corpus, in the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court. She has claimed that her husband has no connection with the blast. She said since his arrest, the family does not know about his whereabouts. Jameela said Bukhari, as the coordinator of Charitable Trust of Minorities, has been engaged in providing legal support to innocent Muslim prisoners. He was to go to Delhi in the next few days for a hearing in Supreme Court over case related to Coimbatore blasts.

Bukhari’s wife alleged that her family was being harassed by the police, which forced them to shift from Coimbatore to his native Melapalayam in Tirunelveli. Last Thursday, Bukhari was questioned by the police team probing a two-year-old case involving the seizure of a pipe bomb from under a culvert through which the convoy of senior BJP leader LK Advani was to pass. Though Bukhari told them he had no links with any suspects, officials threatened to foist a case against him, she alleged.

On Monday morning, a DySP and two inspectors detained Bukhari and two others from Melapalayam bus stand at about 5 am. The family has not been informed about the arrest nor do they know where he was being held, said Jameela. Bukhari’s mother, Thoulath Beevi, told the media from their residence at Melapalayam that her son faced troubles from the police even after being released from the prison. She said every time there was a blast or seizure of explosives, the police would include him as a suspect and detain him for questioning. But every time he is eventually released as there was no evidence to link him to the cases, she said.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1107335/

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Ajmer blast accused says right-wing outfit did it (Apr 22, 2013, Hindustan Times)

In a crucial breakthrough, an accused in the Ajmer Sharif blast case has confessed before a magistrate to being part of the right-wing terror group that planted two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the dargah. Out of the two IEDs left in the Dargah, one exploded killing three people on October 11, 2007.

“Bhavesh Patel, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Delhi last month, gave a confessional statement before a magistrate in Jaipur under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code which makes it admissible as evidence in the court, unlike a statement made before a police officer,” said a source.

Bhavesh was also accused of throwing pipe bombs on a mosque in Bharuch, his native city in Gujarat, on the next day of the Godhra train fire of February 27, 2002. According to sources, Bhavesh has said in his statement that some seven or eight days before the Ajmer Sharif blast, Suresh Bhai (Suresh Nair, an absconding accused in the Ajmer Sharif case) invited him for a visit to Ajmer. Once he accepted the invitation, Bhavesh was asked to reach Godhra.

On October 10, he reached Godhra and met Suresh Nair who had come with Mukesh Vasani and Harshad alias Raj (already arrested in the Ajmer Shairf case) and three more persons. The group reached Ajmer the next day at around 11am. The group went to the Dargah in the evening and planted two IEDs there.

Bhavesh also revealed that he didn’t know the real purpose of visit. It was only after they sat in the bus to return to Ahmedabad, that Suresh Nair told him that they had gone to the Dargah to plant bombs. Nair told him that the plan was hatched by Manoj Bhai (an alias used by Sunil Joshi, a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak and the leader of the group), who was killed by his own men almost two months after the Dargah blast on December 29, 2007.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1048729.aspx

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Two killed after violence in Marakkanam near Chennai (Apr 26, 2013, Times of India)

Two people were found dead after a violent clash between PMK cadres and dalit villagers on Thursday afternoon at Marakanam in Villupuram district. Police said Vivek, 17, from Thanjavur, who was proceeding to attend a youth conference hosted by PMK’s parent organization Vanniyar Sangam at Mamallapuram, was knocked down by a car on the East Coast Road near Marakanam. Another youth identified as Selvaraj, 25, from Ariyalur in central Tamil Nadu, was found dead with head injuries at Kazhikuppam village near Marakanam on Thursday evening. Police registered cases under Section 304 A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian penal code and began investigation.

Police registered seven cases against 1,512 ‘unidentified’ people from both sides on charges of rioting, possessing deadly weapons, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons, criminal force to deter public servant from discharging duty, criminal intimidation and torching of houses, buses and two-wheelers. Police also invoked various sections of the Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act 1992 and Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the unidentified culprits.

Three people identified as Gnanavel, 28 from Koliyanur, Srinivasan, 29 from Thirukovilyur and Veeramani, 25 from Neyveli sustained injuries when police fired rubber bullets in the air to disperse the clashing groups. They were admitted to Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer). A police constable Prabhu sustained minor injuries in the stone-pelting. He was treated as an outpatient at Jipmer. Twenty-five villagers sustained injuries in the clash.

Police said PMK cadres, who were on their way to attend the youth conference at Mahaballipuram, stopped near a bus stop at a dalit village near Marakanam and consumed alcohol. When a few villagers questioned them, the PMK men assaulted the villagers and fled the scene. The injured villagers alerted others in their hamlet and a large number of dalits gathered on the East Coast Road. They blocked the road demanding that the police arrest the culprits.

The situation worsened when scores of PMK men, who were stranded following the blockade, clashed with the dalit villagers. A police team that reached the spot burst tear gas shells and fired rubber bullets to disperse them. Superintendent of police (Villupuram) S Manogaran fired three rounds in the air and the violent mob dispersed. However, later unidentified miscreants torched eight houses, two Tamil Nadu state transport corporation buses and a Puducherry road transport corporation bus, a shop. Another gang of miscreants pelted stones and damaged the wind screens of three private buses and a police jeep.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-04-26/chennai/38842129_1_pmk-vanniyar-sangam-villagers

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BJP MLA jailed on colleague’s complaint of caste remark (Apr 23, 2013, Indian Express)

Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, Kulwant Rana, was arrested and sent to judicial custody on Monday, after he surrendered in court following a non-bailable warrant against him over an alleged casteist remark. The NBW was issued as Rana failed to appear in court during the earlier hearings of the case filed against him by a fellow BJP member, Karan Singh. Singh, BJP’s Kisan Morcha member, filed an FIR against Rana on January 24 alleging that the MLA had slapped him and made casteist remarks against him during the announcement of results of a local political body election.

The court of Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau sent Rana to six day judicial custody and dismissed his plea for anticipatory bail. The court noted that he had been chargesheeted under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which does not have provision of anticipatory bail.The court directed the investigating officer to appear before it on the next date of hearing, while also issuing notice to the complainant. The matter will come up for hearing on April 26. Singh in his complaint had alleged that Rana had raised questions about his presence at the mandal elections, and then made casteist remarks about his involvement in local politics.

A mandal is the basic level of a party organisation, with at least four mandals in a legislative assembly constituency. The alleged altercation happened during the declaration of result for election of the president of Rithala mandal. Singh claimed Rana slapped him before other party members, who intervened and stopped the argument. Meanwhile, BJP sources said the complaint was “politically motivated”, where a section of Rana’s own party acted against their MLA. Party sources called the case an outcome of “rivalry among Jat leaders.”

A senior party leader said the conspiracy was hatched by a rival group in BJP. “In the party, talks of Rana being general secretary was doing the rounds. There is sufficient reason for other leaders to feel threatened,” a senior BJP leader said. Reposing trust in Rana, BJP Delhi president Vijay Goel said, “I have spoken with Rana, who claimed that case was politically motivated to malign his image. He would continue to fight for truth.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1106221/

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Even animals won’t do what cops are doing: Supreme Court on rising police atrocities (Apr 25, 2013, Indian Express)

Taking strong exception to a police officer slapping a young girl during a recent protest against rape of a minor, the Supreme Court today sought explanation from the Delhi Police chief on the incident. A Bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi directed the Police Commissioner to file an affidavit to explain why a young girl was beaten up during the protest against the rape of five-year-old here. Also taking cognisance of another incident of police brutality in Aligarh where a 65-year-old woman was assaulted, the bench directed the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary to file an affidavit on the incident.

Describing such incidents of police excesses as “insult to the country”, the apex court said they have to be prevented. “Even an animal won’t do what the police officers are doing everyday in different parts of the country,” the Bench said while referring to the Aligarh incident. “Is your government left without shame?” the Bench asked Gaurav Bhatia, the counsel appearing for the UP government. The court, while slamming the state government, also recalled the resignation by Lal Bahadur Shastri from the post of the Railway Minister taking moral responsibility following a railway accident.

“Where has your sense gone?” the bench said, adding, “How can police officers beat an unarmed lady?” The court made the observations with regard to a recent protest at a Delhi hospital during which an ACP slapped a young girl at least four times. The ACP was later suspended. The second incident which the bench took note of was reported from Aligarh where an elderly woman was assaulted by the police during a protest against the alleged rape and murder of a six-year-old girl.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1107476/

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Aarushi-Hemraj murder: CBI DIG prevented arrest of Nupur Talwar, officer to court (Apr 24, 2013, Indian Express)

There was evidence against Nupur Talwar in Aarushi-Hemraj murder case but senior CBI officers prevented her arrest, agency investigator told special court here during cross examination. CBI Additional SP AGL Kaul, who led the second probe team in the sensational Noida double murder case, was asked by the defence counsel to explain why Aarushi’s mother Nupur was not arrested if there was enough evidence against her.

Kaul said his senior, DIG Neelabh Kishore, did not support the view and stopped him from arresting her. When asked if he had filed a complaint against Kishore, Kaul said he (Kishore) was my senior and if he did not permit, arrest could not have been made. He also said Nupur Talwar’s role was given in the closure report filed before the Magistrate. With today’s proceedings, Kaul’s deposition before the special court here has been completed. He was the last prosecution witness to be produced before the court, CBI counsel R K Saini said here.

Earlier during his deposition, Kaul had said he had enough circumstantial evidence against Rajesh’s brother Dinesh Talwar and family friend Sunil Choudhary to file charge sheet against them but seniors Kishore and Joint Director Javeed Ahmed felt there is not enough material to file the chargesheet and hence he (Kaul) filed final report (closure). Kaul had yesterday told the special court that according to investigations, Rajesh Talwar had found his daughter and domestic servant in “objectionable position” and killed them using his golf stick and a sharp-edged weapon.

14-year-old Aarushi was found dead with her throat slit in her bedroom on May 16, 2008. The initial suspicion went on Hemraj whose body was later found in their terrace at Jalvayu Vihar in Noida on the outskirts of Delhi. The allegations of involvement in the murder have been refuted by the Talwars who have claimed innocence in the matter.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1107029/

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State govt orders inquiry into suicide of Dalit family (Apr 25, 2013, Statesman)

With the death of the fourth member of the Dalit family which entered a suicide pact in a Haryana village following the rape and alleged abduction of the 15-year-old victim, the state government appears to have taken some action with the transfer of the concerned station house officer (SHO) and order of a inquiry into the matter.

Five members of the family had consumed poison on Monday in Hisar district apparently under police pressure to produce the missing girl in court for evidence in the rape case and on account of poverty. While the victim’s mother (38) and sister (13) died on Monday, a brother (9) died on Tuesday. The second brother (11) died on Wednesday while the 40-year-old father, who works as rickshaw-puller, is in a stable condition.

His eldest daughter was raped in May last year and then she went missing from her village, Bheri Akbarpur, near Uklana town of the district. The local police had allegedly been harassing the family to trace the missing girl by 30 April. The deputy commissioner, Hisar, Mr Amit Kumar Agarwal, has ordered an inquiry into the incident under ADC Mr Ashok Kumar Garg. The SHO, Mr Jai Bhagwan has also been transferred for fair probe in the case.

Police suspect the father’s role in the suicide pact as he is the only one to survive while the four others, alleged to have consumed Celphos with him, died. He may be interrogated after getting discharged from the hospital.

Though police denies having pressurised the family to trace the girl, some reports said they (police) suspected the father had reached a compromise with the accused and married her off. But as the girl did not come back even after the death of her four family members, the assumption appears to have been proven wrong.

http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=453926&catid=36

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Opinions and Editorials

Mainstreaming Modi – By Avinash Kumar (May 4, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)

We have all heard of the fairytale where the frog turned into a prince when kissed by a princess. A somewhat similar situation seems to be upon us with media willing to kiss and turn Narendra Modi into “prince charming”. This means not just hailing Modi in some abstract way, but more significantly turning mainstream and acceptable what he represents. In the past few months, the mainstream media has gone all over town telling us how Modi is now “mainstream” and not a pariah anymore. The reasons for this change in perception range from how even the United Kingdom and the European Union have “normalised” relations with him, that he has been elected thrice in a row to the chief ministership of Gujarat, which surely speaks of his abilities as an “efficient” and “able” administrator, that Gujarat has become corporate India’s favourite investment destination, and most importantly, that he is the guy who can take “decisions” and not keep the nation waiting for action. …

When protesters were laying siege to Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in Delhi where Modi was delivering a speech to students inside its premises, the NDTV news channel was running an online poll asking “Rate Narendra Modi’s speech at SRCC”. Articles with titles like “Can Modi Deliver at the National Stage?” are being printed by the dozen. In a sense, therefore, the “normalisation” of Modi on the national scene is already complete even before he has been formally nominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its prime ministerial candidate. The point of this piece, however, is not to accuse these mainstream liberals of complicity with Modi, but to look at the reasons behind why this has happened and at a pace that defies logic. Some clues to the same can be found in a recent piece which appeared on the edit page of Times of India written by Arvind Virmani (18h April, 2013) who incidentally served as the chief economic advisor to the first United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) government. In this piece, he uses three criteria to compare the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress with the Modi-led BJP namely, social inclusion, economic growth & development, and domestic and national security.

While giving credit for better results on the first criteria to the Congress, Virmani rates the BJP higher on the other two. Hence the “tentative score for Rahul-led Congress is A, B+ and B on the three fronts with a net score of B+. Modi-led BJP’s scores, meanwhile, are C+, A and A- with a net of B+”. He goes on to emphasise the importance of “governance” and “economic growth” for both the parties. An economist who till recently served under the Congress led government is rating the “Modi-led BJP” higher on two of his three criteria. This underlines the fact that there is a near consensus among policy makers and the mainstream media over the way the country should be run. Barring some minor tweaking with words like “inclusion”, the prescription remains the same. That is, a “growth led trajectory” obsessed with percentages and numbers, a large-scale withdrawal of the State even from basic services, a wilful neglect of sectors like agriculture and small industries (which provide employment to the largest number of people even today) and a unending belief in the ability of the corporate sector to be the panacea for all ills. Hence there is also agreement in terms of emphasis like “good governance” and “efficient administration” even among people who seem politically divergent.

But the question, why is the Modi-led BJP preferred over the Congress, still remains? Is it simply due to a chain of scams which have plagued the current regime over the last few years, or is it something beyond that? Surely, the BJP has found itself ensnared in as many scams as the Congress party. In my view, there are two specific reasons that explain Modi’s “normalisation” by the corporate groups and that national media. One, it shows the success of the Modi-led BJP’s selective interpretation of issues such as growth, governance, peace and security, and how these have now been mainstreamed. To come to “peace and security” first, a constant projection of “threat-perception” both from within and outside — meaning Muslims and sometimes Maoists from within and Pakistan from outside — is now complete and mainstream. So much so that during the current Congress-led regime we have suddenly witnessed a flurry of decisions confirming capital punishment. Those in power have to show they are “decisive” just like Modi was in 2002. … Another magic word in this context is “governance”. What does it mean under Modi? That he cut down all bureaucratic rigmarole so that the Tatas could set up their Nano car factory within a matter of days. Or that thousands of investors could flock down to the green pastures of Gujarat (never mind occasional court rulings that harass an Adani or a Mundhra for the violation of laws and community’s rights). Infrastructure, ports, highways and electricity to urbanised parts of Gujarat are the hallmarks of his governance, but not the fact that he “governed” over the massacre of more than a thousand Muslims, or that he “allowed” scores of people, mainly Muslims, to be killed in fake encounters. Modi’s governance means bureaucrats fear him and do what he says without questioning. In these times of the ideology of less government this is exactly what is loved by the corporate sector and the media. This interpretation of governance obviously does not include the prevalent high malnutrition and anemia rates among women and children and the worsening situation of Dalits and Tribals in the state. It also does not include large-scale displacement of communities in the name of “development”.

Modi’s panacea for growth is more upfront on issues such as a voucher system for education and reducing government expenditure on basic services like health and education, thereby leaving the masses to fend for themselves. With the growth rate plummeting to below 5%, the “threat perception” which may finally turn the tide in favour of Modi is that of an economic downturn. As long as the sailing was smooth under the UPA regime the corporate and media could keep Modi away. With the threat of falling economic growth profits cannot be compromised on any count. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Hence the clamor for a decisive and tough leader like Modi who can help us attain the mythical 10% growth rate. If this means weakening our civil and political rights, so be it. If it means denying justice to those killed and displaced, so be it. But for this it is necessary that we “humanise” Modi, divest him of the accusations of being complicit in killings and paper over the human suffering that his model of development has entailed for many people. It is only by erasing the entire memory of the 2002 riots and their aftermath that Modi can be made acceptable for the elections.

http://www.epw.in/web-exclusives/mainstreaming-modi.html

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BJP Promises The Moon. And Some More – By Imran Khan (May 4, 2013, Tehelka)

On 19 April, the BJP unveiled its manifesto for the upcoming Assembly election. Among other things that the party promised to woo voters was 25 kg of rice at 1 per kg to poor families and free laptops to students. While these sops are aimed at attracting rural and urban voters, actual number crunching show that not much thought has been applied while making these promises. There are more than 88.5 lakh Below Poverty Line (BPL) cardholders in Karnataka, and the BJP manifesto vaguely promises 25 kg rice per family but specifies neither the frequency of distribution nor the number of beneficiaries. “More than 38 percent of the people of this country earn less than Rs 65 per day. Giving them rice at 1 per kg is the most basic thing a state can do,” says DV Sadananda Gowda, former BJP chief minister.

However, analysts point at the subsidy bulge the state will have to incur in order to meet the expenses. Karnataka is quite close to the upper limit of the fiscal deficit, says Vikas Kumar, an economist who teaches at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru. Interestingly, during the 2013-14 Budget presented by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar in January, Rs 1,200 crore was already earmarked for food subsidy, which would have taken care among other things, the Rs 1 kg rice scheme. However, the Budget does not indicate the coverage of the rice scheme. “We cannot be sure if the amount stated was entirely for rice or other things like grain also,” adds Kumar.

The manifesto, which was released by senior BJP leader Arun Jaitely in the presence of Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, state unit BJP chief Prahllad Joshi, party General Secretary H N Ananth Kumar, also promises the distribution of free laptops to more than 16 lakh students, and free English speaking courses to students of Kannada-medium schools, to attract middle-class voters. With each laptop priced at Rs 25,000, the state exchequer would incur a cost of nearly 4,000 crore to meet its promise. “Since the manifesto is vague, a precise analysis is not possible. For instance, it does not tell us whether all Pre-University College (PUC) or graduation students will get laptops in the first year after the election,” says Shantha Kumar, a developmental economist.

http://tehelka.com/bjp-promises-the-moon-and-some-more/

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Reading the Riot Act – By Hemchhaya De (Apr 24, 2013, The Telegraph)

The much-awaited Communal Violence Bill might finally see the light of day by the end of this year, if all goes well in Parliament. According to K. Rahman Khan, Union minister for minority affairs, the home ministry is working hard to give the bill, originally introduced in 2005, a fresh lease of life. “The government wants to bring in the Communal Violence Bill,” he says. “The home ministry is holding consultations with the ministries concerned, including the minority affairs ministry.” Khan goes on to add that a draft incorporating the suggestions of the standing committee, which scrutinised the original Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill under Sushma Swaraj, and the National Advisory Council (NAC), can be expected in the winter session of Parliament. The chief objective of the bill, as stated by the then home affairs minister, Shivraj Patil, is “empowering the State Governments and the Central Government to take effective measures to provide for the prevention and control of communal violence and to rehabilitate the victims of such violence, for speedy investigation and trial of such offences”.

According to John Dayal, social activist and a member of the National Integration Council headed by the Prime Minister, certain objections to the 2005 bill were raised when the government presented its version in the Rajya Sabha. “It was clear that the administration was empowering governments and the police rather than protecting victims,” he says. Subsequently, the NAC was tasked with drafting another version of the bill, which came to be known as the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011. Dayal, who was involved with the process of drafting the bill, says this draft, after being “formatted” by additional solicitor-general Indira Jaising, was put in the public domain a couple of years ago to garner public opinion. Activists say that since 2011, the draft bill has been in limbo. But many of them are now upbeat that something is perhaps being done to revive it. “For the moment at least the much awaited bill has been pulled out of cold storage,” says Teesta Setalvad, founder of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an NGO that fights for victims of Gujarat riots. She hopes the government will not deviate greatly from the NAC version of the bill.

In fact, CJP and 30 other non-government organisations have been running the Justice For All campaign across the country over the past few months to put pressure on the Centre to start the legislative process for passing the Communal Violence Bill. “The campaign has been endorsed by Justices P.B. Sawant, Justice Kolse Patil, Justice S.A.H. Raza and others. We have had at least 15 public meetings so far across the country,” adds Setalvad. Experts say that the NAC draft is pretty comprehensive while addressing issues such as fixing the accountability of public servants during communal violence, hate propaganda and stipulating enhanced punishments for perpetrators. Apart from proposing the formation of a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation, it lays down definitions of “targeted violence” and “torture”, among other things. For instance, Section 9, which deals with organised communal and targeted violence, says, “Whoever, being an individual, singly or jointly with others or being a part of an association or on behalf of an association or acting under the influence of an association, engages in continuing unlawful activity of a widespread or systematic nature knowingly directed against a group or part thereof, by virtue of their membership of that group, by use of violence or threat of violence or intimidation or coercion or by committing sexual assault or other unlawful means, is said to commit the offence of organised communal and targeted violence.”

But bringing in the law may not be a walk in the park for the government. The BJP and some of its allies have been expressing reservations on the draft legislation for a long time. A few days ago, even the Shiromoni Akali Dal told the media that the party objected to the bill’s “excessive centralisation of powers” and would oppose it. K. Rahman Khan, the minister, seems keen to allay such fears. “All such issues have been properly addressed in the standing committee’s recommendations,” he says. Another long-standing objection by parties such as the BJP is that the draft bill is anti-majority or anti-Hindu. Activists say that this is a baseless accusation. “It’s not a question of minorities versus the majority,” explains John Dayal. “In defining groups, it was clear to us that most groups could be in a minority in some state or another, and in certain circumstances. Though Muslims, Sikhs and Christians were the national minorities, even Hindus were a minority in as many as seven of the 35 states and Union territories of India.” Besides, as the draft states, the objective is to “prevent and control targeted violence, including mass violence, against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and religious minorities in any State in the Union of India, and linguistic minorities in any State in the Union of India”. Even so, certain organisations fighting for communal violence victims are quite sceptical about the efficacy of the Communal Violence Bill. “What good can such bills ensure if the mindset of our people regarding minorities doesn’t change,” wonders Kamna Vohra, advocate, Supreme Court of India, and a member of Sikhs For Justice, an NGO fighting legal battles on behalf of the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. “We have seen how riot victims in minority communities live in fear and are often too scared to fight for justice. Can such bills help them?”

Of course, the draft bill will be of little use to victims of communal violence that occurred in the past. “A law is not retrospective in its application,” says Setalvad. “But we believe that such legislation will be a powerful deterrent to the outbreak of targeted violence and mass violence in future.” She adds that once the bill becomes a law, it can actually arm public servants “against bending to the will of the illegal and unconstitutional instructions of their political masters”. Needless to say, all eyes are now on the UPA government – whether they will bring in a stronger draft to score brownie points before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls or stop short of tabling the bill for fear of the BJP turning the “anti-majority concern” in its favour. Says Dayal, “At the end of the day, it’s for the government to decide which political discourse will be more interesting to them – caving in to the mobilisation of BJP forces or ensuring the protection of minorities in the country.”

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130424/jsp/opinion/story_16820549.jsp

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The case that saved Indian democracy – By Arvind P. Datar (Apr 24, 2013, The Hindu)

Exactly forty years ago, on April 24, 1973, Chief Justice Sikri and 12 judges of the Supreme Court assembled to deliver the most important judgment in its history. The case of Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala had been heard for 68 days, the arguments commencing on October 31, 1972, and ending on March 23, 1973. The hard work and scholarship that had gone into the preparation of this case was breathtaking. Literally hundreds of cases had been cited and the then Attorney-General had made a comparative chart analysing the provisions of the Constitutions of 71 different countries! All this effort was to answer just one main question: was the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution unlimited? In other words, could Parliament alter, amend, abrogate any part of the Constitution even to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights?

Article 368, on a plain reading, did not contain any limitation on the power of Parliament to amend any part of the Constitution. There was nothing that prevented Parliament from taking away a citizen’s right to freedom of speech or his religious freedom. But the repeated amendments made to the Constitution raised a doubt: was there any inherent or implied limitation on the amending power of Parliament? The 703-page judgment revealed a sharply divided court and, by a wafer-thin majority of 7:6, it was held that Parliament could amend any part of the Constitution so long as it did not alter or amend “the basic structure or essential features of the Constitution.” This was the inherent and implied limitation on the amending power of Parliament. This basic structure doctrine, as future events showed, saved Indian democracy and Kesavananda Bharati will always occupy a hallowed place in our constitutional history.

It is supremely ironical that the basic structure theory was first introduced by Justice Mudholkar eight years earlier by referring to a 1963 decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Chief Justice Cornelius – yes, Pakistan had a Christian Chief Justice and, later, a Hindu justice as well – had held that the President of Pakistan could not alter the “fundamental features” of their Constitution. The Kesavananda Bharati case was the culmination of a serious conflict between the judiciary and the government, then headed by Mrs Indira Gandhi. In 1967, the Supreme Court took an extreme view, in the Golak Nath case, that Parliament could not amend or alter any fundamental right. Two years later, Indira Gandhi nationalised 14 major banks and the paltry compensation was made payable in bonds that matured after 10 years!

This was struck down by the Supreme Court, although it upheld the right of Parliament to nationalise banks and other industries. A year later, in 1970, Mrs Gandhi abolished the Privy Purses. This was a constitutional betrayal of the solemn assurance given by Sardar Patel to all the erstwhile rulers. This was also struck down by the Supreme Court. Ironically, the abolition of the Privy Purses was challenged by the late Madhavrao Scindia, who later joined the Congress Party. Smarting under three successive adverse rulings, which had all been argued by N.A. Palkhivala, Indira Gandhi was determined to cut the Supreme Court and the High Courts to size and she introduced a series of constitutional amendments that nullified the Golak Nath, Bank Nationalisation and Privy Purses judgments. In a nutshell, these amendments gave Parliament uncontrolled power to alter or even abolish any fundamental right.

These drastic amendments were challenged by Kesavananda Bharati, the head of a math in Kerala, and several coal, sugar and running companies. On the other side, was not only the Union of India but almost all the States which had also intervened. This case had serious political overtones with several heated exchanges between N.A. Palkhivala for the petitioners and H.M. Seervai and Niren De, who appeared for the State of Kerala and the Union of India respectively. The infamous Emergency was declared in 1975 and, by then, eight new judges had been appointed to the Supreme Court. A shocking attempt was made by Chief Justice Ray to review the Kesavananda Bharati decision by constituting another Bench of 13 judges. In what is regarded as the finest advocacy that was heard in the Supreme Court, Palkhivala made an impassioned plea for not disturbing the earlier view. …

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-case-that-saved-indian-democracy/article4647800.ece

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Compromised Bureau of Investigation – Editorial (Apr 27, 2013, The Hindu)

The CBI’s formal acknowledgment to the Supreme Court that, on the demand of Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, it shared the status report of its investigations on the Coalgate scam with bureaucrats in the PMO and Coal Ministry shows how deeply the agency stands compromised. The fact that the CBI Director has now assured the court that the bureau’s future status reports “shall not be shared with any [member of the] political executive” is ample proof that the CBI knew its original action was a serious transgression of procedure. But for the fact that the story got leaked, the CBI would probably have continued “consulting” the political executive.

While sharing the status report with the Law Minister prior to filing it in the Supreme Court is bad enough, the fact that the CBI was happy to have its findings shown to bureaucrats from the very ministries that are under investigation borders on interference with the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court must now reprimand and punish those responsible for this subversion of the court’s directions, especially since ensuring the CBI’s independence of action has been its fundamental objective from the time of the Vineet Narain case. More importantly, the Law Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office must now be asked to provide affidavits on the matter and undertake never to interfere in the work of the CBI in this manner.

This is not a first for CBI when it comes to big cases. Even where the 2G investigation is concerned, the agency has shown signs of being subservient to the political leadership. After an initial burst of action, it delayed its probe in the spectrum scam till after the release of the CAG’s report made further inaction politically untenable. While concluding in its chargesheet of April 2011 that former Telecom Minister A. Raja “misled” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it ignored documents that suggested the government approved of Mr. Raja’s actions. Apart from shoddy investigation, the 2G investigation shows the multiplicity of contradiction and instances where even file notings have been reproduced wrongly in the chargesheet.

The CBI’s probes into opposition leaders like Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Jagan Reddy have also raised eyebrows. But in Coalgate, the premier investigating agency has been caught red-handed taking the highest court for a ride despite being under its constant monitor and supervision. The intention is clearly to subvert justice and undermine an agency tasked by the Supreme Court with ensuring probity. The people of India deserve to know the identity of all those within government who undertook – or tolerated – this latest assault on the CBI’s ‘independence.’

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/compromised-bureau-of-investigation/article4657968.ece

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Violence Against Women: Why Is It Always The Worst? – By Aakanksha Mohan sharma (Apr 29, 2013, Countercurrents)

Every time, doctors treat rape victims, they say this is the worst they had ever seen…Every time! It is always a worst level of domestic violence which leads her to commit suicide… Every time! (Yes, it is important)… It has to be really worst when fifty female fetuses are found in a well…Worst, Every time! (Can’t help)… Why our standards of brutality with women have come down to this point, where it has to be worst to be counted? Why it is worst at so many fronts? India ranks 132 out of 187 countries on the gender inequality index, lower than other South Asian counterparts like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal, and Bhutan, according to the United Nations Human Development Report 2013. Yes, it’s worst!

According to the study, only 26.6 % of Indian women above the age of 15 received secondary education as compared to 50.4 % males. In the US, 94.7 % of women were educated to the secondary level as compared to 94.3 % men. The report revealed shocking figures for country’s labor force participation, which showed only 26.6% women are part of the labor force as compared to 80.7 % men. Only, 10.9 % got to sit in the Parliament. The report further says that the high male sex ratio at birth reflects women’s status in society and patriarchal mores and prejudices which are an aspect of deep-rooted social-cultural beliefs is one of the major reasons of this crisis.

According to last year’s National family health survey, 51 % of Indian men and 54 % of Indian women find it’s justifiable for a man to beat his wife and around 40 % of women have experienced some form of abuse from their husbands- pushing, slapping and hair pulling, punching, kicking, choking or burning. Yes, it’s worst! India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world where educated and well-dressed women walking on the roads are a regular sight. But this is just a superficial layer as the problem is deeply-rooted. The survey of world’s 20 biggest economies by Trust Law, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters ranked India as the worst country to be a woman last year. Worst than Saudi Arabia. Yes, it’s worst! The survey polled 370 gender specialists and found Canada to be the best place amongst G 20 nations and Saudi Arabia second worst after India topping the list!

The report says that there is a deep–rooted mindset that women are inferior and must be kept inside and away from decision making. It also highlights the tendency of dangerous acceptance of discrimination and violence against women in the society. It too lists the fact that 52% women think it’s justifiable for a man to beat his wife (UNICEF 2012). The problem is not confined to the roads and streets of the nation, where women are mostly seen unsafe. But, actually it’s inside the boundaries of our homes where the mindset is born and shaped which makes women vulnerable in any situation and anywhere- at home, work, roads, buses, malls, fields, anywhere… For instance, Washington based International Center for research on Women revealed in a 2011 survey of gender equality that more than 65 % of Indian men believe that women sometimes deserved to be beaten or must be kept devoid of her opinions, and that to keep the family together, she must learn to tolerate violence- emotional, sexual or physical! Yes, it’s worst!

Up to 50 Million girls are thought to be missing over the past century due to female infanticide and feticide, according to UN Population fund. Fight for survival for a woman starts right from the womb which is mostly lost! The sex-ratio is badly skewed. Parents desperation for sons has left the country with 914 girls aged six and under per 1,000 boys according to 2011 census, down from 927 in 2001. This is one of the contributory factors of the unleashing sexual violence in the country. It’s crucial to understand that such crimes against women are not only gender specific social crimes but crimes against democracy and humanity which can result in bigger problems, the problems which men will have to face… The worst is being done against her and apparently getting worse day by day…What’s needed? Better laws? Measures to enhance safety programs? Gender sensitization programs? Police and policy reforms? Sexual and gender awareness? Or a revolution? As rightly said by Justice Katju “Law alone can play only 20 % role in empowering women in this country. 80 % will be changed by education, changing the mindset, the mentality of men who are still to a large extent feudal-minded which means they regard women as inferior”. Undoubtedly, a revolution is required to make India a some what better place to live in. And, unfortunately that may take long to come…

http://www.countercurrents.org/msharma290413.htm

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