In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- SC allows Zakia Jafri to file fresh petition against SIT clean chit to Narendra Modi
- Students, teachers and activists protest at SRCC against Modi visit
- Activists condemn Afzal Guru’s hanging
- BJP-Ajmer blasts link? Ramgarh MLA meets blasts accused
- Six cops held for theft during Dhule riots
- FIR filed against Togadia in Nanded
- Why has Muslim backwardness not been assessed: Gujarat HC
- No terror tag minus proof of violence: HC
- Dalit girl raped at police station
- No entry for Dalits in Guj temple
Opinions & Editorials
- Vengeance isn’t justice – Editorial
- Acquitted By Court, Charged By Media – By Shaik Zakeer Hussain
- Dhule’s Uniformed Rioters – Editorial
- A First Hand Account Of What Went Down At The Anti-Modi Protests – By Akhil Kumar
- The man who would rule India – By Ramachandra Guha
- Ordained by Politics – Editorial
SC allows Zakia Jafri to file fresh petition against SIT clean chit to Narendra Modi (Feb 7, 2013, Times of India)
The Supreme Court on Thursday has allowed Zakia Jafri to file a fresh petition before trial court against special investigation team’s report giving clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the Gulberg Housing Society killings during the post-Godhra riots in 2002.
Zakia Jafri has accused Narendra Modi and others of abdicating their constitutional duty during post-Godhra riots in 2002. The apex court asked a Gujarat trial court not to pronounce its final order on the closure report of the special investigation team (SIT). An Ahmedabad trial court had on November 27 accepted the SIT closure report filed on March 13, 2012 in the case.
The Supreme Court also issued notice to the Gujarat government seeking its response on the plea of Zakia Jafri – widow of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was slain during the Gulberg Society massacre – seeking documents relating to the SIT probe. The court had passed the order relating to supply of documents to Zakia Jafri on September 12, 2011.
- ‘Zakia entitled to SIT closure report’ (Feb 7, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Why don’t you own up what happened in Gujarat, Manish Tewari asks Narendra Modi (Feb 8, 2013, DNA India)
- ‘Accountability’ for Gujarat riots important: EU (Feb 7, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Narendra Modi has no respect for women: Renuka Choudhary (Feb 8, 2013, Times of India)
Hundreds of students, teachers and activists demonstrated outside Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in a joint protest organized by left wing students’ organisations as well as several Muslim students’ bodies against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi lecture on development. Members of Campus Front of India, Student Islamic Organization of India, and leftist students’ bodies like Democratic Students Union, AISF, AISA and various other students’ organizations participated in the protest. Several rights activists and sympathizers too registered their protest against Modi’s visit to campus.
“Modi’s achievement is the 2002 Gujarat Genocide and genocide is not development, Modi has no right to give speech on development” Said Campus Front of India member Mohammed Jabir. Deepa Sharma a student of Hindu College told “Vibrant Gujarat is a myth like Shinning India Campaign of BJP. We students are against this campaign, a state where women and children are dying of anemia, Modi should not speak on development rather work for it”.
Wearing black clothes and masks of ghosts, students crossed the barricade and shouted slogans against Modi outside the college. Around 600 policemen, some of them in riot gear, tried to bring the situation under control. Police retorted to lathi charge and also used water cannons to disperse the crowd. They allegedly also let Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members, who had gathered on the other side, beat some of the protesters.
Civil rights activist Mahtab Alam alleged, “Police used water cannon and lathi against us and lent all the support to Sanghi goons.” Angry students shouted, “Modi go back!” Posters held up by protestors read: “Expose Modi!” Meanwhile, Akhil Bharaitya Vidyarthi Parishad members raised slogans in praise of Modi. Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) is the alma mater of many leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Arun Jaitley, Vijay Goel, Jagdish Mukhi and Vijay Jolly. Modi’s talk at the college was about “Emerging business models in the global scenario”.
- Anti-Modi protesters at DU allege manhandling (Feb 7, 2013, The Hindu)
- Narendra Modi protest: Students allege molestation (Feb 8, 2013, Indian Express)
- VHP’s Modi as PM chant ‘objectionable’: Hindu priests (Feb 11, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- Election Commission detects 400 paid news cases in Gujarat polls (Feb 6, 2013, Times of India)
Supreme Court advocate Kamini Jaiswal on Saturday said the UPA government’s decision to hang Md Afzal Guru was driven by political consideration and that his rights were violated as his family was not informed. Activists demanded Afzal’s body be handed to his family. Speaking to TOI, Jaiswal, who had represented Afzal in court earlier, said, “There is a petition pending in Supreme Court that challenged if death sentence should be commuted if it is not implemented within a given time.” The SC is still hearing the matter. “Why did the government have to overreach the Supreme Court? What was the hurry? Was it to get political mileage keeping in mind the elections?” Jaiswal asked. Calling the hanging an “irresponsible, careless and inhuman act”, she said Afzal’s wife did not know about the hanging even on Saturday morning. “Somebody who spoke to his wife at 7.30 this morning said she did not know anything about her husband’s hanging,” said Jaiswal.
PUCL accused government of “flouting all established norms”. “His family was denied their legal right to meet him before taking him to the gallows. More shameful is the explanation of the home ministry that his family was informed by speed post and registered post. Decency and humanity demanded that the Centre gave prior intimation to the family and an opportunity to meet him,” said Mahipal Singh, national secretary, PUCL. Activists and students had gathered at Jantar Mantar on Saturday to protest against Afzal’s hanging. Students from the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Delhi University carried placards that said, “I am Afzal, hang me too.” There were activists from CPI(M-L), Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) protesting against the death penalty. Soon, a scuffle broke out between the protesters and VHP and Bajrang Dal members celebrating Afzal’s hanging at the same place. Members of the rightwing groups snatched away posters from protesters and blackened the face of a senior civil rights activist.
Speaking to TOI, Gautam Navlakha of PUDR said, “Afzal was hanged to appease popular will and get political mileage. Increasingly, communal thinking seems to be pervading the thinking in the establishment. In today’s protest, the police just looked on while the goons of Bajrang Dal heckled protesters, destroyed placards and abused women in filthy language.” PUCL, too, condemned the Delhi Police for not allowing people to protest against the hanging and instead detained them in police stations. “We are equally concerned by reports that right-wing goons were permitted by the police to use violence against protestors,” said Singh of PUCL. Questioning the hanging, Navlakha said, “We oppose death penalty. In Afzal’s case, even the rarest of rare category does not hold true. His role was more of a flunkie than a core conspirator. Torture by security forces to turn him into an informer compelled him to do what he did. There were enough mitigating circumstances for the court or the president to commute his sentence.”
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director, Human Rights Watch, also condemned the hanging. “This seems like a distressing step after a eight-year moratorium on death penalty. India should get back the moratorium and work towards abolishing the death penalty,” she said. Apprehensive about its fallout in Kashmir, Navlakha said, “It is an insensitive and callous act. I fear it will enrage popular sentiment in Kashmir where all political parties were of the opinion that his deaths sentence should be commuted.” Amnesty International India said the hanging indicates a disturbing and regressive trend towards executions shrouded in secrecy and the resumption of death penalty use in India.
“We condemn the execution in the strongest possible terms. This very regrettably puts India in opposition to the global trends towards moving away from the death penalty,” said Shashikumar Velath, programme director, Amnesty International India. Questioning the fairness of Afzal’s trial, Velath said, “He did not receive legal representation of his choice or a lawyer with adequate experience at the trial stage. These concerns were not addressed.” CPM though said the law of the land has taken its course in the Parliament attack case. “I think, the law of the land with all its provisions has finally been completed in the case. The issue had been lingering for the past 11 years and has finally completed its due course,” said CPM politbureau member Sitaram Yechury.
- Don’t carry out “executions” to satisfy some public opinion: HRW (Feb 10, 2013, The Hindu)
- ‘Hanging Guru a way to consolidate Hindu vote-bank’ (Feb 10, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Afzal Guru’s family counters govt’s claim, says was not informed about execution (Feb 10, 2013, IBN)
- Hang Hindu terrorists too, say Muslim leaders (Feb 10, 2013, Hindustan Times)
A Rajasthan BJP MLA put his party in a fix on Sunday when he visited to meet the prime accused in the Ajmer blasts case of 2007 in SMS Hospital in Jaipur. The accused, Bharat Rateshwewar, had gone on an indefinite hunger strike following the ‘Hindu-terror’ remarks of Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde at the Jaipur conclave of the Congress party in January.
BJP MLA from Ramgarh, Gyan Dev Ahuja, persuaded Bharat to end his hunger strike and assured him of all possible legal assistance. However, jail authorities were not amused by Verma’s gesture as the legislator hadn’t secured a valid permission before visitng the accused.
Bharat had been shifted to SMS Hospital from Jaipur Central Jail on January 27, after he had refused to eat and drink anything till Sushil Kumar Shinde apologized for his comments, in which he had accused RSS and BJP of promoting Hindu terrorism in the country. Bharat had even written a letter to Shinde and demanded an unconditional apology from the Home Minister.
Ahuja broke his hunger strike by offering him juice and chatted with him for twenty-odd minutes. “He is innocent. He has been framed. The case is still sub-judice. I am sure he will be acquitted,” Verma told reporters before leaving SMS Hospital.
- NIA to quiz ex-RSS worker in blast cases (Feb 11, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- 2008 Malegaon blasts: NIA opposes Sadhvi Pragya Singh’s bail (Feb 5, 2013, Times of India)
- VHP’s PIL against Sushilkumar Shinde’s ‘Hindu terror’ remarks dismissed (Feb 6, 2013, Indian Express)
- Durga Vahini, the “moral police” (Feb 5, 2013, The Hindu)
Six policemen were arrested on Friday on charges of theft and breaking open a stall during the Dhule riots of January 6. While two of the policemen are constables, the other four are jawans from the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF). Inspector Sanjay Patil of the Dhule city police station told TOI that the SRPF jawans have been identified as Liladhar Sonawane, Ganesh Patil, Chabulal Vende and D S Sonawane and the police constables as Jawahar Pawar and Yogesh Shinde.
“The six policemen have been arrested based on the inspection of video footage in which they are seen breaking open a stall and pulling down a pandal used by hawkers,” he said. Director general of police (law and order) Javed Ahmed confirmed the arrests. “Six policemen have been arrested today by the local police,” he told TOI.
The six policemen, who were arrested under sections 380 (theft) and 461 (dishonestly breaking open receptacle containing property) of the Indian Penal Code, were produced in a local court late on Friday afternoon, Patil said. The court remanded them in police custody for a day. The police are also looking for four local residents, who were seen in video footage allegedly looting a shop and damaging motorcycles and bicycles parked outside houses in the curfew-bound areas of the town.
“Three of them have been identified,” Patil said. Six people were allegedly killed in police firing and more than 200 others were injured in the violence that broke out at 2.30pm. The violence, which continued for about two hours, was allegedly triggered after a small dispute broke out over the non-payment of a food bill at a food stall in the Macchi Bazaar area of the town.
The food-stall owner allegedly assaulted a youth who refused to pay the bill. The youth left the place but returned with some his friends, following which violence broke out. A majority of the victims and relatives of those allegedly killed in the firing accused the police of being brutal and using excessive force. The government has announced a judicial probe headed by a retired judge.
- Dhule violence: More arrests likely (Feb 10, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Dhule riot victim approaches court, seeks probe against SDO, DySP (Feb 7, 2013, Indian Express)
- A month on, Dhule riot victims without govt. aid, food and shelter (Feb 7, 2013, Ummid)
- Communal riots: HC tells Centre,UP govt to file reply (Feb 7, 2013, Times of India)
Nearly 16 days after hardline Hindutva leader Praveen Togadia allegedly made an inflammatory speech targeting a particular community, the Nanded Police on Thursday filed a case against him under section 153 A for promoting enmity on grounds of religion. Togadia on January 22 in the border town of Bhokhar in Nanded District in Maharashtra adjoining Andhra Pradesh had made a speech in which he had pointed out to the communal massacres in Nelli, Bhagalpur and Gujarat.
Togadia purportedly made this statement in reaction to AIMIM legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi’s statement that the Muslims would show their might to the Hndus if the police stepped aside. A hue and cry in social media platforms had finally made the Centre take cognizance of the entire issue with the Centre’s Minister of State for Home RPN Singh asking the state to take action against Togadia if his speech was found to be inflammatory.
The Nanded Police had also received complaints and finally decided to file a case on Thursday. Earlier, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil has claimed that strict action will be taken against all those found to promote hate between communities. “Anyone who is found trying to promote hate between communities will be severely dealt with,” Patil said. Togadia, meanwhile, denied that he made any kind of hate speech and said he was stating historical facts. Maharashtra Minorities Affairs minister Naseem Khan said Thursday that MIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi and VHP leader Pravin Togadia should be seen in the same light as both of them have tried to inflame communal passions through their speeches.
- Togadia speech: Maharashtra home dept under fire (Feb 8, 2013, Times of India)
- Digvijaya Singh asks why delay in action against Togadia for his hate speech (Feb 6, 2013, IBN)
- “No delay in taking action against Togadia” (Feb 9, 2013, The Hindu)
- Hate speeches: Centre tells Maharashtra to probe Togadia (Feb 7, 2013, Hindustan Times)
The Gujarat high court on Tuesday asked the state government if it conducted any survey to assess backwardness of Muslims in Gujarat in the last 20 years. The government replied, “No”. The full bench put the question to Advocate General Kamal Trivedi during the hearing on the legality of the Centre’s scheme of pre-matriculation scholarships to students of five minority communities, to which the state government has objected.
Citing instructions in the Supreme Court’s Inder Sawhney judgment, Justice V M Sahai, who presides over the five judge bench, asked the state government’s legal officer, “Twenty years have passed. Have you conducted any survey of the Muslim community as a whole to know how many of them are really backward?” The AG said that the state government did not conduct any such exercise for last two decades.
The issues cropped up when the state government questioned the Centre’s floating the scheme on the basis of the Justice Sachar committee’s recommendations. The AG asserted that for conducting any survey, the government needs a legal declaration about the backwardness of communities. Justice Sahai again questioned him why the government did not undertake any exercise in this regard. The judge further said that Muslims are downtrodden and live in ghettos. Narrating his own experience, Justice Sahai said, “Why do they live in ghettos? There are historical reasons, for security.”
He also commented, “The state of Gujarat is fighting for Rs 4 crore (its contribution to the minority scholarship)?” The AG rebutted this by saying that it is a matter of principle. “Tomorrow, the Centre may come out with umpteen schemes, but it is subject to declaration…It’s a matter of principle,” he argued. A couple of judges in the bench commented that the schemes are aimed at benefitting the downtrodden, and affirmative action by the executive should be welcomed. Justice D H Waghela questioned the state government’s projection of literacy ratio, which is claimed to be higher among the minorities, and cited the dropout rate for Muslim students in higher secondary.
The court’s query on the survey came after the AG submitted that the Sachar committee could come up with recommendations, but it is up to the states to determine the criteria to adjudge whether a community is backward. He questioned why the committee’s report is “so sacrosanct” for the Centre. He dubbed it a “convenient committee”, and said that action on basis of its conclusion “cannot be tolerated”.
- “Condition of Muslims worse than Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes” (Feb 5, 2013, The Hindu)
- Only 11 in 100 Muslims take up higher education (Feb 5, 2013, DNA India)
- Dhar on boil again over disputed prayer site (Feb 6, 2013, Indian Express)
- Row over demolition of religious structure (Feb 5, 2013, The Hindu)
Merely being attracted to the communist philosophy doesn’t make someone a terrorist or criminal, Bombay High Court has said, granting bail to two members of a Pune cultural forum and two students accused of being Maoists by police. Justice Abhay Thipsay said in his order last week “it is surprising the state should consider the activities of the applicants as incriminating material” and stressed any alleged membership of a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act “cannot be passive”.
For street-play artistes Dhawala Dhengale and Siddharth Bhosale, and university students Mayuri Bhagat and Anuradha Sonule, the relief came almost two years after their arrest in April 2011 by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) which alleged they were members of the CPI (Maoists). Charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code, their bail pleas to lower courts had been rejected. The ATS alleged that the four, in their early 20s, were aware of the activities of Maoists and knowingly associated themselves with the rebels.
According to the prosecution, however, the youths were not shown to be, or even alleged to be, involved in any acts of violence or terrorism. Justice Thipsay highlighted this key aspect. “It is clear none of the applicants has allegedly resorted to violence, none is alleged to have handled weapons or explosives, none alleged to have committed a terrorist act,” he said. “It (any association with such an outfit) has to be treated as an active membership which results in participation of the acts of the terrorist gang or organisation performed for carrying out the aims and objects of such gang…. by use of violence or other unlawful means,” the order added.
Dhengale and Bhosale, both members of Kabir Kala Manch (KMM) formed after the 2002 Gujarat riots, created awareness on social issues through street plays and protest songs. The court touched on this, pointing out that Dhengale was part of such plays highlighting the need for communal harmony, alleged oppression of Schedule Castes and Tribes, gender equality eradication of corruption. Justice Thipsay expressed surprise how the state was highlighting these activities to convince the court about the four being Maoists. “Speaking about corruption, social inequality, exploitation of the poor is not banned in our country. Many of the statements attributed to Mayuri and Anuradha are often made by several national leaders and social thinkers also.”
The judge lauded as “commendable” their attempts at creating social awareness. “…On the contrary, such a reasoning would indicate that these issues, which are real and important are not addressed by anyone else, except the Communist Party of India (Maoists), which in turn would mean the other parties or social organisations are indifferent to these problems,” Justice Thipsay said. The trial will go on in a lower court. Advocate Mihir Desai, who represented the four, welcomed the order, as did National Award-winning documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan who set up a forum called Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee last year to help them in their legal battle. “It is a very powerful judgment, which re-establishes our faith in the judiciary. The members of KMM who were arrested are performers, nowhere accused of any violence,” said Patwardhan.
- Sympathy to ideology doesn’t make them Maoists: HC (Feb 5, 2013, Indian Express)
- Maoist condition for Bhattarai’s resignation (Feb 7, 2013, The Telegraph)
- Maoists vow to continue putting bombs in dead bodies (Feb 6, 2013, Times of India)
- Orissa police nab seven hardcore Maoists from Koraput (Feb 4, 2013, DNA India)
A Dalit teenage girl was raped by a constable in SR Puarm police station near Tirupati temple on Tuesday. The incident occurred when she was brought to the police station for questioning in an elopement case on February 2. Later she was detained and sexually assaulted by the constable in night.
The constable, Gopi, was remanded in judicial custody after being arrested and produced in a local court. Two other policemen, including sub-inspector Ravi Naik, ASI Rajendra and constable Ramana were suspended for ‘negligence of duty’.
The victim’s parents alleged that the police refused to register the case and that it was only registered after they approached the SP. The girl has been admitted in Chittoor Government Hospital and medical reports are awaited.
At the same time, the state human rights commission (SHRC) ordered the Chittoor SP to submit the report on the incident before March 4 as per the following petition filed by a child activist.
- Delhi gangrape: Transport minister blames police as trial begins (Feb 5, 2013, IBN)
- Woman ‘set afire’ by in-laws, cops drag feet on probe (Feb 8, 2013, Times of India)
- Cops face Dikshit’s ire again over Lajpat Nagar shocker (Feb 6, 2013, Rediff)
- Woman from West Bengal alleges gang rape (Feb 7, 2013, Times of India)
Even as Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi goes on showcasing his state as a case study in development, the centuries-old evil practice of not allowing Dalits to enter temples still plagues a village in Ahmedabad district. Around 100 Dalit families of Galsana village in Dhandhuka taluka are testimony to the backwardness that still prevails the state in many areas of social life. Upper caste members of the village do not allow them to enter the premises of village temples.
The village has five temples, including a Swaminarayan temple, and Dalits have never stepped inside any of them. However, on February 4, four Dalit families decided to enter the premises of the Swaminarayan temple and asked for police protection for the same. They chose that day as the village had planned pran-pratishthan of Lord Swaminarayan after the reconstruction of the 22-year-old temple located in the middle of the village.
The invitations sent out for the event were the last straw for the Dalits as the temple management had made separate seating arrangements for SCs at the mass feast. “However, on February 4, the temple authorities and villagers ensured that the temple remained closed to prevent us from entering it,” Sunil Parmar, a Dalit, said.
Swami Krishna Vallabh, the Mahant Swami of Muli Swaminarayan Temple in Surendranagar and chief organiser of the event, conceded that the event had indeed been cancelled. “We had to cancel it as the other villagers were unhappy with the idea of Dalits entering the temple,” he said.
- CPI(M) to campaign against caste discriminatory practices in temples (Feb 5, 2013, The Hindu)
- Dalits starve after village boycott (Feb 6, 2013, Asian Age)
- In male-dominated Haryana, Rajasthan, cross-regional brides are deprived of rights (Feb 11, 2013, The Hindu)
- Suryanelli case: Ex-HC judge says girl used for child prostitution, not raped (Feb 9, 2013, Times of India)
Opinions and Editorials
Eight years ago, the Supreme Court condemned Muhammad Afzal Guru to be hanged for his role in the 2001 attack on Parliament House, saying, astonishingly, that “the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender.” Guru was walked to the gallows Saturday morning at the end of the macabre rite governments enact from time to time to propitiate that most angry of gods, a vengeful public.
Through this grim, secret ceremony, however, India has been gravely diminished. The reasons for this are not just the obvious ones – among them, that Guru was a bit-actor in the attack on Parliament, and his trial marred by procedural and substantive errors. These arguments were examined by the highest court in the country and found wanting. There is one argument, though, that wasn’t ever examined – which is precisely why Guru, like scores of other Indians, ended up on death row in the first place. The answer has a great deal to do with expedience, and nothing to do with justice.
The hideous truth is this: judicial executions in India have all the rationality of the roulette table. Last month, Justices P Sathasivam and Fakkir Kalifullah commuted the death penalty given to Mohinder Singh for killing both his daughter and wife – this while out of prison on parole where he was serving time for earlier raping the girl. The judges argued that the death penalty ought only be considered when a perpetrator posed “a menace and threat to the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of the society.”
One week later, Justices Sathasivam and Jagdish Khehar upheld death for Sundararajan, who kidnapped and then killed a seven year old boy. The judges noted, among other things the “agony for parents for the loss of their male child, who would have carried further the family lineage.” Besides the obvious imprint of gender values on judicial reasoning, it is the arbitrariness of outcome in cases that are similar which tells us something is seriously wrong. In a signal article published recently in this newspaper. V. Venkatesan noted how the Supreme Court has itself admitted that many of those on death row are there because of “erroneous legal precedents set by itself.” (December 10, 2012)
Yet, both the judiciary and the government have been reluctant to announce a moratorium on executions until a thoroughgoing review is carried out. This ought not to surprise us: in case after case, the course of criminal justice has been shaped by public anger and special-interest lobbying. Indians must remember the foundational principle of our Republic, the guardian of all our rights and freedoms, isn’t popular sentiment: it is justice, which in turn is based on the consistent application of principles. For one overriding reason, Guru’s hanging ought to concern even those unmoved by his particular case, or the growing ethics-based global consensus against the death penalty. There is no principle underpinning the death penalty in India today except vengeance. And vengeance is no principle at all.
- Hanging of Afzal Guru exposes the cynicism of terror politics – Editorial (Feb 11, 2013, Economic Times)
- Unlocking the secrets of a secret execution – By Nitya Ramakrishnan (Feb 11, 2013, The Hindu)
- Afzal Guru Hanged, Whose Conscience Satisfied? – By N. Jayaram (Feb 9, 2013, Countercurrents)
- A perfect day for democracy – By Arundhati Roy (Feb 10, 2013, The Hindu)
In India, even though a suspect is acquitted, of his alleged crime by a court, the media continues to portray them as social maniacs and traitors, who need to be ‘exposed’ in the interest of ‘national security’. The morning Afzal Guru was hanged, television channels called people with disparate views, to share their thoughts and opinions on the secret execution, some of them were overjoyed that Guru was finally hanged, some expressed their anger that he was not provided a fair trial, and his execution was ‘politically motivated’. Prof. S.A.R Geelani, the Delhi University lecturer, who was sentenced to death along with Guru, for his alleged role in the attack on Indian Parliament and who was later acquitted for the lack of evidence, was also called. He slammed the government for hanging Afzal Guru, without informing his family members, and the ‘”flawed legal procedure followed in this case”. Prof. Geelani, expressed the same angst on two different channels; NDTV and CNN-IBN.
But this step to ask for his opinion by these channels, was not appreciated by many people in the country, while most of them took to social media to rant it out, one man, used his position as the Editor-in-chief of a major news network, and made this remark, “Times Now will not provide a platform to an accused in the attack on the Indian parliament”. Let me remind you again, that Prof. Geelani was acquitted by the Delhi High Court, as there was no evidence found against him, to prove his role in the attack, but for reasons best known to him, Mr. Arnab Goswami, seems to be not satisfied with it, and he, along with many in this country, satisfied their vested interests by building a bogeymen image of an innocent man. Surprisingly, Mr. Goswami, did not had a problem providing a platform to the same ‘accused’ a few years ago, when he had still not taken the task of ‘setting agendas for this country.’ You can watch that video on YouTube.
Prof. Geelani’s is not the only such case, Syed Wasif Haider was arrested in July 2001, for his alleged role in the Kanpur bomb blasts of 14 August 2000, and after rotting in prison for eight years, he was Acquitted in August 2009, after the ‘courts either refused to entertain the confessional statement made in police custody (which often found space in the media) or found the witnesses “unable to establish” that Haider had a role in the bomb blasts’. But the media of this country, as usual was not satisfied, they continued to link him with several blasts or so-called terror cases, as much that his own relatives are scared to meet him. When he met the former president of India, he said her, “Please stop the media from defaming me. I was declared innocent in 2009. Yet, the local media drags my name in whenever there’s a blast. I’m facing a social boycott. Children in the locality don’t play with a ‘terrorist’s’ daughters. Relatives feel police will hound them for visiting me.”
The media trial starts from the time suspects get arrested and continues even after their acquittal. In August 2012, when some Muslims youths in Bangalore and Hubli were arrested, the regional media in Karnataka, almost immediately started building stories and reporting them based on unproven charges. One channel reported that some of the youths had traveled to Iran, some other channel reported that those very youths had traveled to Pakistan, while their parents maintained that they did not even had a passport. Till today, the police have not submitted any charges against the youths to the court. This irresponsible behaviour of the media, both regional and national, should be condemned, and checked. Media has no right to charge any one, based on its presumptions, and it has no right to play with people’s lives, to build TRPs and brand image for their networks.
- Ignoring Srikrishna Commission recommendations at a price – By Jyoti Punwani (Feb 7, 2013, DNA India)
- Unethical, Extra-Legal Coercion In UID Aadhaar Project – By S.G.Vombatkere (Feb 7, 2013, Countercurrents)
The death of six Muslim youth (all below 25 years) in police firing during riots in the northern Maharashtra town of Dhule on 6 January is proof that very little has changed in the attitude of the Maharashtra police. Twenty years ago, when communal riots rocked Mumbai, the bias of the local police force was more than evident. The Srikrishna Commission as well as numerous other fact-finding committees and media reports documented the incriminatory role of the Mumbai police and its anti-minority attitude. Therefore it comes as no surprise that once again the communal bias of the local police is on full display, this time in Dhule. A small quarrel (over a lunch bill of Rs 60) turned into a riot and a section of the police not only took sides but also participated in it. Video clippings showing policemen looting stalls, hammering on vehicles in Muslim-dominated areas and aiming above the waist as they fired at rioters in Dhule are in the public domain.
A citizens’ fact-finding committee that visited Dhule in mid-January found that the police failed to act quickly, targeted only the Muslim stone throwers, fired with the intent to kill, left the injured in the police firing unattended, watched while mobs looted and burnt Muslim homes and shops, and that a section among them (police) also looted and damaged Muslim property. (Two policemen identified in the videos have since been suspended.) The committee examined the civil hospital records to verify the police claim that they were attacked with lethal chemicals. It found that a majority of the police personnel were discharged following first aid and a very small number had minor burn injuries. Families of the Muslim victims told the committee that they were afraid to take the injured to the civil hospital following the experience of the 2008 communal clash in Dhule, when they were attacked even there. As a result, all of them opted to go to private hospitals.
While Dhule, which borders Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh with state and national highways running through it, is known for its powerlooms, it is also infamous for kerosene and oil adulteration rackets and even a thriving satta(gambling) industry. Dhule is now a symbol of developmental neglect with a high incidence of unemployment among its youth. Such periodic violence and communal hostility will not help attract capital and improve the town and its surroundings. Although after viewing the video clippings implicating the police, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan did acknowledge that “unfortunately there are some communal elements lurking around in the police”, both he and local politicians continue to refer to this incident as a clash between Muslims and the police. How can a police force (even a section within it) that is meant to maintain law and order go about destroying citizens’ property and disregard protocol about dealing with unarmed but enraged mobs?
The state government had been warned by the Srikrishna Commission report about police bias in favour of the majority community during the 1992-93 riots. However, over the past 15 years the state government has shown no interest in prosecuting the police officials indicted by the commission. As a result, the Muslim community has felt increasingly alienated. Its leaders and activists have pointed out that the tendency of the police to pick up Muslim youth for interrogation after every bomb blast and lock them up on flimsy evidence has dented the community’s faith in the system and the police. The violence against the police by a small mob during a Muslim protest meeting at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on 11 August last year is an indication of the deep fissures and the sense of alienation that a section of Muslim youth feel. The calls for sensitisation of the police force towards religious minorities (as also towards other marginalised and discriminated sections) have been many over the years. The role of the police in the Dhule riots shows that at the ground level nothing has changed.
Like in Dhule, all of Maharashtra needs efficient governance and a prejudice-free police force. This much is clear beyond dispute. What is unclear is what the state government is waiting for to make the police force accountable to the citizens of the state regardless of the religion they follow. The absence of a follow-up on the government’s promise of a judicial inquiry into the Dhule riots and killings does not bode well for the future.
- An abomination called AFSPA – By Sanjoy Hazarika (Feb 12, 2013, The Hindu)
A First Hand Account Of What Went Down At The Anti-Modi Protests – By Akhil Kumar (Feb 9, 2013, Countercurrents)
My fingers hurt even while I am writing this but the story needs to be told, another tale of the fascist state repression and the devious designs of right wing extremism. The north campus of the Delhi University looked like a fortress with all measures in place to welcome the “hero” of Gujrat. I was there to protest Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Ram College Of Commerce, filled with anger and disgust at his attempt to invade academic spaces for electoral propaganda. I left for the protest totally unprepared as we planned on a peaceful demonstration; laptop bag slung on the shoulders and placard in hand, I did not anticipate the horrors that awaited us.
As we entered the protest site through the Arts Faculty entrance, we saw giant ABVP hoardings and posters welcoming Modi to the university. Their “activists” were all over, many of them perched on tree branches like monkeys and seemed to have found it as the ideal place to welcome their “Hanuman”; the image of the banar sena was hard to ignore(Yes, I should be accused of Blasphemy by any religious Hindu for desecrating Hanuman). Hundreds of students were already present there shouting slogans and waving black flags, it was heartening to see so many students raising their voices in unison against communalism and right wing fanaticism. Chants of “Modi lao desh bachao” “Dekho kaun aya, bharat ma aka sher aya” were promptly countered by “Communal Modi go back” and “Rapist Modi down down”. The anger and disgust against the communal politics of Modi was palpable, all of us spoke out with the accumulated rage of the victims in Gujrat. The clinched fists, raised voices and the fiery expression on the faces showed how passionately the students felt for the victims. It’s a shame for a politician who is being projected as the next Prime Minister to be so afraid of innocent unarmed students that he needed three layer barricading and heavy deployment of police in riot gear. Why can’t he come out and have a dialogue with the protesters and face his critics? Clearly, he has no answers for the horrific crimes he has committed.
The police did not even bother to conceal their support and tolerance for the hooligans of ABVP who even climbed on the water cannon and openly indulged in sexual harassment and violence. They passed lewd comments and made vulgar gestures standing right next to the policemen, i would have clicked pictures had my phone not been rendered useless by the water cannon. I was shocked to see that many teachers from Delhi University also openly threatened the protestors, abused us with the most horrific expletives while their students brandished pointed sticks saying “khoon kar dunga”! We felt helpless and outraged at the police working hand in glove with the goons. When we broke through the first barricade, the police started bashing us ruthlessly with their lathis in full swing and they enjoyed every moment of it. They laughed, mocked us, hurled vulgar abuses and passed derogatory comments while hitting us. It was clear that they had no intention to disperse or control the crowd, they chased us down and dragged some of our protestors to their side of the barricade and left them at the mercy of the ABVP goons. A few girls fell down in the rush and the police trampled them, one of them was unconscious when we rushed to help and had to be taken to the hospital. The ABVP students openly threatened girls with comments like “Jo Gujrat me hua tha wahi tumhare sath bhi karenge”.
The police trained their water cannon at us and I cannot forget the smirk on the face of the person who was operating it just before he started aiming at the defenceless protestors. I was caught in the jet and fell face down as it hit me straight on my legs, struggling to get up from the mud I lost all faith in non-violent protests that very moment. I was hurt, shocked and infuriated; not that this was my first encounter with water cannon but because of the smile on the policemen’s faces as they enjoyed brutality. When I again went to the barricade, I was beaten up and hit where it hurts the most; the excruciating pain in the knuckles and ankles stand testimony to that. Some of the policemen passed snide remarks and laughed at us all the while.
The barricades were finally removed when Narendra Modi left and we immediately marched to the Maurice Nagar police station to demand the release of our detained friends and fellow protestors. Exhausted, battered, drenched and feeling defeated I accompanied them bare foot as my shoes were dripping; the ABVP goons followed all the way trying to bully us. We staged a protest in front of the police station and refused to move until the police freed all the protestors and lodged our complaints against them and the ABVP goons. They tried to intimidate us and refused to lodge the complaint, they even tried to grope some female protestors when they went in for medical examination to check for the injuries from the lathi charge. We went in nevertheless and raised slogans against the police, the administration and the right wing fanatics. For over two hours we sat inside the police station premises and sang songs of resistance and raised slogans until the police apologised publicly. I could not write about this yesterday itself as I was too disturbed and shaken up.We were successful in driving across the message that Modi’s crimes will never be forgotten, that he is not welcome here. Let us all occupy every corner of the city and turn them into sites of protest, let us say it loud and clear that the voice of resistance can never be silenced.
- Parivar’s predicament – By Pralay Kanungo (Feb 9, 2013, Frontline)
- Narendra Modi In Delhi – Biased Reporting – By Mukul Dube (Feb 7, 2013, Countercurrents)
- Trouble spot – By Ravi Sharma (Feb 9, 2013, Frontline)
- ‘Police Can’t Arrest Togadia’ – By Subhash Gatade (Feb 10, 2013, Countercurrents)
A journalist who recently interviewed Narendra Modi reported their conversation as follows: “Gujarat, he told me, merely has a seafront. It has no raw materials – no iron ore for steel, no coal for power and no diamond mines. Yet it has made huge strides in these fields. Imagine, he added, if we had the natural resources of an Assam, a Jharkhand and a West Bengal: I would have changed the face of India.”(see The Telegraph, January 18, 2013). This conversation (and that claim) underlines much of what Narendra Modi has sought to do these past five years – remake himself as a man who gets things done, a man who gets the economy moving. With Mr. Modi in power in New Delhi, says or suggests Mr. Modi, India will be placed smoothly on the 8 per cent to 10 per cent growth trajectory, bureaucrats will clear files overnight, there will be no administrative and political corruption, poverty levels will sink rapidly towards zero and – lest we forget – trains and aeroplanes shall run on time. These claims are taken at face value by his admirers, who include sundry CEOs, owner-capitalists, western ambassadors and – lest we forget – columnists in the pink papers, the white papers, and (above all) cyber-space.
Mr. Modi’s detractors – who too are very numerous, and very vocal – seek to puncture these claims in two different ways. The unreconstructed Nehruvians and Congress apologists (not always the same thing) say he will forever be marked by the pogrom against Muslims in 2002, which was enabled and orchestrated by the State government. Even if his personal culpability remains unproven, the fact that as the head of the administration he bears ultimate responsibility for the pogrom, and the further fact that he has shown no remorse whatsoever, marks Mr. Modi out as unfit to lead the country. The secularist case against Mr. Modi always had one flaw – namely, that what happened in Gujarat in 2002 was preceded in all fundamental respects by what happened in Delhi in 1984. Successive Congress governments have done nothing to bring justice to the survivors, while retaining in powerful positions (as Cabinet Ministers even) Congress MPs manifestly involved in those riots. …
As a sociologist who treats the aggregate data of economists with scepticism, I myself do not believe that Gujarat is the best developed State in the country. Shortly after Mr. Modi was sworn in for his third full term, I travelled through Saurashtra, whose polluted and arid lands spoke of a hard grind for survival. In the towns, water, sewage, road and transport facilities were in a pathetic state; in the countryside, the scarcity of natural resources was apparent, as pastoralists walked miles and miles in search of stubble for their goats. Both hard numbers and on-the-ground soundings suggest that in terms of social and economic development, Gujarat is better than average, but not among the best. In a lifetime of travel through the States of the Union, my sense is that Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and (despite the corruption) Tamil Nadu are the three States which provide a dignified living to a decent percentage of their population. … In my view, the real reason that Narendra Modi is unfit to be Prime Minister of India is that he is instinctively and aggressively authoritarian. Consider that line quoted in my first paragraph: “I would have changed the face of India.” Not ‘we,’ but ‘I’. In Mr. Modi’s Gujarat, there are no collaborators, no co-workers. He has a chappan inch chaati – a 56-inch chest – as he loudly boasts, and therefore all other men (if not women) in Gujarat must bow down to his power and his authority.
Mr. Modi’s desire to dominate is manifest in his manner of speaking. Social scientists don’t tend to analyse auditory affect, but you have only to listen to the Gujarat Chief Minister for 15 minutes to know that this is a man who will push aside anyone who comes in his way. The intent of his voice is to force his audience into following him on account of fearing him. The proclamation of his physical masculinity is not the sole example of Mr. Modi’s authoritarianism. Like all political bullies he despises free speech and artistic creativity – thus he has banned books and films he thinks Gujaratis should not read or watch (characteristically, without reading or viewing these books and films himself). He has harassed independent-minded writers, intellectuals and artists (leading to the veritable destruction of India’s greatest school of art, in Vadodara). His refusal to the spontaneous offer of a skull cap during his so-called ‘Sadbhavana Yatra,’ while read as an example of his congenital communalism, could also be seen as illustrating his congenital arrogance. …
Neither Mr. Modi’s admirers nor his critics may like this, but the truth is that of all Indian politicians past and present, the person Gujarat Chief Minister most resembles is Indira Gandhi of the period 1971-77. Like Mrs. Gandhi once did, Mr. Modi seeks to make his party, his government, his administration and his country an extension of his personality. The political practice of both demonstrates the psychological truth that inside every political authoritarian lies a desperately paranoid human being. Mr. Modi talks, in a frenetic and fearful way, of ‘Rome Raj’ and ‘Mian Musharraf’ (lately modified to ‘Mian Ahmed Patel’); Mrs Gandhi spoke in likewise shrill tones of the ‘foreign hand’ and of ‘my enemies.’ There is something of Indira Gandhi in Narendra Modi, and perhaps just a touch of Sanjay Gandhi too – as in the brash, bullying, hyper-masculine style, the suspicion (and occasional targeting) of Muslims. Either way, Mr. Modi is conspicuously unfitted to be the reconciling, accommodating, plural, democratic Prime Minister that India needs and deserves. He loves power far too much. On the other hand, his presumed rival, Rahul Gandhi, shirks responsibility entirely (as in his reluctance, even now, to assume a ministerial position). Indian democracy must, and shall in time, see off both.
- The National Herald – By Prarthna Gahilote (Feb 18, 2013, Outlook)
This is a government in a hurry. It wants to demonstrate that it is responsive to people’s demands. It claims credit for appointing the Justice Verma Committee within days of the horrific 16 December 2012 gang rape of a young woman in Delhi. But no credit is due to it for the speed with which the Verma Committee produced its path-breaking report despite the lack of adequate logistical support and cooperation from government departments. And now, well before people could digest the important recommendations of the Verma Committee, the government has pushed through an ordinance amending the criminal law. Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram claims the ordinance was in response to “a universal demand that the laws must be amended immediately”. While the Verma Committee did recommend promulgation of an ordinance, how many such “universal demands” has the government responded to with such alacrity in the past? If one looks at the contents of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, signed by the President of India on 3 February, it is clear that the intention is not a serious consideration of the Verma Committee’s recommendations, but an easy route to satisfy the growing response for “action”. While no one, least of all women’s groups, want the government to sit on the Verma Committee report and let it gather dust, as do most such reports, the need for an ordinance such as the one promulgated by the government is unjustified on every count barring populism.
The real story behind the ordinance is what the government has chosen to include, what it has chosen to exclude and what it has rejected of the Verma Committee recommendations. Take the issue of the substitution of the term “rape” with “sexual assault”. The Verma Committee went into a detailed argument, looking at this issue from the perspective of several other countries where a similar debate ensued, and concluded that the term “rape” should not be left out entirely even if the definition is expanded to include other forms of sexual assault. Similar arguments have already been placed by women’s groups before the government in the run-up to the formulation of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, which was tabled in Parliament as recently as 4 December 2012. Despite this, the government has chosen to unilaterally substitute the term “rape” with the gender-neutral term “sexual assault” even as it has included many more forms of sexual assaults under this provision in the law. What is the justification for such arbitrariness on an issue that requires greater reflection?
Then take the issue of public servants and members of the police and the armed forces being charged and tried for sexual assault. The ordinance has enhanced the minimum term of imprisonment to 10 years going up to life for anyone in these categories convicted of sexual assault. Yet it has chosen to ignore the Verma Committee’s specific recommendation that the immunity granted to members of the armed forces under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) be removed because “women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is afforded to citizens from any other part of the country”. By deliberately ignoring this recommendation, it is clear that the government has failed to comprehend and accept the central argument of the Verma Committee report – that rape is a crime in all circumstances and that exceptions cannot and should not be made if we believe women have the same human rights as men. The government has also ignored the committee’s recommendations on the khap panchayats and on honour killings. It has however included in the ordinance much of what was recommended about acid attacks, stalking and other forms of harassment as well as trafficking.
The most significant addition in the ordinance is the quantum of sentencing for these sexual crimes. The Verma Committee has put forward a reasoned argument for enhancing the quantum of punishment but it is most persuasive on why the death penalty should not be included. It has argued, as have women’s groups, that this will lower the already low levels of conviction. It has supported its arguments with views and judgments from many different countries. Despite this, the government has chosen to add the death penalty for sexual assault where the victim either dies or is left in a vegetative state and for repeat offenders. It is evident that this is a populist move to respond to the high decibel demands amplified by the media, following the Delhi gang rape, for the death penalty. The existing Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 that is already in Parliament does not recommend the death penalty. Why was it so necessary to include this in the ordinance? On top of the other exclusions, this addition makes it amply clear that the government is concerned more about its ability to survive the next election than whether the criminal justice system works for the increasing number of women being sexually assaulted. Yet again, populism has replaced reason, and the pretence of “action” has precluded debate.
- An action plan – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Feb 9, 2013, Frontline)
- Protests, the Justice Verma Committee and the Government Ordinance – By Albeena Shakil (Feb 9, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)
- A milestone in a campaign – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Feb 9, 2013, Frontline)
- Rights, Recognition and Rape – By Nitya Rao (Feb 16, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)