IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 17th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Patia case: Acquittal of 20 challenged (Dec 15, 2012, Times of India)

The witnesses in the Naroda Patia case of post-Godhra riots have questioned the special court’s decision to acquit 20 accused persons. The witnesses claim that evidence against the 20 has been overlooked. A division bench of Justice R R Tripathi and Justice R D Kothari has set January 9 for a hearing for the admission of the appeal, said witnesses’ lawyer Altaf Jidran. The state government and the SIT have not filed any appeal in this case despite the fact that the limitation period was over more than ten days ago.

The prosecution is expected to file its appeal against the lower court’s decision within 90 days. Special judge Jyotsna Yagnik pronounced her verdict on August 29 convicting 31 and acquitting 29 persons. All the convicts have challenged the SIT court’s verdict and the HC has admitted their appeals.

Farzana Pathan and five other victim-witnesses of the 2002 riots have filed an appeal against the special court’s decision to acquit 20 including two women – Ramila and Geeta Rathod, and a lawyer Rajkumar Chaumal. The witnesses have not questioned the trial court letting off nine other accused persons, for they were acquitted for want of any evidence against them. Those whose acquittal has been challenged were let off by the court by giving them the benefit of doubt.

The witnesses, however, have now demanded an enhancement in the punishment handed down to 32 convicts including former minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi. All the convicts were awarded life imprisonment. While Bajrangi has been jailed till his death, eight others have been sentenced to 31 years. Kodnani has got 28 years’ jail term, while the rest have been jailed for 24 years.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-15/ahmedabad/35835561_1_special-judge-jyotsna-yagnik-patia-case-babu-bajrangi

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Out of jail, Narendra Modi’s Man Friday Amit Shah lords over Naranpura (Dec 13, 2012, Indian Express)

He may be one of Gujarat’s most controversial figures, facing the charge of plotting the murder of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a fake police encounter, but Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s Man Friday Amit Shah is more loved than feared in Naranpur. The portly Shah, a key strategist in ‘Team Modi’, is locked with Congress’ Jeetu Bhai Patel, who crossed over from BJP weeks ahead of the Assembly elections, in an electoral battle he is expected to win hands down in this BJP bastion. Though there are 23 candidates vying for the Naranpura assembly seat, it is a straight contest between Shah and Patel, belonging to the two dominant communities in the constituency with an electorate of little over 2.13 lakh.

Shah was allowed to enter Gujarat this September by the Supreme Court, nearly two years after his arrest on July 25, 2010, when he was charged with the murder, extortion, kidnapping besides five other sections of IPC in connection with the killing of Sheikh in an allegedly fake encounter and subsequently eliminating his wife Kausar Bi and associate Tulsiram Prajapati.

Sheikh allegedly ran an extortion racket with the help of senior police officers and four IPS officers including D G Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian, Abhay Chudasama and Dinesh M N, apart from eight other officers of lesser rank are under arrest in the case. The gory details of these extra-judicial killings may not give a good account of Shah as a politician, but for an overwhelming majority of voters in this urban, middle and high-middle class locality of Ahmedabad city, Shah is regarded as a “saviour”. … Shah was Minister of State for Home when these alleged fake encounters took place and the police officials accused in the case reported directly to him.

Shah, who was granted bail in October 2010 by the Gujarat High Court but was forced out of the state by a Supreme Court order, has now brought out a booklet that proclaims his innocence and presents him as a victim of Congress and CBI. “With malicious political intent, Congress misused CBI to falsely implicate Amit Shah in Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. Sohrabuddin was a terrorist from whose house AK 47, 150 hand grenades, one lakh cartridges and explosives were seized,” claims the booklet. …

Amit Shah, who is credited with wresting control of various cooperative banks, dairy cooperative societies and even cricketing bodies from Congress, had won the 2007 polls from Sarkhej seat by a massive margin of over 2.35 lakh votes trouncing Congress’ Shashikant Patel. He had earlier bagged the seat by handsome margins of over 1.32 lakh and 1.58 lakh votes against Congress candidates in 1998 and 2002 assembly elections. After the delimitation exercise, Sarkhej was trifurcated into Naranpur, Vejalpur and Ghatlodia constituencies. That Shah’s bungalow at Naranpur is no less than a pilgrimage for his followers is evident when Hemang Bhai says “even lord Shiva would have lost this election against Amit Bhai”!

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1044670/

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Amit Shah tops list of ‘criminal’ candidates (Dec 9, 2012, Indian Express)

Former home minister of Gujarat Amit Shah is among the top three candidates from the major political outfits featuring in the second phase of the Assembly elections who have “serious criminal cases of murder, kidnapping and theft” registered against them.

Shah, who is fighting on a BJP ticket from Naranpura constituency of Ahmedabad district, has declared two charges of murder and two charges of kidnapping registered against him. He is also facing charges of extortion and wrongful confinement, states a report released on Saturday by a non-political group – Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).

The other two candidates in the list are Takhatsinh Solanki of Congress) who is contesting from Shehra Assembly constituency and Vikramsinh Rathod of BSP who is contesting from Kalol Assembly constituency. Takhatsinh is facing two charges of robbery, while Rathod is facing a charge of attempted murder. Interestingly, two candidates from Shehra – Jetha Ahir (Jetha Bharvad) of BJP and Prafulchandra Vankar of BSP – have charges of rape registered against them.

Out of the 402 candidates analysed for the second phase of elections, 78 candidates or 19% of them have declared criminal cases against them. Among the major parties contesting the Assembly elections in the second phase in the state, Congress gave tickets to 28 candidates with declared criminal cases, BJP gave tickets to 26 and Gujarat Parivartan Party gave tickets to 13 candidates. …

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1042582/

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‘Bomb planter’ in Samjhauta blasts case arrested, NIA says (Dec 15, 2012, Times of India)

In a major breakthrough in the Samjhauta train blasts case, in which 68 people including several Pakistani nationals were killed, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday arrested the “bomb planter”, Rajender Chaudhary, from Nagda in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. He is also suspected of having planted the bomb in the Mecca Masjid blasts. The arrest is perfectly timed as it comes in the middle of Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik’s visit here. A senior NIA official, however, insisted that they were on Rajender’s trail for almost a year, and his arrest on Saturday was “co-incidental”. Rajendar Chaudhary alias Samunder, an accused named in the NIA chargesheet in the Samjhauta case, was carrying a Rs 5 lakh reward on his head. His role was unraveled by another accused, Kamal Chauhan, who was arrested earlier this year in February.

Among those named in Samjhauta blasts are Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Ramji Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange, Amit, Rajender Chaudhary and Sunil Joshi. Aseemanand and Sharma, and now Rajendar, have been arrested. While Joshi is dead, Dange, Kalsangra and Amit are absconding. On February 18, 2007, a series of blasts ripped through Samjhauta Express near Panipat, Haryana, leading to the death of 68 people, most of them Pakistani nationals. Earlier, a cell phone-triggered pipe bomb explosion inside Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007 left nine dead and 70 injured. Five people were killed in police firing during the clashes that followed the blast.

According to the Samjhauta chargesheet, the conspiracy was hatched in 2005 in Madhya Pradesh. In December 2006, Lokesh Sharma sent Kamal and Samunder to Delhi to carry out a reconnaissance of possible targets. While the duo first wanted to bomb crowded lanes around Jama Masjid, the plan was abandoned due to tight security. Samjhauta Express was then selected as it was easy to enter Old Delhi railway station with a bomb and plant it in a train without arousing suspicion. Following this, on February 17, the duo came to Indore and was given two suitcases with assembled bombs by Kalsangra the next day. The same day, they took a train to Delhi along with Lokesh Sharma and Amit Chauhan. Upon reaching Delhi, they stayed in different guest houses and roamed around areas such as Lal Qila and Chandni Chowk until it was time for the train.

They planted the bombs in the train and left for Indore via Jaipur. Only two of the bombs exploded. Once in Indore, they were questioned and reprimanded by Dange for the failure of the two other bombs. Investigations also revealed, the chargesheet said, that all of them had undertaken training in handling of weapons and explosives in 2006 in a jungle near Bagli, Dewas district, Madhya Pradesh. …

According to the chargesheet, Aseemanand not only provided financial and logistical support to the terror group but also played a vital role in instigating and motivating his associates to undertake this terrorist act. Dange, Kalsangra and Lokesh Sharma, apart from others under the leadership of Sunil Joshi, were instrumental in not only procuring the raw materials for the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) but also getting these fabricated and planted.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-15/india/35835763_1_kamal-chauhan-sandeep-dange-lokesh-sharma

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Court confirms conviction of main accused, acquits 17 in van blast case (Dec 13, 2012, The Hindu)

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday set aside the order of a special court that had, in 2008, awarded death penalty to four persons said to be activists of the banned Deendar Anjum organisation, in a case of blast that took place in a van near Minerva Mills on Magadi Road here on July 10, 2000. While rejecting the reference made for confirmation of death penalty, a Division Bench comprising Justice D.V. Shylendra Kumar and Justice H.S. Kempanna also acquitted all the 18 accused from the charges of waging war against the State under Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code.

However, the Bench confirmed the order of the special court that convicted accused no 1 Syed Mohammad Ibrahim under Section 5 of the Explosives Substances Act and his imprisonment for 10 years. But the Bench ordered setting off the period that he spent under detention since his arrest in the case on July 14, 2000. The Bench said that the evidences produced by the prosecution are insufficient to prove the charges levelled against them in this case.

The acquitted are Syed Hasan-uz-Zama, Abdul Rehaman Sait, Zakir, Mohammad Fida-ur-Rehaman Siddique, Amanath Hassan Mulla, Syed Khaloq-uz-Zama, Sheik Hasim Ali, Mohammad Farooq Ali, Sahabjada Syed Zia-ul-Hassan, Mohammad Siddique, Syed Khalid Pasha, Syed Sabihul Hassan, Abdul Habeeb, Shamshuzama, Syed Zahed-ul-Hassan, Sheik Fardeen Valli and Syed Abdul Khadar Jilani.

However, many of these accused are either facing death penalty or life imprisonment among the other accused in the cases related to four explosions at churches in Wadi in Gulbarga district, Keshavapur in Hubli and J.J. Nagar in Bangalore. The appeal filed by them against the special court’s verdict and the reference of death penalty for confirmation are pending before the High Court.

In the van blast case, it was alleged that after planting explosives at St. Peter and Paul Church at J.J. Nagar, Syed Mohammad Ibrahim and a few others were on their way to another church in a van. While they were assembling the explosives, a blast took place near the Minerva Mills and two of the accused were killed on the spot. The prime accused in all the blasts that took place at churches in Hyderabad, Karnataka and Goa, Syed Zia-ul-Hassan, remained absconding. According the police, Hassan, chief of the banned Deendar Anjuman, is a resident of Mardhan in the North-Western Frontier Province of Pakistan.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/court-confirms-conviction-of-main-accused-acquits-17-in-van-blast-case/article4194255.ece

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SC notice to Maharashtra in Yunus case (Dec 11, 2012, Times of India)

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the state government and nine Mumbai policemen for the alleged custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, an accused in the 2002 Ghatkopar blast.

The court was hearing a SLP challenging the April 10, 2012 order of the Bombay HC, rejecting his mother Asiya Begum’s plea to prosecute 10 policemen, including late Arun Borude. The HC had raised compensation to Rs 20 lakh for “violation of fundamental rights” of Yunus and his mother.

Asiya Begum’s advocate Mihir Desai argued that this was a case where sanction should have been granted. “There were eyewitnesses to the custodial torture and the CID report said the remaining policemen should be prosecuted,” said Desai.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-11/mumbai/35748604_1_sc-notice-khwaja-yunus-custodial-death

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Politicians spread the poison of Hindu-Muslim divide: Katju (Dec 13, 2012, IBN)

Chairman of Press Council of India (PCI) Justice Markanday Katju on Thursday alleged that politicians in independent India “have played a major role in spreading deeper the poison of Hindu-Muslim divide, whose seeds were sown by the British, for serving their own votebank politics”. Addressing a programme in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), he said Pakistan was an “artificially-created state” by British using the Hindu-Muslim divide. “It is only a matter of time when the people of both the countries (India and Pakistan) will realise that their erstwhile Western rulers had poisoned their minds and hearts against each other for serving their own interest. They created the Hindu-Muslim divide and then concretised this legacy by the creation of Pakistan”, Katju said.

“The real tragedy”, he said “was that while the British sowed the seeds of discords in the hearts and minds of people, after independence agent provocateurs are continuing this nefarious policy”. “I have no hesitation to state that politicians have played a major role in spreading this poison deeper for serving their own vote bank politics”, he charged. According to Justice Katju, “in 1857, there was almost zero percent communalism in the country and today I have no hesitation to accept that 80 per cent of both Hindus and Muslims have fallen prey to this dreadful malaise”, he said.

“I am aware that my comments on this issue had earlier this week stirred a hornet s nest. Some newspersons in Pakistan have dismissed my views as the ranting of a lunatic”, he said adding “Hindu-Muslim conflict was engineered by the British as a deliberate state policy for maintaining the British hold over India”. Claiming that history books were deliberately doctored by the British rulers, he said it was done to spawn communalism in India. Referring to terror activities in the country, Katju said evidence was now mounting to suggest that whenever incidents of terror take place in India, “very frequently innocent Muslim youth are randomly picked up by security forces”.

“This is not only unjust but also helps the actual perpetrators of such heinous crimes escape the clutches of the law. The main reason behind this is that our police force are not suitably equipped with all the modern technology and state-of-art investigative techniques for nabbing the actual culprits”, he said. Whenever an incident of terror takes place, the police are under pressure to nab the culprits at the earliest and “the easiest way out is to implicate innocent persons to ease the pressure of public opinion”, he said.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/politicians-spread-the-poison-of-hindumuslim-divide-katju/310358-3.html

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‘Minorities’ rights under constant attack’ (Dec 12, 2012, The Hindu)

Not only has the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the State set a new record in corruption by indulging in “organised loot” it has also failed in protecting the rights of minorities, said Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat here on Tuesday.

Participating in a rally organised by the party as part of its state-wide campaign, “Oust BJP and Congress, save the people”, Mr. Karat said that the country was concerned about the “constant attacks” against the rights of minorities in the State.

According to Union Home Ministry’s statistics, he said, there were 54 communal incidents from January to November this year in the State. “The RSS and Hindutva organisations are being allowed to target the minorities here,” he alleged. He said that attacks on minorities and the erosion of secular values were being witnessed in all the States ruled by the BJP.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/karnataka/minorities-rights-under-constant-attack/article4188640.ece

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Acquitted after 22 months in jail, former railway attendant (Dec 12, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Guljar Bhai, who was working as attendant in AC coaches with a private contractor in Northern Railway, was arrested from the Delhi bound Brahmaputra Mail at the Guwahati station on November 30, 2010, along with two others Md. Attabul and Suresh Mina. In an operation led by CID Inspector Putul Baishya, three were charged for possession of 33 kg of ganja or cannabis that was allegedly concealed in the ceiling of the train compartment. Nirmal Baishya, DSP, CID had allegedly got “secret information” that huge consignment of ganja was being smuggled and had hence deputed a CID team to raid the said train, led by Inspector Putul Baishya.

They were charge for the violations of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. However, the case fell flat in the Guwahati court as “the prosecution miserably failed to adduce positive evidence to implicate the accused persons.” The court hence acquitted Guljar Bhai and Attabul from the charge and set them free on September 29, 2012. However, they had to spend about 22 months in jail on those ‘fabricated’ charges.

Guljar Bhai, a resident of village Achnera in Kerawali Tehsil in Agra district, was working with a private contractor as railway attendant. Speaking to TCN, 42 year old Guljar Bhai alleges, “The ganja was found in B-3 coach of the train and he was on duty in B-2. But he was brought there and then along with two others arrested.” Guljar added that when the passengers in train protested, the CID Inspector said: Laden ka aadmi hai (He is a Laden’s man). We have secret information against him.”

The prosecution, in fact, could not produce any ‘conclusive evidence’ as all five witnesses were police personnels. No railway staff was even made a witness. The charge against them was that they were sitting in the same compartment, and were “apprehended on suspicion.” What is more interesting is that although in the charge- sheet it was alleged that the cannabis were loaded at the originating station Dibrugarh by Suresh Mina, he “was not made an accused in this case nor shown as an absconder,” the judgment noted.

Guljar Bhai was the only working member in his family. When he was arrested, he left behind him, his wife and three children – three sons and two daughters. He alleges their study had to be discounted due to debt and poverty. The eldest son, now 20 year old has to work, to support the family, he says. Guljar Bhai has, however, decided to fight the legal battle and has complained against the CID officials involved to the Director of the CID, SP Kamrup, SSP Agra and the Prime Minister for intervention. He is also mulling over legal battle, but as he cannot afford the expenses of fighting a case, he is in talks with some civil rights group. “I am in debt now and working as daily wage labourer. CID destroyed my life on false charges,” he says.

http://twocircles.net/2012dec12/acquitted_after_22_months_jail_former_railway_attendant_files_complaints_against_cid.html

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“Police implicated deceased Dalit in Thevar guru puja-related murder case” (Dec 14, 2012, The Hindu)

The Paramakudi police have included a dead man as an accused in a murder case. Malairaj, son of Mayalagu of Ramnagar, Paramakudi, who died on March 29, 2011, has been named as an accused in the October 30, Muthuramalinga Thevar guru puja-related murder at Pambuvizhunthan village near Paramakudi. Citing the incident (a copy of the death certificate is in possession of The Hindu ), advocates and social activists of Madurai have sent a letter to the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Governor alleging that the police machinery was falsely implicating prominent Dalit activists in the October 30 violence.

Advocate P. Rathinam and others alleged that the police were abusing their power against the marginalised Dalits on the pretext of investigating two crimes registered in Paramakudi town and Emaneswaram police stations of a double murder and single murder that took place on October 30. Dalit activist, Advocate Punniyamoorthy who was not present in the vicinity of the crime, had been included just to terrorise the Dalit community.

Moreover, the arrested Dalit youth were made to confess and the police also falsely implicated P. Chandra Bose of Thiyagi Immanuel Peravai. Mr. Chandra Bose had been away from Paramakudi for almost a month, assisting his ailing wife. Inclusion of his name was a clear case of biased approach to satisfy a particular community, Mr. Rathinam said.

Young Dalit graduates, students and government servants had also been falsely booked in these cases. Citing the recent cases of atrocities perpetuated on Dalits in Dharmapuri and Cuddalore the advocates’ forum sought the Central intervention to prevent the lawlessness imposed on Dalits.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/police-implicated-deceased-dalit-in-thevar-guru-pujarelated-murder-case/article4198334.ece

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Opinions and Editorials

Modi’s victory will be India’s failure – By Akhtar Hussain (Dec 15, 2012, Twocircles.net)

On 28 February 2002, “Wali Gujarati” tomb was razed, leveled and tarred by a mob on rampage. How much time would it take do it and what kind of heavy vehicles/machineries would be required? Yes, it all happened just ten meters away from Ahmedabad Police Commissioner’s Office. Ahmedabad was worst affected during those fateful days (few tribunal members called it like a “war ravaged city”). PC Pandey, Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, allowed a build up of the violence in the city resulting in many innocents being killed in curfew hours like in Naroda Patiya and Gulberg society (which he deserted after a brief appearance). Far from being punished he was awarded, first as Addl DG CBI in Delhi, later brought back as DGP in the state and finally after retirement, he was appointed as the chairman of the Gujarat State Police Housing Corporation (despite being accused by many victims). The reason I started with this example is, not just to show how people were rewarded for their role in the massacre but also to emphasize that how complicit was state machinery in 2002 pogrom. No one has said that Modi was out in streets with a sword, he is guilty because of the way state responded to the crisis and by awarding such people Modi has confirmed they had his blessings.

The system of rewards and sanctions explains the state response and there are many such examples. And there are at least a dozen other examples of rioting just a stone throw away distance from police stations. Any person in his right mind can see the glaring collusion of the police and the Modi government in the violence. The often repeated excuse by Modi supporters that “we will wait for court verdict” doesn’t make any sense to me. Do they wait for court verdicts before expressing their views on any issue? Even the Pakistan says the same in case of Hafiz Saeed. We never believed them and rightly so. And what has been our judiciary’s record in such cases? Do we really have the will to punish those guilty? It doesn’t seem so. If I speak on corruption, all will agree with me that Politicians manipulate and subvert the system to get away, but what if I say the same in these cases? … Don’t ask!

On 6 March 2002, government appointed a commission, under Justice KG Shah (who was known to be close to Narendra Modi) whose principal mandate was to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Godhra incident. When protests erupted, another retired judge, Justice GT Nanavati was appointed (alongside justice Shah) and took over commission’s chairmanship. In the interview that Ashish Khetan held with Arvind Pandya, the then Advocate General of Gujarat, recorded by hidden camera, this Modi appointee confided that ‘Shah was “our man” and that Nanavati was in the commission for the money’. Justice Nanavati proved complacent indeed, declaring during a press conference shortly after his appointment that ‘he had noted no lapse by the police in its handling of the riots” (From Christophe Jaffrelot’s article). There are many more blunders the commission committed that deny itself of any credibility whatsoever. Most Notable of them all is when he gave a clean chit to Modi government before last elections, when he came out with his report on Godhra carnage and post-Godhra report was still in investigation stage.

Justice Shah died in March 2008. He was replaced by another judge, Justice Akshay Mehta, who had freed Babu Bajrangi on bail a few years ago. What do all these developments explain? That Modi is anxious to bring the truth out or intends to bury it forever with another clean-chit? I however, don’t need to look into these cases to get convinced of Modi government’s collusion in the pogrom. A glance into the views of an abusive Modi supporter (with inherent hatred for Muslims) to the so-called right-wing intellectuals (who may not display the hatred but never speak a word even when Muslims are on the receiving end of violence) is a proof of the certain kind of politics they believe in. From RSS call for implementing “Gujarat experiments” in other states post 2002 to the most recent one on the eve of 6th December 2012, when his supporters shouted slogans “UP ab Gujarat banega, Faizabad shuruaat karega” is a clear reflection of their ideology.

Its election time in Gujarat, and all media houses are already talking about Modi being projected as Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Modi is riding high on his much hyped propaganda of development with Congress no match to stand a chance. Much has been said about his development claims and even against these claims as well. Sonali Ranade and Shaelja Sharma came out (11 July 2012) with an excellent comparative analysis with other states and Gujarat’s own previous record, making the point that the other large states have done even better relative to Gujarat under Modi in closing the gap. They rightly gave the credit to economic reforms and entrepreneurial traditions of Gujarat. So what’s this noise all about? Is there some substance to it or is it just a clever marketing technique to project him as a role model of development or a strategy so that desperate people don’t look at his tainted past. Given his rabble-rousing image, I would like to go with the third option i.e it’s a strategy to end his political isolation and to gain wider acceptance for him. I don’t intend to deny him the credit for the good work he might have done in the state. Gujarat may have better roads, better power supply, growth in manufacturing sector and agriculture. He might have succeeded in bringing some investments as well (as was reported though 25% of what he claimed). …

http://twocircles.net/2012dec15/modi%E2%80%99s_victory_will_be_india%E2%80%99s_failure.html

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Vote and drought – By Lyla Bavadam (Dec 15, 2012, Frontline)

If there was one thing that Narendra Modi must have prayed for this year, it would have been a good monsoon. In an election year, water, a commodity which politicians normally gloss over, suddenly assumes significance, especially when it comes to courting the rural voter. And in the case of Gujarat, where agriculture is still the predominant economic activity in vast areas, the point is even more pertinent. This year the State had its worst monsoon in a decade. The worst affected regions are the already water-starved Saurashtra, Kutch and north Gujarat. Coincidentally, these are also regions where Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have a strong following.

For decades the farmers of Saurashtra, Kutch and north Gujarat have harboured a resentment against successive governments for their failure to build a canal network in their region. When Modi came to power in 2001 and took a strong stand on the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Project canals, these farmers hoped they would no longer have to rely on borewells (which were turning saline because of overuse). But as the years passed the hope died. The canal network, though extensive in central and south Gujarat, is incomplete in other areas.

It was inevitable that this year the kharif crops in the water-scarce areas would be badly hit. The yield from cotton and groundnut was especially poor, and since these are the economic staples for the region’s farmers, it was equally inevitable that there would be debt and, sadly, deaths in farmer families. Eleven farmers killed themselves over issues relating to agriculture. Their families were given Rs.1 lakh each as “compensation” (a meaningless word in the circumstances), but apart from this the ruling party handled the matter callously. The suicides caught the party off guard and its reaction betrayed insensitivity to rural matters. At a press interaction, BJP State president R.C. Faldu reportedly said that if a farmer’s son does not take up farming and instead does some other work and then fails in it and commits suicide, then it is his destiny. The bizarre statement caused an uproar, and Faldu later denied having said any such thing.…

http://flonnet.com/fl2925/stories/20121228292503500.htm

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End of the road for BJP in Karnataka – Editorial (Dec 14, 2012, The Hindu)

B.S. Yeddyurappa’s political gamble in launching the Karnataka Janata Party at a massive rally on December 9 in Haveri has hit the Bharatiya Janata Party hard. In the run-up to the launch of the KJP, Mr. Yeddyurappa declared that he had the loyalty of 50 to 60 legislators of the BJP who would walk over at his bidding. The State BJP first scoffed, and then with ill-placed confidence threatened expulsion of those who attended the launch of the KJP and the breakfast meet preceding it. The rebel group defied the party on both counts. Fourteen BJP legislators participated in the rally, six BJP legislative council members were present on the dais, while 23 MLAs (including several ministers) broke bread with Mr. Yeddyurappa.

The BJP, its bluster and confidence gone, has quietly capitulated and deferred and diluted its threat of disciplinary action against 20 of the rebels. It will now merely issue show-cause notices to the rebel faction, buying itself time to re-strategise. This elaborate shadow-boxing has given rise to a paradoxical situation in the Assembly. In a House that has a current strength of 223, and where the BJP’s formal strength is 118 (excluding the Speaker), there are 14 MLAs who have openly declared allegiance to Mr. Yeddyurappa’s KJP and yet choose not to resign as MLAs. On the other hand, the government’s continuance in office depends on these rebels. This establishes that the BJP is playing by the letter and not the spirit of democratic norms. Neither the ruling party nor the KJP faction would like to be seen as pulling down the government, as the State nears elections in May 2013.

The launch in Haveri – a massive show of popular mobilisation, and a demonstration of Mr. Yeddyurappa’s continuing hold over the BJP – is an ominous signal for the ruling dispensation. The chances that the KJP will trigger a broad re-alignment of political forces, attracting elements from disgruntled groups within the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), appear unlikely. Mr. Yeddyurappa’s secular protestations ring hollow, as do his attempts to project a clean image.

In fact, the former Chief Minister, who was responsible for subverting the BJP’s promise of providing stability and good governance, has managed to deftly shift the onus of his failure on to the party. For the BJP, its first experiment with governance on its own in Karnataka has been a disappointment from the start. After promising an alternative to the Congress and the JD(S), the BJP has a record even more dismal than that of the previous governments. It is with this track-record of non-performance, instability and corruption that both the BJP and its doppelganger, the KJP, must go before the people.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/end-of-the-road-for-bjp-in-karnataka/article4196657.ece

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Babri Demolition: Two Decades Later – By Ram Puniyani (Dec 16, 2012, Countercurrents)

Twenty years ago (December 6, 1992) on this fateful day, Babri Mosque was demolished. This demolition remains a major blot in the history of India. It was the act of demolition by communal forces which reflected the changing polity of India and it in turn further changed the polity in a very adverse direction. Liberhan Commission showed that it was a pre-planned act orchestrated by Sangh Parivar, which gloated over it and celebrated it as Hindu Shaurya Diwas (Hindu Bravery Day). RSS combine and many an ideologues sympathizing with its ideology projected and are projecting this demolition as a major act of Nation building! While those committed to democracy and secularism see this day as a day which shamed Indian democracy; secularism and opened the floodgates of further communal polarization in a very intense way. What emerged from this tragic day was the strengthening of communal forces due to which BJP emerged as the major party at electoral level, which further communalized our culture into a narrow sectarian one. The values of divisiveness and intolerance towards weaker sections grew further.

While the communal forces led the onslaught, the so called secular party, the Congress did everything to let the things go on, as a passive onlooker or an active colluder. Congress failed to protect the mosque and showed its week knees to the extent that many started equating Congress with BJP. It started being said that what BJP does openly during the day Congress does it covertly, by the night. These two major parties have ruled the Indian political space. In this BJP is programmatically communal and Congress is opportunistically communal. Not to be left behind during this demolition and in the aftermath of demolition, the violence which followed; the acts of violence which took place later and the role of police which was revealed during all these episodes has come as a shocker in a very blatant way. During demolition police failed to do its allotted duty and during violence it either looks the other way round or assists the rioters. In the aftermath of the violence, its role is again suspect. While the major victims of violence are the minorities, uniformly police arrests more from the minority community in large numbers. Despite some noble exceptions, many police personnel are most willing to violate the process of law to support the majoritarian communalism.

The violence has a pattern. While the Muslims are 13.4% according to 2001 census, the number of victims from Muslim minorities is close to 90%. The strong persistence of biases against them acts as the fertile ground on which the violence takes place. Most sections of society, including political leadership of many parties, large sections of those in bureaucracy and police have strong biases against these hapless minorities, due to which the starting point of their action is in presuming that they are criminals. What follows next in the form of their action, quite conforms to this pattern.

The violence has been leading to polarization of communities along religious lines. This polarization is so strong by now that starting from schools, colleges and some work places, where per chance some Muslims find employment, the segregation along religious lines is becoming discernible. This polarization has led to the rise of communal forces to bigger electoral power is very visible. In Mumbai, as Shiv Sena took the lead in violence, it did come to grab electoral power in the aftermath of violence. Simultaneously the inquiry commission reports, which have come out so far, Srikrishna or Liberahan, get their place in the cold storage. While the communal parties in power treat these reports with disdain, the Congress shows no interest in getting them implemented, the calculations of vote bank comes to the fore and we painfully see the work of judiciary, the inquiry commission reports, adorning the library shelves, and that’s about all. Had there been the rule of law, the perpetrators of hate speech, those who lead the communal violence would have been behind the bars rather than roaring in the streets and being upgraded to be called as Hindu Hriday Samrats (Emperor of Hindu Hearts). It is no coincidence that after the 92-93 Mumbai carnage Bal Thackeray, who led the violence, and Narendra Modi who was at the centre of 2002 Gujarat pogrom, both came to be anointed with this pre fix of Hindu Hriday Samrat.

The impact of communalization process is also visible in section of judiciary. In states like Gujarat, the cases had to be shifted out of the state to see that the justice is done. In case of Ayodhya judgment of Allahabad High Court, we saw the situation where two of the three judges resorted to the ‘faith’ of the people to divide the ‘disputed’ land amongst three contending parties. This was something neither asked for by the litigants nor can stand on the legal grounds. The divisive violence has been leading to the formation of physical ghettoes where the sunlight of progress and liberal value can hardly reach despite the best efforts of the social workers committed to the cause of education and reform. In Mumbai in particular Mohalla Committees did play some positive role and do continue to play the same in some form, thanks to the affirmative action by some police officers of impeccable reputation and the social workers committed to the cause of peace in society. …

http://www.countercurrents.org/puniyani161212.htm

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The distancing effect of cash transfers – By Manjula Lal (Dec 5, 2012, Tehelka)

Don’t talk to your friends directly, just post on the Facebook wall. Don’t wrack your brain for adjectives, just press ‘like’. Don’t meet, stay in touch on phone. Don’t cook, order. Stay out of my life, Dad, just send money. Like many other ways of showing other human beings you care, the Aadhar-enabled direct money transfer by way of subsidy raises a lot of questions, not just about the scope for corruption and the motives of a central government heading for elections, but about the whole vision of a democratic government supposed to work for the greater good of all.

A push-button psychology is at work, which will undoubtedly distance government from the ‘mango people’, just like colonial masters kept to a policy of non-fraternisation with their subjects, just as air-conditioned comfort distanced elected representatives from those who live and die under the blazing sun. Instead of trying to change the feudal mindset that keeps a country backward, politicians and bureaucrats are now bringing India back to Square One – of avoiding getting one’s feet wet while purportedly saving someone who is drowning.

The picture isn’t all gloomy. The way our public hospitals look after our destitute and ill still gives a glimpse of what a welfare state should be like – and hats off to the doctors, nurses and other staff who keep humanity alive. Example? Two months ago, a driver and his family spent weeks looking after a burnt couple at Delhi’s LNJP Hospital. The young couple, after a quarrel over the man’s drinking, poured kerosene on each other and burnt themselves. Their baby of six months was also partially burnt, but not badly. After being turned away from a few hospitals, they found refuge in LNJP. They were there for weeks, till the woman died. Doctors requested the family to take away the baby before he caught an infection. After a couple of weeks, the man too was discharged. It’s true that the welfare state can do more, much more, for the dying man and his child. And perhaps it will, if the driver is able to negotiate the ‘system’.…

http://tehelka.com/the-distancing-effect-of-cash-transfers/

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Irrigation Scam Fails to Drown Ajit Pawar – By Rana Ayyub (Dec 13, 2012, Tehelka)

On 7 December 2012, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan reinstated Ajit Pawar as the deputy CM of Maharashtra, a post he was forced to step down from on 25 September after his name figured in a multi-crore irrigation scam during his tenure as the state’s water resources minister from 1999 to 2009. The position had been lying vacant despite contenders like former deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal waiting to stake claim.

A day before the winter session of the Maharashtra Assembly began on 10 December, the main Opposition parties, including the Shiv Sena and the BJP, hit out at the government with a “Black Paper” to counter the White Paper brought out in November by the state’s water resources ministry on irregularities in irrigation projects. Resenting the reinstatement of Ajit Pawar, they also boycotted the tea session hosted by the CM.

That there is enough evidence of Ajit flouting norms to dole out contracts to his cronies has been exposed by journalists and activists, including YP Singh, who presented documents at a press conference that purportedly incriminated the Pawar family. TEHELKA’s investigation too exposed the financial irregularities in the irrigation department. “The White Paper provides details of transactions that took place in the irrigation department, also under the Shiv Sena-BJP government. It does not give Ajit Pawar a clean chit,” says a bureaucrat on condition of anonymity.

While the NCP cried foul saying the activists were instigated by the CM, who wanted a clean slate for his government, the irrigation controversy, which is as complicated as the Adarsh scam, is not a result of tumultuous relations between the NCP and the Congress, as the chain of events since January 2012 suggests. Sharad Pawar’s resignation drama (from the Union Cabinet) achieved little except displaying the familiar “Pawar Play”. It was not just his prime ministerial ambition, but also a position of power in Maharashtra for his daughter Supriya Sule that he saw slipping away to Ajit, who now controls most of the young and influential cadres of the NCP.

The incriminating evidence is not only against the way the irrigation department functioned during Ajit’s tenure, but also in the previous Sena-BJP regime. So the question that needs to be asked is: why has Ajit been singled out? Why has the attack of the Shiv Sena-BJP focussed singularly on Ajit? Interestingly, on 12 December, the Shiv Sena offered to make Sharad Pawar its nominee for the PM’s post, should he wish to join the NDA. A precursor to this episode, if insiders are to be believed, was Sharad Pawar’s insistence on giving Bal Thackeray a State funeral, which the CM had to oblige with. Neither Home Minister RR Patil (from the NCP) nor the NCP supremo has spoken out against the shifting of Thackeray’s memorial after the controversy erupted. That perhaps explains the Opposition’s silence on Sharad Pawar’s complicity. …

http://tehelka.com/irrigation-scam-fails-to-drown-ajit-pawar/

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