IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 6th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Indian American Muslims express shock and outrage over terror rampage at Sikh temple

Sunday August 5, 2012

Indian American Muslim Council (http://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has expressed its unequivocal condemnation of the shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin that has claimed the lives of six worshipers and the gunman himself.

“Today is a day of mourning for all who value human life and cherish freedom of religion,” said Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. “An attack on innocent people in a house of worship is an attack on our collective humanity and common values,” added Mr. Khateeb.

The fact that the attack took place when temple members were reading scriptures and cooking food in preparation for the main Sunday service and community meal reflects the deep inhumanity of the perpetrator. It is also an indication of the cost in human lives that we pay for the growing culture of intolerance in sections of our society. While such intolerance remains confined to a small minority, the suffering caused by their distorted worldview is shared by us all. IAMC has called upon members of every community to eschew any rhetoric that promotes evils such as xenophobia and intolerance towards religious minorities.

IAMC has expressed its profound condolences towards the families of the victims and called upon law enforcement to investigate the incident as an act of terror motivated by hate.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.

For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.

RELATED LINKS:

1) Gunman, six others dead at Wisconsin Sikh temple http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/05/us/wisconsin-temple-shooting/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

2) 7 Dead in ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Shooting at Wisconsin Sikh Temple http://abcnews.go.com/US/sikh-temple-shooting-oak-creek-wisconsin-domestic-terrorism/story?id=16933779#.UB8Y7vaPVqw

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Restore religious places damaged in Godhra riots: Supreme Court (Jul 31, 2012, Times of India)

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to suspend the Gujarat high court order directing the state government to pay for the repair of religious places damaged during the 2002 post-Godhra riots. A bench of Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice Deepak Misra, however, left it to the state government to formulate a scheme for the restoration of the religious places. The scheme that has been left for the state government to formulate, if it so desired, is on the lines of the one framed by the Odisha government for the restoration of churches that were damaged in the wake of 2008 anti-Christian Kandhamal riots.

The court did not stay the portion of the high court observation which blamed “inadequate action” for the damages to the religious places. The Gujarat government also told the Supreme Court that it was considering framing a policy for compensating the trusts running the damaged sites. Appearing before the bench, advocate general for Gujarat submitted that the state government was looking at Odisha’s policy as well.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on August 14 and asked the state government to brief it about the scheme on that day. The apex court’s order came on an appeal by the Gujarat government against the high court order, which had asked it to pay compensation. The Gujarat government was pulled up by the high court on February 8 for its “inaction and negligence” during the 2002 riots, which had led to large-scale damage to various religious structures.

The high court had ordered compensation for over 500 places of worships in the state on a plea by Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG), an NGO. The NGO had contended that 535 religious places were affected out of which 37 are yet to be repaired.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/15289519.cms

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Cop who copped out gets a year in jail (Jul 31, 2012, Indian Express)

Manubhai Karsanbhai Patel, a retired policeman who was the first investigating officer in the Dipda Darwaja massacre case, on Monday became the first policeman to be convicted and sentenced in any of the post-Godhra riot cases. Patel was charged with not filing an accurate FIR, not reporting that 11 people had gone missing on the day of the riot and not protecting evidence of the massacre. Patel was convicted by the special trial court of dereliction of duty and sentenced to a year of simple imprisonment.

As the then senior police inspector at Visnagar Police Station, Patel had registered the FIR in the case and remained IO between February 28, 2002 and May 23, 2002. He was later arrested and chargesheeted by SIT that further probed the case. According to the chargesheet, Patel did not record complainant Iqbal Baloch’s statement accurately in the FIR. Also, he had collected medical certificates of 22 eye-witnesses who were injured in the case but did not record statements of 10 of them.

The then Mehsana superintendent of police Anupamsinh Gehlot had informed Patel about 11 missing persons on February 28, 2002. However, Patel did not file any missing report. Seven persons were arrested from the scene of massacre on the same day. During their interrogation, Patel did not try to find out about the 11 missing persons. Also, the chargesheet said, Patel did not seek their remand even as they were sent to judicial custody.

According to SIT, Patel had carried out a panchnama (inquest) of the scene of offence on March 1, 2002, which was not properly done. FSL officials did a panchnama again on March 6, 2002 and found remains of five of the 11 missing persons. This gave enough opportunity to the accused to escape conviction. SIT had also alleged that Patel did not make any effort to find out the six other missing persons, whose burnt remains were later recovered from Malav Talav, two kilometres away from the massacre site. Even after this, Patel did not investigate to find out as to who brought those remains there. Two other policemen are also undergoing trial in two of post-Godhra riots that were further probed by the SIT — one each in Naroda Gam and Gulberg Society massacre cases.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/981827/

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The rise and rise of a Hindutva hitman (Jul 31, 2012, The Hindu)

Subhash Padil, the Hindu Jagaran Vedike activist who led Saturday’s attack on women at Morning Mist Homestay in Mangalore, was a street-level activist of Sri Rama Sene when he was arrested in 2009 for his role in targeting women at a pub in the same Karnataka city. The ferocity he displayed during that attack – well-documented by television crew – gave him both stature and position in the Sene, which he had joined in 2006. He soon gained a reputation in Mangalore as a ruthless goon for hire, sought after by builders and land sharks. On May 25 this year, a First Information Report was slapped on him along with contractors and officials of the Mangalore Special Economic Zone for assaulting a family of farmers which opposed land acquisition for the project. Four of them, including two children, had to be hospitalised.

Two days before the attack at Homestay, around 1.30 p.m. on July 26, Padil’s followers kidnapped and assaulted a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl who were travelling in a bus from Mudipu to Mangalore. The couple were later handed over to the Bunder Police who, however, took no action against the assailants. Bajrang Dal leader Sharan Pumpwell confirms that Padil was his rival for political turf and visibility within the Sangh Parivar. They had a heated exchange around 10 days ago when Padil wanted to set up an office in Pumpwell, centre of Sharan’s power base. Padil reluctantly agreed to open the office in nearby Shivbaugh instead. “Since that incident he wanted to prove a point. The [Saturday’s] attack was also aimed at sending out a message to rival Hindutva outfits,” claims a Parivar insider who did not want to be named.

In fact, Padil was active as early as in 2008 when Sri Rama Sene tried to enforce a shutdown in Mangalore over the Ram Sethu controversy. Padil and his men tried to stab this reporter and television journalist Agnel Rodriguez with a trident when we caught them vandalising shops whose owners defied the shutdown call. Prasad Attavara, then a leader of Sri Rama Sene, slapped Padil publicly for this. To us, he said: “You are our friends. You [the media] and us need to work together.” Padil was just 18 when, inspired by the Bajrang Dal’s role in the Gujarat riots, he joined the outfit in 2002, say his friends. “He used to worship a photograph of [Chief Minister] Narendra Modi that he had put up in his house,” remembers Sudatta Jain, who joined the Bajrang Dal one year before Padil did.

Childhood friends, Jain and Padil were ardent followers of Pramod Muthalik, who inducted them into the Bajrang Dal. Muthalik fell out with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2005 and quit the Bajrang Dal. Both Padil and Jain followed Muthalik when he founded the Shiv Sena’s Karnataka unit the same year. “At that time, we felt that the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the BJP were too soft on the question of Hindutva. We wanted to do something big,” says Jain, who now heads a trade union (Akhil Bharatiya Karmika Sene) and keeps his distance from Hindutva groups. “I still believe in Hindutva but I don’t like violence. But Subhash was very ambitious and he was very strong physically. He wanted to be a big leader,” he says.

Padil quit the Shiv Sena along with Muthalik in 2006 over the Marathi-Belgaum issue. A few months later, he joined Muthalik’s Rashtriya Hindu Sena which subsequently morphed into Sri Rama Sene. Despite his leading role in the 2009 pub attack, Padil felt he was overshadowed by the Sene’s then leader Prasad Attavara. When Prasad Attavara was arrested in mid-2010 along with his followers for running an international extortion racket, Padil and Jain quit the Sene and laid low for a few months. While Jain started the trade union, Padil joined the Hindu Jagarana Vedike in February 2011 along with his trusted lieutenants Suresh Padil and Sharath Padavinangady. By doing so, he hoped to rebuild ties with the RSS and the BJP.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/article3704704.ece

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Assam violence: Mushawarat holds BTC, state government responsible (Aug 4, 2012, Twocircles.net)

All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (AIMMM) has held Assam Government and Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) for the current violence in the state which left scores dead and rendered around four lakh people homeless. However, it categorically said Assam riot 2012 is not Gujarat riot 2002. “There was a clear failure on the part of BTC and state government in anticipation and control of the situation” which has resulted in over three lakh refugees in around 300 refugee camps in BTC areas and Dhubri, said AIMMM leaders at a press conference here on 4th August after returning from a 4-day fact-finding mission of violence-hit areas of Assam. They said most of the refugees are Muslims. AIMMM president Dr Zafarul Islam Khan ruled out migration as the reason of the recent violence. Whoever the Mushawarat delegation met, Dr Khan said, denied immigration is the reason of the violence. He condemned BJP and RSS for trying to turn it an issue of illegal immigrants. “Sections of media and chauvinist circles, especially BJP and its ilk, are trying to turn this carnage into an issue of illegal immigrants which is not correct or fair. No one we met in Assam from Government to Bodo to Muslim victims made or supported this claim,” he said.

In the context of large scale violence which made lakhs of people homeless in just three days, when Dr Khan asked if Assam riot 2012 is Gujarat riot 2002, he refused to draw parallels between the two. “For Gujarat riot, state government of Modi was directly responsible. It allowed dead bodies of kar sevaks from Godhra to be brought to Ahmedabad. State government allowed bandh and Modi asked police to let Hindus vent their anger,” said Dr Khan adding nothing like that happened in Assam. The delegation of Mushawarat visited Assam during 31 July-3 August 2012 to study and assess the situation in the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) and adjoining areas where over three lakh persons have been displaced, over 50 killed and over a hundred are reported missing as a result of ethnic cleansing aimed at uprooting Muslims from BTC areas. The delegation, led by Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, President, AIMMM, included Mr Mujtaba Farooq, President of Welfare Party of India, Mr Muhammad Shafi Madni and Maulana Muhammad Rafiq Qasmi, both national secretaries of Jamaat-e Islami Hind, Mr Navaid Hamid, General Secretary of Movemenf for Empowerment of Muslim Indians, Dr Taslim Rahmani, President of Muslim Political Council and Hafiz Rashid Chowdhry, Vice President of AIMMM. The delegation interacted with many people and groups in Guwahati, BTC areas and Dhubri, visited a number of camps in Cherang and Dhubri areas and met representatives of BTC and Bodos as well as the Chief Minister Mr Tarun Gagoi and Mr Abdul Muhib Mazumder, chairman of Assam State Commission for Minorities.

“Using some criminal incidents in which both Muslims and Bodo were killed, Bodo armed gangs systematically attacked Muslim villages, indulged in at random killings and firings which precipated flight of Muslim villagers who are not armed unlike other ethnic groups in the area,” said Mushawarat. Talking to pressmen, Dr. Khan said the main reason of this and previous violence in Bodo areas is the power or lack of it to Bodo Territorial Council which consists 30% Bodos and 70% non-Bodos. Bodos and their armed groups want to push out non-Bodos from the BTC areas. He informed that about 10 petitions are pending in the High Court regarding authority and power of BTC. Another big reason of the violence, he pointed out, is the illegal arms available with Bodos and tribal groups except minorities. “The delegation feels that the current violence is clearly a continuation of Bodo chauvinist attempts to expel the non-Bodo majority from the “Bodoland”. This is made possible by vast amouts of illegal arms in the hands of Bodo and non-Bodo individuals and gangs while Muslims in particular are not known to keep illegal arms.” State government is providing some ration while a lot of other needs, especially heigine, are neglected. Inmates in camps told the delegation that they are eager to return to their villages provided security is provided to them. A former MLA of the affected area told the delegation that it is “a sin to be born Muslim in Assam”. The delegation saw that even the camps are without security and found that one of the camps it visited is not getting even ration aid. The delegation was told that one person had died in Tilwara camp due to hunger.

The delegation met Bodo and BTC leadership and was able to meet in Kokrajhar town Bodo MP (Rajya Sabha) Biswajit Daimary and Daneswar Goyori, member of the legislative assembly of BTC. They put the blame squarely at the door of armed gangs which the BTC is not able to control because home department and Police are controlled by the state government and not by the BTC, they said. They stressed the tradition of good relations between Muslims and Bodos and said that the area depends on Muslim workers and labour, hence its progress will suffer badly if Muslims do not return quickly to their homes. They agreed that displaced people should be able to return quickly to their homes but stressed that security must be provided to make this possible, permanent police pickets should be placed at sensitive areas and numbers of police stations must be increased as the area is undercovered by police. The delegation met Chief Minister Mr Tarun Gagoi who explained the practical problems in providing security in a state suffering from various armed movements and insurgencies, and said that arms are flooding into Assam from China and Nagaland. He assured the delegation that he is keen to secure an early repatriation of the displaced people to their homes and said that he has designated 15 August at the deadline for achieving this aim. He said that security will be provided, permanent CRPF pickets will be placed at sensitive places within days as troops are being recalled from the neighbouring states of Manipur, Nagaland and Bihar for this purpose. Mr Gogoi emphatically denied that there are “foreigners” in Assam and stressed that the present crisis is a local one triggered by local issues. He told the delegation that about a hundred culprits have already been arrested. Addressing the press, Dr Tasleem Rahmani, member of the delegation and president, Muslim Political Council of India said BTC and state government of Congress are trying to throw blame on each other for the violence. He said BTC wants more power and they are facilitating such violence only to pressure on the government.

Going one step ahead, he challenged the Bodo accord of 1993 which created BTC. “On whose mandate this accord was signed,” he asked and indirectly held the accord and BTC responsible for the regular violence against minorities in Assam. Maulana Rafique Qasmi, secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, stressed on the educational empowerment of the local Muslims. He said that while Muslim religious leaders of the country have been regularly visiting the areas but did little for both religious and modern education of the people. Navaid Hamid, member, National Integration Council, who was also member of the delegation, categorically said the violence was not an accident, rather it was a planned one. “In three days and four nights, over four lakh people are rendered homeless, this cannot be accident but through a planned conspiracy. He held Bodo leaders and state government responsible for the attacks on Muslims in the state. He demanded the central government to rehabilitate the victims through central schemes of NREGA and IAY. On relief package he said: “The centre should ask the state government to accept Sikh riot package as a benchmark and provide same relief measures to the victims of current violence.” Mohd. Shafi Madani, another member of the delegation and secretary of Jamaat Islami stressed on Bodo-Muslim dialogues. “For the deteriorating situation, only Bodos cannot be made responsible. Muslims must come out to establish relations with Bodos,” said Madani and announced Jamaat will work on this front. Mushawarat have demanded quick compensation and rehabilitation of the victims, setting up of a judicial commission to look into the causes of the violence and punish the culprits. …

http://twocircles.net/2012aug04/assam_violence_mushawarat_holds_btc_state_government_responsible.html

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Pune blasts suspect a local tailor, say police (Aug 2, 2012, IBN)

The man who was suspected to have carried one of the four bombs that exploded in Pune on Wednesday night and was injured has been identified as a local tailor, the city’s Police Commissioner Gulab Rao Pol said. His name is Patil who is a local resident and working as a tailor in Junglee Maharaj Road, he said. Pol said that “from the low-intensity blasts, we think there is no involvement of terrorist group. There may be other groups which are not related with terrorist activities”, he said.

Asked about the possible motive behind the blasts, he said “the intention was to make mischief and create panic in the mind of the public”. Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil was among the first few to visit the blast sites. Top police investigators including the ATS and National Investigation Agency have been called in. Sources say the material used in the bombs suggests it was a well planned attack. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan also indicated that a timer may have been used.

Between 7:27 pm and 8:15 pm on Wednesday evening, four low-intensity bomb blasts in quick succession shook Pune injuring at least one person. While the first three blasts took place within a radius of one km at the Jungli Maharaj Road, the fourth blast was reported from the Garware Chowk. There was also a fifth bomb which was, however, defused near a McDonalds outlet in the city. Union Home Secretary RK Singh said, “One person has suffered minor injuries and he has been admitted into a hospital. Police are questioning him.”

The blasts incidentally came on the night the new incumbent Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde took over and was to attend a function in Pune. “I had to attend the Lokmanya Tilak awards ceremony. I had to go by 6 pm. But it happened near Tilak theatre,” Shinde said. The venue for the function the Home Minister was to attend is close to the spot of the first explosion – the Bal Gandharva Theatre, where the suspected bomber was injured. The blast outside the Mc Donald eatery went off in a dustbin. Just down the road the bombs at the Dena Bank and Garware Bridge were placed on cycles with a bucket of explosives strapped on. A team of the national investigation agency and the NSG is assisting the Pune police in its investigation.

Though the forensic analysis report to ascertain the nature of the explosive is yet to come out, investigators claim that the aim was to trigger panic and not to claim many lives. Both the rights groups and the India Mujahideen are under the scanner of the two-pronged investigation. Delhi is put on heightened vigil with deployment of armed police personnel across the city in the wake of the bomb blasts in Pune. Roads were barricaded and vehicles checked while security was strengthened at vital installations like Parliament and other key buildings. Police also strengthened security at Jantar Mantar where Anna Hazare and his team are on an indefinite fast following the explosions in Pune. A bomb disposal squad conducted searches at the protest venue, a senior police official said.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/pune-blast-suspect-a-local-tailor-say-police/277339-3-237.html

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Muslim journalists should investigate terror blasts: Jamaat chief (Aug 4, 2012, Twocircles.net)

President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umri has urged Muslim journalists to do some investigative journalism to dig out facts about terror blasts in the country particularly in the wake of police and a section of media looking hell-bent to witch-hunt a particular community within minutes or hours of a terror blast. Maulana Umri was addressing Muslim journalists at an Iftar party hosted by the Jamaat at its headquarters on Saturday. Despite the fact that Hindutva extremists have been found involved in various terror blasts across the country including Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Dargah, Malegaon and Samjhauta Express and several Hindutva extremists were killed while making bombs or carrying bombs in the past, yet any blast takes place and police and media rather than probing the incidents professionally and objectively, they start pointing fingers directly or indirectly to Muslims.

Maulana Umri said that in various cases, Police and media have been seen ignoring clear facts and evidence about the culprits and bomb planters and start suspecting a particular community. “Muslim journalists should probe the incidents in journalistic ways and bring out facts about the real culprits without any bias,” said he. At today’s monthly media briefing, Jamaat chief also put his viewpoints on various other current issues. On communal violence in Assam, he expressed grave concern and said the recent ethnic and communal riots in the state “were planned, organized and continued for several days.” He held the Assam government responsible for them.

While offering condolences and sympathies to the families of murdered and the injured people, he demanded that the family of each deceased should be compensated appropriately and the announced compensation i.e. Rs. 2 lakh by the Central Government and Rs. 6 lakhs by the Assam government should be enhanced to be at par with compensation paid to the victims of 1984 Anti Sikh riots. He condemned efforts of Sangh Parivar to term the violence as clashes between Bodos and illegal Bangladeshi migrants. “BJP leader Mr L. K. Advani has said that the real problem in Assam is because of the illegal migrants of Bangladesh.it is not only laughable but also pouring oil on fire to instigate it as 1983 situation. The Jamaat thinks that solid facts and endorsement of the central and state government confirms that the Bengali speaking people of the disturbed areas are out and out Indians. They have been living there for more than 200 years.”

“The Jamaat also thinks that the Bodo Pact of 2003 is not based on justice because under it in Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) proper representation to Muslims, Santhalis and others, who form 73% of the area, has not been given. Therefore the government should take into confidence all segments of population in these areas and solve the relevant problems, expedite rehabilitation and restore and establish peace on solid foundations. This is also a must that the persons responsible for atrocities should be dealt with firmly and punished so that such shameful incidents are not repeated in future.” He also condemned atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and demanded the government of India to provide help and shelter to the victims who are coming here as refugee.

“Jamaat-e-Islami Hind strongly condemns the continuous atrocities on Rohingia Muslims of Mayanmar and states that the attitude of Mayanmar government in this regard is inhuman and against all international laws and conventions. The Jamaat demands that the atrocities should be stopped forthwith and the rights of Rohingias should be fully protected because they are citizens of that country and have been living there for centuries. The Jamaat demands that the United Nations should intervene and ensure that the Mayanmar Government takes positive steps in this regard. The Jamaat also hopes that the Government of India would follow the norms of human sympathy and broadmindedness and provide help and facilities to Rohingias who have taken refuge in our country and at the same time would prevail upon government of Mayanmar to normalise the situation there and stop the atrocities.” On Akbarabadi Masjid issue, he urged the government to restore the mosque. “This mosque bore the brunt of British tyranny and was demolished by them in 1857 during the first war of independence because it was a centre of freedom struggle in addition to a place of prayers and education. Because of its historical role this mosque should have been rebuilt after independence of the country and the government should have rendered all possible help in this effort.” He, however, urged Muslims for “peaceful struggle for the restoration of the mosque with patience, wisdom and collective endeavours.”

http://twocircles.net/2012aug04/muslim_journalists_should_investigate_terror_blasts_jamaat_chief.html

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HC rejects police appeal against acquittal of 7 in terror case (Aug 5, 2012, Deccan Herald)

In a setback to city police, the Delhi High Court has upheld the acquittal of seven alleged terrorists, concurring with the trial court’s verdict that they were nabbed after a “fake encounter” in 2005 and were falsely implicated in the terror case. A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and S P Garg upheld the acquittal, dismissing the police appeal against the trial court’s verdict. “If two reasonable conclusions are possible on the basis of the evidence on record, the appellate court should not disturb the finding of acquittal recorded by the trial court. “…We are of the view that the findings recorded by the learned trial court acquitting the accused are not perverse and require no interference,” said Justice Garg, writing the verdict for the bench.

The court, however, modified the trial court’s order for registration of an FIR against four policemen for faking the alleged encounter and other evidence to implicate the accused. “It is improbable that the investigating team consisting of more than 15 police officers of different ranks from different police stations would conspire against accused residing at different places to falsely implicate them… “The petitioners cannot be punished before they are found guilty…The Commissioner of Police is directed to inquire into role and conduct of the petitioners in the investigation of the case and take appropriate action in accordance with Statute/Rules…,” it said.

The police had said it had nabbed four of the seven accused after a shootout on night intervening July 1 and 2, 2005 near Delhi-Gurgaon border and had recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition from them. The three were arrested later, it had added. Police had said acting on a tip-off that the accused, planning a strike in Delhi and its satellite towns, including Gurgaon, would be coming to the capital, it had been waiting for them near the border. It had added as the accused, later identified as Saqib Rehman, Nazir Ahmed Sofi, Gulam Moinuddin Dar and Bashir Ahmed Shah did not stop their car, they were chased by police team led by sub-inspector Ravinder Tyagi, who fired from his service revolver in response to firing by Saqib.

In its appeal, police also said they recovered one AK-47 rifle, two magazines, 130 live cartridges, 2 hand grenades and 3 UBGL grenades at the instance of Saqib and these crucial evidence were ignored by the trial court. The lower court had acquitted all the accused saying that “the encounter alleged to have taken place on the fateful night did not take place at all and an absolutely false encounter was projected.” It had said the story of encounter was “carefully scripted in the office of the Special Staff, Delhi Police by its main author SI Ravinder Tyagi with the assistance of SI Nirakar, SI Charan Singh and SI Mahender Singh.”

Trashing the police version, the lower court had said that the investigating officer (IO) did not explain as to why no “independent public witnesses” were not associated during the arrest of accused after the encounter. The IO did not intimate to his superior officers about the tip-off on alleged movement of accused, it had said, adding that the prosecution also failed to produce “original daily diary entries”. Out of 15 members of the raiding party, the prosecution examined only nine witnesses and failed to explain why other members of the raiding party were withheld, it said. The investigating officer failed to explain as to why Tata Indica car allegedly seized at the spot was not searched immediately to recover the arms and ammunition lying therein, it said.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/269382/hc-rejects-police-appeal-against.html

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172 govt officials penalised for corruption (Aug 6, 2012, Deccan Herald)

As many as 172 officials from various central government departments have been handed penalties by the Central Vigilance Commission for their alleged involvement in corrupt practices. Of these, the highest number of 14 officials work in the Department of Defense Production, 12 in State Bank of India, 11 in Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, 10 in the Ministry of Railways and eight in Central Board of Excise and Customs among others, the CVC said in its performance report for June.

Seven officials working in MMTC Ltd, six in Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, five each in State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, Department of Heavy Industries, Department of Telecommunications, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd and four each working in Syndicate Bank, Employees Provident Fund Organisation, Ordnance Factory Board and Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd have also been penalised.

Three officials each working in the Industrial Development Bank of India, State Bank of Patiala, Department of Education, Ministry of Urban Development, Indian Telephone Industries Ltd, Steel Authority of India Ltd and Western Coalfields Ltd, among others, have been handed penalties for corruption. The probity watchdog had received 2,617 complaints alleging corruption and other irregularities in the government departments during the month.

The Chief Technical Examination wing of the CVC had effected a recovery of over Rs eight crore after inspecting procurement and works of various government departments. “The Commission is deeply concerned over continuing delay in filling the post of Chief Vigilance Officers in MMTC Ltd, Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL),” it said.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/269757/172-govt-officials-penalised-corruption.html

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Naxals blow up vehicle in Chhattisgarh, jawan killed (Aug 6, 2012, Deccan Herald)

Maoist militants on Monday blew off a mine protected vehicle with the help of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killing a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injuring few others in the naxal hotbed of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh.

The blast that injured about four CRPF and one state police personnel occurred when a 80-personnel strong contingent of security forces were out on patrol at a place under Aranpur police station of the district. A helicopter was immediately pressed into service to evacuate the injured troopers and they were later brought to Dantewada.

The mine protected vehicle was totally damaged in the explosion which is suspected to have been carried out by triggering an Improvised Explosive Device kept under the road on which the vehicle rolled over, a senior official said. Initial reports said that two injured troopers are in critical condition. Senior security officials along with reinforcements have rushed to the area, the official said.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/269760/naxals-blow-up-vehicle-chhattisgarh.html

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V-C gets NHRC notice after caste slur charge (Aug 4, 2012, Indian Express)

Following a complaint from a professor who had accused his college trustees of caste slur, the National Human Rights Commission has sought an explanation from the Vice-Chancellor of Veer Narmad South Gujarat University (VNSGU) under whose jurisdiction the self-financed college falls.

Arvind Rathor, a professor at Bhawan Mahavir College in Surat, had accused college trustees of passing casteist remarks against him after he demanded that their salaries be raised as per Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations.

“College trustees Anil Jain, A S Abani and Arvind Thaker asked me to forget about the salary hike and started pressuring me to quit the job. They also passed casteist remarks,” Rathor had said in his complaint to NHRC. The professor claimed he had taken up the issue with V-C Dr Daxesh Thaker, but in vain. Later, he lodged a complaint against the three trustees at Kathodara police station on January 3. Police arrested the three on January 7 and they were later released on bail.

Rathor then approached the NHRC, which sent a notice to VNSGU V-C, seeking an explanation within four weeks. “We had formed a two-member committee to look into the matter, but Rathor has also lodged a police complaint and so it’s a court case now,” the V-C said. Rathod told The Indian Express that he had not received any salary for the last seven months.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/983641/

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Opinions and Editorials

Assam, Muslims and the Insiders – By Kashif-ul-Huda (Jul 31, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Recent Bodo-Muslim violence that left at least a hundred dead and hundreds of thousands homeless has given an opportunity to many to indulge in the usual Muslim-bashing rhetoric. A few insiders of the Indian establishment has also taken the trouble to put on record their anti-Muslim views while they appear to position themselves as against illegal migration. Writing in the Indian Express, Election Commissioner of India Harishankar Brahma declares that Assam clashes were not unexpected and asks the question: ” why did it take a few decades to occur in the first place? Assam has been virtually sitting on a huge tinderbox.” “The present ethnic clashes between the two communities can be directly attributed to the aforementioned facts of illegal migration into Assam.” He informs us that population in districts around Indo-Bangladeshi borders is going up “leaps and bounds.” However, when it comes to giving a number, only number he quotes is that 1.5 lakh voters are on Election Commission’s list of D-voters (voters whose citizenship is considered doubtful).

Not to be outdone By Mr. Brahma, former intelligence official and now a professional conspiracy theorist B. Raman, writes in Outlook magazine, in a column appropriately titled “The Outsiders,” that the conflict in Assam is between “Indian sons of the soil” and “Bangladeshi intruders.” Masterfully drawing parallels of the Assam conflict with the plight of Rohingya Muslims, he urges the Indian state to follow the same tough stance as taken by Myanmar. But what about the Assamese Muslims? Mr. Raman will be doing a great disservice to his fans if he somehow does not take this opportunity to threaten Indian Muslims. He writes, “the problem is rendered even more explosive by the insensitive attitude of the indigenous Muslims of Assam.” It is important to begin by patronizing them first, so he declares, “they are one of us. They are our co-citizens entitled to the same rights and protection as you and I.” But we will not give them this right, Raman seems to suggest because of “their misplaced feelings of religious solidarity with the Muslim intruders from Bangladesh and their tendency to downplay the extent of illegal migration and the threats posed by the migrants” as this is “creating suspicions in the minds of the non-Muslim sons of the soil.”

Raman will not be a true patriot without telling Indian Muslims what to do so here is what he orders them to do: “The indigenous Muslim sons of the soil should identify themselves with the feelings, suspicions and concerns of the non-Muslim citizens. They should be in the forefront of national solidarity.” Else, here comes the threat, “the wedge between the Muslim and non-Muslim sons of the soil could grow wider and create more tensions and violence.” Now, the reality. Muslims have been part of Assam since early thirteenth century. The migration of Bengali-speakers, both Hindus and Muslims, into Assam started in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century as a British policy to find people for filling government jobs and a majority of them came as labourers for tea plantation and jute cultivation. Overlooking these historical migrations, these “insider experts” want to put all Bangla-speaking Muslim in the category of Illegal migrations or simply Bangladeshis. Even if we take the recent census data, the numbers do not show any signs of huge influx of Muslims into Assam. In 1951, Muslims were 26.60% of the state population while in 2001 their population share was 30.90%. The rate of growth is slower than Muslims growth in the rest of India, which will suggest that Muslims are leaving the state.

This is not to deny that there is no illegal migration into Assam but the bogey of “intrusion” cannot be used to put into doubt citizenship of millions who have been living here for hundreds of years. Advocate Muij Uddin Mahmud, who is researching this issue for a number of years, told TwoCircles.net last year that there are very few foreigners in Assam both among the religious minorities or linguistic minorities like Bengali Hindus. Bangladeshi Hindus who have crossed the border into India are protected under section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 but the same law does not apply to Muslims from Bangladesh. Label of “Illegal migrant” has been used as a tactic to harass Muslims of Assam and therefore organizations representing Muslim have always taken a tough stand against it blaming the government for letting it happen. Member of Parliament Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, representing Dhubri in Lok Sabha had opposed the idea of giving work-permit to “illegal migrants.” His party All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) supports early disposal of all cases where citizenship of a person is considered doubtful.

Indian Constitution recognizes only two categories of citizenship- either you are a citizen or a foreigner. But the Election Commission has invented a third category in Assam – the doubtful voters list or the D-voters. “The provision of putting a “D” mark (Doubtful) is not provided in Indian constitution or laws. This is ridiculous and unconstitutional,” argues Dr. Baharul Islam, General Secretary of AIDUF. “This is a tactic to put pressure on the minority community. The politics in Assam is that Hindu migrants are refugees and Muslims migrants are outsiders.” But even many Bengali Hindus found their name in the D-Voters list effectively denying them their democratic rights and therefore citizenship. Retired CRPF Jawan Anath Bandhu Biswas and his wife Arati Biswas are in D-Voters list since 1996. Interestingly, their children are not categorized as D-voters. Advocate Muij Uddin Mahmud estimates that 80% of those on D-Voters are Muslims. However, even by Election Commissioner of India Mr. Brahma’s own admission there are only 1.5 lakh voters on D-Voters list. So does that mean there are only 1.5 lakh “illegal” in a population of over 30 crores? Forty-times more Nepalis live and work in India but that doesn’t seem to be any drain in Indian economy or cause of concern for India’s security. So does that mean all that rhetoric against illegal migrations is an excuse to remind everyone that Muslims will remain outsiders in India?

http://twocircles.net/2012jul31/assam_muslims_and_insiders.html

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Assam riots: Real issue is development – By Ram Puniyani (Jul 31, 2012, Tehelka)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the recent violence in Assam a blot to the nation. Fifty three people have died and almost four lakh people have been rendered homeless in the clashes that occurred last week in Khokrajhar and Chirang districts, between Bodos and ‘illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators’, majority of whom happen to be Muslims. There was some inexcusable delay in deploying the army in the area, which resulted in worsening of the situation. That the riots occurred just around the sowing season in what is the rice country of Assam is a worrying sign. Traumatised people are now crowding 250 ill-equipped relief camps set up by the government. But this isn’t the first time such violence has hit Assam. The strife between ethnic groups and Muslims, who are labeled as ‘Bangladeshi immigrants’, has been going on for several decades. In 2003, the Bodo Territorial Autonomous Districts were formed following a peace treaty between Bodo activists and the government. The districts included Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalgiri. Estimates put the percentage of Bodos in these districts between 22 and 29. The rest are Tribals and Muslims. Despite being in minority, Bodos, with full powers in the region, initiated policies which have kept non-Bodos largely out of the social framework. Over the years, local disputes have been painted as problems between legal citizens and illegal immigrants with parochial politicking under ‘Assam for Assamese’.

The first major catastrophe in this occurred in the 80s, when the All Assam Students Union (AASU) demanded exclusion of Bangladeshi immigrants from the electoral rolls. In 1983, at least 2,000 people were killed in Nellie, near Guwahati. Those killed were Muslims, said to be illegal migrants and occupants of land that belonged to Lalung tribals. Tribhuban Das Tiwary Commission was constituted into the Nellie massacre, but the AASU, now Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), after coming to power dropped all the criminal cases against the culprits and the report of the Commission was never made public. A decade later occurred another series of violence, the victims of which are still living in relief camps. Last week’s carnage was preceded by a rumour that people from Bangladesh have brought in a huge cache of armaments and it soon got triggered into violence that left lakhs with nothing. Perhaps the real problem lies in the stressed land and job scenario due to a rising population. Lopsided development has put employment under pressure all over the country. In Mumbai, Shiv Sena presents it as a non-Marathis vs marathi issue. In Assam, the problem is deflected by making it an India vs Bangladeshi immigrants issue. Politics aggravates things in Assam by bringing in the foreigner angle, when actually Bangla speakers have made up a sizeable chunk of the state population for over a century.

In the early 20th century, Assam was grossly underpopulated and generated little revenue. The neighbouring Bengal, on the other hand, was overpopulated, which resulted in frequent famines. To counter the problem, the British resorted to ‘human plantation’ encouraging people from Bengal to migrate to Assam. But to maintain the core policy of ‘divide and rule’, the immigrants and the natives were kept in separate areas. This migration of Bangla speaking Muslims went on for several decades and by 1930s, the Muslims comprised a sizeable chunk of Assamese population. Post partition, divided Bengal became East Pakistan and then Bangladesh, but even then both Hindus and Muslims continued migrating to Assam. The question here is how is this immigration is looked at. Why are Nepalese immigrants to India never looked down upon or demonised here? Why even the Hindus coming from Bangladesh are treated as immigrants, while Bangladeshi Muslims are seen as infiltrators and a threat to our security?

The propaganda by communal forces about so call infiltration by Bangledeshis has assumed alarming proportions. It has been the backdrop of many agitations in Assam. Surely the basic issue of lack of development in Assam has been deflected by political groups as the issue of displacement of locals from their lands by infiltrators. Right from Nellie to the present violence, in which displacement is the most dominant factor, the infiltrator propaganda has prepared the ground for carnage. What is required today is to disarm the criminals, to rehabilitate the refugees and to ensure that they return to their homes for the sowing season. If this is not met, surely a bigger disaster of food deprivation is staring at us. We also need to debunk the myth of ‘infiltrators’ for good. The word has been misued for far too long. And lastly the wounded psyche of communities needs to be healed through a process of dialogue and justice.

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Fw310712Assam.asp

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Modi shouldn’t be obdurate about apology – By B.S.Raghavan (Aug 2, 2012, The Hindu)

Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi is being both petulant and petty in refusing to tender an apology for the post-Godhra riots of 2002. He has been doggedly stonewalling the suggestion, on the ground that he had done no wrong. In the 2002 riots more than 2,000 persons, majority of them Muslim, were put to death by blood-thirsty mobs. Life-long trauma has been caused to members of as many families which will never be able to forget the horrors they went through. The whole of India was plunged into shock because of what happened in Gujarat and it is yet to come out of it. It is immaterial where the instigation came from. The fact of murder, mayhem and arson is undisputed and indisputable. Equally so is the fact that they occurred under Modi’s watch.

Apology doesn’t mean any personal stigma or indication of personal culpability. It simply means expressing, as a human being, unbounded sorrow for what happened and setting an example in nobility and humanity. It raises the stature of the person tendering the apology in the eyes of the world. I wish to bring to the notice of Modi some deeply touching instances of nations and their governments as a whole offering apologies for events that had occurred centuries ago for which the present ruling establishments could not be held responsible or blameworthy. In February 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised in a speech to Parliament in Canberra for White Australia’s policy of Indigenous assimilation during the first seven decades of the 20th century and for the “profound grief, suffering, hurt and loss” for “the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture”, and “for the breaking up of families and communities” of Australia’s Indigenous people, and their descendants.

Mark his words Modi: “As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I am sorry. And I offer you this apology without qualification.” In April 2009, US Congress, in a solemn resolution unanimously adopted, expressed its deeply felt remorse at the “long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes” and apologised on behalf of the people of the US “to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States”. In February 2010, the Japanese Foreign Minister apologised to South Korea for the more than three decades of occupation calling it “a tragic incident for Koreans when they were deprived of their nation and their identity”.

The anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in which more than 4,000 Sikhs were done to death following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by a Sikh bodyguard are brought up by many Modi sympathisers the moment post-Godhra riots in Gujarat are mentioned. Here again, it is necessary to take note of the unconditional apology offered in Parliament by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to the following effect: “I have no hesitation in apologising not only to the Sikh community but the whole nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood and what’s enshrined in our Constitution. So I am not standing on any false prestige. On behalf of our government, on behalf of the entire people of this country, I bow my head in shame that such a thing took place.”

He apologised once again to the Sikh community of the US and Canada in 2010 while on a visit to Toronto for the “horrible crimes … (which)… should never have happened.” Modi’s adamant refusal is doing him no good. It is only making him seem arrogant and insensitive, besides fuelling suspicions about his connivance. It is surprising that one whose achievements have earned high praise from different quarters, including an effusive tribute to his leadership from the Time magazine, should exhibit such behaviour.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/b-s-raghavan/article3717973.ece

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Pune blasts: The story behind the story – By Amaresh Misra (Aug 5, 2012, Times of India)

Any journalist, writer or columnist of basic integrity has to question, and express scepticism about, the official version of events. Without being judgmental, he or she also bears the moral responsibility of pointing out contradictions in media reporting about procedures. An odd thing happened on 2nd August 2012. For a full day, Delhi’s electronic media did not carry the “breaking news” of the involvement of Indian Mujahideen (IM) in the 1st August 2012, low-intensity, Pune blasts. Just the day before, on the evening of the blasts, all channels, talked about the existence of terror (read Muslim) modules in Pune and the like. A 4th August 2012 Times of India news story clearly states that apart from known terror outfits like the IM, the Central investigative agencies as well as the Maharashtra Police do not rule out the possibility of Maoists or right wing (read Hindutva) groups executing the Pune blasts.

Speaking just an hour and a half after the blasts, the Pune Police Commissioner clearly stated on TV that no terror module was under suspicion. He also went on to say that the bombs looked like the work of some mischief makers. The media’s flip-flop over the Pune blasts is understandable. The blasts have come at a time when a turf war between different security forces of both Centre and States, is going on. Several articles in nearly all Indian newspapers have carried reports about the inter-force rivalry aspect. This author has written about the turf war phenomenon in two blogposts two blogposts Abu Jundal prize catch or a victim of a turfwar and Indian security agencies unleash home grow terror. The worrying part is that national security is getting affected by disputes between security agencies. The Pune blasts can be seen as an example. They occurred at a time when the tussle for the post of Mumbai’s Police Commissioner is getting hot. One of the contenders for the job is Rakesh Maria, the current Maharashtra ATS Chief. Rakesh Maria has his admirers as well as detractors. Admirers laud him for solving the 1993 and 2003 Mumbai Blasts. Detractors-in Maharashtra Police and the IB-point out a seamier side. Written by Rana Ayyub, a news story in Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 49, Dated December 12,2009 mentions that “a 2005 IB report cast doubts on the veracity of the intelligence Maria had provided about the terrorists (in the 2003 blasts)…” The Tehelka news story goes on to say that “the report (IB) suggested that Maria and his team had concocted the names of terrorists who didn’t even exist…”

Following the IB report in “2005 itself, Maria’s team was disbanded by then Police Commissioner RS Sharma”; then “while a senior official suggested that the IB report was true, another senior official who refused to be named said it was a major frame up to cut Maria down to size.” The point here is that whether the IB report was meant as a frame-up or was true-there indeed was a report. Even Maria supporters accept that there is a report! And the report mentions that Maria concocted the names of 2003 Mumbai blast accused. Even if Maria is given the benefit of doubt, in the interest of national security, it is imperative that the IB report is analyzed thoroughly. It is common knowledge that the current Maharashtra ATS chief was in the Police control room when Karkare, Kaamte and Salaskar died fighting terrorists on the night of 26/11. Vinita Kaamte, the wife of one of the slain officers, had a public spat with the current ATS chief. Vinita suspected that he was the one who sent Kaamte to his death and did not respond to the calls of Karkare, Kaamte and Salaskar for back up. Then the current Maharashtra ATS chief refused to acknowledge that before dying, Kaamte indeed came out of his vehicle and fired bullets which hit Ajmal Kasab. The role of the current Maharashtra ATS chief during 26/11 and the 1993 Mumbai blasts, remains controversial. …

It is common knowledge in Maharashtra Police circles that the 2006 blasts were designed as a false flag attack, to cover up the sentencing of the accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. As the current Maharashtra ATS chief earned his spurs investigating the 1993 blasts, acquittal of the accused by the special TADA court would have meant a body blow to him. To be sure, several key accused like Salim Khan Durrani were acquitted by the TADA court of the charges of conspiracy and harboring. Allegedly, the 2006 Mumbai train blasts were set into motion to create an atmosphere for the pronouncements of death sentences to several 1993 blast accused. Both events happened one after the other, with the former preceding the latter. Intelligence sources allege that terror incidents happen, to create an anti-Muslim mood, just before the pronouncement of controversial judgments involving Muslims. … Only a proper investigation into these allegations can bring out the true picture. However bitter, Indians deserve to know the truth. Nothing less than national security is at stake. Since Mumbai-Pune zone has been under terror attacks for several years now, controversial officers ought to be investigated thoroughly before being assigned top jobs.

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-mainstream-maverick/entry/pune-blasts-the-story-behind-the-story

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Team Anna has been too precipitate from the start; more eager for spectacle than substance – By Shoma Chaudhury (Aug 11, 2012, Tehelka)

The unravelling of Team Anna’s campaign against corruption holds many sobering lessons for everyone. For Team Anna themselves – struggling to explain the loss of crowds, the vanished media attention – it is a moment of humbling introspection. Clearly, revolutions cannot be constructed on the wind of television coverage. Nor can moral transformation be built on a storm of taunts. If you set out to change the world, can you mirror that which you criticise? Too much of Indian politics has come to be merely a game of numbers rather than inspirational vision. Unfortunately, the India Against Corruption movement itself fell into that trap. Team Anna mocked the government for its spinelessness against coalition pressures, but in the hunt for numbers, they themselves built contingent alliances with unlikely men like Baba Ramdev and have struggled with the contradictions ever since.

In other ways too, Team Anna has been too precipitate from the start, always more eager for spectacle than substance. They took to the streets before they had fine-tuned their demands. They stirred up crowds with the promise of magic wands, overnight change, 80 percent eradication of corruption, a miraculous super structure of squeaky-clean officers, gimmicky polls, a toxic rhetoric, adamantine stands, and the heady language of a witch-hunt. They tried to shift the location of power, not the nature of it. Their praise was partisan; their assaults encyclopaedic. They supped with some parties, quartered others. Headlines were important for them; the details not. Popularity was crucial, the process incidental. Virtue, they claimed, was the exclusive domain of those in Anna caps: the curse of all corruption lay outside it. For all these reasons and more, Team Anna’s movement was destined to hit rock. Its followers’ engagement ran skin deep. They bought the hype, the breaking news about “India’s Arab Spring” and “India’s Second Independence Movement”. They wanted romance not reason. But playing to camera can be risky business and everyone missed a basic point: India is a democracy not a dictatorship. Protest movements here can only improve process, not overthrow it. So, as the overblown promises failed to materialise, people folded their caps and returned home. The movement hadn’t trained them for the slow, long fight democracies demand. If television was bored, so were they.

Yet, it is a cardinal mistake for voices in government to gloat over this. The floundering of this movement is a loss for everyone. There is something discomfiting about watching – and criticising – the men fasting at Jantar Mantar while brazen proofs of corruption flood our every moment. No matter how flawed their design or exasperating their intent, the fact is, Team Anna has brought a historic – and long overdue – urgency to the issue of corruption. Just because the numbers have fallen, the camera lights have dimmed, and their reasoning become more befuddled, is the issue less important? The precise Jan Lokpal Bill that Team Anna was so obdurately demanding – unwilling to shift even a self-righteous comma – might have been a dangerous piece of legislation, but many of the principles they are espousing have great merit. What is stopping the UPA government from seizing the moment and presenting a Bill in good faith – a year after it had first promised one? Why is the Standing Committee examining the Bill in the Rajya Sabha so delayed? And what of the other parties, who dined out on the UPA’s discomfiture last year but have failed to fast-track the Bill themselves?

It certainly seems infantile of Arvind Kejriwal to go on a fast unto death yet claim he will not negotiate with the government. What is he on a fast for then? Even more infantile to claim the collapse of the Northern Grid or plans to hospitalise him is some sinister government “conspiracy”. This country could do with a little less suspicion and a little more clear thinking. In the final cut, our real national crisis is not the absence of a Lokpal, it is that the form of anti-corruption measures no longer matter. We have already tried all the tropes there is: independent regulatory mechanisms, oversight bodies, checks and balances, august citizens, even draconian laws. As the latest DGCA scam is proof, all these forms can be subverted. Team Anna can float its own political party or bring in an army of empowered policemen, but this country will still reel under corruption. The trouble is, the impulse for it runs in our very blood. And as long as we keep outsourcing the introspection, we are all in for a marathon fast.

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Op110812Team.asp

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Compounding the Guwahati Horror – Editorial (Aug 11, 2012, Economic & Political Weekl)

The horrific sexual assault on a teenage girl on the streets of Guwahati on 9 July will not be forgotten for some time to come. Not only because of the nature of the crime, where the young woman was dragged away from the autorickshaw which she was about to take and surrounded by a mob of more than 20 men who punched her, tore off her clothes, pulled her hair, groped her, burnt her with cigarette butts, called her a prostitute – everything short of a gang rape. Not only because of the shockingly slow response of the police located just one kilometre away. Not only because of the crass and callous indifference of dozens of citizens who drove past the girl as she ran down the street screaming for help. Not only because of the scandalous and unforgivable act of revealing the identity of the girl by the representative of the National Commission for Women, Alka Lamba. Or the equally mindless action of the Assam chief minister’s publicity department of sending to the media photographs of the girl with the chief minister.

All of this was ghastly enough but it was compounded many times over by the role of the media. This is something that must be addressed even as the other dimensions of the crime are being pursued. Whether the reporter from the News Live channel, who claimed he was passing by when the attack began, is guilty of instigating the mob even as he filmed the “action” on his cell phone, followed by its recording by the channel’s cameraperson, has yet to be established. But there is no doubt of his culpability in keeping the camera running for over 30 minutes without making any attempt to save the girl or call the police. As if that was not in itself a crime, the news channel barely paused before it telecast the footage and also uploaded it on YouTube where it ran in three episodes titled “Girl in the City”. Predictably, it went viral within minutes and was seen by thousands on the internet.

Both the act of recording this horrific incident without intervening, and the alacrity with which the film was made public exposes the total absence of any semblance of media ethics operating in newsrooms such as those of this particular channel. Media organisations, print and broadcast, consist of various levels of gatekeeping that act as a check on actions that could result in harm to an individual, a community or the country. Information has to be assessed for its accuracy, its relevance and its legitimacy before it is made public. In this instance, as in so many others that could be cited, no such process of thought or rigour was evident before the footage was released.

It has been argued that the very act of recording such incidents helps the police to catch the culprits. In this instance, the chief instigator of the assault has been identified and caught, as were several of the others. But does this alone justify the repeated telecasting of an incident that has scarred a young woman for life and that serves no other purpose apart from pandering to the voyeuristic instincts of viewers? Is that what news television is all about – a kind of reality TV that is played out in a loop to draw in viewers? Has this made what is real so unreal that people, such as the mob in Guwahati, happily preen in front of cameras even as they commit a crime, confident that nothing will happen to them? The Guwahati horror is not an aberration. It reflects the growing tendency in Indian broadcast media to give precedence to attracting eyeballs over basic news sense or even decency. This is not the first time that the conduct of news and current affairs channels has been questioned. Whether it was its intrusive and often mindless coverage of the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, or the way it exaggerates and distorts incidents of violence, of murders (such as the Aarushi Talwar case), of natural disasters (the 2005 monsoon floods in Mumbai), the priorities set by news television, its internal systems of rigour and the values that govern news coverage, need to be scrutinised.

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has formulated a code of ethics for its members and set up a News Broadcasting Standards Regulation Authority. But only 41 news and current affairs channels are members of the NBA. That leaves out the majority of channels like News Live which operate in regional languages. As of now, there is simply no mechanism in place to monitor, or censure, these channels. Media organisations are understandably wary of any government regulation, seeing this as another form of government control over the free flow of information. Yet self-regulation, premised on a genuine desire of the industry to set and abide by internal standards, can only work if all channels are covered and if there is enough societal pressure to ensure a minimal compliance as well as laws that penalise over-stepping the boundaries. At present, much of Indian news television operates outside any compliance structure. The consequences of this are felt not necessarily by the powerful, but the most vulnerable, like the unfortunate young woman in Guwahati.

http://www.epw.in/editorials/compounding-guwahati-horror.html

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