IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 17th, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Announcements

Coalition Against Genocide flays hype over US ambassador Nancy Powell’s meeting with Narendra Modi

Administration showed poor judgement in reaching out to Modi but is justified in maintaining the policy over his visa ban Washington DC, Friday, February 14, 2014

Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and to combating extremist ideologies that were its genesis, today expressed disappointment at the hype over the US administration’s outreach to infamous Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, banned from entering the US for his egregious violations of religious freedom, while criticizing the US Department for its ill-advised move. News reports indicate US ambassador to India, Ms. Nancy Powell met with Mr. Modi, as well as opposition leaders and non-government organizations in Gujarat.

The administration has maintained that the meeting between Ambassador Powell and Chief Minister Modi is a customary gesture extended to regional and opposition leaders. However, reaching out to Modi at a time when survivors are marking the twelfth anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, is a demonstration of poor judgment and insensitivity on the part of the US State Department.

Mr. Modi is unlike other regional leaders, as he has the dubious distinction of being the only individual whose entry to the US was banned under the International Religious Freedom Act (the only time the Act has been invoked to institute a visa ban). Most people also understand that in the ensuing years since 2002, Mr. Modi has done more to rehabilitate his own image than to rehabilitate the countless survivors of the pogrom. CAG welcomed the State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki’s statement affirming that the US was effectively holding firm to its 2005 decision to deny Mr. Modi an entry visa.

“We do not believe Ms. Powell’s meeting with Modi serves any purpose other than providing the Modi camp some sound bites for use in the election campaign, ” said Dr. Shaik Ubaid, a CAG spokesperson. “The 2002 pogrom, extra-judicial killings and anti-conversion laws in Gujarat should give the international community an idea of the blighted vision that Mr. Modi and his ilk represent,” added Dr. Ubaid.

At the meeting with Ms. Powell, Mr. Modi’s posturing over the treatment of diplomat Devyani Khobragade is condemnable, given that hundreds of women were raped under his watch, before being burned alive during the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. “While we will continue to work towards accountability for the Gujarat pogrom, our broader struggle is to educate Americans about the dangers posed by the Hindu supremacist ideology and to uphold India’s secular ethos,” said Dr. Raja Swamy, also a CAG spokesperson.

The case against Mr. Modi has only been heard by a lower court, that ignored findings of national and international human rights organizations about state complicity. Numerous whistle-blowers, human rights activists and investigative journalists have documented evidence of Mr. Modi’s complicity in the pogrom. Ex-Deputy Inspector General of Police, D. G. Vanzara has gone on record stating that fake encounter killings in Gujarat were carried out with Mr. Modi’s knowledge and sanction.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has raised serious concerns on continued violations of religious freedom in Gujarat, and lack of any concrete steps to address the issues that led to the revocation of Mr. Modi’s visa in 2005. On the other hand religious minorities in the state of Gujarat have been effectively reduced to second class citizens in the 12 years following the 2002 pogrom.

The Coalition Against Genocide is composed of a diverse group of US-based organizations and individuals that have come together in response to the Gujarat genocide to demand accountability and justice.

References:
1. US clarifies on Modi-Powell meet
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/us-clarifies-on-modipowell-meet/article5683044.ece/a>

2. US Says Powell-Modi Meeting is ‘No Big Deal’
http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/US-Says-Powell-Modi-Meeting-is-No-Big-Deal/2014/02/12/article2052434.ece

3. US Commission on International Religious Freedom Report – 2013
http://www.uscirf.gov/images/2013%20USCIRF%20Annual%20Report%20(2).pdf

4. Why DG Vanzara’s Letter Matters. And Why It Should Bother Narendra Modi
http://www.tehelka.com/why-dg-vanzaras-letter-matters-and-why-it-should-bother-narendra-modi/

CONTACT:

1. Dr. Shaik Ubaid
Phone: 516-567-0783
2. Dr. Raja Swamy
Phone: 864-804-0216
3. Coalition Against Genocide
Phone/Fax: (443) 927-9039
Email: media@coalitionagainstgenocide.org
http://www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org

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Gujarat probes did fact-fudging, helped shield Narendra Modi, says new book (Feb 11, 2014, DNA India)

A judicial commission and a Supreme Court-appointed special investigation that probed the 2002 Gujarat violence glossed over crucial evidence to shield Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a new revealing book says. “The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra” by journalist Manoj Mitta (Harper Collins) says Modi, now the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, was treated with kid gloves despite the many allegations against him vis-a-vis the death of over 1,000 people in the communal violence. This book is about mistakes committed in the course of fact-finding on the Gujarat carnage,” says the exhaustive study based on the reports of committees, commissions and investigating agencies besides court orders and judgments.

“Serious as they were, a lot of these mistakes covered up political and administrative complicity in the post-Godhra violence” blamed on rightwing Hindu groups allied to the BJP, the book says. “The distortions in the findings were thanks to the insidious manner in which issues had been framed, facts selected, evidence recorded or inferences drawn.” In the process, vital pieces of evidence which could have implicated Gujarat’s leadership in the communal orgy were allowed “to fall through the cracks and distortions go unchallenged”. The death of 59 Hindus after a Muslim mob allegedly set fire to a train car near the Godhra station on Feb 27, 2002, triggered bloody retaliation against Muslims in Gujarat, leaving hundreds dead. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up in 2008 under the Supreme Court’s supervision “did not prove to be independent enough” and “toed the Gujarat Police line on Godhra” killings, the book says.

Even as it secured convictions in the Godhra case against Muslims and in post-Godhra violence against Hindus, the SIT frittered away crucial evidence that could have implicated the guilty, it says. Mitta trashes the SIT for refusing to challenge Modi’s replies when he was questioned over the riots, which at one time led then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajapyee to ask the chief minister to uphold “rajdharma”. “At no point did (SIT member AK) Malhotra make the slightest effort to pin Modi down on any gaps and contradictions in his testimony… The SIT refrained from asking a single follow-up question…”Malhotra’s approach … helped Modi get off the hook on more than one issue.”

Mitta says Modi was never asked how he didn’t know – for five hours – about the killing of 69 people at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad while claiming that he was tracking the post-Godhra violence as it unfolded. “The SIT’s exoneration of Modi owed much to its reluctance to link the dots and get the big picture of Gujarat.” The SIT made no secret of the pains it took to run down the credibility of whistleblowers who testified against the Modi regime, the book says. The SIT’s conduct became more glaring after the Supreme Court ceased to monitor it in 2011, it adds. The book also denounces the inquiry commission of Justice G.T. Nanavati for failing to put Modi in the witness box for giving bodies of those who were killed in Godhra to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Handing over the bodies to the VHP based on a letter from a Gujarat government official proved “the Modi regime colluded with the very group that allegedly went on to unleash the mass killings of Muslims”. “Nanavati went out of (his) way to spare him (Modi) the political embarrassment of being questioned for the riots,” it says, adding that the panel “took incoherence in its reasoning to a new level”. At the same time, the Nanavati commission “had no qualms in indicting Muslims on second-hand evidence”. And while Nanavati summoned veteran Congress leaders for the 1984 anti-Sikh violence in Delhi (which too he probed), “the same retired judge balked at summoning or notifying Modi” when it came to Gujarat. One could well ask whether Nanavati was engaged in any fact-finding at all.” The book says: “Modi is not the first politician beneficiary of such a cover-up. In fact, in India, fact-fudging is increasingly the norm, fact-finding the exception. It is time this insidious form of abuse is acknowledged as systemic subversion, committed from within the judicial fraternity.” The book concludes: “The ‘fiction’ pedalled as SIT findings have not only shielded Modi but also served to prop up his image as a decisive and impartial administrator…This is a commentary on how little the Indian legal culture has evolved where it really matters.”

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-gujarat-probes-did-fact-fudging-helped-shield-narendra-modi-says-new-book-1961105

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Coalition against Genocide flays hype over US ambassador’s meeting with Modi (Feb 15, 2014, Twocircles.net)

Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and to combating extremist ideologies that were its genesis, today expressed disappointment at the hype over the US administration’s outreach to infamous Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, banned from entering the US for his egregious violations of religious freedom, while criticizing the US Department for its ill-advised move. News reports indicate US ambassador to India, Ms. Nancy Powell met with Mr. Modi, as well as opposition leaders and non-government organizations in Gujarat. The administration has maintained that the meeting between Ambassador Powell and Chief Minister Modi is a customary gesture extended to regional and opposition leaders. However, reaching out to Modi at a time when survivors are marking the twelfth anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, is a demonstration of poor judgment and insensitivity on the part of the US State Department.

Mr. Modi is unlike other regional leaders, as he has the dubious distinction of being the only individual whose entry to the US was banned under the International Religious Freedom Act (the only time the Act has been invoked to institute a visa ban). Most people also understand that in the ensuing years since 2002, Mr. Modi has done more to rehabilitate his own image than to rehabilitate the countless survivors of the pogrom. CAG welcomed the State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki’s statement affirming that the US was effectively holding firm to its 2005 decision to deny Mr. Modi an entry visa. “We do not believe Ms. Powell’s meeting with Modi serves any purpose other than providing the Modi camp some sound bites for use in the election campaign, ” said Dr. Shaik Ubaid, a CAG spokesperson. “The 2002 pogrom, extra-judicial killings and anti-conversion laws in Gujarat should give the international community an idea of the blighted vision that Mr. Modi and his ilk represent,” added Dr. Ubaid.

At the meeting with Ms. Powell, Mr. Modi’s posturing over the treatment of diplomat Devyani Khobragade is condemnable, given that hundreds of women were raped under his watch, before being burned alive during the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. “While we will continue to work towards accountability for the Gujarat pogrom, our broader struggle is to educate Americans about the dangers posed by the Hindu supremacist ideology and to uphold India’s secular ethos,” said Dr. Raja Swamy, also a CAG spokesperson.

The case against Mr. Modi has only been heard by a lower court, that ignored findings of national and international human rights organizations about state complicity. Numerous whistle-blowers, human rights activists and investigative journalists have documented evidence of Mr. Modi’s complicity in the pogrom. Ex-Deputy Inspector General of Police, D. G. Vanzara has gone on record stating that fake encounter killings in Gujarat were carried out with Mr. Modi’s knowledge and sanction.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has raised serious concerns on continued violations of religious freedom in Gujarat, and lack of any concrete steps to address the issues that led to the revocation of Mr. Modi’s visa in 2005. On the other hand religious minorities in the state of Gujarat have been effectively reduced to second class citizens in the 12 years following the 2002 pogrom. The Coalition Against Genocide is composed of a diverse group of US-based organizations and individuals that have come together in response to the Gujarat genocide to demand accountability and justice.

http://twocircles.net/2014feb15/coalition_against_genocide_flays_hype_over_us_ambassador%E2%80%99s_meeting_modi.html

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Ishrat case: Second charge sheet leaves a lot unanswered (Feb 12, 2014, DNA India)

Why did the CBI not name former joint director of subsidiary intelligence bureau (IB), Rajinder Kumar as accused in the July 2013 charge sheet when it had all call data records and other evidences in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case? This and many other such questions come to the mind after the supplementary charge sheet has been filed. The central probe body has clearly mentioned that it will obtain sanction of prosecution of the accused IB official from competent authority under the Arms Act. However, it implies that it needs the district magistrate’s nod under section 39 of Arms Act and not from ministry of home affairs to question Kumar. Section 39 under the Arms Act mandates sanction of the district magistrate necessary in certain cases. “No prosecution shall be instituted against any person in respect of any offence under Section 3 without the previous sanction of the district magistrate,” the law reads.

Meanwhile, controversy surrounding supplementary charge sheet will not die down soon. While the CBI filed the supplementary charge sheet last week naming Kumar as conspirator and murderer in the case, his counsel is making rounds in the power corridors questioning the motives behind the charge sheet. On the other hand, the charge sheet is still with judge HS Khutwad, who is verifying it and hence not allowing the accused or the prosecution access it. Other questions that comes to mind is why, despite all evidences like call data records (CDR) in possession of the CBI, IB official Rajinder Kumar was not named as an accused in the first charge sheet filed in the case in July 2013? Detailed look at the gist of the supplementary charge sheet and the original reveals that the CBI had all necessary evidences to name him as an accused in the first charge sheet itself. The supplementary charge sheet nails him only on basis of the CDR that was also mentioned in the first charge sheet.

Other corroborative evidences that talk about Kumar’s role in getting arms and weapons that were handed over to GL Singhal (one of the accused) and then to Tarun Barot was also narrated, at length, in the first charge sheet itself. That takes us to the next question whether CBI was waiting to get permission to prosecute Kumar. Submissions before the court in supplementary charge sheet suggest that that is not the case. CBI maintains that in case of Rajinder Kumar, it does not need such permission under the Criminal Procedure Code. In the gist of the charge sheet, the probe body talks about obtaining permission from competent authority (read district magistrate) in the Arms Act only. “The sanction would be obtained from competent authority under the prosecution of Section 39 of Arms Act on receipt of the same, it would be submitted to the court,” charge sheet reads.

http://www.dnaindia.com/ahmedabad/report-ishrat-case-second-charge-sheet-leaves-a-lot-unanswered-1961547

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Arrest RSS chief, probe all attacks in past decade: Muslim organizations (Feb 12, 2014, Times of India)

Over half-a-dozen Muslim organizations have demanded the arrest of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and a fresh probe into all terrorist attacks in the country in the past decade. Clerics and community leaders said this was necessary after Aseemanand, who has masterminded several terror attacks and is currently imprisoned, recently told a magazine that Bhagwat was aware of the plots to plant bombs in Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express and Ajmer Dargah. After the publication of the interview, Aseemanand reportedly retracted his statements even as the magazine stood by its story.

“After Malegaon bomb blasts in 2006, we had said it was the handiwork of Hindutva terrorists. The agencies didn’t listen to us, but former ATS chief Hemant Karkare exposed the involvement of Hindutva terrorists. Then Aseemanand confessed his crime and now in an interview he has said Bhagwat knew about the conspiracy. Bhagwat should be arrested,” said Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari, president of Malegaon-based Kul Jamati Tanzeem, an organization that fight for “innocents” arrested in Malegaon blasts cases. He said his organization would file move HC for the arrest of Bhagwat and demanded Rs 50 lakh as compensation to each person acquitted.

Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi of All India Ulema Council said the government should initiate a judicial probe into the blasts which Aseemanand has confessed he mastermindedd and many of his members in the Hindutva parivar executed.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/30239087.cms

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Gir Somnath SDM files complaint against a woman for converting to Islam ‘illegally’ (Feb 10, 2014, Indian Express)

The sub-divisonal magistrate (SDM) of Veraval in Gir Somnath district has lodged a complaint against a woman from the district’s Talala taluka for allegedly converting to Islam illegally and getting married to a Muslim man. Bhagvan Virani, the SDM of Veraval, lodged a complaint with Talala police on Friday against Manju Shevra, a resident of Shemalia village of Talala. In the complaint, the SDM alleged that Shevra, a Hindu, converted to Islam in July last year without seeking prior permission from the district magistrate, an act in contravention of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003. The 23-year-old woman then got married to Ismail Mir, also a resident of Shemalia. The couple is now living in Dhari taluka of the neighbouring Amreli district.

“The woman’s mother approached the district magistrate after the marriage. On orders of the district magistrate, we conducted an inquiry into the matter and summoned the couple. During hearing, Shevra admitted she had not sought prior permission of the DM to change her religion nor was she aware of this legal requirement. However, her action constituted an offence and, therefore, we have lodged the police complaint,” Virani said on Sunday.

On the basis of the SDM’s complaint, Talala police have booked Shevra under Section 5 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003. The section mandates prior permission of the District Magistrate with respect to conversion and provides for a year in jail and fine up to Rs1,000 for breach of the law. “As of now, we have registered the complaint. We are investigating if the conversion took place at all. Shevra and Mir are adult and, therefore, free to marry according to their will. But we are also checking the legality of their marriage,” Talala circle police inspector Mehmood Chopda, who is investigating the case, said.

Police said the couple had declared their marriage in a notarised statement in Dhari. Police sources said the couple were neighbours in Shemalia village and had fallen in love three years ago. After getting married, they were working as farm labourers in Dhari.

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/gir-somnath-sdm-files-complaint-against-a-woman-for-converting-to-islam-illegally/

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Arrest of minorities: Policemen to be pulled up for mala fide action (Feb 12, 2014, The Hindu)

The government on Wednesday has warned of “strict and prompt” action against erring police officers for mala fide arrest of any member from a minority community. Giving details of a letter written by the Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on September 30, 2013 to all chief ministers, Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh said in the Rajya Sabha that Mr. Shinde had urged all law enforcement agencies to be sensitised to communal harmony while ensuring zero tolerance for terrorism by any person or group, irrespective of their community. “In cases of mala fide arrest of any member of a minority community by law enforcement agencies, strict and prompt action should be taken against erring police officers,” the letter said.

The Home Minister told chief ministers that wrongfully arrested persons should not only be released forthwith, but should be suitably compensated and rehabilitated to join the mainstream in order to lead a normal life of dignity. The Chief Ministers have been told to set up special courts in consultation with the concerned high courts for trial of terror-related cases on a day-to-day basis. Special public prosecutors should be appointed for trial of terror cases and these cases should take precedence over other cases of pending trial before such special courts.

“The government of India is committed to its core principle of combating terrorism, in every form and manifestation. No ground, real or imaginary, can justify an act of terror. Terrorism does not have any colour or religion. The government does not discriminate against any caste or religion and everybody is equal before the law,” Mr.Singh said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/arrest-of-minorities-policemen-to-be-pulled-up-for-mala-fide-action/article5680790.ece

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Penguin’s withdrawal of The Hindus causes international outcry (Feb 13, 2014, The Guardian)

Major authors from Arundhati Roy to William Dalrymple and Neil Gaimanhave condemned Penguin’s controversial removal of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus from circulation in India, a withdrawal which has been described as an “egregious violation of free speech” and “deplorable” by the international literary community.

The decision is “shocking, appalling, dreadful and entirely negative,” Dalrymple told the Guardian, while Roy, the Booker prize-winning author of The God of Small Things, has called on Penguin to explain why it “caved in”. Doniger’s widely praised book was pulled from India following a lawsuit from the Hindu group Shiksha Bachao Andolan accusing the University of Chicago professor of “hurt[ing] the religious feelings of millions of Hindus” – a violation of the Indian penal code which prohibits “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”. …

The move immediately triggered an avalanche of protest. The Indian branch of writers’ organisation PEN said that “choosing to settle the matter out of court, instead of challenging an adverse judgment, narrows India’s intellectual discourse and significantly undermines freedom of expression”, adding: “The removal of books from our bookshops, bookshelves, and libraries, whether through state-sanctioned censorship, private vigilante action, or publisher capitulation are all egregious violations of free speech that we shall oppose in all forms at all times.”

In an open letter to Penguin India – her own publisher – published in the Times of India, Roy predicted there would “soon no doubt be protesters gathered outside your office, expressing their dismay” at the pulping of The Hindus. She asked Penguin – which has yet to respond to requests for comment on its decision – “what is it that scared you so”, adding: “What are we to make of this? Must we now write only pro-Hindutva books? Or risk being pulled off the bookshelves … and pulped?” …

The withdrawal has already sent The Hindus: An Alternative History soaring up the bestseller charts, a consequence which “may not have been the outcome that the people who tried to get it suppressed had hoped for,” according to the novelist Neil Gaiman. “The solution to a book you don’t like is to explain why you don’t like it, point out its flaws, write your own book,” said Gaiman on his blog. “It’s not to get the book pulped because it offends you. Even if you think it’s bad. Especially if you think it’s bad.”

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/13/penguin-withdrawal-hindus-arundhati-roy-neil-gaiman

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RSS workers stop screening of ‘Ocean of Tears’ at film festival (Feb 15, 2014, Times of India)

Activists of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) forcefully stopped the screening of ‘Ocean of Tears’, a Kashmiri documentary film on Friday afternoon at the ninth edition of the ViBGYOR international short and documentary film festival being held in Thrissur. The film was later screened after police removed the activists from the theatre hall. A dozen activists of RSS, shouting Vande Mataram, barged into the regional theatre hall and tried to destroy the projection screen, projector and other equipment at 6.20pm, about 10 minutes into the beginning of the film, directed by Bilal A Jan.

However, the wild act of the RSS men was aptly resisted by the 400-odd spectators, who unitedly protested against the saffron outfits by shouting ‘RSS go back’. BJP state cell coordinator B Gopalakrishnan, had on Thursday, demanded that the organizers of the film festival not to screen ‘Ocean of Tears’, alleging that the movie maligned the image of Indian Army.

Earlier, the assistant commissioner of police (Thrissur city) Hari Sankar had personally visited the venue to ensure smooth screening of the movie. The police authorities had also watched the movie on Friday well before the movie was screened and had deputed cops and shadow police for security inside and outside the theatre hall.

Though all the spectators were allowed to enter regional theatre only after thorough screening, the protesters jumped the compound walls to enter the theatre hall. The festival organizers, at the same time, alleged that police made way for the protesters before and after the issue was broken out.

RSS men demolished hoardings and banners displayed in the entrance of the regional theatre during their protest and destroyed the compound gate. Police authorities also let the protesters leave the venue without arresting them at the spot. Film directors and social activists criticised the RSS men’s act as ‘cultural fascism’ and as an attempt to prevent the screening of the movie as a violation of fundamental right of free expression and creative freedom.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2014-02-15/india/47358357_1_rss-men-film-festival-rashtriya-swayamsevak-sangh

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Fresh probe on allegations against BJP MLA in Rudrapur riots (Feb 13, 2014, Times of India)

BJP MLA Rajkumar Thukral, main accused in the 2011 Rudrapur riots, has some respite with the Uttarakhand assembly on Wednesday ordering a fresh probe into all allegations against the tainted legislator from Rudrapur. Thukral was declared an absconder by a local court and Uttarakhand police even announced a cash reward for his arrest.

The announcement was made by assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal after opposition BJP members created a ruckus over the issue forcing several adjournments in the assembly on the opening day of the budget session. The opposition insisted that Thukral was innocent and had been framed.

A high level house panel, comprising senior government leaders and the opposition, will reinvestigate the police case against Thukral and submit its final report before the house within a month. Leader of opposition Ajay Bhatt said the initial FIR lodged in the case does not mention the MLA and that his name was inserted in a conspiracy seven months later.

Thukral has been on the run ever since a non-bailable warrant was issued against him about three months ago. Four people were killed and sixty injured in the communal frenzy that broke out after torn pages of a holy book were found outside a place of worship in Rudrapur.

The state police had, in January, attached several properties owned by Thukral and slapped charges under the Criminal Law Amendment (CLA) Act and other sections of the IPC on him for alleged murder, attempt to murder, rioting, arson and criminal intimidation.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/30353571.cms

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Rape charges loom over 70 Delhi cops (Feb 8, 2014, Yahoo)

It’s a perfect example of protectors turning into predators. Around 100 policemen were found involved in rape and molestation cases in the Capital over the last 10 years. The disgrace doesn’t end there. Policemen, who are duty-bound to protect citizens, were also held for attempting gang rape. Shockingly, despite charges as serious as rapes and molestation, most of these policemen have managed to secure bail and are posted at several police stations across the Capital. Be it posh locality or down town of the city, most of them are placed on field.

In a reply to an RTI, it was found that around 70 policemen were found to be accused of rapes. “The documents revealed that most of the accused policemen are still serving with Delhi Police,” said RTI activist Rajhans Bansal – a resident of Rohini – who had filed the RTI query. There are about 30 policemen slapped with molestation and eve-teasing charges as well, the RTI reply has revealed. According to the information provided by the Delhi Police, from 2009 to 2013, there has been a drastic increase in policemen’s involvement in rape. “The figures suggest that in last five years, number of rape and molestation cases involving police has increased tremendously,” Bansal said.

However, last year for the first time two policemen were dismissed and arrested for attempting to sexually assault an underprivileged juvenile girl at northwest Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar. The accused constables – Amit Tomar and Gurjinder Singh – were arrested and dismissed. Tomar had found three underprivileged juvenile girls, including the victim, loitering near Vikaspuri Police Lines in west Delhi. He had lured them with some ‘financial help’ and took them to his friend Gurjinder Singh’s accommodation at Kingsway Camp. There, he had tried to rape the juvenile.

Besides the duo, two more police officers were found to be accused of rape last year. Worsening the sad situation, some days ago a sub-inspector was accused of raping a 19-year-old girl in Saket on the pretext of marriage. The accused officer is absconding.

http://in.news.yahoo.com/rape-charges-loom-over-70-delhi-cops-055927071.html

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Opinions and Editorials

An apology can hide culpability, not provide closure to victims of either 2002 or 1984 riots – By Pavan K Varma (Feb 15, 2014, Times of India)

A deeply sorry game is unfolding in the country: the art of how to say sorry without any real sense of remorse. It is premised on a simple stratagem: the indication of anguish for the sake of form, of saying sorry for ritualistic reasons, perfunctorily, as something to be somehow done because it is politically expedient or because elections are round the corner. Saying sorry in this cynical game is about hiding culpability, of escaping guilt rather than accepting responsibility.

There is a further twist to the sorry game. This involves expressing great regret for the crime committed by the ‘other’ in order to deflect the evidence of the crime committed by you. Thus, if Congress attacks BJP for the horrible massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, BJP responds by accusing Congress for having done the same with Sikhs in Delhi in 1984. It is assumed that the enormity of one crime is diluted or negated by citing another. In this despicable game of abusive name-calling, the word sorry is bandied about with heartless abandon, like a handy brick to be hurled at political opponents without the slightest feeling of shame or repentance.

Close to 3,000 Sikhs were killed in the 1984 riots in Delhi alone. There is incontrovertible evidence that the police stood by as the massacre unfolded and that Congress workers and leaders were involved in inciting the mobs to kill, rape and loot, a fact admitted by Rahul Gandhi in a recent interview to Times Now, but for which he did not think it fit to apologise. Congress is guilty of the fact that in the triumphalism of Rajiv Gandhi’s historic victory in the December 1984 elections, the plight of the riot victims was forgotten. Not a word of apology or regret or anguish was officially expressed for more than two decades subsequently. … Last year, on December 27, Narendra Modi wrote a lengthy blog in which he said that he was “shaken to the core” by the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat and “suffered in solitude”. In a liberal use of every word in the dictionary synonymous with sorrow he wrote: “Grief, sadness, misery, pain, anguish, agony — mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity.” It was literary eloquence no doubt but one cannot be faulted for asking that if this was his state of anguish, why did he take more than a decade after the incident to express it? Anguish is a spontaneous emotion. It neither needs to be nor can it remain bottled up for such a long time. …

The legal process must play its full course. Decisions of lower courts are appealable. Ministers suspected of being involved cannot get away merely by the ‘punishment’ of denying them tickets for elections. Judicial retribution may take time but the law has a long arm. Those who seek its refuge are entitled to fight their cause for justice and compel the establishment to hear them. If their plea for justice is not heard, or is subverted or brushed aside, the spectre of communal violence will continue to haunt us. And while political leaders may continue to play the sorry game whenever it suits them, the people of India will have much to be sorry about.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/30411932.cms

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RSS/BJP Unleashes a Charade on the Indian People – Editorial (Feb 16, 2014, Peoples Democracy)

The RSS/BJP and its PM aspirant’s desperation at the possible emergence of a combination of secular opposition parties – non-Congress, non-BJP – in the run up to the 2014 general elections has reached a new crescendo. A litany of epithets have been unleashed which should be considered unbecoming by anybody, particularly by somebody who is self-proclaimed by the RSS/BJP as India’s future prime minister. Some of his comments denouncing the ‘third front’ as ‘third rate’ have drawn a spontaneous response that such comments can come only from a ‘third rate’ mindset!

Sections of India Inc. and their mentors, the international finance capital, appear equally worried at the prospect of their apple cart being upset. This is because they see in the RSS/BJP’s PM nominee the best hope, a la Hitlerite fascism in post-1939 Great Depression Germany, for maximising profits at the expense of heaping increased economic exploitation on the people and the complete abrogation of freedoms by unleashing fascistic repression. They were hoping for unhindered imposition of neo-liberal reforms imposing greater economic burdens on the people. The fears that such a process may face roadblocks has now prompted an international credit rating agency, whose name sounds chillingly similar to the RSS/BJP PM hopeful, Moody’s, to predict such an alternative possibility as a disaster.

This the Indian media has widely reported, “Third front government may delay economic reforms: Moody’s” (Times of India, February 12, 2014). The agency spokesman in India said so in a comment titled, “Post-election India: A fragmented coalition will be the biggest threat to credit quality”. Need anything further be said? What is in store for India and its people, in the case of such an eventuality of the RSS/BJP triumphing in 2014 elections, thus, is not only the sharpening of communal polarisation but the heaping of economic miseries on the vast mass of our people.

In tune with this, the RSS has unleashed a charade on the Indian people trying to camouflage this eventuality. Its public campaign is ostensibly pitched on the issues of development and prosperity. The real target remains advancing the RSS vision of a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra’ agenda by sharpening communal polarisation. Such duplicity is in evidence all around. The first day of the current parliament session saw the BJP successfully stall the introduction of the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill (PCVB) on the grounds that this violated federalism – a basic feature of our constitution. …

All these apart, we are now being told by the RSS/BJP to forget 2002 and move ahead towards a prosperous future under their prime ministerial aspirant. To our secular, democratic, republic and our people, justice continues to be denied since the 2002 Gujarat carnage, cancerously festering the wounds. Our republic can be cleansed and strengthened only when justice is delivered in all cases of this communal pogrom and in all others, where justice continues to be delayed, hence denied. …

http://pd.cpim.org/2014/0216_pd/02162014_edit.html

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Some Old Footfalls? – By Prarthna Gahilote (Feb 24, 2014, Outlook)

Twenty-two kilometres ahead of Pune city, on National Highway 8, leading to Aurangabad, Fulgaon is a small, missable turn on the left. For three days, starting February 8, senior members of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), mostly editors of its nine publications such as the official Sangh mouthpiece Panchjanya and Organiser, published countrywide, have been holed up in a picturesque hill-top military school here, the Netaji Subhaschandra Bose Sainiki Shala, reviewing and discussing the literature printed by their various journals. On February 10, the final day of the ‘Editor’s Guild’, when Outlook reached Fulgaon for an audience with the organisation’s prachar pramukh or media chief, Manmohan Vaidya, the concluding session has already stretched beyond scheduled hours, eating into lunch time. As we wait outside, behind closed doors, the wise men of the Sangh are into their last set of deliberations. Pinned on the notice-board outside the meeting room is a detailed typed schedule of the discussions going on inside.…

But it seems business as usual in balmy Fulgaon, a world away from the cold confines of the Ambala jail, where long-time RSS associate Swami Aseemanand, accused in the Samjhauta Express and Mecca Masjid blasts, first made startling revelations to a journalist from the Caravan magazine, suggesting RSS chief Bhagwat’s involvement in terror activities and later denying the same in a hand-written letter. Sangh members emerging from the conference are unfazed by the renewed media attention on the RSS, even as everyone present on the campus makes apparent their knowledge of the impending Outlook interview with media chief Vaidya.

The latter, incidentally, was the prant pracharak of Gujarat in 2005 when Aseemanand claims to have apprised Bhagwat (then a general secretary with the organisation) of the terror attacks that he had planned in a meeting held near Surat. As state in-charge, it was Vaidya who was responsible for Bhagwat’s attendance in the RSS conclave held in Gujarat in 2005 but he maintains that “no meeting between Swami Aseemanand and Mohan Bhagwat happened in 2005, before or after the conclave”. Queries to other participants of the editors’ meet over possible worry over Aseemanand’s interview are repeatedly met with a standard “Swami Aseemanand has since denied the interview. Have you not seen his letter?”

Predictably, as in the past, the Sangh is once again countering allegations of terror activities with its favourite weapon: denial. … Given this, if the RSS is anxious over Aseemanand’s admissions, it’s not showing it. But it must worry. … The trouble for the Sangh comes at various levels. For one, as a former ideologue put it, “the Sangh will forever have to fight the allegations against Bhagwat. No RSS chief has ever been accused of being involved in a terror activity directly or indirectly. They should fear a ban on the RSS even if they think a favourable result for the NDA should see them through the crisis.”

For now, as insiders in the BJP confirm, Aseemanand’s confession immediately makes the RSS “a liability for the party”. The BJP, struggling hard to shed its own image of a Hindu hardline outfit, could well do without an added accusation of terror activities against its ideological fountainhead. Senior leaders in the party told Outlook, “We can’t abandon the RSS and will continue to make a case for their innocence but this new development has come as a huge embarrassment. We will have to explain ourselves every time Aseemanand is mentioned. This is not what we want in an election year.” …

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?289490

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Pulped, Though Not Fiction – By G Vishnu (Feb 22, 2014, Tehelka)

Some are calling it the silencing of liberal India. After a four-year court battle, Penguin India that had published the The Hindus: An Alternative Historyin 2009, succumbed to pressure and agreed to settle out-of-court with Dinanath Batra, the Delhi-based petitioner who had sought to get the book withdrawn. The 683-page tome of scholarly and allegedly revisionist observations on evolution of Hinduism by Wendy Doniger, a US-based scholar on religions, now stands withdrawn (though it’s available on the Internet). Apart from incensing guardians of free speech, the virtual ban on the book has also raised a major legal question regarding the categorisation of Indian epics as myths catering to the Hindu faith or part of civilisational history. Also disturbing is the question of what constitutes religious belief and potential projectiles that could hurt such beliefs.

As news on The Hindus trickled out of publishing circles, the agreement the Penguin signed was also made public on Scribd. “The second party shall with immediate effect recall and withdraw all copies of the book The Hindus: An Alternative History written by Wendy Doniger from the Bharat…That all the recalled/withdrawn/unsold copies of ‘the book’ shall be pulped…”, it read. A notable clause in the agreement was also a submission by Penguin that it “respects all religions worldwide”, which amounted to accepting that publishing The Hinduswas, in a manner, disrespectful of a religion.

Doniger, 73, a Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School, is a prominent scholar on Sanskrit texts as well as a supporter of the idea of Hinduism when juxtaposed with Ambedkar’s rejection of the religious grouping. She has worked with AK Ramanujan, whose bookThree Hundred Rāmāyanas, a seminal work on multiple narratives of various Ramayanas found in the Indian subcontinent had also offended Hindutva groups. She has been assertive of tolerance of plurality as being one of the strongest strains of Hinduism. Other critics of her work have questioned the wisdom behind subjecting characters of Indian epics to psychoanalysis and over-reading supposed sexual undercurrents in the Sanskrit texts.…

http://www.tehelka.com/pulped-though-not-fiction/

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Indian student’s extrajudicial killing case shakes up the system – By Leela Jacinto (Feb 10, 2014, France24.com)

Shortly before dawn on June 15, 2004, a Muslim female student and three men were led to a deserted road in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad and shot dead by police officers, according to charges filed by India’s top investigation agency. Initial news reports featured a shocking picture of Ishrat Jahan, the 19-year-old student, dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez, lying near a road divider next to the bloodied corpses of the three other men.

Jahan and the three men, the early reports noted, were suspected members of the banned, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group on a mission to kill Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat. The police claimed they were shot in an armed exchange. But an enquiry by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) found the four victims were picked up separately, killed in custody, and weapons were arranged to make it look like there was shooting on both sides.

Almost a decade later, “the Ishrat Jahan case” – as the high-profile investigation came to be called – inched a step further last week, when the CBI filed charges against four intelligence officials in connection with the extrajudicial killing. The charges mark a symbolic step in a long-fought struggle by activists, victims’ families and legal professionals against extrajudicial killings in a country where “fake encounters” are all too common and security services are often protected by laws engendering a widespread culture of impunity.

“It’s a very important development because too often only junior police officials are punished, without holding those responsible to account for actually conspiring or condoning such killings,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “If officials from the intelligence bureau are also prosecuted, it will send a strong message that the state will not go back on accountability.” Ten years ago, when the news of Jahan’s killing first hit the headlines, few would have imagined that the death of a Muslim teenager hailing from India’s struggling lower middle classes could shake up the system.

But the Ishrat Jahan case has underscored the excesses and cover-ups being made in India’s fight against terrorism. It has also exposed the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the country’s domestic intelligence agency, which has functioned in a constitutional vacuum since it was founded in 1887 under British colonialism. Finally, as the world’s largest democracy heads for critical general elections later this year, the case threatens to wittingly or unwittingly ensnare the man who could be India’s next prime minister. …

http://www.france24.com/en/20140210-india-extrajudicial-killing-ishrat-jahan-politics-human-rights/

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Parliament is shamed – Editorial (Feb 14, 2014, Indian Express)

The august Lok Sabha turned into the arena for a brawl on Thursday, when the Telangana bill was tabled. Some dissent was expected from Seemandhra MPs, but nobody expected it to take the outrageous form it did, with expelled Congress MP from Vijayawada, L. Rajagopal, whipping out a can of pepper spray and firing it at fellow legislators. Parliamentary privilege does not allow MPs to be frisked on entry, it is perhaps time to reconsider that immunity. MPs physically attacked each other in the well of the Lok Sabha, damaged microphones, broke glasses, and snatched the speaker’s papers. It was a sad day for Parliament.

It was also a dismal Congress versus Congress tableau. The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh was always going to be an acrimonious process. But its playing out as a raucous intra-party battle in the House mirrors the party’s slow-motion failure to provide judgement and leadership on the issue, at every step. The Congress cannot claim to have been taken by surprise – the political divisions on the issue were evident. Those from Telangana see statehood as the culmination of a struggle for selfhood as long as the history of independent India.

Those from Seemandhra resist the division with equal force – as a move that will affect commerce and livelihoods, access to water, power, the future of their capital. Political equations were also bound to be upset, and no one appeared to have as much to lose as Seemandhra politicians from the Congress. Yet the top Congress leadership failed to either anticipate and manage the escalation of tensions, or make the proposed partition as painless as possible by drawing in the two sides for a dialogue on questions of resource sharing.

Most of all, it failed to convey to its own party members that the decision on statehood was absolute. From the first moment of capitulation in 2009, and through the years of stalling since, the Congress has failed to impress upon its own members that it truly believes in Telangana. It did not explain the basis on which Telangana’s aspirations justified a separate state while other equally intense agitations for separate statehood are denied.

And having decided to go through with its decision, it did not immediately start working out the terms of separation. Till the end, Seemandhra MPs and MLAs led petitions to the Congress leadership, conveying to their constituents that things might still go their way. In all these years of dithering, the Congress looked like it wanted to play it both ways, until it abruptly sealed the deal on the brink of the general election. This implosion within its ranks now speaks of the Congress’s failure of political leadership.

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/parliament-is-shamed/

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Book Review

The Fiction of Fact-finding: Modi and Godhra

Author: Manoj Mitta
Reviewed by: Siddharth Varadarajan
Available at: HarperCollins Publishers India, A 53, Sector 57, Noida, UP, India, Pages 259, Price INR599.http://www.amazon.in/
Review:
Inscribed In Cold-Hearted Ink (Feb 24, 2014, Outlook)

That the upper echelons of the Indian establishment are filled with grand little men of feeble integrity or diminished competence – and sometimes even both qualifications – is one of the country’s best-kept official secrets. … The very fact that our governments and courts regularly set up commissions of inquiry, task forces and special investigation teams itself testifies to the breakdown of governance on an almost routine basis. The fact that these commissions and investigation teams invariably fail to indict the guilty or even tell us the truth suggests something even more disturbing: that more often than not, the violence and lawlessness being probed are the product of players and processes deeply embedded in the system. Those in charge of the ‘fact–finding’ exercise know they cannot be exposed or sanctioned without jeopardising the edifice of a State that rests on pillars of impunity.

So a Justice M.S. Liberhan can take two decades investigating the demolition of the 1992 Babri Masjid only to produce a report of shabby and breathtaking pointlessness. Justice G.T. Nanavati has already spent more than 11 years running his commission of inquiry into the 2002 Gujarat riots and there is no end in sight to his noble exertions. Despite the fact that his terms of reference include probing the role, if any, that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi might have played, the learned judge has decided there is no need to question or cross–examine him before the commission. Several commissions have looked into the 1984 pogrom against the Sikhs – including one by the same Nanavati who willingly took time off the 2002 probe in order to conduct and finish the 1984 one in double–quick time – but the politicians and policemen who allowed over 3,000 innocent people to be massacred are still beyond the reach of the law.

The Fiction of Fact–Finding is the first book–length analysis I have read that has attempted to subject this sinister modus operandi of the Indian State to detailed judicial forensics. Manoj Mitta, a respected journalist with the Times of India, has made ample use of his own legal background to tell a gripping tale of the manner in which the special investigation team (SIT), set up by the Supreme Court and headed by former CBI chief R.K. Raghavan, to probe the worst incidents of the 2002 Gujarat riots, chose the path of least resistance. Of course, the most celebrated – or controversial – of its findings has been the ‘clean chit’ it gave Modi when it concluded that there were no grounds to proceed against the chief minister. But its closure report contains other important findings or omissions that have a bearing on the role of the police and administration.

While it is tempting for Modi’s critics to simply dismiss the SIT report as biased or subjective or irrelevant, Mitta has gone down into the weeds, parsing the voluminous – and, it has to be said, shoddy, text – in order to understand its logic and reasoning. His findings are as shocking as they are distressing. Con¬sider the manner in which Modi himself was interrogated by the SIT. The authenticated transcript reveals a static question-and-answer session in which the SIT’s interrogator runs through a list of questions, many of them excellent ones, without ever challenging Modi’s answers, asking a follow-up question or confronting him with evidence from documents and depositions in the SIT’s possession that contradict what the chief minister was saying. …

Mitta shows us how Modi is allowed to baldly deny having played any role in the incendiary decision to hand the bodies of the Godhra train fire victims to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – the very organisation that had called for a Gujarat-wide bandh and unleashed violence across the state on February 28, 2002. This despite documentary evidence that undermined his claim. Another poorly phrased question allowed Modi to conveniently bury the fact that he had called the Godhra incident an act of terrorism, an inflammatory characterisation his government was eventually forced to back away from in the absence of evidence. No attempt was made to properly interrogate Modi for his disturbing anti-Muslim hate speech in Becharaji in September 2002 during his ‘Gaurav Yatra’ when there were Gujarat government files showing that the home department, which he directly controlled, had tried to hide the incriminating transcript from the Natio¬nal Human Rights Commission (NHRC). … Sadly, neither the court nor its amicus curiae was able to properly monitor and audit the manner in which Raghavan and the SIT went about their business. The SIT’s closure report has been accepted by the magistrate’s court but will be challenged in the superior courts. Mitta’s book tells us coldly and precisely why the report is a travesty.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?289486

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