IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 29th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

17 ‘scams’ that Narendra Modi doesn’t want Lok Ayukta to probe (Aug 27, 2011, DNA India)

Earlier this year, Gujarat Congress had submitted to the Governor Dr Kamla and the president a detailed list of ’17 scams’ that had allegedly taken place under the Modi government. It demanded probe by an independent agency. Last week, when it was getting apparent that a Lok Ayukta for the state was close, the state government set up an enquiry commission to be headed by retired Justice MB Shah. The following is the list of alleged scams submitted by the Congress to the Gujarat governor and the president:

Land for Nano plant at low rate : The state government allotted 1100 acres of land to Tata Motors Ltd (TML) to set up the Nano plant near Sanand. The land was allotted allegedly at Rs900 per square metre while its market rate was around Rs10,000 per square metre. Simply put, the government gave Tata Motors total monetary benefit of Rs33,000 crore. Land sold cheap to Adani Group : Land was allotted to Adani Group for the Mundra Port & Mundra Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Re1 per square metre. This is grossly lower than the market rate. Cheap land for ind, not for air force: The Gujarat government allotted 3,76,561 square metre of land to real estate developer K Raheja at Rs470 per square metre, while the South-West Air Command (SWAC) was asked to pay Rs1100 per square metre for 4,04,700 square metre land.

Agricultuure University land allotted for hotel: State government allotted 65,000 square metres of land belonging to Navsari Agriculture University in Surat to Chatrala Indian Hotel Group for a hotel project despite objection from the institute. This deal was allegedly brokered by the chief minister through his office causing a loss of Rs426 crore. Border land for chemical firms: A huge plot of land near the Pakistan border was allotted to salt chemical companies said to be close to BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu. Essar Group’s encroachment: State government has allotted 2.08 lakh square metres of land to Essar Steel. Part of the disputed land is CRZ and forest land that cannot be allotted as per Supreme Court guidelines.

Land given to Bharat Hotel: Prime land was allotted to Bharat Hotels without auction on Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway in Ahmedabad. The company has been allotted 25,724 square metre land. Corruption in allotment of lakes: State government, in 2008, awarded contracts for fishing activities in 38 lakes without inviting any tenders; bidders were ready to pay Rs25 lakh per lake. Land given to L&T: Larson & Toubro (L&T) was allotted 80 hectare land at Hazira at the rate of Re1 per square metre. Land allotted to other industries: Instead of auctioning prime land in the major cities of the state, the Gujarat government had allotted the land to some industries and industrialists who had signed MoUs in the five editions of VGGIS. Cattle feed fraud: The Gujarat government had purchased cattle feed from a blacklisted company at Rs240 per 5 kg whereas the market rate is just Rs120 to Rs140 per 5 kg.

Scam in Anganwadi centres: Two bidders apparently formed a cartel and bid for supplying supplementary Nutrition Extruded Fortified Blended Food (EFBF) to Anganwadi centres of the state. One company bid for three zones, while the other for only two. Guidelines were violated, causing the state exchequer a loss of Rs92 crore. GSPC: Despite an investment of Rs4933.50 crore, GSPC has been able to earn only Rs290 crore from the 13 out of 51 blocks of oil and gas discovered by the company. Contractual relations of Geo-Global and GSPC deserve investigation since Geo-Global is to be hired for a higher fee, above profit-sharing. Luxury aircraft used by CM : Instead of using commercial flights or state-owned aircraft and helicopter, chief minister Narendra Modi had used private luxury aircraft for around 200 trips in five years. The cost had been borne by the beneficiary industries. Rs500 crore SSY scam: The Rs6237.33 crore Sujalam Sufalam Yojana (SSY) announced in 2003 was to be completed by 2005 but it is still not completed. Public accounts committee of Gujarat assembly unanimously prepared a report indicating a scam of overRs500 crore which was not tabled. Indigold Refinery land scam: Around 36.25 acre farmland in Kutch district was purchased and sold in violation of all norms by Indigold Refinery Ltd. Swan Energy: 49% of the shares of Pipavav Power Station of GSPC were sold to Swan Energy without inviting any tenders.



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Gujarat minister murder: All accused acquitted (Aug 29, 2011, IBN)

The Gujarat High Court on Monday dropped murder charges against all 12 accused in the killing of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya. The court has said that there is no evidence to press murder charges against the accused. The court, however, said that they can be convicted for criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder. The court also slammed the CBI for its ‘washed up’ and ‘blinkered’ investigations in the case.

A division bench of the high court comprising justices DH Vaghela and JC Upadhyay said the investigations by the central agency in the case were “washed up, blinkered and had left lot to desire.” Criticising the CBI, the court further said the investigating officer should be made accountable for such lapses which has caused injustice to the accused and wastage of public resources.

It said the investigation agency could not prove murder charges hence the conviction by the trial court, where the accused were convicted of murder with criminal conspiracy would not survive hence the order is set aside. Panchal said that following the court verdict, the sentence of the most of the accused except the prime accused Ashgar Ali is likely to be reduced.

The 12 accused were found guilty by a POTA court in 2007 and seven were sentenced to life imprisonment. All the 12 accused are to be freed immediately. Pandya, former Minister of State for Home, was shot dead on March 26, 2003, near Law Garden area of the city when he had gone for a morning walk. The CBI had stated in its charge sheet that the murder was carried out to avenge the 2002 riots.



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Sohrab case: ‘Narendra Modi’s babus, cops tried to help accused minister’ (Aug 25, 2011, Indian Express)

Suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt was questioned by the CBI, probing the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, pertaining to the allegations made by him in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, senior officials said today. Bhatt, who accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of misusing the state machinery during post-Godhra riots in 2002, had last month filed an additional affidavit in the apex court alleging that Gujarat government was helping the accused in the fake encounter case to prepare their defense. The CBI yesterday questioned Bhatt at his residence for over three hours regarding the Sohrabuddin case and the allegations made by him in the affidavit, officials said today. The CBI also collected documents that Bhatt had obtained from the email account of the Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta, they added. The officials said it was apparent from the documents that besides Mehta, bureaucrats attached with the chief minister’s office, Home department and senior police officers were making attempts to help former minister Amit Shah, a prime accused in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case in defending himself. They said Bhatt could be questioned further, if needed, after examining the documents obtained from him. The 1988-batch IPS officer was suspended early this month for misconduct by the state government.

Former Gujarat minister of state for home, Shah, was described by the CBI as the ‘kingpin’ of the conspiracy that led to the encounter of Sohrabuddin and killing of two of the key witnesses in the case Kausarbi and Tulsiram Prajapati. Bhatt in his additional affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on July 26 had also alleged that details of the post-Godhra riots cases, being probed by special investigation team (SIT), were leaked to law officer of the state government. In his 19-page supplementary affidavit Bhatt alleged that “someone” from within the SIT was leaking sensitive and confidential details related to investigations conducted by it to Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta.

He further claimed that these mails from SIT were forwarded to legal advisors of the riots accused in order to prepare their defense in the court. Bhatt also alleged in the affidavit that he had seen e-mails from the SIT probing the riots cases in the personal mail account of Mehta. Mehta on his part lodged a complaint with the state cyber cell last Friday accusing Bhatt of hacking his e-mails and case was under investigation.



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Ahmedabad blasts: A horrific story about manufacturing an accused (Aug 26, 2011, Twocircles.net)

He was picked by Mumbai Police to make a witness against some people. When he refused to do so as he didn’t know them, he was tortured and threatened to be killed and to implicate his brothers in a blast case. When he didn’t break, he was taken on remand in various theft cases – one after another – and tortured and again threatened for over a month. When he survived and again refused to witness against unknown persons, he was made an accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts case. He is Afzal Usmani. Usmani provided the details of the horrific journey in police custody to a Mumbai court on 11th February 2009. His letter to an MCOCA court in Mumbai has now come out. Before becoming a terror accused, Usmani was a small businessman. With his wife and three children he had been residing in Mumbai. He had been living in the city since his childhood. He would own and run a bakery shop there. His weak point, it seems, that moved the police to lay hand on him without thinking twice was some petty cases he had against him in court. And this is true about many of the Muslim terror accused and some killed in encounters as ‘terrorists’ – like Sohrabuddin Sheikh of Gujarat.

Afzal Usmani was picked on 26th August 2008 when he was travelling in Godaan Express to come to attend his court date of 27th August 2008 of an earlier case at Sewri Session Court. He was picked up from the train by the police of the Mumbai DCB CID. They told him they wanted to make him a witness in some case. He was presented before a magistrate next day and taken on remand and for next one month he remained on remand after remand, tortured and threatened to force him to give witness against some people who were held in the Ahmedabad serial blasts case of last month i.e. 26th July 2008. When he survived all and didn’t budge he was produced on 24th September 2008 along with four other persons, before the Esplanade Court in Mumbai, and again taken on remand and the same journey continued till he was presented in an MCOCA court in October 2008.

Excerpts from his letter to Special MCOCA Court in February 2009: – On 26th August, 2008, as I was travelling via Godaan Express to come to attend my court date 27th August, 2008 of an earlier case at Sewri Session Court, I was picked up from the train by the police of the Mumbai DCB CID, who said that, they wanted to make me a witness in some case. – I was produced on 27th August, 2008 before the Honorable Magistrate at the Esplanade Court and my remand was obtained. That I asked as to which case I had been brought under and I was told that I had been remanded in a case of theft. I requested to be allowed to meet my relatives but I was not allowed to do so. I was taken to a flat at Wadala and I was threatened that both my brothers would be brought and detained and beaten up and be implicated in a case. – After that I was told that there are some persons against whom I have to give witness in a bomb blast case and if I do so I would be let loose in the case. When I refused, I was brought to Crime Branch Unit No.III and tortured with electric shock to such an extent that I fell unconscious two or three times. I was threatened that I would be killed and my body too would not be handed over to my family and that my brothers would be implicated in bomb blast cases. That I was neither taken to a lock- up nor allowed to meet my family and I was told that if I complained anything in court then my brothers too would be brought and kept with me. In this manner I was transferred from one police remand to another in various theft cases in which I was falsely implicated. Whenever my police custody remand was refused to be extended by the Honourable Magistrate court and magisterial custody was ordered, I would not be taken to jail, but a new case would be instituted against me and a new police remand taken in a new theft case. This continued for a period of almost a month.

– I was produced on 24th September, 2008 along with four other persons, before the Honourable Esplanade Court and my Police remand was taken and I was then put in a lock-up. – On 7th October, 2008, I was produced before the Honourable Special MCOCA Court. I was frightened and could not say anything. After somedays I was taken to a DCP. The DCP too said that I was to be made a witness in this case. I told my whole story to the DCP and explained that I don’t know anyone or anything in the matter. The DCP however told me to think over the matter for a day and gave me an indirect threat by telling me that this was a way of saving my brothers. On the next day I was again taken before the DCP who told me to write my name on a plain paper. I wrote my name on a plain paper. – I was the taken to the Esplanade Court. I told the Honourable Magistrate that I am innocent. He took the names of certain persons, whose names I did not know and I told him that I did not know such persons. The Mgistrate then showed me a paper on which my name had been written and I explained to the Magistrate that the DCP Officer had said that they would make me a witness and let me go and had told me to write my name on a plain paper. A Police Officer who was involved in the investigation and had tortured me was present when I was present before the Magistrate.

– After this I was taken to Crime Branch Unit III. I was given a paper and told to memorise it and the next day a video film was made. When I refused I was given electric shocks and was severly abused and threatened. – I am innocent. I do not know any of the persons who have been involved in this case alongwith me. I have not committed any crime and am innocent. Earlier too I have had MCOCA put on me and have been acquitted. Once more MCOCA has been applied on me and I ask for Justice. How can I give witness against persons whom I do not even know. After being acquitted in my earlier MCOCA case, I was out on bail in two other cases which I was attending regularly. Now I have been branded as a terrorist and have had MCOCA applied on me.



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Communal violence erupts in Bahraich of UP (Aug 26, 2011, Twocircles.net)

The communal fire at Moradabad was not doused fully when another district of Uttar Pradesh was engulfed in communal frenzy. The violence between Hindus and Muslims erupted in Bahraich district when debris was thrown beside the wall of a mosque. The incident occurred on Wednesday and after the initial heated arguments violence erupted. The first day had only stone pelting incidents but on Thursday, the violence turned more serious when one person identified as Sabit Ram Yadav was shot from country made pistol. He has been referred to trauma centre in Lucknow.

As usual the state administration got into action after 24 hours of the incident. Special DG Brijlal reached Bahraich and inspected the violence hit Basheeratganj locality of Bahraich and gave instructions for curbing the violence. However, soon after his exit the violence resumed between two communities. With police patrolling the roads, the violence including stone pelting continued in narrow bylanes. Police claimed that nine persons have been arrested for violence.

Meanwhile, reports reaching state capital claimed that one person injured in the violence on Wednesday had succumbed to injuries. Four persons are serious while more than two dozen others are injured. Two police cases have also been filed. Meanwhile, it is reported that loudspeaker from a mosque was used to broadcast message that a mosque has been set on fire. Hundreds of Muslims gathered on hearing the message. Police, however, claimed that it was rumour.

The violence is still continuing with sporadic incidents of stone pelting. Police too has been targeted while patrolling. It is also reported that two houses were also looted by the miscreants. Meanwhile local administration has urged the media to refrain from sensationalising the issue for preventing further eruption of violence. It has been requested to give mature coverage as the incident was more personal which turned communal.



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Top cop quizzed in Shehla Masood case (Aug 27, 2011, Times of India)

An embarrassed police today recorded the statement of an IPS officer in the Shehla Masood murder case while efforts are on to take the statement of an MLA of the ruling BJP. The police are obviously uncomfortable. “We have taken statement of Pawan sir,” a senior police official told TOI, “Dhruv ji ka statement bhee ho jaayega” (Dhruv Singh’s statements would also be recorded), a senior police official told the TOI sheepishly.

Pawan Shrivastava is IG and posted at Ahilya Bai Police Training Centre (ABPT) in Indore while Dhruv Narayan Singh is a BJP MLA from Bhopal. Both are influential. While Shehla had written a letter to the director general of police of MP three years ago complaining about Shrivastava, Dhruv was also close to her and his mobile call details have led to the police to quiz him. Before she turned an RTI activist, Shehla ran an event management company and Shrivastava was heading culture department. Shehla’s company’s payment was due from the dept and there was some dispute. Shehla had alleged that when insisted on her dues, Pawan had threatened her and “she fears risk to his life from him”. After she was found dead on August 16, Shehla’s family wanted the police to investigate the Shrivastava angle.

Police sources said the call details from the two mobiles of Shehla Masood had shown long conversations with Dhruv Singh. The police said that they were asked few questions like for how long they knew Shehla, and for how many times they had talked, whether she had ever said something that can be correlated with her murder etc. “We have quizzed a large number of people who were related to Shehla, either personally or professionally. The statements of these two are also being taken in the same way,” said Bhopal SSP Yogesh Choudhry. Meanwhile, the family is still waiting for the CBI to take over the case as recommended by the MP government a few days ago.



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Activists slam Anna Bill, blame corporates, RSS (Aug 23, 2011, Indian Express)

Alleging that the Sangh Parivar was mobilising people for the protests led by Anna Hazare, a group of activists on Monday also accused corporates of playing a role in the agitation. The activists, including Mahesh Bhatt, Shabnam Hashmi, Anand Teltumbde, Prof Ram Puniyani, Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Amir Rizwi, Waqar Kazi and state minority commission vice-chairman Abraham Mathai, also supported an alternate version of the Lokpal Bill put forth by activist Aruna Roy of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), which they claimed was “decentralised and implementable” as compared to Team Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill.

“Why has the agitation been launched at a time when… there was a chance that people from the corporate sector could go to jail?” questioned Puniyani, adding that the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill did not include the corporate sector in its ambit. “The corporate sector is either directly or indirectly aiding (the agitation),” said Puniyani, adding that those participating in the movement were the products of the new economic system and did not want the welfare of all sections of society. “The corporates are definitely behind the whole funding. They are not in the ambit of the Lokpal Bill,” said Mathai.

“The RSS and BJP are mobilising people on the ground,” charged Hashmi, managing trustee, ANHAD, saying that since Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was close to prosecution, the Sangh was “trying to build a cult figure like Anna”. “The world needs to be saved… from these self proclaimed saviours,” said Bhatt. “The Jan Lokpal Bill is as monstrous as (that of) the government,” he said, adding that Hazare was surrounded “by people who are fascists to the core.” Dalit activist and writer Teltumbde said the government was “facilitating” the agitation, saying the protest would not have taken place if the government had responded properly. Saying the protesters were an “educated, urban, upper caste, MBA-like, neo-liberal crowd,” he said creating discontent against the government will actually aid neo-liberal reforms.



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SC judge for death in cases of honour killing, fake encounter (Aug 28, 2011, Indian Express)

Holding that crimes such as honour killings and fake police encounters should be dealt with strongly, a Supreme Court judge has said convicts in such cases should be awarded death sentence. Referring to honour killings cases in states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan, Justice Markandey Katju in a lecture here on Saturday evening said such acts were encouraged by caste panchayats. “These honour killings are done or encouraged by the caste panchayats. As these panchayats are vote banks for those in power, they do not want to disturb their vote bank,” Katju said.

He said the district magistrates and superintendents of police “should be placed under suspension” if there were cases of honour killings in their respective areas of operation. “The maximum one can do if your girl is marrying someone against your will is to sever social relations with her and nothing more,” Katju said. Justice Katju said policemen behind fake encounters should also be handed down death sentence since they are supposed “to protect the public and not murder them”. “…This is a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution which says that no one will be deprived of his life and liberty except when the procedure is instructed by law,” he said.

Referring to statements by policemen at times that they only follow the orders of their superiors, he said if a policeman is told to commit a crime by a superintendent of police, “should he follow that order? You have to uphold the law”. “If you want to punish somebody, criminal or whatever, you have to charge him in the court of law, you have to follow the procedure, hold a trial, give him an opportunity to defend himself and then he can be punished,” he said.

Justice Katju as part of a Bench of the Supreme Court had recently held that fake encounter killings should be considered rarest of rare cases and police personnel involved in such incidents should be awarded the maximum sentence. He had also been part of a Bench that last year held that capital punishment must be awarded to those convicted of honour killings.



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‘Cops raped 7 women in Bhatta-Parsaul’ (Aug 22, 2011, Times of India)

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has concluded that seven women had been raped by cops in the twin villages of Bhatta-Parsaul during clashes between police and farmers agitating against land acquisition in the month of May.

NCSC chairman P L Punia has confirmed that the commission has asked for registration of FIRs against the policemen for rape in these two villages. “Seven affidavits have been filed by women in the villages of Bhatta and Parsaul in which the victims have complained of being raped by policemen,” said NCSC chairman P L Punia.

“After filing the affidavits with the investigating team, the women had appeared before the commission and corroborated the events,” said Punia. NCSC official Latha Priyakumar conducted the probe.



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Corruption drives Dalit family to suicide in Bihar (Aug 22, 2011, Rediff)

Fed up with rampant corruption and loss of money through forgery by a middleman led a Mahadalit man, his wife and three children to commit suicide in Bihar’s Aurangabad district, police said on Monday. Rambachan Rajvansi, a 30-year-old Mahadalit, doused his wife, two daughters, and son with kerosene and set them on fire before killing himself. Daudnagar sub divisional officer Kamal Nain told rediff.com over telephone that Rambachan Rajvansi was worried and upset after he was threatened of dire consequences by a middleman Vinod Kumar when he inquired about withdrawal of his money allotted for house under the Indira Awaas Yojana through forgery from his bank account.

“I was told by villagers that Rambachan Rajvansi was depressed after he came to know that money allotted for his house was withdrawn through forgery by Vinod. He was even threatened of dire consequences if he informed anyone,” Kamal said. This shocking incident has exposed rampant corruption and forgery by middleman of funds allocated for houses under Indira Awaas Yojana to the poor in Bihar. The accused middleman Vinod is absconding after the shocking incident. “Vinod is a known middleman in government schemes, particularly Indira Awaas Yojana in Haspura block,” a local policeman said.

The Aurangabad district magistrate Abhay Kumar Singh has ordered a magisterial enquiry into the case after Singh along with district superintendent of police visited the village. “Police have lodged a case and have already begun an investigation into it,” a district official said. However, Bihar rural development minister Nitish Mishra said that his department will initiate action in this case only after district level inquiry report was made available. “It is a serious matter if a middleman harassed and threatened a poor man that drove him to commit suicide along with his family,” Mishra said.

Only three months ago, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed his anguish over large-scale corruption in the schemes being executed through banks. “Middlemen in connivance with the bank employees use corrupt means to earn money in the Kisan Indira Awas Yojana scheme,” Kumar alleged. “Police have lodged a case and already began an investigation into it” a district official said.



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Opinions and Editorials

‘Fascist forces are running Anna movement, indoctrinating young protesters’ – By Arpit Parashar (Aug 23, 2011, Tehelka)

Activists opposing Anna Hazare have now started pointing out that the RSS and the Right-wing forces have hijacked the anti-corruption movement to ‘undermine the Constitutional guarantees’ to the people of the country in order to further their fascist agendas. They have organized a “Save Constitution” rally on 24 August at India Gate and have invited “Dalits, OBCs, minorities, progressive and democratic people,” to participate. The rally will march to Parliament. The activists are also holding Anna responsible for misusing his right to protest saying he is trying to set a ‘dangerous example’ by saying that he will not end the fast unless the Jan Lokpal Bill is passed. Indian Justice Party chief Udit Raj said: “Dr Ambedkar said in the Parliament on 29 November, 1949 that fast and satyagrahas were dangerous for the democracy, which is now proving to be correct. The way the Jan Lokpal Bill is worded it will destroy the delicate balance of Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. A Lokpal who is not elected by the people is more likely to be whimsical, corrupt, casteist and partial.”

Raj alleges that the involvement of Right-wing forces has the Dalit community worried about the nature of the protest since “in the future Anna-like people could as well sit on a hunger strike and demand that the reservations for Dalits and OBCs should be done away with.” Shabnam Hashmi who heads the organisation ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony And Democracy) says the movement has been stage managed by the RSS and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) since the very beginning. “It has been clear in the symbolism through the kind of leaflets that have been distributed across the country. The involvement of new-age gurus like (Sri Sri) Ravishankar and Ramdev proved that it is a plainly Right-wing agenda.” The Janlokpal Bill itself is anti-Muslims and anti-Dalits in nature. Only a democratic institution can provide equal representation and justice to Muslims, Dalits and the tribals,” she added. “Dalits and OBCs have had no say in this movement and the Jan Lokpal has no provisions for their inclusion either,” said Udit Raj.

Social Activist Madhu Chandra questioned Anna Hazare’s motives and political background saying: “He said that the Constitution needs to be rewritten. The Hindutva forces see the Constitution as a threat to their agenda and so want that it be rewritten.” The role of the media in portraying the Anna movement has also been criticized as activists say it is only for the sake of ‘billions of rupees through increase in TRP rates’ that has led to unprecedented coverage. “This is what has mobilised the masses,” says Hashmi, “and led to their involvement in a highly misleading movement”. Chandra said the mass mobilisation was due to frustration against corruption among the youth but cautioned that these youths, mainly from the middle class, were getting indoctrinated by Hindutva forces. “They are exploiting their sentiments and targeting these young minds; instigating them to protest against the democratic values of the Constitution,” he said. Dalit thinkers and writers have already decried the movement as a Manuwadi and anti-social justice upper caste uprising which will only infringe upon the rights of the Dalits, OBCs and minorities. “The very presence of groups like the Krantikari Manuwadi Morcha shows that it is a casteist right-wing movement,” added Chandra.



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Hardly a revolution – By Soumitro Das (Aug 28, 2011, Hindustan Times)

A middle-class revolution is a contradiction in terms. To be middle-class in India today is to be a creature of privilege. To be middle-class is not to go hungry ever, not to have to pull one’s children out of school so that they can help in putting food on the table, not being prey to a thousand diseases deriving from an unhygienic environment and the list could go on and on. Who could the middle-class revolt against if not itself? However, it’s a quirk of history that the class which is economically the most powerful in the country is not the most powerful politically. The legislature is dominated by downtrodden masses of the country. It is they who vote in a new Parliament every five years or so. The middle-class doesn’t have the numbers to win the parliamentary game and, therefore, desists from casting its vote. Thus, its attitude towards democracy is at best ambivalent, at worst schizophrenic. It likes to flaunt the country’s democratic credentials before the world community; but it is furious about not having a say in how the country should be run, especially when legislators elected by, for example, the rural masses get away with the kind of indiscipline that would shame any politician in the developed world.

The middle-class holds the political class in contempt. There are several reasons for this. One of them is the fact that most politicians would be unable to secure and hold down a job in the private sector. Another reason is the fact that our legislators are elected by the most poor and illiterate mass of people to be found anywhere on earth. Such an electorate, the middle-class thinks, is unable to produce modern leadership. Then, there is the behaviour of our politicians inside and outside the legislature. They can indulge in acts of hooliganism, but the middle-class is watching them on TV. The complaint about criminals sitting in Parliament is partly misinformed. Registering cases against political rivals is one of the easiest things to do in India. Amar Singh may represent the worst in our politics, but he is certainly not a murderer. Yet, he has murder cases against him. One also remembers the occasion when Mayawati asked her cohorts to register cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav all over UP and overnight Yadav was faced with the prospect of fighting cases in a 100 different courts in the state. So this business of criminality needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis; no generalisations – such as Arvind Kejriwal’s, “They are all thieves” – are warranted. Last, but not the least, the political class is demonised by the media. The middle-class follows the media faithfully, since it’s the media that promote the fiction that the middle-class speaks for the nation and that all other points of view are mendacious, if not superfluous.

All this to say that Anna Hazare’s movement, being largely driven by the middle- class, is not a revolution. For it to be revolutionary it must scare the living daylights out of the middle-class. What could be a real revolution in this country? The answer is provided by Dalit voices that were heard briefly amid the cacophony surrounding Anna’s fast. Both Kancha Ilaiah and Chandrabhan Prasad said that the central issue before the country is not corruption, but the caste system. Ilaiah and Prasad are right. Dalit insurgence is the one thing that is liable to scare the living daylights out of not only our middle-class, but also out of village notables who rule through traditional bodies such as caste panchayats. It’s not just a coincidence that Kiran Bedi named Lalu Prasad, Amar Singh, Ram Vilas Paswan and Mulayam Singh Yadav when she implied that a parliamentary standing committee composed of such people would be unlikely to do justice to a strong lokpal legislation. They are all caste politicians, protagonists of India’s ‘long revolution’. The middle-class is comfortable with Hazare’s movement. It’s in charge. And what it wants to seek through the institution of the lokpal is a sort of a permanent moral guardianship over the political class as a whole.



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Why Dalits are indifferent – By Bhanwar Megwanshi (Aug 26, 2011, Tehelka)

Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement has received considerable support across the country. The mainstream media is awash with stories about Anna and his fast. It is as if there is nothing else happening in India that is worth reporting about. But, at the same time that the media is busy projecting Anna and his movement, a vast section of India’s population – the country’s Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities, who are at the bottom of India’s social pyramid and who suffer the most at the hands of the corrupt system that Anna and his supporters are supposedly denouncing – have maintained a studied distance from this movement. Not a single well-known and respected Dalit or Adivasi intellectual, social activist or public leader has come out in support of the movement. Nor, too, have ordinary Dalits and Adivasis. Likewise, workers and peasants are barely involved in the movement. Yet, despite this, the movement and the men leading it claim to represent the entire country. India Against Corruption, the outfit behind Anna’s movement, claims that it is the voice of the 120 crore people of India. But, when the tens of crores of Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities have evinced little interest in the movement, how can such erroneous claims be made on their behalf and on behalf of this movement, too? One of the reasons that Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities feel ignored by the movement is precisely this sort of behaviour on the part of the men behind this movement, self-proclaimed people’s leaders who are projecting themselves as the messiahs of the masses.

To understand why the oppressed castes have shown little or no interest in what is being projected as independent India’s supposedly largest mass movement, the movement needs to be analysed from a caste perspective. It is striking to note that when Hazare went on fast at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, the banners that his supporters put up depicted a whole range of icons, from Bharat Mata to Gandhi, Shivaji and Lakshmi Bai. But Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, the true liberators of the oppressed castes, were conspicuous by their absence. At the venue of the fast, slogans like ‘Scrap Reservations, End Corruption’ rent the air. Dalits who visited the venue came back thoroughly disheartened on being confronted with the fact that the movement was distinctly opposed to reservations for the oppressed castes. But that was not all. When the joint drafting committee for the Lokpal was formed and five members from civil society were nominated for this purpose, not a single one was from among the Dalits, Adivasis or religious minorities. Moreover, not one of them was a woman. When Dalit leaders from across the country raised their voice against this, Arvind Kejriwal, the man who heads India Against Corruption, replied that one needs specialists in order to devise laws. Is it the case, Dalits demand to know, that more than 60 years ago, a Dalit, in the form of Babasaheb Ambedkar, was available to take up the task of presiding over the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution, but that today not a single Dalit can be found who is thought capable enough to sit on a panel to draft a single law? True to form, here, too, questions are raised as to the supposed merit or capabilities of Dalits.

When Dalits protested against this insinuation, Kejriwal simply replied that the government could appoint a Dalit. In other words, reservations may be followed in the rapidly-shrinking government sector but certainly not in the burgeoning private sector, nor in the so-called civil society that falsely claims to represent the whole of Indian society. Is it at all surprising, then, that Dalits and other oppressed castes consider this anti-corruption movement to be a cover for an anti-reservation movement and, hence, have distanced themselves from it? Can Hazare’s team, which presides over a movement that is funded by corporate houses, tell us what the movement’s stand is on reservations for the oppressed castes in the private sector? What is the condition of Dalits in Hazare’s own so-called model-village of Ralegan Siddhi? Is Hazare a supporter of the varna system in the name of gram swaraj? What message is being sent out to the millions of Dalits and other oppressed communities through slogans such as ‘Anna is India’, ‘Those who are not with Hazare are thieves’ and ‘Reservations are the root of Corruption’? Dalit, Adivasi and religious minorities are curious to know why Hazare and his followers did not care to go on a fast when heinous atrocities were committed against their people. Why not when Dalits were brutally massacred in Hazare’s own state of Maharashtra, in the remote village of Kharilanji, which set off mass protests by Dalits across Maharashtra and beyond? Why not when, under the guise of the Salwa Judum, the government was seeking to crush Adivasis protesting against oppression by branding them as Naxalites? Might this indicate that Hazare and his team have no interest at all in the injustice and oppression that millions of Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities have to suffer on a daily basis? By praising Narendra Modi, who permitted the brutal murder of several thousand innocent Muslims, Hazare has shown that communalism and fascism, too, are not issues that he is interested in struggling against. Hazare did not sit on a fast to protest against the suicides of tens of thousands of impoverished peasants in his own Maharashtra. Given all this, is it surprising that Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities are, by and large, not interested in joining his movement?

The oppressed castes are wary for another reason. The Lokpal that Hazare’s team is demanding would be so powerful that it would possess powers to hear complaints, to investigate allegations, to arrest, to tap phones, to snoop in on emails and text messages and even to impose punishments. This enormously powerful body would be even superior to the country’s legislature, executive and judiciary. The Constitution speaks of the separation of powers of these three wings of governance, but the Lokpal that Hazare’s team is demanding would subvert this structure by imposing itself, in an unconstitutional manner, over and above the three wings. Babasaheb Ambedkar was Chair of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution, and so Dalits have an emotional attachment to the Constitution. If a movement sets itself above the Constitution and challenges democracy, a pillar of the Constitution, Dalits will refuse to support it. That is why Dalits and other oppressed groups remain indifferent to Hazare’s movement. And, because of this, the movement, despite claiming to speak for the whole of India, is nothing of the sort.



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Targeting the Lawbreakers – By Javed Anand (Aug 20, 2011, Economic & Political Weekl)

The response of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the rest of its right wing parivar to the proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 is not much of a surprise. Conditioned by a pernicious ideology plus the dictates of Hindu vote bank politics, the protagonists of Hindutva cannot but give such a response to any and every expression of legitimate democratic concern for the sorry plight of India’s minorities. The very appointment of the high-powered Sachar Committee by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005 to look into the socio-economic and educational status of India’s Muslims was castigated as “minority appeasement”. The report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (Ranganath Mishra Commission) – also appointed by the UPA government in 2004 to examine and “recommend measures for welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities, including reservation in education and government employment” – has still not been discussed in Parliament. One can thus ex-pect more sound and fury whenever the bill on communal violence is introduced in Parliament. Apart from the votaries of Hindutva some from within the media and even the secular camp are also opposed to it.

The bill, it is fallaciously argued by some, assumes that the Hindu majority is always the perpetrator, never the victim of com-munal violence, and is therefore denied any protection in it. It is thus seen to be grossly discriminatory. Another argument is that the existing laws of the land are more than sufficient to deal with the perpetrators of communal violence. The need of the hour, according to its proponents, is not more laws but effective implementation of the existing ones. But the most novel argument against the bill has been propounded by the political scientist Ashutosh Varshney who has spent years researching communal strife in India. Varshney fully supports the “moderate liberal” standpoint that any democracy worth the name must guard against the tendency to drift towards majoritarianism and make special provisions to protect discrimination against minorities. He then proceeds to argue that with India now riding a strong growth curve, the emerging “politics of aspirations” leaves little space for communal politics. Since communal violence belongs to India’s past, why create a new institution with a massive bureaucracy for a non-issue?

Some reflection on the context of the contested text, a closer look at the nature of the beast staring us in the face might help us see the issue in a proper perspective. The 1980s marked a decisive shift in the morphology of communal violence in India. Until then the predominant narrative was that of communal riots, a two-way affair in which two communities clashed with each other. The score may not be even but in the end both sides suffered, more or less. Report after report of government appointed commissions of inquiry probing these riots invariably found the police and the administration guilty of biased conduct. But the 1980s marked a major shift in this narrative: from an era of “riots” India moved on to an era of one-sided carnages, and pogroms targeting India’s religious minorities. In this post-riots scenario the role of the State is no longer limited to partisan behaviour: in the past three decades it has been an active accomplice, prime instigator, and even chief sponsor of mass crimes. Nellie, Assam 1983 (target Muslims); Delhi 1984 (target Sikhs); Bhagalpur 1989 (target Muslims); Mumbai 1992-93 (target Muslims); Gujarat 2002 (target Muslims); Kandhamal, Orissa 2008 (target Christians) are the most gruesome reminders of this ugly reality.

Were we to go by the definition adopted by the UN’s 1948 “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”, the Indian state emerges with the dubious distinction of having subjected its religious minorities – Muslims, Sikhs, Christians – to genocidal targeting six times in 25 years. It is a record that many dictatorships might find tough to match. Thanks to our prevailing culture of impunity, in each case, the masterminds of the mass killings have gone unpunished, while the police officers responsible for shocking dereliction of duty actually got promotions. Two months before India’s 26/11 (2008), delivering the General Cariappa Memorial Lecture in Delhi, the then union finance minister, P Chidambaram, foresaw “new waves of terror” in India. “Out of the hopelessness and despair of the Muslim community – and if not addressed firmly, the Christian tribal communities too (Kandhamal) – will rise new waves of terror”, he warned. The national media chose to altogether ignore these alarm bells or relegated it to a few paragraphs on the inside pages. Soon after being made the union home minister in the aftermath of 26/11, Chidambaram spoke again: “We cannot fight terrorism effectively unless we fight communalism with equal determination”. Obviously, Chidambaram sees a close link between terrorism – “bomb terror” – and communalism – “mob terror”. He even implies that the roots of terrorism lie in the failure of the State to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. The highly regarded former senior police officer, Julio Ribeiro, had this to say in unison with several other retired police officers and civil servants more than a decade ago: “By its failure to protect the life and property of a section of its citizens, the state sows the seeds of extremism”.

We all know now that extremism or terrorism was never the monopoly of a particular religion or community. (For those who still harbour some doubts on the terror-religion relationship, the latest message from a “Christian fundamentalist” in Norway should help.) India now is home to both Muslim and Hindu extremists: sadhus and sadhvis are as much implicated in the web of terror as self-styled jihadists. Unchecked mob terror gave birth to bomb terror which in turn has given rise to “retaliatory” bombs. We also happen to be living in the immediate vicinity of the Taliban, the Inter-Services Intelligence, and the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Given the context, we can continue to ignore the implications of state-condoned, state-sponsored mass killings at our own peril. Let us keep this backdrop in mind as we return to the proposed bill and the objections to it. The answer to this proposition is both yes and no. It is true that even in the worst moments in Mumbai in 1992-93 and Gujarat in 2002, one can find examples of islands of peace simply because the inspector in-charge of a police station, the officer in-charge of a zone, the police chief of a district sent out a clear signal in his jurisdiction that there would be zero tolerance towards lawbreakers. Yes, the existing laws have been sufficient for the conscientious police officer alive to his/her constitutional obligation to impartially enforce the rule of law. Meanwhile, there was mass murder and mayhem all around because the police in those areas saw themselves not as serv-ants of the Constitution but as slaves of their political masters. Yes, dereliction of duty is an offence even in the existing laws but it exists only on paper. The proposed bill is necessary because it sends out a clear warning that under the new legislation law-keepers guilty of dereliction of duty will be severely dealt with. If ministers and other public servants can be jailed for cor-ruption, why should they not be punished, more severely so, for such callous disregard for the life and property of any group of targeted citizens?…



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Information Martyr – By Chandrani Banerjee (Sep 5, 2011, Outlook)

Shehla Masood’s worst fears came to pass on August 16: she was shot dead in front of her house in Bhopal at around 11 am. An RTI activist who had taken up a variety of issues, from good governance, transparency and police reforms to tiger conservation, and who had been collecting evidence using the RTI Act since 2005, she had made several enemies among the powerful. She had received several threatening calls from bureaucrats, police officers and politicians. And she had faithfully kept the authorities apprised of the same, filing several petitions, including one to Union home minister P. Chidambaram, on how she feared for her life. They weren’t enough, however, to stop her enemies from getting to her.

And so it was that Shehla was killed in her car as she was setting out to lead a group of concerned citizens who wanted to express their solidarity with Anna Hazare. It was a death that could easily have been prevented. In fact, in her letter to home minister Chidambaram last month, she had clearly said, “I had made a complaint dated 2/09/2009 for gross violation of service rules… I have lodged a complaint against him (Pawan Srivastava, an ips officer who was deputed to the culture department and is now IG, police training school, Indore) for threatening my life which so far has not been registered because of his political connections.” She also sent copies of her complaint detailing the threat perception to the Union home secretary and authorities concerned at the state level.

Masood Zaidi, Shehla’s father, is a broken man but still proud of his daughter. “She was a fighter,” he says. “Her complaints were with almost every person in authority. They could have helped her out. But it was all in vain. For me she is a martyr and I would want justice for her. I think people should gather and draw the attention of the government towards this gross injustice where on the second day there were reports floating that she had actually committed suicide.” And suicide is one thing Shehla’s relatives rule out completely. “Both her hands were occupied when the shooting took place,” says brother Razil Zaidi. “She had her mobile phone in one hand and her car keys in the other. How could she have killed herself? We want a free and fair inquiry, and the guilty should be punished. We want a central agency to look into the matter.”

When contacted, Madhya Pradesh police IG Vijay Yadav had this to say: “I do not know where these rumours are gaining ground from but we have registered a case of murder and our investigations are moving in that direction only.” However, the doctor who performed the post-mortem on Shehla’s body, Dr D.S. Badkur, director of the Medico-Legal Institute of Madhya Pradesh, says it is too early to say anything. “We are analysing the available medical and scientific evidence. At this point, ruling out suicide is not fair. We are looking into every aspect. We have sent the available material for analysis. We have to wait for the reports before we can say anything conclusive about the case.”

Such statements by medical experts are very disheartening for Shehla’s family. They allege that the forensic experts are trying to give a different colour to Shehla’s death. It is to be expected, they say, given that the police did not take any action in the last year despite Shehla’s constant reminders to them about her receiving threatening calls. She had also written to the director-general of police drawing attention towards police inaction on her complaints. The dgp had, in fact, issued written instructions, yet no action was taken again. Shehla’s family has lost all faith in the system. If they couldn’t save her life, they could at least spare her in death.



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Clean the courts – Editorial (Aug 21, 2011, Times of India)

By voting to impeach Calcutta high court judge Soumitra Sen – found guilty on charges of misappropriation of money and misrepresentation of facts – the Rajya Sabha has set the ball rolling in the judicial reforms debate. Sen could be India’s first judge ever to be removed from his post if the Lok Sabha agrees to his impeachment next week. Eighteen years ago Supreme Court judge V Ramaswami had faced similar proceedings in Parliament. The Congress bailed him out, abstaining from supporting the impeachment motion.

Given that the impeachment of a judge is such a difficult process, anti-corruption movements which have erupted throughout the country may explain why things have come this far in proceedings against Sen. For his part the accused has claimed he is being made a “sacrificial lamb in the season of scams to be showcased as an example of cleansing the judiciary”. There is no doubt that the judiciary is in dire need of speedy and effective reforms, ranging from appointment of judges to institution of a transparent and non-partisan structure of inquiry, free from legislative and judicial interference, to punish corrupt judges. Sen is just one among many tainted Supreme Court and high court judges, who have contributed to the steady erosion of credibility and faith in the judiciary. The question is how to clean up the mess.

An effective remedy can be found by instituting a National Judicial Commission, empowered to appoint judges as well as probe complaints of their misconduct. The present judicial system is dogged by serious conflict of interest issues. Judges are appointed by a collegium of judges, thereby creating an opaque in-house system whose effectiveness is under a cloud. Further, the chief justice’s consent is required to proceed on charges of criminal liability against corrupt judges, which could result in the legal fraternity shielding its own. For transparency’s sake the National Judicial Commission has to include members from the legislature, the judiciary as well as persons of eminent stature, including jurists and law professors.

The Jan Lokpal Bill, which is triggering a churning against corruption, has given top priority to judicial reforms. Recently though Team Anna has indicated its willingness not to press too hard for bringing the judiciary under the Lokpal. The judiciary, in fact, may be needed to keep a check on the Lokpal, as the Lokpal too needs to be accountable. For reforms that could act as a check against judicial corruption but nevertheless preserve judicial independence, a transparently constituted National Judicial Commission, finely balanced between members of the judiciary, legislature and independent experts, is the way to go.



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