In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Godhra riots: Call for CBI probe gets louder
- Ishrat encounter: New SIT chief grills constable on retraction
- UP tops fake encounters list, Manipur follows: NHRC
- Mumbai Urdu dailies scream at bail to saffron terror accused
- Court seeks police report on Swamy’s article
- Bhuria slams order allowing employees to participate in RSS activities
- Lokpal bill tabled, Anna fumes
- CBI grills Baba Ramdev aide on fake passport issue
- CAG pins 700-page medal of shame on Delhi, Centre
- Two get life imprisonment in dowry death case
Opinions & Editorials
- Breivik’s Agenda: Did Hindu or Islamic Fundamentalism Inspire Oslo’s Terrorist? – By Farzana Versey
- BJP’s litmus test – Editorial
- Colour me saffron – Editorial
- When friends begin to speak like foes – By John Dayal
- Honesty Icons under Cloud – Editorial
- The Lokpal Imbroglio: The Third Flight Path – Aruna Roy tells Shoma Chaudhury
The clandestine operation to use evidence in the Gujarat riot cases not to book the guilty but to help them frame their defense once again highlights the need appointment of an independent prosecuting agency such as the CBI. As IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s affidavit the Supreme court shows, the advocate general of Gujarat – Tushar Mehta – sent reports of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in the nine Gujarat riot cases to RSS ideologue S. Gurumurthy. Gurumurthy was, in turn, framing the BJP’s political strategy to counter public opinion against chief minister Narendra Modi and the state government. He was also helping the accused frame their defence.
According to R. K. Shah, the special public prosecutor who resigned from the Gulbarga Society case last year, such activities have created an atmosphere of suspicion Gujarat. “There is certainly an atmosphere in Gujarat that does not lend itself to fairness… I resigned as special public prosecutor from the Gulbarga case. Actually, it is proper for me to elaborate further,” Shah said, over the phone from Ahmedabad. Shah said the possibility of the victims getting justice in such an atmosphere is “highly remote”. No wonder then that the apex court did give copies of amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran’s report about CM Narendra Modi and other high state functionaries to either the SIT or the state government.
A special bench of justices D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam declined SIT chief R. K. Raghavan’s request to share the report with his team. The bench dismissed his plea with an assurance that he would be supplied with a copy at the “appropriate time”. The state government, too, protested about not getting the amicus curiae’s report, presented to the bench in a sealed cover. As Bhatt’s affidavit highlights, the secret status of investigations is freely used by RSS ideologues as well as law officers in Gujarat to frame strategies for the ruling party, the BJP, as well as for the accused.
That is why Ahmedabad-based senior advocate and activist Mukul Sinha has been arguing for over a year now that the SIT should be disbanded and the investigation and prosecution in the Gujarat riot cases should be handed over to the CBI with immediate effect. “We have believed right from the beginning that the Gujarat investigations and prosecution should have been carried out by an independent agency such as the CBI. The SIT is in cahoots with the state government to save the accused rather than punish the guilty,” Sinha said.
According to senior advocate in the SC, Colin Gonsalves, it is a travesty of justice that the evidence that should have been used to nail the guilty in the Gujarat riots is, instead, being used to help them. “If the Gujarat law officers are using SIT inquiries to help the accused, it strengthens the case for an independent prosecuting agency to take over the riot cases. The SIT was set up to deliver justice to the victims, not to help the accused,” Gonsalves said.
- Details of SIT probe on Gujarat riots were leaked: Bhatt (Aug 5, 2011, The Hindu)
- Officer’s fresh affidavit rakes up more muck (Aug 3, 2011, Ahmedabad Mirror)
- Bhatt vs Gujarat govt: Hacked email vs email (Aug 6, 2011, Indian Express)
- Did Sohrabuddin probe details get leaked to the accused too? (Aug 6, 2011, DNA India)
The High Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter on Thursday recorded the statements of head constable Moti Desai, who had retracted from his earlier statements alleging he was forced to give the same by SIT member Satish Verma. Desai was posted with the Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) when Ishrat and her aides Javed Pillai, Jishan Johar and Amzad Ali Rana were shot dead in the encounter near Ahmedabad. Today, SIT’s new chairman R R Verma questioned Desai.
Sources said he was asked about his claim that Satish Verma had forced him to give certain statements. He was also asked to explain his retraction and specify if he did so out of his own will or under duress. In his affidavit in the Gujarat High Court in January this year, Satish Verma had stated that Desai told him he and a few others from the Ahmedabad Crime Branch had confined one person, stated to be a Pakistani, at Arham Farm. According to Verma, Desai also claimed this person was brought to the scene of encounter and made to stand blindfolded across the road divider.
Furthermore, Desai had reportedly told the SIT that the Indica car of the alleged terrorists was already there at that time and that the police fired at the car and the person near the road divider. Desai later filed a petition in the HC alleging his statements were recorded forcibly. Subsequently, Satish Verma filed an affidavit in the HC, saying SIT member Mohan Jha was responsible for forcing Desai to retract. SIT officials said Desai’s statements today were recorded in the presence of all the three SIT members.
- Ishrat Jahan encounter genuine or fake? HC asks SIT (Aug 5, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Complete Ishrat case probe in a month: court (Aug 5, 2011, The Hindu)
- HC sets deadline for Ishrat probe by SIT (Aug 6, 2011, Times of India)
- Prajapati encounter: Court allows CBI to quiz jailed accused (Aug 2, 2011, IBN)
Uttar Pradesh has earned the dubious distinction of witnessing the highest number of fake encounters, with nearly 120 people being allegedly killed by police in such incidents in the past three years. In the first six months of this year, six persons were killed in the state in alleged encounters and their families have approached the National Human Rights Commission for justice.
In 2010-11, NHRC received complaints that 40 people were killed by security forces in Uttar Pradesh in alleged fake encounters. During 2008-09 and 2009-10, 71 people were killed in the state in alleged fake encounters. Official sources said there were 369 cases of alleged fake encounters registered by NHRC beginning 2008-09 till June from across the country. In 90 cases, where police action was found to be doubtful, NHRC has recommended monetary relief of Rs 4.54 crore to the next of kin of the deceased.
Out of the 369 cases, 98 have been resolved by the NHRC, while 271 cases are yet to be settled. After Uttar Pradesh, Manipur recorded the second highest number of fake encounter cases during the three year period; 16 in 2008-09, 32 in 2009-10, 12 in 2010-11 and one in first half of 2011. There were 14 cases of alleged fake encounters in militancy hit Jammu and Kashmir in the past three years, with the highest 11 cases registered in 2010-11. No such case has been reported from the state so far this year.
Maoist hit Chhattisgarh has reported 11 cases of fake encounter in the last three years, while two other Maoists affected states, Jharkhand and Orissa, registered 13 and 12 such cases, respectively. Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh – two relatively peaceful states – have recorded 15 cases each of alleged fake encounters in the last three years. West Bengal recorded altogether 23 cases of alleged fake encounters, while national capital Delhi recorded six such cases.
- Dara encounter case: Witnesses lying, says defence lawyer (Aug 3, 2011, Times of India)
- Petitioner pressurised witnesses, alleges defence (Aug 5, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Custodial death: 2 policemen arrested in Sopore (Aug 7, 2011, Times of India)
- Convention against Terrorism and Corruption (Aug 7, 2011, People’s Democracy)
Reflecting the sentiments of Muslims nearly all the leading Urdu newspapers of Mumbai put a flyer on Thursday about High Court granting bail to Shiv Nararin Kalsangara and Shyam Sahu, two of the accused of Malegaon September 2008 blasts. Inquilab, the leading Urdu daily screamed “Partners of Sadhvi Pragya Singh granted bail” along with a photograph of Muslim women fasting since last 100 days against the denial of bail to 9 Muslims accused of Malegaon 2006 blasts. The court denied bail to these accused even after the confessional statement of RSS pracharak Swami Aseemanand, when CBI objected to the bail plea. Aseemanand confessed that Malegaon 2006 blast also was the handiwork of saffron group.
The daily also provided a healing touch with the news that there is a hope of getting bail to the 9 accused from Malegaon whose bail application will be heard on 6th August, 2011. Urdu Times yelled “Terrorists Sahu and Kalsangara granted bail” and also condemned the prosecution for not providing substantial proof against these accused both of whom are electrical engineers. Urdu Times also carried a report from Malegaon. The daily quoted Abdul Hamid Azhari, President of Kul Jamaati Tanzeem as saying: “Discrimination is going on between Hindu and Muslim accused.” Quoting example that the Hindu accused were showered with flowers whereas Muslims accused are beaten inside the jail. Sadhvi is admitted to many hospitals whereas Muslim accused were not allowed even outside Anda Cell.”
“Hemant Karkare in the chargesheet filed against these accused alleged that both are electrical Engineer and they modified the bikes and planted bomb in Malegaon,” he further said. Roznama Rashtriya Sahara carried reaction of different Muslim leaders over the bail to two Hindutva activists. Abu Asim Azmi, MLA of Maharashtra Assembly and leader of Samajwadi Party alleged that the prosecution weakens the case against Hindutva accused. He said, “No progress has happened in the Hinutva terrorist cases after the death of Hemant Karkare. ATS could not trace even absconding accused.”
Mustaqeem Ahsan Azmi, president of Jamiat Ulema Maharashtra said, “Real culprits are granted bail whereas innocent accused are in jail.” Gulzar Azmi, who is fighting the case of many terror accused, observed that Investigative agencies make strong cases when accused are Muslims and even put forward strong objections against their bail but their attitude seems to be simply opposite when the accused are Hindus.”
Luqman Nadvi of All India Milli Council asked the government to appeal against the bail as they did so when Fahim Ansari was given bail. Advocate Khalid Azmi is shocked to hear about the bail. He said, “Session court did not give heed to confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand and said that the case is going on but it’s really shocking to see that these accused whose case and investigation is going on are granted bail.”
- Malegaon blast: 2 NIA accused granted bail by HC (Aug 3, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Five killed as blast rocks Imphal (Aug 2, 2011, Indian Express)
- NIA still part of Mumbai blast probe: Chidambaram (Aug 1, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- NIA to quiz associate of slain RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi (Aug 5, 2011, IBN)
A Delhi court on Wednesday sought a report from police on a lawyer’s plea for lodging a criminal case against Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for allegedly making anti-Muslim remarks.
Taking note of Swamy’s article in a newspaper, ‘How to wipe out Islamic terror’, in which he suggested that conditions be imposed on the voting rights of Muslims in India, the court asked the police to file a status report on August 16. The court’s direction came following an argument by advocate R K Anand, contending that a prima facie case was made out against Swamy for his “anti-minority” article.
Earlier, lawyer Asghar Khan had moved the court seeking registration of a case against Swamy, alleging that his “anti-Muslim” remarks promoted strife and hatred between different communities. “The statement made by Swamy is seditious and has been made with the intention to promote enmity between different groups,” Khan had said in his
- NHRC reserves decision on MP’s plea against Swamy (Aug 5, 2011, The Hindu)
- Swamy to face criminal charges for hate article on Muslims (Aug 4, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Minorities’ commission to press criminal charges against Swamy (Aug 3, 2011, The Hindu)
- Subramanian Swamy’s article irresponsible & Islamophobic (Jul 18, 2011, DNA India)
Bhuria slams order allowing employees to participate in RSS activities (Aug 5, 2011, Indian Express)
The Madhya Pradesh Congress President Kantilal Bhuria said he was strongly opposed to the Madhya Pradesh government order allowing its employees to take part in RSS activities.
“If a government employee goes to a RSS shakha then he may feel an inkling towards the fundamentalist ideology spread by the RSS,” the State Congress President told reporters here last evening. Bhuria said that every small or big leader from the BJP always says that he was proud of his association with the RSS and added that because of this, the two cannot be thought of as separate from each other.
He said that allowing government officials and employees to take part in RSS activities was akin to spreading the ideology of Nathuram Godse.The State Congress President said the RSS was a strictly political organisation and added that it always worked to strengthen the BJP.
- Pune Muslims protest against govt restrictions on building mosque (Aug 1, 2011,Twocircles.net)
- Implementing Sachar recommendations top priority: Khursheed (Aug 1, 2011, Rediff)
- State may refer Ambani’s Wakf land deal to CBI (Aug 2, 2011, Indian Express)
- Sachar meets Mamata, minority development issues discussed (Jul 31, 2011, The Hindu)
The government on Thursday tabled its version of the lokpal in Parliament, immediately sparking protests from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and supporters of social activist Anna Hazare. BJP MP Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition, demanded in the Lok Sabha that the Prime Minister should come under the purview of the lokpal. Hazare’s supporters burnt copies of the government’s bill and called it “useless”. Just before introduction of the bill, speaker Meira Kumar gave permission to leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj to express her views as a special case under Rule 72. Swaraj said when the Prime Minister does not enjoy immunity from prosecution under the criminal law and Prevention of Corruption Act, why is he being kept out of the ambit of the lokpal. She maintained that as per the Constitution, everybody was equal and there is no immunity from IPC, CrPC or the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“It is for the first time that under Clause 2 of the lokpal bill, all Union ministers are included except the Prime Minister. I don’t understand why. How can anybody occupying any position be a holy cow. Why is the Prime Minister being kept out of its purview?” Swaraj posed. She stated that then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had put the debate to rest during NDA rule by saying that if he is not under its purview it will have no meaning. She was referring to the lokpal bill proposed by the NDA government which was ultimately not introduced in Parliament. “As chairperson of the then Standing Committee on Home, Pranab Mukherjee had accepted that the Prime Minister should be within the purview of the lokpal. The Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) has himself said he wants to be within its ambit. Why is the cabinet not paying heed to his views?” she asked.
As government introduced the lokpal bill in Parliament, Anna Hazare and his team members today burnt copies of the “anti-poor, anti-Dalit” law with the Gandhian asserting that he would go ahead with his fast beginning August 16 till a strong law is brought in. Hazare and his supporters burnt copies of the Bill introduced in Parliament this afternoon in Maharashtra’s Ralegaon Siddhi while his supporters Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi led the protest in Uttar Pradesh’s Kaushambi area in Ghaziabad. Amidst sloganeering against government, Hazare said it was the last chance to eradicate corruption from the country and that the protest should be organised all over to ensure that a strong lokpal bill is brought in.
“This is a bad and weak Bill which is introduced in Parliament. We need a new and strong Bill. I trusted them when they said they will bring a strong law and ended my fast in April. They cheated me. “But at the protest starting from August 16, I am not going to withdraw from my fast on some assurances. What we need is a strong bill,” he said. He claimed the government would have fallen if he had continued his fast then for another three days. The government does not fear fast or protests but they fear the voice of people, he said, adding that people should acquire this power to overthrow governments. However, he said, his protest is not to change the government but system.
Alleging that it was an insult to Parliament and people, Kejriwal described the bill as “anti-poor and anti-Dalit” which does not help the poor in fighting corruption. By bringing a “weak” lokpal bill, Kejriwal alleged the government was challenging the countrymen. He said they expected the government will come out with a stronger version of the bill but they were cheated. Countering suggestions that the bill can be further debated in the Standing Committee, Kejriwal said the panel cannot alter or change the provisions as it can only give suggestions. “Parliament has been given a fait accompli. This is insult of the people and Parliament,” he added. Bhushan and Bedi said what they were demanding was an independent agency which could probe corruption.
- Lokpal Bill: Key differences between government, civil society (Aug 4, 2011, DNA India)
- Anna to fast, supporters burn copies of govt’s lokpal bill (Aug 7, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Congress slams Team Anna for insulting Parliament (Aug 4, 2011, IBN)
- Bombay HC dismisses Hazare’s petition on liquor production (Aug 7, 2011, Hindustan Times)
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s key aide Acharya Balkrishna was quizzed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday on charges of obtaining an Indian passport on the basis of false documents, a CBI official said. “Balkrishna today (Wednesday) came to CBI’s office at Dehradun. He was questioned for five hours over allegedly procuring an Indian passport with fake educational degrees,” he said. The agency has also called Balkrishna on Thursday for further questioning in the case.
Balkrishna was granted anticipatory bail till Aug 29 after he moved the Uttarakhand high court on July 29 that directed him to appear Aug 3 before the CBI. The CBI summoned Balkrishna on July 25 to appear before it on July 28. Balkrishna asked for 20 days which was refused by the agency. The agency then asked him to appear on July 29. Balkrishna again sought 10 days time but the agency gave a deadline of Aug 4.
The probe agency issued a lookout notice for him on July 25. The agency also alerted airports to prevent him from leaving the country. After the crackdown at Baba Ramdev’s venue in June in New Delhi, the government asked security agencies to probe allegations that Balkrishna held a fake passport. Balkrishna went missing for two days after the crackdown on Baba Ramdev in New Delhi. Baba Ramdev’s business empire comprises 34 companies which are largely controlled by Balkrishna.
- Ramdev aide Balkrishna appears before CBI for second time (Aug 5, 2011, Indian Express)
- Orissa crime branch to dig deeper into swami’s murder (Aug 4, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- CID to probe Anil Bheda murder case, Bombay HC told (Aug 4, 2011, IBN)
- Govt to decide soon on review of Salwa Judum order (Aug 2, 2011, The Hindu)
In a severe indictment of the Organising Committee (OC) headed by Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, the Delhi government and other State and Union agencies, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) has said hundreds of crores of rupees were wasted because of lax supervision and a deliberately created siege-like situation in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In its 700-page audit report on CWG 2010 tabled in Parliament on Friday, the CAG stated: “The modus operandi observed over the entire gamut of activities leading to the conduct of the Games was: inexplicable delays in decision-making, which put pressure on timelines and thereby led to the creation of an artificial or consciously created sense of urgency.”
Providing an insight into the mentality with which the OC, the Delhi government and other agencies were approaching the conduct of games, it said: “Since the target date was immovable, such delays could only be overcome by seeking, and liberally granting, waivers in laid-down governmental procedures. In doing so, contracting procedures became a very obvious casualty. Many contracts were then entertained based on single bids, and in fact, some of them were even awarded on nomination basis.” “Taking liberties with governmental procedures of the aforementioned kind led to elimination of competition. A conclusion from such action which seems obvious is that this could indeed have even been an intended objective! Eliminating competition led to huge avoidable extra burden on the exchequer,” the CAG said in its report.
It further stated that there was a seven-year window from the award of CWG-2010 to Delhi in November 2003 to its hosting in October 2010, which was not appropriately utilised. “The time window from November 2003 to mid-2006, which could have been effectively used for planning, clearances and approvals, was wasted. The OC itself was registered only in February 2005,” it said. It said overall planning for the Games, including the general organisation plan, the Games Master Schedule, and the operational plans for different functional areas, was also substantially delayed. So was the detailed planning for state-of-the-art city infrastructure in time for CWG-2010.
“The internal control environment and decision-making structures within the OC were highly inadequate. The state of documentation in the OC was so inadequate that we are unable to derive assurance as to either the authenticity or the completeness of records.” The overlays contracts were signed at exorbitant rates, causing huge financial loss to the OC and the Union government. “Although we cannot fully quantify the true total loss [based on available records], we have, however, come up with indicators of the financial loss in different ways [by inter se comparison of item-wise rates across clusters and vendors as well as rates declared to Customs],” the report said.
- No go: Suresh Kalmadi denied Parliament entry (Aug 5, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- It’s meaningless and inhibited probe, court tells Delhi Police (Aug 5, 2011, The Hindu)
- CWG scam: CBI starts property attachment of accused (Aug 3, 2011, Indian Express)
- PMO appointed Kalmadi despite serious objections: CAG (Aug 5, 2011, The Hindu)
A man and his brother were convicted by the additional district and sessions judge (XVI) Rohtas Singh in a dowry death case and sentenced for life imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 1,000. The convicted persons were Ashok Singh and Anoop Singh. Their father Uday Pratap Singh was also a co-accused in the murder of his daughter-in-law but case against him was dropped as he was died during the trial. The prosecution had charged them that they had killed Neetu Singh alias Nishu Singh two months after her marriage for dowry. Their father Uday Pratap Singh was also a co-accused in the murder of his daughter-in-law but case against him was dropped as he was died during the trial.
The prosecution had charged them that they had killed Neetu Singh alias Nishu Singh two months after her marriage for dowry. Rajeshwar Singh, additional district government counsel (ADGC), while presenting the case before the court, stated that Ashok Singh, a resident of Daheli Sujanpur under Chakeri police circle, was married to Neetu Singh of Rai Bareily on February 28, 2004. Rajeshwar Singh, additional district government counsel (ADGC), while presenting the case before the court, stated that Ashok Singh, a resident of Daheli Sujanpur under Chakeri police circle, was married to Neetu Singh of Rai Bareily on February 28, 2004. Ashok and his family members were not satisfied with the dowry given at the time of marriage and they started torturing Neetu and demanding Rs 50,000 and two gold chains from her parents.
Ashok and his family members were not satisfied with the dowry given at the time of marriage and they started torturing Neetu and demanding Rs 50,000 and two gold chains from her parents. Neetu told her parents about the atrocities when she went back to her father’s house for the first time after the marriage. Her father Pooran Singh performed the ‘bidai’ ceremony only when Ashok and others assured that they would not torture her in future. Pooran Singh sent his younger daughter Durge alias Seema with Neetu. Durge, in her statement, said that on the night of April 30, she had heard the shrieks of her sister and saw that Ashok, Anoop and their father were thrashing Neetu. Neetu told her parents about the atrocities when she went back to her father’s house for the first time after the marriage.
- ‘Nine dowry related cases registered everyday’ (Aug 5, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Woman hanged to death by husband, in-laws over dowry demand (Jul 30, 2011, Indian Express)
- Man sentenced for life in dowry death case (Aug 1, 2011, The Hindu)
- Baby girl buried alive by parents in Andhra village rescued (Jul 31, 2011, Deccan Herald)
Opinions and Editorials
Breivik’s Agenda: Did Hindu or Islamic Fundamentalism Inspire Oslo’s Terrorist? – By Farzana Versey (Jul 31, 2011, Countercurrents)
India’s rightwing parties have been caught unawares. A part of them would really like to take a bow over the 100 odd pages that Anders Breivik has dedicated to them, but they are aware that this is not quite the right time. Among the analyses that are now unfolding – the script is one-dimensional – the inspiration from Hindutva forces has larger dimensions. It is not surprising that Ram Madhav, senior RSS leader, said: “His entire so-called manifesto quotes conservative writers from both sides of the Atlantic. Ideological similarities have been drawn from all over, so to say suddenly that it is linked to Indian nationalists or Hindutva is simply motivated propaganda.” Is the RSS not among the first when it comes to accusations for any scrap of paper by a Muslim individual or group? How can this be motivated propaganda when it is there in Breivik’s words and the rightwing parties were bookmarked and quoted from? It is also pertinent to point out that Mr. Madhav has used the terms “Indian nationalists and Hindutva” interchangeably. This echoes Breivik. As I said, they would have liked to take credit but political reasons prevent them from doing so. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Vinod Bansal said: “Most of what he has to say makes no sense, except the bit about appeasing Muslims is right. Basically, the UPA government under Sonia Gandhi has been indulging in it and also framing policies in such a way that the whole country is converted to Christianity.”
The theory of appeasement denotes a supremacist credo, the benevolence of malevolence. Critics of Islam object to the one and only one god idea, but is such scriptural supremacy manifested in everyday life? Supremacy is essentially a moral belief, and even if such morality is non-religious it follows a religious paradigm of one against the other. The subtext is righteousness. It cares little for history. Just as the Hindutva fundamentalists do not take into account the subversive nature of the older dynasties that ravaged Jain and Buddhist places of worship, it is only fitting that Breivik thinks that their contemporary stance is proper as they “do not tolerate the current injustice and often riot and attack Muslims when things get out of control”. Injustice in the supremacist scheme of things is a delusion. It gives the moral right to set things right. There is no attempt at looking for truth. Truth is the need for reaction and for reclamation. Such truth needs enemies. As the Norwegian outlined, “Instead of attacking the Muslims, they should target the category A and B traitors in India and consolidate military cells and actively seek the overthrow of the cultural Marxist government. It is essential that the European and Indian resistance movements learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible. Our goals are more or less identical.” The Indian rightwing hardly ever operates as resistance movements; they are sanctified as power centres, form elected governments and use the establishment machinery. They do not need military cells because they can influence popular sentiment using the culture argument. Most societies cannot function in a vacuum. They need the moorings of heritage. However modern the façade may be, the core is essentially a historical relic. Hindutva forces have long fantasised of a Hindu rashtra, a theocratic state. The major roadblock is not the Indian Constitution but the sheer number of Muslims. It would be, quite understandably, difficult to annihilate such a large section of the people. The country is challenged by its own avowed post-Independence canon – to be a secular republic. This, as it turns out, is dogmatic, for a set of rules and legal tools cannot function on a national scale, especially if it seeks a pluralistic vision. Pragmatism defeats idealism. It gives rise to a neo-idealism to break free of such constrained freedom that postulates you belong to everyone. The Islamic creed has no such problems because it accepts the subservience to Allah. Therefore, whatever the ‘jihadis’ do, it purports to be in god’s name. A polytheistic society would tend to be more lax and spread out. In the political arena, this amounts to looking for a godhead.
Breivik’s bibliography has resulted in most people distancing themselves but only as real activators; their work and ideology reeks of the same fetid smell of Islamophobia. Eugene Robinson comments on this trend in The Washington Post: “At least one anti-Muslim blogger had the decency to acknowledge feeling ‘terrrible’ about being cited in Breivik’s writings…Unfortunately, the blogger went on to write that Breivik’s ‘total lack of respect for human life is not, however, something he can have picked up from me, or from any of the other Islam-critical writers I know… Indeed, the lack of respect for human life is often one of the great shortcomings of Islamic culture that we have consistently pointed out’. Think about the implications of that last sentence. If Muslims have no respect for human life, why should anyone respect their lives? Or, for that matter, the lives of the government officials who invite Muslims to live among us? Or the lives of the sons and daughters of such traitorous quislings?” The anti-immigrant lobbies have been active for a long time, and it is not Muslims alone who are targeted. However, once the “war on terror” became akin to a statute bill people had a carte blanche to ‘be safe rather than sorry’. On the surface, this appears as survival instinct; scratch the skin and you will find hollow bones echoing the dissonant voices of victims. No one seems particularly bothered that the victims are nameless and not specially chosen in most cases. How then can such a supremacist cult work? Breivik followed the Alex Curtis model, it would seem. Curtis of San Diego was ahead of 9/11. He believed that all non-Whites must be finished off. His preference was to work alone, as the “lone wolf”. He did not believe in any sort of apologia, for that would negate the basis of his beliefs. There was also a planned agenda.
Breivik is not a White supremacist. His anti-immigrant ideas are to preserve the purity of the European ethos and this makes him naturally anti-immigrant. The multiculturalism he is against has room for supporting other movements, though. It is a curious anomaly that, much like the Indian caste system, he wanted to create a “servant class” that would be from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, but all non-Muslim. Entry into his temple of doom obviously was to be limited. His manifesto states, “During their stay, they will work 12 hours a day for the duration of their contracts (6 or 12 months) and are then flown back to their homelands…These individuals will live in segregated communities in pre-defined areas of each major city.” In India, and Mumbai at that, the Shiv Sena wanted migrants from other cities to go back to where they came from. Bangladeshi families who have been living in India for 30 years and more are not only seen as a nuisance – although they work as labour and are sold as prostitutes – but are now terror suspects, too, when we run out of Pakistanis. The problem with such movements is that they transform indigenous populations into psychological immigrants. The questions one poses immediately become sectarian and emphasise one’s otherness. A devious argument is that post 9/11 and post Mumbai’s 2008 attacks India and the West, in this case the US, have suffered due to a common enemy. This is a complete lie that is buffered by the Indian elite who flaunted their Taj Hotel and marketed what they saw as the destruction of the country’s progress. It was a shameless attempt at empathy and identification with the Twin Towers, the Manhattan skyline already familiar to Indians through a few upmarket Bollywood films. At last, we had internationalised our sorrow and found a common opponent. The Islamist. This wiped out India’s 16 million Muslims, who had to play quasi nationalists, since real nationalism had been barricaded.
This terrorist attack whitewashed the Bombay riots of 1992-93 and of Gujarat in 2002, both with the connivance of Hindutva political groups that got propped up following such acts. It is quite disingenuous that Breivik, while admired in the silent chambers of xenophobic thought, is projected as mad. It is disconcerting to note that this terrorist is in the mainstream projected as a “gunman” and as one report said a “paranoid warrior”. His lawyer, Geir Lippestad, believes, “This whole case indicates that he’s insane. He believes that he’s in a war and that when you’re in a war you can do things like that without pleading guilty.” Worse, he could be seen as clinically insane and not be jailed at all because he “has a view on reality that is very, very difficult to explain”. Any act of terror is difficult to explain because it is not rational, much like a belief system. You do not know anything about god or the afterlife, and yet there are millions of devotees across the world. Breivik could well have been sitting at the feet of a levitating guru in the many yoga centres that have sprouted in the West. He chose a more violent method to project his virulence. This itself proves that he operated as a lone wolf but made sure that he aligned himself with the right groups. Unintentionally, he has exposed the world to phobias that live off phobias.
- Dangerous link – By B G Verghese (Aug 4, 2011, Deccan Herald)
- Investigating the investigation – By Vidya Subrahmaniam (Aug 5, 2011, The Hindu)
- Shared in Cyberspace – Banning websites is not the answer to people like Breivik – By Timothy Garton Ash (Aug 1, 2011, The Telegraph)
BJP strongman B S Yeddyurappa has finally quit the chief ministership of Karnataka, but not before making his party’s central leadership squirm with embarrassment. Not only has he shown a brazen reluctance to comply when the BJP high command asked him to step down – following his indictment by Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde in the illegal mining scam – he is now leaving no stone unturned to appoint his nominee, Sadananda Gowda, as his successor. For the BJP, which has relentlessly turned the heat on the ruling UPA government for its involvement in one corruption case after another, the ongoing Karnataka crisis is a litmus test.
Good governance and clean administration have been touted by the BJP as two of its primary political and electoral planks. At a time when people are at the end of their tether with the ruling UPA’s involvement in a string of scams and its inability to govern and meet the aspirations of the burgeoning middle classes, how the BJP deals with Yeddyurappa will determine perceptions of how seriously its claims to being a party with a difference – capable of providing a clean, stable alternative to the Congress – can be taken.
It’s apparent from Karnataka that the BJP too is as hamstrung by caste and identity politics as it claims its opponents to be. Yeddyurappa’s principal calling card is that he retains the allegiance of the dominant Lingayats. The recalcitrant leader has already made a public demonstration of the clout he still enjoys within the BJP’s Karnataka unit. Undoubtedly his insistence on having a successor of his choice is motivated by a need to protect his and his family’s interests. If the BJP succumbs, it will lend further credence to the oft-repeated charge of being tarred with the same brush as the Congress.
The voluminous report of the Karnataka Lokayukta has indicated that corruption in the state’s illegal mining industry runs deeper than the details that have been unearthed in it. Whoever succeeds Yeddyurappa will need to urgently clean up the rot that holds Karnataka back from reaping the full dividends of development. That would hardly be possible if Yeddyurappa continues to hold the levers of power after he has stepped down. It’s a mistake to think that Yeddyurappa has all of Karnataka plumping for him. Caste, after all, is a divisive issue and Karnataka has a sophisticated electorate, which cares about issues like governance and corruption. It’s up to the BJP leadership to take the right call, both ethically and pragmatically.
- Tough tasks ahead of Gowda – Editorial (Aug 3, 2011, The Hindu)
- The Wanton Sins Of The Soil – By Lola Nayar (Aug 15, 2011, Outlook)
The Centre has finally taken long-overdue action, asking Madhya Pradesh to disable the participation of public employees in RSS activities. There has been a longstanding ban across India on public officials being affiliated with the RSS (as with any political organisation). In January 2000, when the Gujarat government lifted the ban for the RSS, the then president, K.R. Narayanan, took up the issue with the government, and the idea was withdrawn. However, by revoking the ban on RSS participation in 2006, MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan only formalised what was already an entrenched practice in the state. In fact, in March, the CM publicly exhorted government employees to join the RSS.
The BJP’s explanation is that the rules don’t apply to the RSS, which is a “cultural organisation”. That is merely finessing the line between “culture” and “politics”. It’s common knowledge that the RSS often remotely controls the party, makes high-level appointments and dictates the party’s course. The BJP is only one of the spokes in the Sangh Parivar wheel, meant to participate in formal politics. The MP government has made no attempt to disown its connection with the RSS.
However, our Constitution expects civil servants to be scrupulously neutral. Apart from voting, they are meant to refrain from any political movement or party, and there are strong constraints even on expressing opinion in a public forum. Though it’s difficult to be entirely value-free, it’s essential to be non-partisan. The administration is meant to keep governance stable through all changes in political weather, and any impression of bias would be deeply destructive to the institution. The MP government has undermined that code for too long.
- A Puzzling Move – Editorial (Aug 7, 2011, Nav Hind Times)
- Why globalisation is no antithesis of Hindutva – By Nadim Asrar (Aug 1, 2011, IBN)
A hate-filled and strange analysis of terrorism by Janata Party chief and lawyer Subramanian Swamy and a well-meaning but myopic policy paper by the redoubtable former ias officer and National Advisory Council member Harsh Mander show how minorities in general, and micro minorities in particular, can face political and developmental disenfranchisement at the hands of foes and friends. Writing a column on terrorism in the Mumbai edition of DNA, Swamy says Hindus cannot accept being killed in a ‘halal fashion’, continuously bleeding every day till the nation finally collapses. Painting a scary scenario to hold the readers’ attention, he says, ‘There will be no doubt about Islamic terror after 2012’ when he expects a Taliban takeover in Pakistan and the Americans to flee Afghanistan. ‘Then, Islam will confront Hinduism to complete unfinished business’. The lawyer, who has so far made the Congress and Sonia Gandhi his main targets, says the Hindu leadership has not united the people against the victimisation of Hindus in Kashmir, Mau, Melvisharam and Malappuram. ‘If half the Hindus voted together, rising above caste and language, a genuine Hindu party would have a two-thirds majority in parliament and the assemblies’. The Muslims of India, he says, are being programmed by a ‘slow reactive process to become radical and thus slide into suicide against Hindus’. ‘Hindus must collectively respond as Hindus against the terrorist and not feel individually isolated. If one Hindu dies merely because he or she was a Hindu, then a bit of every Hindu also dies. This is an essential mental attitude, a necessary part of a virat (vast) committed Hindu’, he says. Swamy forgets that in Kashmir, Mumbai and Gujarat, a large number of people killed in terror acts have been Muslims, as also the occasional Sikhs and Christians. For Swamy, what is required is a ‘collective mindset as Hindus’. ‘If any Muslim acknowledges his or her Hindu legacy, then we Hindus can accept him or her as a part of the Brihad Hindu Samaj (greater Hindu society) which is Hindustan. Hindustan is a nation of Hindus and others whose ancestors were Hindus. Others, who refuse to acknowledge this or those foreigners who become Indian citizens by registration, can remain in India but should not have voting rights (which means they cannot be elected representatives).’
Swamy’s arguments take the discourse back to Guru Golwalkar, Savarkar and the other founders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and their theology of a Brihad Bharat in which there would be no place for followers of the so-called non-Indic religions, unless they agreed to a second class, vote-less position. Living in the dream world of a larger India, Swami says ‘however small the terrorist incident, the nation must retaliate massively’. Swamy’s last sentence gives it away. It is not just Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism he is against. Many a Muslim, and most Indian Muslim organisations, has denounced terrorism and fundamentalism. Swamy is against all non-Hindu minorities. He is against churches and pastors, he confesses, as much as he opposes the constitutional freedom to convert to another religion. All conversions, he stresses, can only be to Hinduism. Those who do not know Swamy’s mindset may feel surprised at the outburst of the former commerce minister, because he is married to a Parsi lawyer, and one of his daughters is married to a Muslim. Unlike Swamy, Harsh Mander loves the religious minorities. The ias officer was working for Action Aid on a sabbatical when he resigned from government service denouncing the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Since then, he has done wonderful work to ensure justice for the victims, rising to be a member of the National Advisory Council headed by United Progressive Alliance chair Sonia Gandhi. In the Council, Mander is in charge of issues concerning religious minorities, especially the Communal and Targeted Violence Prevention Bill, which is now nearing completion, and the Food Guarantee Bill, which has been completed. A major input into the communal violence prevention bill is the recognition that Christians too are victims and therefore the Bill has provisions to help them. It is thus frightening, no less, to read a long report written by Mander on why the government’s affirmative action must be openly targeted only at Muslims. Christians would be right in presuming that Mander does not want the grants diluted by being passed on to Christians or Buddhists. As reported in The Times of India of 21 July 2011, Mander’s Centre for Equity Studies dubs the Centre’s minority welfare schemes and the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme as non-starters, blaming the government’s timidity in declaring the schemes as Muslim-oriented for fear of an opposition campaign of minority appeasement. ‘The diffidence on the Muslim-word led to schemes being dubbed as ‘minority’ or ‘area-based’, thereby diluting targeted community approach.’
He asks the government to openly resolve to improve the lot of Muslims by making a dedicated 14 per cent budgetary allocation for the community on the lines of sub-plans for SCs and STs. With the findings raising an alarm, the Council has sought a detailed response from the minority affairs ministry on the study. Mander’s report questions the efficacy of schemes launched with fanfare for amelioration of the minorities – in education, self-employment and infrastructure among others. He dismisses the upa’s minority outreach as tokenism. The Ministry of Minority Affairs is the target. Mander says it lacks institutional and political authority to ensure compliance of its objectives from other arms of the government. He says the anxiety over charges of appeasement led to a Multi-Sector Development Programme for Muslims morph into one for ‘minorities’ and ultimately to an ‘area-scheme’ – aiming to improve infrastructure in 90 districts with over 25% Muslims. Mander’s Centre for Equity Studies terms the allocations for minorities as small – 19 per cent of the population got 5 per cent budgetary allocation, with per capita allocation of a mere Rs 797. It recommended that the pm’s 15-point programme be turned into an independent minority sub-plan having earmarked funds in each ministry and monitors to check their use. While Swamy’s rants are easily dismissed as the delusional outpourings of a demented Hindutva fundamentalist, Mander’s report seems to hit at the basis of constitutional guarantees to all religious minorities, and may aggravate and empower the Hindutva forces. Not many know that the formation of the Ministry of Minority affairs by the upa in 2006, two years after it came to power after the rule of the bjp-dominated nda, has been challenged by anti-minority forces. There have been several cases against the ministry, challenging its existence. One argument, facile as it may be, is why do we need for separate ministries, plan and budget components and other affirmative action when the Constitution guarantees every citizen equal rights and equal protection. Why then, it is argued, should we have special provisions for SCs and sts, for instance, or for women in terms of reservations, and why for religious minorities when the nation is secular and holds all religions in equal respect.
This argument flies in the face of the fact that three thousand years of religion-sponsored hierarchy has created situations that have kept Dalits and tribals, even women and several religious groups, outside the pail of development, denying them equity in progress. It, perhaps, is not widely known that the ministry has been made party in Writ Petition no. SCANO No. 2245/2008 of Vijay Harish Chandra Patel in the High Court of Gujarat, Writ Petition (pil) 84 of 2008 of SG Punalekar in the High Court of Bombay and writ petition no. (298/08 and wpc No. 9569 of 207) in the Delhi High Court. A Vijay Harish Chandra Patel has challenged the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme and filed a public interest litigation challenging the steps taken by the Union of India and the Planning Commission to utilise national resources in favour of a particular minority community, which according to the petitioner is discriminatory, arbitrary and violative of various constitutional provisions. Chief Justice K S Radhakrishnan ruled that ‘funds used to minimise inequalities among minority communities by adopting various social and welfare activities like public safety, health, slum development, improving the deficiencies in civic amenities, economic opportunities, improving standard of education, skills and entrepreneurship development, employment opportunities, eradication of poverty, etc., would in no way violate the constitutional principles of equality or affect any of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the members of other communities’. The All India Christian Council and the All India Catholic Union have been struggling with the union government to set up a Justice Sachar Commission to assess the economic and development infirmity in the Christian community, especially among the tribals and the Dalits, the boatmen, fishermen, landless labour and other deprived communities. This campaign started when the government first set up the Justice Sachar committee after decades of campaigning and advocacy by Muslims groups. The Sachar committee report has greatly strengthened the Muslim cause and has given a tool to ngos and community leadership to strengthen the struggle for their rights in the development pie.
Unfortunately, the government has not paid heed to the Christian demand, partly because the church leadership has not been as vocal in its interaction with the government, remaining satisfied with minor crumbs. If the government were to listen to the Mander report, it would undo whatever little headway has been made towards the empowerment of the poor in the Christian community through the advocacy in the Working Group on Minorities of the Planning Commission, now involved with the Twelfth Five Year Plan document. A minority sub-plan, which Mander suggests, will be feasible only if it covers all minorities and is not confined just to the Muslim community. Our argument in the working committee has been that the major budgetary and plan allocations for minorities have not percolated to the Christian community, whatever be the reason, and whether the fault lies with the government or with the church leadership. Another danger if the government were to accept the Mander recommendations is the threat to secular unity, and giving additional ammunition to people like Swamy. At present, the dialogue between Christians and other minorities is very little. The formal dialogue is limited to casual and occasional contact by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and its equivalent federations in the protestant churches meeting once or twice a year with sundry Maulanas and Granthis, the rk Mission, the Bahais and the Brahma Kumaris for some lip service to common issues of peace and brotherly love. There has never been serious political dialogue between minorities on issues of development and demands to the union and state governments. The result has been that Christians have had to chalk their own destiny or accept whatever little may come out of, on a pro rata basis, from the government’s plans for the Muslims. Christians have therefore felt discriminated and isolated, feeling that Muslims have taken away the development booty. This in a way creates a distance between Muslims and Christians and shatters whatever element of unity could be created.
- The Communal and Targeted Violence Bill – By Mihir Desai (Jul 30, 2011, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Muslims need quotas more than SC/STs – By Kancha Ilaiah (Aug 3, 2011, Deccan Chronicle)
Suresh Kalmadi, who is being investigated for fraud, misappropriation and mismanagement of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, has been saying it all along, but then, who believes a politician who has fallen from grace, leave alone one lodged in Tihar jail. Kalmadi’s grouse was that he was being singled out while the New Delhi Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Dixit, who had a larger budget than the organizing committee was let off the hook. The budget for development of city infrastructure was in the range on 9,000 crore, nearly half that of the entire budget of 18,532 crore spent on the games. Kalmadi can breathe a little easily now that the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has dragged Ms Dixit as well as the Lieutenant Governor, Mr Tejendra Khanna into the quagmire. More importantly, it has cast a shadow of doubt over the Prime Minister’s Office for giving Kalmadi a free reign. The 744-page CAG report which was table in Parliament on Friday is another blow to the government already reeling under charges that it allowed corruption to go on unchecked during its watch.
Ms Dixit, serving as Chief Minister for a third term, has successfully thwarted all attempts to dislodge or besmirch her. This she has managed because of her reputation for efficiency and integrity. These two qualities put her above the run-of-the-mill politicians. Despite her age, she was also known as a politician in touch with the times. The CAG report now threatens to bring her down to the level of her peers. She has been accused of undertaking streetscaping and beautification projects at 4.8 crore per km, tweaking road signage eligibility conditions and importing costly luminaries. Till date Ms Dixit has avoided becoming a target of the media and the opposition because hard evidence of wrong doing against her was not available and none were willing to challenge her on the basis of statements made by Kalmadi. With the CAG report filling in the gaps, the stage is set for a blazing battle between the BJP and Ms Dixit, and we should not be surprised if a few rebels within her party jump on the opposition bandwagon. This is a major crisis for her and a political challenge that could consume the rest of her term.
Such was the maze of committees, sub-committees and implementing committees created by Kalmadi to orchestrate the CWG scam that it is not difficult to believe that he is beginning to forget how it all happened. There were approximately 90 committees at various levels and figuring out who did what might have been the most excruciating investigation ever undertaken by the CAG whose report also accuses him of converting the organizing committee into a panel outside government control, with some help from the PMO. The CAG slammed the sports ministry for its inability to establish a mechanism to review and monitor what was happening in the organizing committee. Consequently, the estimate of 1,200 crore, made in 2003, shot up nearly 15 times.
The CAG report on the CWG now hangs like an albatross around the UPA government’s neck, which is already struggling to stay afloat. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, whose personal integrity had so far made it difficult for the opposition to launch a full-fledged attack, now has a few chinks in his armour too. Even if the allegations of corruption fail to stick, charges that he slept while Kalmadi ran riot will stick. He now has to explain the logic of giving Kalmadi unlimited powers and why he ignored warnings signals from sports ministers. The allegations made by the 2G accused together with the CAG report might just prove too hot for Dr Singh to handle. This is perhaps a rare moment in political history when two honest politicians find themselves stranded at the deep end. Both Dr Singh and Ms Dixit are facing the toughest challenges of their political careers and it will take more than integrity for them to climb out of this morass.
- The Other Scam You Forgot About – By Rohini Mohan (Aug 13, 2011, Tehelka)
- A better Land Acquisition Bill – Editorial (Aug 2, 2011, The Hindu)
The Lokpal Imbroglio: The Third Flight Path – Aruna Roy tells Shoma Chaudhury (Aug 13, 2011, Tehelka)
The Lokpal Bill is now being debated in Parliament, almost 40 years after the idea was first mooted. Unfortunately, parented on one side by decades of wilful government inertia and, on the other, by the panicked hustle of ‘Team Anna’, it is not a glorious document. The Team Anna document tried for too much, over-reaching itself; the government one does too little. The former seemed to have been put together in a cleansing rage: it wants to set up a super-structure of high-integrity individuals to curb and prosecute corruption among MPs, higher bureaucracy, lower bureaucracy, clerks, peons, police, every government department and project, the judiciary, and the prime minister. It wants to protect whistleblowers and fix every governance grouse of every Indian citizen – all through the same magic wand: the Lokpal. The latter seems to have been put together not as an act of visionary statesmanship but a defensive feint: doing just enough to get by. It allows for the setting up of a Lokpal and frees it up to investigate and prosecute MPs and higher bureaucracy without being shackled by official sanctions, but it does not give it complete autonomy either in its selection process or its administrative and financial control. It also excludes the prime minister from its purview and just hives off all the rest: no protection for whistleblowers, no state Lokayuktas, no mechanism for checking corruption in the judiciary and middle bureaucracy, and a seriously ill-thought out grievance redressal mechanism. The government had some fair critiques of the Jan Lokpal Bill Team Anna was insisting on. But clearly, they could not exert themselves to come up with acceptable alternative answers.
Over the past few months, in fact, as Team Anna and the government have tussled theatrically over the shape of the Lokpal Bill – sizzling television channels with their dharnas, crackdowns, airport receptions, escapades, and colourful charges and counter-charges – there’s been a huge opportunity for disturbing reflections about the nature of corruption and the fight against it. Strangely, the toughest piece to swallow in all of it has been some of Team Anna’s own actions. In the battle for good, governments everywhere in the world have classically been the inferior partner, pushed, cajoled, threatened onto the right path by pressure lobbies: the electorate, civil rights activists, media, judiciary, the opposition, and sometimes, just genuinely good leadership. But for the longest time, at least in India, no one has ever quite outlawed government and the political class as dangerously and in such essentialist terms as Team Anna’s rhetoric managed to do. To raise this concern is itself difficult business. The government and political class across the board do very little to deserve defence: they are pervasively corrupt, they are brazen, selfish and timid at the same time. You keep hoping Parliamentarians will redeem themselves with a display of statesmanship, but they almost never do. This season, in particular, with poor leadership and scams spilling simultaneously like a twin can of worms, it has been especially difficult to keep the faith. There is a huge temptation to say: let’s crack it all open. Let’s experiment wildly with the magic wand.
But, you never expect civil society to miss a step in its own basic principles. Team Anna’s mistake was not in ratcheting up a street-storm over the Lokpal Bill, it was in demanding not that the Lokpal Bill be debated in a robust and time-bound manner, but that their particular version of the Bill be rammed through by a certain date. Even the contentious Joint Drafting Committee was a charade on both sides, because one side really did not want to listen and the other was only gauging the government by the “percentages” it was giving in to the Jan Lokpal draft. Had they even arrived at a common goal? It was impossible to decipher. This peculiar rush and mutual intolerance has trapped Team Anna in a situation unprecedented for civil society. Today, Team Anna’s strident public stances and its inner impulses and selfimage do not match. Having acquired a huge and angry constituency through its India Against Corruption forum, it feels beholden to keep the temperature going. To make matters more complicated, no matter what the detractions, this raised temperature has been a triumph. To bring old and seething frustrations against corruption to whitehot boil is no mean achievement. Events of the past few months have shown that one does not really need a Lokpal or supercop, if existing institutions would just do their primary jobs in the correct proportion: a functioning Comptroller and Auditor General, a vigilant media, an upright judicial bench, and an executive that is at least decent and shame-faced enough to let matters take its course. There are more powerful leaders and corporate heads in jail now than in the past many decades. Even the supposedly toothless Karnataka Lokayukta report – unarmed with the power to prosecute – has taken a scalp. But would all of this have clicked into place if the anti-corruption movement had not created a climate of no-tolerance?
The trouble is, Team Anna is trapped in the trapeze act of hard positions necessary to keep the issue hot and theatre of interest alive (in an electronic era, the challenge is not just to grab attention but to sustain it). Yet, it also wishes to seem open and receptive to suggestions on changing its draft law. These are untenable positions: how can they deride the government for not accepting the Jan Lokpal draft exactly as they have conceived it and yet keep changing and improving it themselves at the same time? How can it urge other civil society stakeholders to send in suggestions for improvement yet insist they will not change the basic structure of their draft or consider any alternatives no matter what the rationale? What kind of corralled debate is this? And why take to the streets before all the finer deliberations were done and a satisfactory draft Bill was ready? Why shoot before you have picked the best cannon? Far from being an exhilarating journey, or even confrontation with power, the Team Anna-led Lokpal debate and anti-corruption crusade has left many would-be fellow travellers strangely disturbed and wary. Into this vexed situation – this Lokpal Bill being imperfectly hustled in different ways by both government and Team Anna – there has now come a third voice.
- Prima Facie – Editorial (Aug 5, 2011, Nav Hind Times)
- Without Armour – By Chandrani Banerjee (Aug 15, 2011, Outlook)
- In no man’s land – By Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed (Jul 30, 2011, Frontline)