IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 5th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Babri Masjid Demolition 19th Anniversary: Indian American Group Demands Justice

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Indian American Muslim Council (http://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has called upon the Supreme Court of India as well as the institutions of civil society to take cognizance of the miscarriage of justice in the case of the Babri Masjid demolition and to work towards a full and final resolution of the issue.

“The fact that justice has eluded us, even after 19 years since this crime against the nation was committed, is unacceptable, and reflects poorly on the health of our polity as well as our judicial system,” said Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC.”While the Supreme Court’s stay on the October 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court is welcome, it is clear that the machinations of those involved in the demolition could result in further delay for the victims of one of the most egregious violations of religious freedom in our nation’s history,” added Mr. Khateeb.

IAMC believes that it was government inaction, coupled with fanatical mobs driven by the hate-filled discourse of the Sangh parivar, that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. In order to repair the secular foundations of our Republic, and to heal the wounds to our national pride caused by the demolition and its murderous aftermath, IAMC has demanded the following:

a. Criminal prosecution of Mr. L.K. Advani, Sadhvi Ritambhara and 66 others held culpable by the Liberhan Commission for the Babri Masjid demolition

b. A resolution of the title to the disputed land, based on facts and not on favoring the religious beliefs of one community over those of another

 

c. A reaffirmation of the “The Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991”, that prohibits the conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on 15th August, 1947. Although this Act does not apply to the Babri Masjid, it would ensure that sectarian politics is not allowed to leverage other places of worship in order to advance a divisive agenda.

IAMC has called upon people of all faiths to exercise restraint during the upcoming anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, and called upon the law enforcement agencies to provide adequate security to all citizens.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.

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

RELATED LINKS:

Full Report of the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry
http://babrimasjid.info/reports/

Indian American Muslim group expresses disappointment at the Court verdict on Babri Masjid Ayodhya issue
http://iamc.com/press-release/indian-american-muslim-group-expresses-disappointment-at-the-court-verdict-on-babri-masjid-ayodhya-issue/

Liberhan Commission Report inquiring into the demolition of Babri Masjid
http://iamc.com/reports/liberhan_comission_report_inquiring_the_destruction_of_babri_masjid_in_ayodhya_on_dec_6th__1992/

Contact:

Khalid Azam
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email: info@iamc.com

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phone/fax: 1-800-839-7270
email: info@iamc.com

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Communal Harmony

Literature should Promote Communal Harmony – B’lore Varsity VC (Nov 25, 2011, Daijiworld)

Vice-chancellor of Bangalore University, A N Prabhudeva, speaking after inaugurating the 79th annual Sahitya Sammelan organized on the occasion of Lakshadeepotsava at Dharmashala on Thursday November 24, argued that religion and literature should work in tandem to contribute to peace and law order, apart from strengthening the fabric of communal harmony. “We should be proud of the fact that Kannada, which occupies No.2 position as far as history of Dravidian languages is concerned, has bagged eight Jnanpith awards so far. Kannadigas have every reason to feel proud about this feat,” he said.

Prabhudeva recalled that the Halegannada poets and writers like Pampa, Ponna, Ranna, etc had kept service to the motherland and language uppermost in their minds while creating literature. “The Ragales written by Harihara and Sangatya literature of Raghavanka in Nadugannada also contributed greatly to communal harmony. As we are aware, Vachanas gave rise to a social revolution in erasing differential treatment of people on the basis of castes, creeds, religion, etc. ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ envisaged by Basavanna was the first ever parliament in the universe,” he said. He requested Dharmasthala Dharmadhikari, Dr D Veerendra Heggade, to expand his area of operation and become the leading force in installing ‘Raja Dharma’ in the state.

Renowned critic, Dr Giraddi Govindaraj, who presided over the programme, asked people to shun inferiority complex they may be having about their language and culture, and insisted that language and culture should blossom on the firm footing of local culture. He said that Indians do not take care to preserve and spread their history and culture. “The British spread their language and culture wherever they go, but Indians go to foreign countries just for employment and amassing wealth, forgetting the roots of their own culture. We should grow a sense of pride about our language and culture,” he stressed. Pointing out that English literature does have as varied a literature as of the Puranas, legends etc found in Indian languages, Giraddi asked people to understand the importance and creativity of the rich storehouse of Indian literature.

Roopa Hassan, columnist of ‘Prajavani’ Kannada daily, Dr Basavaraj Malashetti Hospet, and Dr Satyanarayan Mallipatna from Mangalore, delivered lectures of different topics at the literary meet. Dr Heggade announced about the organization of a state level workshop in Dharmasthala shortly about various forms of Yakshagana, to rejuvenate Yakshagana, popularity of which has been on the wane since some time. Prof S Prabhakar, D Surendra Kumar, D Harshendra Kumar, Hemavati V Heggade, and D Shreyas Kumar were present. At night, Gaurimarukatte Utsava of Lord Manjunatheshwara was held. Over a lac devotees participated in the Utsava celebrations enthusiastically.

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=123022

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More evidence has come up to prove Advani’s role in Babari Masjid demolition (Nov 29, 2011, Milli Gazette)

Despite repeated claims made by BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani that he was against the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992, more evidence has come up to prove his role in demolition of the historic mosque. Senior journalist Renu Mittal has made sensational disclosures before a city court here on 17 November, saying that Advani had played an important role in the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. She said it was Advani who used loudspeakers to direct closure of all routes to the temple town of Ayodhya, not allow anybody enter or exit and saying that the “kar seva” should continue till the Ram Temple is constructed.

Renu Mittal told Special Judge Vishnu Prasad as a prosecution witness of the CBI that none among the BJP leaders stopped kar sevaks from destruction and violence. Renu, who is a senior special correspondent of Rashtradoot in Delhi, said she was working at that time for magazine Onlooker of the Mumbai-based daily Free Press Journal. She said despite roadblocks, she had succeeded to reach the district town of Faizabad on December 5 and the Babri Masjid complex in Ayodhya next day on December 6 at around 8 am and talked to VHP chief Ashok Singal. At around 10:30, the complex was swarmed with people. They were led by Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal, Vinay Katiar and Shiv Sena MP Moreshwar. A day earlier Moreshwar had told a press conference that he will not rest till the destruction of Babri Masjid.

Renu told the court that speeches were made from the dais to inflame kar sevaks and were told to finish the work for which they had arrived. And the aim was to demolish Babri Masjid. She said Ashok Singhal spoke first and then she saw some karsevaks engaged in a fight with some cameramen, thrashing and damaging their cameras. “When I tried to save a cameraman, a karsevak threatened me, pointing a knife to my abdomen. He asked me to leave the place. Karsevaks were attacking journalists in the campus. It looked like they did not want to leave any proof of their crime.” On one side, Babri Masjid was being demolished and on the other karsevaks had engaged journalists, beating and thrashing them mercilessly, she said.

Sadhvi Ritambara and Uma Bharti were repeatedly and by turns inciting people, Renu further deposed, adding that none on the stage tried to stop those engaged in bringing down the mosque. She recalled that when she had asked a police officer why they are not stopping people, he told her blandly that the then Chief Minister Kalyan Singh has issued strict orders not to even raise an eyelid towards karsevaks; firing bullet was not even in the imagination. Pointing out that the Babri Masjid had three domes, Renu said the demolition operation had begun at 11:30 am and finished at 4:50 pm. After the demolition, it was a party there. Leaders and people hugging and congratulating each other. Karsevaks were taking demolished mosques’ bricks as souvenirs. Leaders at stage were also congratulating and hugging each other, she recalled. Meanwhile, message came from police wireless that Kalyan Singh has resigned. CBI witness further said, after the demolition, some people brought Ram Lalla on a throne and placed it on the debris. Then they covered the place with a cloth.

Renu said whatever she saw on that fateful day was filed by her as a vivid account to the Onlooker magazine. It was published in December 31 issue of the magazine. Her cross examination could not be completed for want of original copy of the magazine as the other side objected to take on record a photocopy. The court ordered procurement of the copy of the magazine from the Lucknow court where a separate trial is going on and adjourned the hearing, without fixing the next date. There were a battery of lawyers in the court, including special CBI lawyer P. K. Chaubey and defence lawyer Vimal Srivastava. There are many accused having different lawyers who will be cross-examining Renu at the next hearing.

http://www.milligazette.com/news/2765-kar-seva-should-continue-till-ram-temple-is-built

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Naroda Patia victims want top cops to be made accused (Dec 3, 2011, Times of India)

Victims of the Naroda Patia case have requested the special court to arraign four cops including former DGP P C Pande as an accused in the ongoing trial. Other three cops are the then JCP M K Tandon, DCP (zone VI) P B Gondia and Naroda PI K K Mysorewala. By filing an application on Friday, victims’ counsel Yusuf Sheikh sought arraignment of the four cops on the ground that they did not respond to distress calls from victims, and were in constant touch with the accused persons, who have been arrested in this post-Godhra case. The applicants have given details of call details showing how the four cops behaved on the fateful day.

Citing their suspicious behaviour, the court has been requested to treat all the four as accused in the case not only for dereliction in duty, but also for their complicity in the riots. Besides, the applicants have also demanded further investigation by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT into the call records submitted by IPS officer Rahul Sharma. The lawyer has submitted that SIT’s probe in this regard is not complete. “Proper analysis of the CD will show as to why these officers failed to respond to distress calls from victims…

SIT has in a casual manner accepted that phone records have been destroyed and did not supply investigation details about reasons for destruction of evidence while the matter was pending before the SC,” the application read. Designated judge, Jyotsna Yagnik issued notice to SIT and sought explanation in this regard. Ninety-five persons were killed in this incident on February 28, 2002, and 67 persons are being tried by a special court.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/10965688.cms

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Sohrab case: SC pulls up Guj govt for withholding call details of cops (Dec 1, 2011, Indian Express)

Pulling up Gujarat government for its failure in handing over telephone call details of senior police officials pertaining to Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, the Supreme Court today directed the state to place before it all CDs in that regard on Wednesday. A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai gave the direction to the state government taking strong exceptions to the withholding of the CDs on police officers’ call details by it from the CBI, which is probing the case. “On Wednesday, you (Gujarat government) must have CDs with you,” the bench said.

It is a very “disappointing” and a “serious matter” that in 9-10 days of the hearing in the apex court, this information has been withheld, it said. Gujarat’s Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta assured the bench that if there is any such CD in the custody of the state, it would be placed before it on the next date of hearing. During the proceedings, the Bench also asked senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who is assisting the court in the case as amicus curiae, to point out the CBI lapses in its probe. The court’s direction to the state government came during the hearing of a CBI plea challenging the Gujarat High Court’s order granting bail to former state Home Minister Amit Shah, who is facing trial for his alleged involvement in the 2005 Sohrabuddin fake encounter killing by police.

The CBI plea has also sought the transfer of his trial to a place outside the state. Shah, a close aide of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was arrested by the CBI on July 25 last year and had spent over three months in Sabarmati jail in Ahmedabad. He has been accused by the agency of being the “kingpin” of the conspiracy leading to the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in November 2005. His wife Kausarbi and Tulsiram Prajapati, said to be his accomplice, were also killed later. Earlier, 46-year-old Shah had contended before the apex court that he was implicated in the case because the Centre wanted to “destabilise” the Narendra Modi government. Sohrabuddin and his wife were allegedly abducted by the Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) from Hyderabad. Prajapati was also subsequently eliminated allegedly by ATS to destroy evidence as he was an eye witness.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/882829/

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Centre wants Jethmalani, Shah in dock for contempt of court (Dec 1, 2011, Indian Express)

The Centre on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to initiate contempt proceedings against former Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah and his lawyer Ram Jethmalani for questioning the impartiality of the judge who ordered CBI probe in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising said the allegation of conspiracy among the Judge (Justice Tarun Chatterjee now retired), the Centre and the CBI made by Shah amounts to contempt of court.

“The alleged interest of the judge whether personal or otherwise is not only fanciful but the averments to that effect are nothing short of contempt of this court,” she said before a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai. She was referring to the contentions of Shah who alleged that the CBI was used by the Centre and in this conspiracy the possible bias of the judge played a critical role for getting the case transferred to the agency.

Questioning the order of January 12, 2010, senior advocate Jethmalani, appearing for Shah, said that at the time of passing the order the judge was himself under the scrutiny of the CBI in the Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam and he should have at the first instance recused himself from hearing the fake encounter case. The Centre, while refuting all the allegations, said that the politician, a close aide of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has failed to produce any evidence to substantiate the claim. Jaising said the statement made by Jethmalani that the judge was given a “cushy job” by the Central government after retirement is baseless and false.

“The petition alleges a conspiracy by the Centre, the CBI and, by innuendo, this court, whether knowingly or otherwise. The said averment in the recall application is contemptuous. The affidavit of the applicant as well as the conduct of the counsel who has settled the pleading are in contempt of court and this court should initiate suo motu contempt proceeding against them,” the ASG said. She said that there was no need to recall last year’s order directing CBI probe in the fake encounter case and it is tradition that criminal cases involving high rank police officials of state are handed over to the Central agency.

Jethmalani, who was sitting in the court room, intervened in the middle of Jaising’s arguments saying he is not going to withdraw his contentions and is ready to face any consequences. The ASG then replied, “Let Jethmalani spell out in specific terms what was the interest of the judge in the outcome of the case.” At the beginning of today proceedings, the accused in the fake encounter case also raised objection to the CBI inquiry. They submitted that in recent years trial of cases were transferred only from states which are being ruled by the parties sitting in opposition at the Centre.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/882695/

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Gujarat cops lose court’s trust – Ishrat case goes to CBI after withering comments on police (Dec 2, 2011, The Telegraph)

Gujarat High Court today directed the CBI to investigate the fake encounter deaths of Ishrat Jehan and three others, saying Gujarat police couldn’t be trusted to be impartial in the “exceptional” case with “national ramifications”. The order came less than two weeks after the court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) concluded the trio were shot dead before June 15, 2004 – the day the police had claimed the trio were killed in a gunfight. The police had claimed they were Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives on a mission to assassinate Narendra Modi. Today, the court asked SIT chairman R.R. Verma to file a fresh FIR within two weeks against the accused policemen and hand over the report to the CBI.

The central agency has been directed to form a team that should be headed by an officer of the rank of DIG. The team can seek the assistance of SIT member Satish Verma, who had told the court in an affidavit this January, long before the team’s report on November 18, that the encounter was staged. Ishrat’s family had favoured a probe by the SIT itself or by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) but the court held that the investigation “is beyond the charter of the NIA” as the SIT’s report had confirmed it wasn’t a terror case. But eventually, the family expressed satisfaction with the outcome. “We are happy with the CBI. This judgment is very good. The CBI has been told to approach the court in case there was any interference from any side,” said I.H. Saiyed, the advocate for Ishrat’s mother.

Rauf Lala, the uncle of the 19-year-old Mumbai college girl, also believes the truth would come out now. “We are not just hopeful but absolutely confident that the real culprit and mastermind behind the murders will be known after the fresh FIR is registered. We will know the motive, why they killed Ishrat. We will also know the faces of those black sheep in Maharashtra police who helped Gujarat police carry out such horrendous crime.” The families of the other three victims also welcomed the order. One of them was Mukul Sinha, who represented the father of Pranesh Pillai, among the three others killed. Sinha had initially opposed the CBI probe on the ground that it would “unnecessarily politicise the issue” and wanted the SIT itself to be given the probe. Sinha was particularly pleased with the court asking the CBI to take the help of SIT member Verma, whose inclusion in the SIT was opposed by the Narendra Modi government.

Twenty-one officers are accused in the case. These including the now-retired K.R. Kaushik, who was then Ahmedabad police commissioner, and the current additional director-general of police P.P. Pandey. He had overseen the encounter as joint commissioner. Two other accused, deputy inspector-general D.G. Vanzara and deputy superintendent N.K. Amin, are already in jail in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. This is fourth fake encounter the CBI has been asked to investigate in Gujarat. It is probing the Sohrabuddin and Tulsi Prajapati cases, both handed over by the Supreme Court. The third, about the 2003 killing of alleged criminal Sadiq Jamal, was given by the high court in June this year.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1111202/jsp/frontpage/story_14828020.jsp

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“Police violated Supreme Court guidelines on arrest” (Dec 3, 2011, The Hindu)

Relatives of Gauhar Aziz Khomany, who has been arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell for having alleged links with terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, have approached the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Minorities seeking intervention and accusing the police of not having adhered to the Supreme Court guidelines on making arrests. In a letter to the NHRC, Gauhar’s brother Hasan Aziz Aamir alleged that the police had violated the Supreme Court directions by failing to inform his family about his arrest. “No official information about the arrest has been made to the family members so far. I fear that my brother is being falsely implicated. The police claim that Gauhar was arrested on November 23, whereas I received a call from his mobile phone number (9891635734) on my phone (08083372902) on the evening of November 26. This clearly contradicts the police claim,” said the letter.

Akhlaq Ahmad of the Association for Protection of Civil Rights said the police should have followed the rules laid down by the Supreme Court while carrying out arrests. Gauhar’s brother has also written to Delhi Police Commissioner stating that the Supreme Court directives had been violated and that his family came to know about his arrest only through the media. “We were in for a shock when we learnt that he has been arrested. Whoever knows Gauhar can vouch for him, given his commitment towards social work. He would collect money from us (brothers) to financially support the needy and would also organise social awareness programmes in his village,” said Aamir, who is a lawyer and a management graduate working with a company in Dubai. Coming from a highly educated family, Gauhar himself is a mechanical engineer. One of his brothers is a senior scientist in the United States and another a civil engineer working in Saudi Arabia. “Our father had done engineering from Sindri, earlier in Bihar, and retired from the irrigation department,” said Aamir.

Aamir said after a diploma in engineering, Gauhar graduated in mechanical stream. He then joined him in Dubai where he worked for a multinational firm. “However, considering our sister’s poor health — who had to be frequently brought to Delhi and father’s old age, we all decided that Gauhar should go back to India and he agreed. He came to Delhi and set up a company named Irene Engineering Contracting Company and started construction projects.” Mr. Aamir said Qateel Siddiqi, who was the first to be arrested by the police on November 22, earlier worked as a labour supervisor in his brother’s company. “He is also from our village in Bihar. He quit the job about a year ago. But about two months ago, we learnt that a West Bengal special task force team had come looking for him in the village, but he went underground.”

Gauhar’s brother said had he been involved in terror activities along with Qateel, he would also have gone missing to evade detection. “My brother was recently with us in the village and he organised an anti-dowry and anti-tobacco campaign. We also organised a skating event in the remote areas along with a former skating champion and met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Gauhar had left for Delhi by then,” said Aamir, showing photographs of the meeting.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/article2683613.ece

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Thrilling relevations of Makka Masjid accused Bharat Lal (Dec 5, 2011, Siasat)

Accused of Makka Masjid bomb blast case Bharath Mohanlal has been shifted to Hyderabad by Special Investigation Agency. Initial investigations revealed that Bharat Lal had close links with Makka Masjid bomb blast case accused. He was arrested by Rajistan police in connection with Dargah Hzt. Khaja Moinuddin Chisti Rh., bomb blast case occurred in 2007.

Sources revealed that RSS Pracharak Sunil Joshi had telephone Bharat Lal and asked him whether he is watching the T.V. because there is his hand behind the explosion of “Cracker” in Ajmer. Sunil Joshi had asked him to convey this news to Assemanand. When Bharat Lal passed on this news to Assemanand, he praised Sunil Joshi and said that he has done a great task. Bharat Lal had said in his statement given to National Investigation Agency, that he had met another accused Devender Gupta along with Sunil Joshi.

Bharat Lal, in his statement said that Sunil Joshi had exploded the bomb in Ajmer and he had passed on this information to senior leader of RSS Indresh Kumar. Bharat Lal also confessed that Assemanand had passed on the news of assassination of Sunil Joshi to him. Assemanand had provided shelter to Sunil Joshi after Ajmer bomb blast. It may be noted that RSS Pracharak Sunil Joshi who is the kingpin of Makka Masjid and Ajmer bomb blasts was a resident of Maho in Madhya Pradesh. He was murdered by RSS Pracharak. Court will decide to give him under police custody on 7th December 2011.

http://www.siasat.com/english/news/thrilling-relevations-makka-masjid-accused-bharat-lal

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Police canecharge Bhopal gas victims during ‘rail roko’ (Dec 3, 2011, The Hindu)

Victims and survivors of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy on Saturday called off the rail roko – which was launched demanding correct figures of death cases and more compensation – following an assurance from Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Mr. Chauhan met five representatives of the victims separately and assured them that he would personally talk to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the revised compensation for cases of “death caused by temporary or permanent injury” by qualifying them as cases of “death caused due to the gas leak.”

“We have been assured that the figures will be corrected in January, before the hearing of the curative petition scheduled for February. If that does not happen, we will re-launch our agitation,” Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group of Information and Action told The Hindu. On the other hand, Minister for Gas Relief Babulal Gaur told a TV channel that the fate of the victims was now at “God’s mercy.” “It is because of this attitude of the Minister that we decided to directly meet the CM,” said Ms. Dhingra.

Earlier in the day, the agitators, who blocked major railway lines going through Bhopal, turned violent at Barkhedi in old Bhopal after the police reportedly beat them up. Some anti-socials took advantage of the situation and started throwing stones at the police. Ms. Dhingra said: “The police lathicharged a group of women protesters after they burnt an effigy. This angered the men who retaliated by pelting stones at the police. In the process, some people sustained injuries and a police vehicle was torched.” Bhopal activist Abdul Jabbar condemned the incident. “The struggle for justice has been going on for 26 years and yet there has never been any violent incident ever. There is no room for violence in a peaceful agitation,” he said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/article2683881.ece

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Muslim Law Board threatens stir on RTE, Wakf Bill (Nov 29, 2011, Indian Express)

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has stepped up pressure on the government to push its three key demands pertaining to the proposed Direct Tax Bill, the Right to Education and the new Wakf Bill. The Board has declared that it will start an agitation in the country to create a momentum on these demands.

Speaking about its meeting in Delhi over the weekend, Board’s spokesman S Q R Ilyas said, “We have written to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee regarding our opposition to the proposed direct tax code plan to tax religious institutions. We support the Right to Education, but need more than assurances that minority institutions will be exempt, as specified in the Constitution, as also religious schools, be they madrasas or Vedic pathshalas. We have serious reservations on the Wakf Bill which have not been addressed. We will soon start a campaign on all these issues.”

However, perhaps more important on the agenda is the emergence and that too in a forceful way of the All India Mashaikh Ulema Board, which, set up in 2007, has been publicly hitting out at ruling parties and established bodies seen so far as representative of Muslim demands. Chairman of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board Maulana Syed Mohammed Rabe Hasani has been “appealed to” by Board members at the meeting to make contact “with all those raising voices in the community and creating divisions and try and get those hoping to divide Muslims see some reason”.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/881771/

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Rape slur on BJP ‘godman’ (Dec 1, 2011, Indian Express)

A disciple has lodged an FIR against BJP leader and former Union minister of state for internal affairs Swami Chinmayanand, accusing him of rape, illegal confinement, forcing her to undergo abortion twice and attempt to murder. The woman claimed she was vice-chairman of Swami Sukhdevanand Law College and manager of Daivi Sampada Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya, both at Chinmayanand’s Mumukshu Ashram in Shahjahanpur, but her entry had been barred since she got married on September 29. Shahjahanpur SP Ramit Sharma said the FIR had been lodged at Kotwali police station. Chinmayanand, who was in Haridwar, could not be reached despite several attempts.

The woman said that she first met Chinmayanand in 2001, accompanied him on several religious tours, and later became her disciple. He started making advances towards her when she visited his ashram, Parmarth, in Haridwar in 2004, she alleged. Later, he confined her at his Shahjahanpur ashram, in 2005 made an attempt to strangulate her when she tried to escape, raped her after mixing sedatives in food and also made a video recording, she alleged.

She alleged Chinmayanand went on exploiting her sexually, threatened her, and forced her to abort her pregnancy in 2006 and 2009 at private hospitals in Bareilly and Lucknow, respectively. The woman said that after she got married, he barred her entry to both institutions and had been threatening her, though she never resigned.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/882732/

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Opinions and Editorials

A verdict, finally – By Anupama Katakam (Dec 3, 2011, Frontline)

The verdict in a crucial and long-running case involving a massacre and the investigation report in another case, of alleged encounter killings, both delivered in November, give hope to victims of the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat that they will get justice, even if delayed. In the first case, the special court in Mehsana, in a historic judgment on November 9, sentenced 31 people to life imprisonment for the massacre at Sardarpura, the largest number of people convicted in recent times in a single case of communal violence. Later in the month, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the numerous encounter deaths in Gujarat declared that the Ishrat Jahan encounter killing on June 14, 2004, had been staged by the Gujarat police and that the four people found dead had been killed a day earlier. The judicial verdict and the SIT report are being seen as a setback to Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to distance himself from the pogrom and the controversial encounter deaths in the State. In the Gulberg Society-Zakia Jafri case, little has been done to investigate his role. Activists fighting the cases say the men who have been punished are just foot soldiers of generals, who are still free. Activists also point out that while some survivors have been compensated for their loss, they have not seen any socio-economic improvement in the years after the riots. They say the State has become polarised, with Muslims being neglected completely. It is a story that sounds straight out of the Holocaust. On February 28, 2002, a very scared group of Muslims locked themselves in the only pucca house in their locality in Sardarpura town in Mehsana district. It was the day after the Sabarmati Express fire in Godhra and there were reports of thousands of Muslims being killed all over Gujarat. They knew their lane with kutcha houses would definitely be targeted. Ibrahim Sheikh’s house was the only proper structure in the shanty town and, they believed, their best chance to escape the rampaging mob. However, the rioters locked the door from outside and set the house on fire. Thirty-three people, 11 of them children, were burnt alive. Almost a decade later, justice finally caught up with the arsonists.

Of nine cases relating to the 2002 riots, the Sardarpura massacre case is the only one in which a verdict has been given. In 2008, all the cases were handed over to an SIT appointed by the Supreme Court. Seventy-six people were accused in the Sardarpura case; 31 were convicted and 42 acquitted. Two died during the trial and one was declared juvenile. Justice S.C. Srivastava of the Supreme Court did not accept the prosecution’s charge that it was a criminal conspiracy under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. A criminal conspiracy would fetch capital punishment. Instead, the court concluded that the incident took place on the spur of the moment, on March 1. The 31 convicted were charged with murder, attempt to murder, rioting and other offences under the IPC. Section 302 (murder) read with other sections attracted punishments of one month to 10 years’ imprisonment, all to run concurrently. Additionally, the judge ordered each of the accused to pay a fine of Rs.50,000. “For their crime they should have got capital punishment, but at least this is a start,” said a former police officer from Gujarat. Activists, such as Teesta Setalvad, who have fought a protracted legal battle to secure justice for the riot victims say the verdict reinstates their faith in the law. Citizens for Peace and Justice (CJP), to which Teesta Setalvad belongs, says there are critical issues that still need to be addressed in the Sardarpura case. For instance, witnesses and other riot victims from Sardarpura are still scared to return to their village. For the past nine years they have lived at Satnagar in neighbouring Sabarkantha district. Teesta Setalvad said that most of the testimony was based on eyewitness accounts, which was why it was important to offer them protection. “Eyewitness testimonies are the only factor for convictions during mob violence. Eyewitness testimonies are the only guarantor of convictions – there are over four dozen judgments on this, and without these testimonies there would have been no conviction,” she said. “With the conviction, the wheels of truth and justice are surely, though slowly, moving in the right direction. While there were more than 70 accused, the conviction of such a large number in a communal violence incident in the country is unprecedented. Other cases need to be expedited and the guilty, irrespective of the office they hold, should be convicted as soon as possible. Only then will the victim-survivors of one of the bloodiest chapters of India’s history be able to take consolation from the fact that their struggle has not been in vain,” said Father Cedric Prakash, director of Prashant, a centre for human rights, justice and peace in Ahmedabad.

A small row of houses at the end of a Muslim locality in Satnagar near Himmatnagar, the district headquarters of Sabarkantha district, is guarded by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The 22 families (112 people) who live in this lane are either riot survivors or relatives of those who died in the Sardarpura massacre. Most are agricultural labourers or painters who live on daily wages. The CISF was stationed there after a Supreme Court order that Central forces should protect this group. “We cannot trust the Gujarat police any more,” says Gulam Ali, who lost two brothers, a sister-in-law and a nephew in the 2002 violence. Soon after the verdict, Frontline visited Satnagar to speak to the victims’ families and other riot survivors. It was certainly justice, they said, but it did not really change their lives. “What does it mean for us? In Satnagar there is very little work. There is one school up to class eight. There is no health centre and many of us do not even have an earning member. We have been living off the compensation,” said Basheera Bibi, who lost her husband in the riot. “If it wasn’t for Meher Kothari [the well-wisher from Vadodara who built small homes for them], we wouldn’t even have these houses. Neither the State nor Muslim organisations nor NGOs have done anything for us. In fact, not a single Minister has visited us in the nine years and eight months since we fled Sardarpura,” she said. “The judgment is good, but it was a planned attack and many more had to be convicted. The day before the attack, I went to buy besan to fry bajjiyas, the shopkeeper said to me, ‘Eat today because you may not be able to tomorrow.’ That man is in jail now, but he needs to be given the worst punishment as he knew and he led the mob,” said Basheera Bibi. Following the massacre, those who made it out alive went to live in a relief camp. Two months later the well-wisher from Vadodara bought a strip of land in the Muslim quarter of Satnagar and built on it one-room houses, which he gave to the Sardarpura survivors.

“We went back once to retrieve our belongings. The panchayat head asked us to pay tax before entering our lane. They even took tax of those who died. Most of the houses were burnt. There was not much we could take back,” said Gulam Ali, who lost two brothers in the riot. “We will never return there. Even though it isn’t very far, some of us have not been back even once,” he said. “So many are still walking around free. I can recognise many who were part of that mob that attacked us on February 28, 2002. They should be hanged in front of us.” Gulam Ali said that on the previous day, large groups of men, mainly from the Patel community, had gathered in their small village. “They had collected and distributed weapons. On the day of the attack, the men gathered near our lane. We knew they would come for us, but we could not leave the village as they were guarding the exits. Eventually, they attacked us at 9-30 p.m. Many of them were our neighbours whom we had grown up with.” Thinking that the pucca house was safe, several women and children rushed there. Tragically, it turned into a death chamber. Babu miya lost his wife in that fateful house. His eight-month-old granddaughter died on the way to hospital. Today, sick and unable to work, the 70-year-old lives with his son. “All we want is some work and education for our children. At least in Sardarpura we earned up to Rs.400 a day. Now we barely make Rs.50 working in the fields.” A testimony to the massacre, the house that the victims thought was safe is the only structure that still exists in the lane, called Sheikh Vaas, in Sardarpura. Its interiors are completely burnt, and some local people claim the scratch marks on the walls were left by people who desperately tried to escape. The rest of the lane resembles a ruin overrun with weeds and thorns. Says Teesta Setalvad: “A real-life issue for all of us working in the socio-political arena is the paralysis within locations where mass crimes happen…. In Sardarpura, victim-survivors cannot relocate. What do we conclude from this? The entire socio-political class, even the opposition, has failed to ensure a climate of safety to ensure that this happens. An intrepid legal fight has brought legal victory, but what about reparation and restitution?” Father Prakash, Teesta Setalvad and several other activists have relentlessly demanded that the SIT give proper evidence of political involvement. Until this happens, the main culprits in the cases relating to the riots will not be booked, they say. Yet, many believe this is a good beginning in the struggle for justice.

In June 2004, Ishrat Jahan and her colleague Javed Sheikh were abducted and killed near Ahmedabad in a calculated move by the Gujarat police. The police claimed that the duo were Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives on a mission, along with two others, to kill Narendra Modi. Acting on intelligence information, they had intercepted the car in which Ishrat and Javed were travelling and shot all the four passengers in the vehicle. The families of Ishrat Jahan and Sheikh were firm in their belief that the two were framed. Today they stand vindicated. The Gujarat High Court-appointed SIT investigating the genuineness of the encounter killing filed its report on November 18, in which it stated that the encounter was a fake one. According to informed sources, it came to this conclusion on the basis of forensic and scientific evidence and post-mortem reports. The seed of doubt was first sown in September 2009 when Judicial Magistrate S.P. Tamang, after an inquiry, concluded that the encounter was “cooked up”. If the court accepts the report, several top police officers and politicians could face prosecution. Following the 2002 pogrom, there have been five major encounter killings in the State. The police justified each incident saying they had adequate information to prove that the victims were militants on a mission to murder Modi. During the next one year the fate of those cases may be decided – and, perhaps, Modi’s as well.

http://www.frontline.in/fl2825/stories/20111216282502700.htm

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Deadly encounters of the fake kind in India – By Sudha Ramachandran (Dec 2, 2011, Asia Times)

The Gujarat government’s targeting of Muslims is in the spotlight yet again in India with a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the state’s high court confirming what was long suspected: 19-year old Mumbai college student Ishrat Jehan, Javed Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were murdered in cold blood by the Gujarat police in June 2004 and not killed in an exchange of fire, as the police had claimed. Police claimed at the time were that the four were operatives of Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistan-based terror group banned in India, who were on a mission to kill Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Rana and Johar, the police claimed, were Pakistani nationals. Police said that the “four LeT operatives” were killed in an early morning “encounter” outside Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. They provided the media with details of “clinching evidence” of the four’s terrorist links. They spoke of recovering a diary from Ishrat that contained notes on a plot to kill Modi and detailed handwritten accounts of financial transactions involving large sums of money. “There are incriminating details obtained from her [Ishrat’s] diary and also a hotel register [that showed] where the two [Ishrat and Sheikh] stayed as a married couple,” D G Vanjara, who led the “encounter”, said in June 2004. Why a possible assassin would maintain such a diary or carry it with her on an assassination mission was never explained by the Gujarat police. A 2009 probe by S P Tamang, Ahmedabad’s Metropolitan Magistrate, blew gaping holes in the Gujarat police claims. Based on strong ballistics evidence and official post-mortem reports it concluded that Ishrat and others had actually been kidnapped from Mumbai by a Gujarat police squad, brought to Ahmedabad and “executed in cold blood’ by the police. The police version was fabricated, Tamang said. “No encounter took place” nor did the police fire in self-defense.

The killing had taken place not at 4 am as claimed by the police but 12-24 hours before that. The SIT probe confirms Tamang’s findings. Extrajudicial executions by the Gujarat police have been dressed up to look like an exchange of fire. Twenty-one top cops, including Vanjara, were involved in the fake encounter. Many of them are already facing murder charges in other staged encounters. “Encounter specialist” Vanjara, who is now in jail for his role in another fake encounter, the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi, is believed to have overseen at least nine “encounters’ in which 15 people were killed. He is known to be very close to Modi as well as to Amit Shah, Gujarat’s former home minister and prime accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh murder. Activists claim that Gujarat alone saw 21 “fake encounter” deaths between 2003 and 2006, most of these are likely to have been staged. Every time a Muslim was killed in cold blood, the Gujarat police put out the story that he was a dreaded terrorist on a mission to assassinate Modi and that they were forced to kill him as he had fired at them. Gujarat was convulsed in horrific violence targeting Muslims in February-March 2002. The violence was orchestrated by members of the Hindu rightwing Sangh Parivar, including ministers in the Modi government. Senior police official Sanjiv Bhatt has alleged in an affidavit that the chief minister himself told senior police officials at a closed door meeting, hours before the massacres began on February 28, 2002, that Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger against Muslims.

In 2007, Ashish Khetan and Harinder Baweja reported in the news magazine Tehelka the lengths the Modi government went to dress up petty criminal Sameer Khan as a Pakistan-trained Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist on a mission to kill Modi, the then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia. Sameer was killed in a fake encounter in October 2002. The encounter was “faked by Vanzara and company, and its cover-up orchestrated right at the top” – in the Chief Minister’s Office itself,” the report said, pointing out that “in Modi’s official chamber, fake encounters are called desh bhakti [patriotism].” The report drew its own conclusions on the motivations for the encounters: “On the eve of the 2002 Assembly elections, when Modi was touring the state in his motorized chariot spewing venom against ‘baby-producing relief camps’ and mobilizing the Hindu vote bank, the killing of Sameer Khan came in very handy. Modi told voters that he was being targeted by ‘Muslim jehadis’ for protecting ‘the pride of Gujarat’. He made political capital out of the killing of a Muslim youth who was at best a petty criminal. In the Assembly elections held in December 2002, Modi led the BJP back to power with two-thirds majority.’ Cops like Vanjara indulge in fake encounters for many reasons. They want to please their political masters. There are awards and promotions too for eliminating terrorists. There is an economic angle too, with vast sums on offer to eliminate political or business rivals. In Mumbai, for instance, encounter specialists have made fortunes by gunning down underworld dons at the request of their rivals.

The politician, police, businessmen nexus in fake encounters was laid bare in the fake encounter that ended Sohrabuddin’s life. An extortionist, Sohrabuddin had been harassing marble traders in Rajasthan, some of who were close to BJP politicians in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The traders turned to the politicians for help and the latter in turn roped in their “encounter specialists’ to get rid of the nuisance. Meanwhile, the Modi government also gained political capital in eliminating yet another “terrorist”. But encounters – fake or otherwise – are not restricted to Gujarat. These are widespread across the country, with Uttar Pradesh having the dubious distinction of carrying out the most. Fake encounters are really extra-judicial executions, where police and armed forces execute alleged criminals, insurgents and terrorists, even innocent civilians, and then pass off the killing as the result of an exchange of fire. Following terror attacks and under public pressure to produce the terrorists, Delhi police have gunned down ordinary Muslims and then described them as terrorists. There are allegations that the Maoist leader Kishenji, who was killed in the Burisole forest in West Bengal last week, was eliminated in a fake encounter. Last year, Cherukuri Rajkumar aka Azad, another Maoist leader was shot dead at point blank range. His killing was passed off by the government as an encounter, although Azad, who was on his way to participate in talks with the government was unarmed.

Encounter killings are not widely condemned in India. They are widely seen as a necessary evil to deal with crime and terrorism. Encounter specialists are celebrated as “heroes’. Modi’s supporters describe the killings as acts of patriotism in the war against Islamic terror. Discussions of fake encounters are often sidetracked by questions on whether the victim was innocent or a gangster/terrorist as though their being criminal justifies their execution by the police. In the wake of the SIT report on police culpability in Ishrat’s murder, former Home Secretary G K Pillai, who filed the affidavit in the Supreme Court that Ishrat was a Lashkar operative, has reiterated her “suspicious activities’ and Lashkar links. “Ishrat used to live with another man in different hotels, which definitely was suspicious,’ he said. If Ishrat was indeed a Lashkar operative, she should have been nabbed and tried in a court of law. It was for the court to decide whether she was guilty of conspiracy to assassinate Modi and to punish her under the law of the land. By killing her, the cops acted as judge, jury and executioner.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/ML02Df01.html

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14,231 Persons Died In police And Judicial Custody In India From 2001 To 2010 – By Suhas Chakma (Nov 20, 2011, Countercurrents)

The Asian Centre for Human Rights has the pleasure to share its latest report, “Torture in India 2011” covering the incidents of torture in India. It is available at: http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/torture2011.pdf “Torture in India” series have been instrumental for bringing national and international spotlight on torture in India. However, due to the lack of financial resources, “Torture in India 2011” is only available online, thereby restricting our outreach to key target groups, not the least, India’s Members of Parliament who had earlier raised specific questions in the parliament citing the report of the ACHR. “Torture in India 2011” states that a total of 14,231 persons i.e. more than four persons per day died in police and judicial custody in India from 2001 to 2010. This includes 1,504 deaths in police custody and 12,727 deaths in judicial custody from 2001-2002 to 2009-2010 as per the cases submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). A large majority of these deaths are a direct consequence of torture in custody. These deaths reflect only a fraction of the problem with torture and custodial deaths in India as not all the cases of deaths in police and prison custody are reported to the NHRC. Further, the NHRC does not have jurisdiction over the armed forces and the NHRC also does not record statistics of torture not resulting into death.

The failure of the Ministry of Home Affairs to introduce the Prevention of Torture Bill drafted by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee headed by Shri Ashwani Kumar, the current Minister of State for Planning, in December 2010 in the parliament session beginning on 22 November 2011 demonstrates India’s lack of political will to stamp out torture. “India is yet to realize the cost of not having anti-torture law in compliance with UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) that led to rejection extradition of Kim Davy, the prime accused in the Purulia arms drop case by the Danish High Court in June 2011; the direction of a British Court in July 2011 to depute a human rights expert to visit the prisons in Gujarat to examine the prison conditions before it grants extradition of Mohammad Hanif Umerji Patel, alias Tiger Hanif, the alleged mastermind of the 1993 bomb blast in Surat; and cancellation of the extradition of Abul Salem by the Portuguese High Court in September 2011 on the ground that he was tortured in custody following extradition. That torture is non-derogable even in war and a crime against humanity is yet to be recognized by India.” – stated Asian Centre for Human Rights in its press release.

During 2001-2010, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of deaths in police custody with 250 deaths; followed by Uttar Pradesh (174); Gujarat (134); Andhra Pradesh (109); West Bengal (98); Tamil Nadu (95); Assam (84); Karnataka (67); Punjab (57); Madhya Pradesh (55); Haryana (45); Bihar (44); Kerala (42); Jharkhand (41); Rajasthan (38); Orissa (34); Delhi (30); Chhattisgarh (24); Uttarakhand (20); Meghalaya (17); Arunachal Pradesh (10); Tripura (8); Jammu and Kashmir (6); Himachal Pradesh (5); Goa; Chandigarh and Pondicherry (3 each); Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland (2 each); and Sikkim and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1 each). “About 99.99% of deaths in police custody can be ascribed to torture and occur within 48 hours of the victims being taken into custody. Though Maharashtra has a total population of 112 million in comparison to 199 million in Uttar Pradesh according to 2011 census, the fact that 76 more persons were killed in police custody in Maharashtra shows that torture is more rampant in police custody in Maharashtra than Uttar Pradesh.” – further asserted Mr Chakma. Citing the case of Mohd Umar alias Badkau ( http://www.nhrc.nic.in/display.asp?fno=10570/24/9/2010-AD ), accused of kidnapping and rape, who allegedly committed inside Haldi Police Station in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh by hanging himself with a towel inside the lock-up on 21 March 2010, Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that the post mortem report found eight contusions on various parts and ligature mark around the neck and indicated that the cause of death was due to asphyxia as a result of ante mortem hanging. The magisterial enquiry report opined that deceased died due to police torture and held In-charge of the Police Station, Brij Kishore Yadav, Head Moherar Sanjay Verma, Lock up Sentry, Constable Ishwardin Shukla and Co-prisoner Vijay Shankar Pandey jointly responsible for this death. The Investigating Officer of case S.K. Surya (Sub Inspector) and Constable Dev Baksh Singh were also found responsible or tampering with the documents.

During 2001-2010, 12,727 deaths in judicial custody took place. Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of deaths in judicial custody with 2171 deaths, followed by Bihar (1512); Maharashtra (1176); Andhra Pradesh (1037); Tamil Nadu (744); Punjab (739); West Bengal (601); Jharkhand (541); Madhya Pradesh (520); Karnataka (496); Rajasthan (491); Gujarat (458); Haryana (431); Orissa (416); Kerala (402); Chhattisgarh (351); Delhi (224); Assam (165); Uttarakhand (91); Himachal Pradesh (29); Tripura (26); Meghalaya (24); Chandigarh (23); Goa (18); Arunachal Pradesh (9); Pondicherry (8); Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland (6 each); Mizoram (4); Sikkim and Andaman and Nicober Island (3 each); and Manipur and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1 each). A large of number of these deaths are a result of torture, denial of medical facilities and sub-human conditions in Indian jails. ACHR stated that the number of deaths in police custody recorded from conflict afflicted states like Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur do not reflect the gravity of the situation. The NHRC registered only six deaths in police custody in Jammu and Kashmir from 2001-02 to 2010-11, while only two cases of deaths in police custody were recorded from Manipur during the same period. This is despite the fact that on 31 March 2011 Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in a written reply before the Legislative Council stated that 341 persons had died in police custody in the state since 1990. ACHR stated that custodial rape remains one of the worst forms of torture perpetrated on women by law enforcement personnel and a number of custodial rape of women takes place at regular intervals. The NHRC recorded 39 cases of rape from judicial and police custody from 2006 to 28 February 2010.

Citing the case of Maloti Kalandi ( http://www.nhrc.nic.in/display.asp?fno=169/3/0/2010-PCR ), wife of Badal Kalandi who along with children were rescued from being trafficked, were handed over to the Tamulpur police station, Baksa district of Assam for safe custody. Instead of providing safety, Sub-Inspector Sahidur Rahman summoned the victim to his official quarter and raped her. The accused has since been suspended and is being tried before the Courts. The NHRC awarded interim compensation of Rs 100,000/- to the victim. Asian Centre for Human Rights stated that the Maoists remain the worst violators of human rights including torture and they have been responsible for brutal killing of their hostages after bduction. Often the hostages were killed by slitting their throats or beheading. The suspects were tried and handed over death sentences or subjected to torture through the socalled “Jan Adalats” (Peoples’ Courts) in full public view to instill fear among the people. On the night of 25 March 2010, Maoists slit the throat of Chhotu Manjhi after kidnapping him from Gamahariatard village under Pirtard police station in Giridih district of Jharkhand. He was taken to a forest where he was killed in the presence of villagers after Jan Adalat found him guilty of passing information to the police. Asian Centre for Human Rights called upon the Government of India to enact the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 as drafted by the Parliamentary Select Committee without any dilution into a law. ACHR also recommended the NHRC to recommend prosecution of the guilty public officials in all the cases in which compensation is recommended.

http://www.countercurrents.org/chakma211111.htm

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Indifferent At Their Plight – Editorial (Dec 3, 2011, Economic & Political Weekly)

The word secular was inserted into the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd amendment in 1976; later on, the Supreme Court, in S R Bommai vs Union of India, held (in 1994) that secularism was an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution. And yet, it has been a long time coming – Indian civil society and the state should have been infused with secularism decades ago, but tragically, their veins and tissues are largely bereft of it even today, and consequently, of its healing properties. After every terrorist attack, or even in anticipation of a terrorist assault, the security apparatus, conditioned like “Pavlov’s dogs”, picks up a couple of Muslim youth, even when there is no evidence worth the name, either bumps them off in a fake encounter, dubbing them “terrorists”, or alternatively, puts them in the locker, tortures them to manufacture the “evidence”, …, dumps them in gaol for years on end as prisoners-on-trial. It has been a cynical and discriminatory targeting of innocent Muslims, all in the name of “national security”. But are the chickens now coming home to roost? The Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by the Gujarat High Court to probe the veracity of the official claim that Ishrat Jahan and three others, ostensibly on a mission to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, were shot dead in an encounter carried out by the Ahmedabad crime branch led by D G Vanzara on 15 June 2004, has concluded that the four were murdered in cold blood. An earlier judicial inquiry of September 2009 by the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate S P Tamang had also come to the same conclusion. Clearly, a fresh FIR under Section 302 (murder) should be filed. Vanzara and the other perpetrators of the cold-blooded murder are the minions of Gujarat’s proto-fascist chief minister, Narendra Modi. Their impending trial under Section 302 is indeed a heartening development.

The other comforting turn of events has been the grant of bail to nine Muslim youth accused in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blast case, five years after they were arrested and jailed. Both Hemant Karkare (head of Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad who was killed in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks) and Shahid Azmi (a lawyer and human rights activist whose work centred on seeking to redress the injustices suffered by Muslim youth falsely implicated in criminal cases but whose life was cut short when he was killed on 11 February 2010 in Mumbai) would have been very pleased. On 8 September 2006, in Malegaon, a town in the Nashik district of Maharashtra, bomb explosions killed 37 persons and injured many more in a cemetery adjacent to a mosque at around 13:15 hours (local time) after the Friday prayers on the occasion of Shab-e- Bara’at. The nine Muslim youth were falsely implicated in the case and had to spend the next five years in jail, bearing not only the hardships and pain that go with such confinement, but both the indignity and torture that are routinely meted out to such captives who are grossly discriminated against on the basis of their religion.

It is utterly outrageous. How could devout Muslims, those who rigorously abide by the timings of the namaz, kill their fellow brethren – that too, on the day of Shab-e-Bara’at – in order to provoke a Hindu-Muslim riot? But these are the kind of charge sheets that are taken seriously by the courts, and serve the purpose of keeping the victims in jail for years. It was the so-called hriday parivartan (change of heart) on the part of Swami Aseemanand, a significant conspirator in the Hindutva terror network, and his confession in December last year of the planning of the terror attacks at Malegaon (8 September 2006), on the Samjhauta Express (18 February 2007), at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid (18 May 2007) and at Ajmer Sharif (on 11 October 2011 outside the dargah of the Sufi saint Moinuddin Chisti) by members of the Sangh parivar that forced a change of course in the investigation.

The swami has since retracted his statement, but his confession has provided certain leads and it is now up to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to uncover as to who planted the bombs in the cemetery and under whose direction. Interestingly, it was the investigation led by Hemant Karkare into the 29 September 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts that uncovered evidence of the involvement of Hindutva terrorists. If those leads had been pursued with the same degree of professionalism and integrity, the Hindutva terrorists would have been exposed sooner. The Hindutvadis, of course, called Karkare a “traitor to the nation”. The NIA, which is now in charge of the investigation into the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts, will have to file its status report, and Hindutvadis such as Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and lt col Srikant Purohit will figure as part of the accused.

Aseemanand has named a number of co-conspirators; among them is Indresh Kumar, who is said to be a national executive committee member and sahprachar pramukh of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Now, given the fact that the RSS is a hierarchically structured authoritarian organisation, the creation of the Hindutva terror network could have possibly been clandestinely sanctioned at the very apex of the outfit. But given the wretched politics of expedience being practised by the Congress Party and its utterly cynical and discriminatory targeting of innocent Muslims in the name of “national security”, one cannot be very hopeful about when truth and justice will come to prevail. The blatant discrimination against Muslims in the administration of justice that we are witnessing is a national disgrace. Indeed, it makes a mockery of the tall claims about the country’s secular credentials. Tragically, apart from a few honourable exceptions, the majority of the social networks that comprise Indian civil society have displayed near total apathy. Even the civil liberties and democratic rights movement has remained largely indifferent to the plight of young Muslims at the hands of the security apparatus.

http://epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/16816.pdf

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Death of an extremist – Editorial (Nov 29, 2011, The Hindu)

The killing of Mallojula Koteshwar Rao, known as Kishenji, at the hands of counterinsurgency security forces in the Burisole forests of West Bengal’s West Midnapore district may be a setback to the Maoist movement but it gives no cause to rejoice. The circumstances of the killing raise several questions. Was it really an encounter in the forests, as the security forces claim, or was he executed after being captured? If it was indeed an encounter, the Maoist leader battling security forces by himself with the AK47 found by his body, could he have been apprehended alive? In some ways, Kishenji’s death recalls the dubious circumstances in which another Maoist leader, Cherukuri Rajkumar, known as Azad, was killed in Andhra Pradesh in July 2010, along with journalist Hemachandra Pandey.

On the Supreme Court’s intervention, the CBI is conducting a probe into that killing. The doubts about Kishenji’s killing also warrant an impartial investigation. After all, the killing came at a time when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, through interlocutors, was exploring the possibility of talks. Even though a one-month long ceasefire in West Bengal had ended after the Maoists killed two Trinamool members, setting off a full-fledged operation in the State earlier this month, the interlocutors, on instructions from the Chief Minister, were trying to bring the Maoists to the negotiating table. Angered by Kishenji’s killing, five of the six interlocutors have quit causing a setback to those efforts.

That Azad was killed at a time when the central government was contemplating a ceasefire and talks with the Maoists may be a coincidence. But there is no escaping the reality that over and above being a threat to security, the Maoist insurgency is a political question that needs political answers. It cannot be wished away with heavy-handed security operations. Its call to arms against the Indian state has drawn followers from the poorest, the most deprived, the most exploited sections of the people.

As insurgents whose war is waged among the people, the Maoists have built a reputation for savage violence that has been unsparing of combatants and civilians alike, and sometimes deliberately put civilian lives at risk from the security forces. But they will continue to find supporters as long as there are people who feel excluded from the country’s politics and its economic policies. Kishenji was successful in building up what was described, with some exaggeration, as a ‘second Naxalbari’ in Lalgarh, and in organising people in Nandigram and Singur, precisely because he was able to tap into people’s anger at economic policies that were perceived as unjust. His killing deprives the Maoist movement of a leader, but not the causes that sustain it.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article2669002.ece

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This elephant is cast in stone – By Ram Puniyani (Nov 29, 2011, Tehelka)

With election looming over the Uttar Pradesh horizon, recently (November 2011) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati declared that her cabinet has approved the proposal to divide the state into four smaller states. She declared that only a Dalit-OBC chief minister would be able to solve the problems of Dalits-OBCs. There is also the talk of giving reservations to Muslims in UP. All this has created a huge turmoil in political circles. Amongst the politicians who have succeeded at a fast pace during the past two decades, Mayawati, the associate of late Kanshi Ram, may be amongst the foremost of them. While she inherited the movement built by Kanshi Ram, she also revealed her mettle and grit to capture the seat of power in the challenging arena of politics. Her prime ministerial ambitions at the moment are not vocal, though immediately after her absolute majority win in the previous UP assembly election she sang that note: Dalit ki beti a prime minister. Many a time she has been in the news for the wrong reasons; The Taj Corridor case, her lavish spending on Ambedkar park and getting numerous statues not only of past Dalit icons like Ambedkar, and Kanshi Ram, but of herself during the past few years, have hogged media attention. Her major point of self-proclamation is that all this expenditure is for the sake of the Dalits.

What do Dalits need at this point of time and in what proportion is an issue to be debated in a serious manner? Of late Mayawati has been also talking of reservation on the economic criterion rather than on caste, and from the point of view of electoral arithmetic she has been wooing the Brahmins, through Brahmin Bhaichara Sammelans. Her major adviser has been Satish Mishra, who not only has succeeded in getting many of his close relatives into plum posts but has also got a university named after his mother. From her earlier slogan of Bahujan Samaj, Mayawati has tilted to the slogan of Sarvjan Samaj and from the shooing away of Brahmins and upper castes she has been aggressively campaigning to get them in her electoral fold. While the atrocities against Dalits have shown a downward trend in UP, what is debatable is the equity issues and the economic empowerment of Dalits, which have remained in limbo despite her regime being in majority rule. Dalits in India have gone through a long and painful struggle to strive for equality and dignity. Ambedkar, the profound scholar, contributed to all aspects of Dalits’ social and political life. He fought for the rights of Dalits, who until that time were deprived of education, were mostly landed slaves and were under the grip of temple priests and lived on the edges of society. His formation of an independent labour party, a scheduled caste federation and later the concept of republican party, were the milestones in the process of organising Dalits.

The concretisation of Ambedkar’s values was actualised through his becoming the chair of the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution. He tactfully handled many vexed issues related to overall efforts towards the social transformation of caste in particular. His major focus was: educate, organise and agitate for the rights of Dalits. The later period was marked by few agitations and more of political activity. The remarkable ones’ amongst these were the land reform movement of Dada Saheb Gaikwad and later the formation of Dalit Panthers by Dalit youths, on the lines of the Black Panthers of the US. Most of these movements got fragmented and the plight of Dalit politics became abysmal with the ruling parties trying their best and succeeding in wooing one or the other Dalit politician. Electoral confusion was another dimension of their alliances, some of them tilted towards Congress, while some of them had no compunctions in allying with avowed Hindutva parties hailing a Hindu Rashtra openly, allying with the forces eulogising Manusmiriti and a Hindu nation. Mayawati at one time not only allied with the BJP in UP to come to power but also went on to campaign for Narendra Modi in in the aftermath of the Godhra Gujarat carnage.

Around the time when Dalit Panthers were agitating on the streets, Kanshi Ram began his political journey in a different way. His methods also ensured that the bane of Dalit politics, fragmentation into pieces, would not take place. The dissenters were thrown out, and the dictat of the supreme leader, Kanshi Ram and later Mayawati, prevailed. Kanshi Ram first started BAMCEF, which was an association of educated Dalits, who believed in payback to the community. Their understanding was that they have prospered due to the provision of reservation for Dalits. Later, Kanshi Ram formed the Bahujan Samaj Party and in due course Mayawati became his closest associate and succeeded him as supreme leader once Kanshi Ram fell sick. The second major thrust of Kanshi Ram and later Mayawati was to come to power with whatever means and to try to implement their agenda. During the course of political journey of the BSP, Mayawati kept climbing the electoral ladders in UP. She struck an alliance with the RSS progeny BJP. Here, two contrasting forces stood face to face, Mayawati for the rights of Dalits and BJP for the long term goal of a Hindu Rashtra, based on Brahmanism. This alliance was like Mayawati reversing Ambedkar’s burning of Manusmriti and openly associating with the followers of Manu. In the initial days in BSP meetings, this slogan rung: tilak taraju aur talwar, inko maro joote char (Beat the upper caste), and, now it is brahman shankh bajyega hathi badhta jayega (Brahmin will lead, followers of BSP will march).

The elephant, the electoral symbol of the BSP, got recast, hathi nahi ganesh hai: brahma vishnu mahesh hai. The political ambition of power has strange logic. Mayawati spends millions on elephant statues, and thouse of herself. This smacks of identity politics taken to absurd limits. One concedes that Dalits do need a space in social sphere, and these statues probably offer them a sense of dignity and belonging. The question is how much public spending can be allocated to the statues and how much should be spent for the social welfare of Dalits. Dalit politics has come to a new crossroads. The core issues of Dalits remain far from being solved in a substantive way. The problems of poverty, health and employment need a serious struggle, in case they are to be addressed. Can power, especially coming to power in this fashion, be the panacea for Dalit problems? What happens to Ambedkar’s teachings of educate, unite and struggle? This is what needs to be taken up by those leading the Dalit movement at various levels. Can just coming to power be a goal in itself, is the question.

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ws291111This.asp

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