IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 14th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Announcements

Indian Americans condemn culture of hate speech, call for uniform application of the law

Friday January 11, 2013

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – http://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has expressed its unequivocal condemnation of the inflammatory and provocative language used by Mr. Akbaruddin Owaisi, a member of the Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly, at a public rally on December 24, 2012. IAMC has also called upon the state and central governments to apply the law uniformly to all such cases of speech that seeks to denigrate or ridicule any group of people, their religion or culture.

The right of free speech, guaranteed under article 19(1) of the Constitution of India, is subject to “reasonable restriction” under article 19(2). Such restrictions can be imposed in the interest of public order, decency or morality. Mr. Owaisi’s apparent ridiculing of Hindu deities not only threatens public order and breeches the norms of civil behavior, it also represents a violation of the Qur’anic injunction to desist from denigrating other religions.

Unfortunately, a culture of hate speech has been perpetuated for many years, due to the unwillingness of successive governments to confront this malaise in our public discourse. Mr. Praveen Togadia (VHP), Sadhvi Rithambara (RSS, Durga Vahini), Mr. L.K. Advani and Mr. Narendra Modi (BJP) and the late Mr. Bal Thackeray (Shiv Sena) are only a few among many that have persistently engaged in precisely the same kind of rabble-rousing rhetoric that Mr. Owaisi is being rightly pulled up for. Their words and actions have resulted in sectarian riots leading to the loss of thousands of lives, and the blighting of relations between communities, with no consequences to them on account of their actions.

“If hate speech had been consistently punished according to law, Mr. Owaisi would not have dared to engage in the kind of incendiary rhetoric that pits one community against another,” said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. “Absence of any prosecution against other hate-mongers will only reinforce the perception that the administration is active in invoking laws selectively, based on sectarian and political considerations,” added Mr. Khan.

IAMC has also called upon liberal activists to introspect on the implications of defending insults against religion heaped by individuals like Tasleema Nasreen and Salman Rushdie under the guise of free speech, while condemning sectarian zealots for similar provocations. Ridiculing that which is held sacred by any group of people can only lead to alienation, acrimony and the tearing apart of the nation’s social fabric.

The sectarian hate espoused by Pravin Togadia, Narendra Modi, Varun Gandhi and Akbaruddin is not representative of the majority of India’s Hindus and Muslims, who share a long and rich tradition of peaceful coexistence. IAMC appeals to the public to reject the divisive agenda of hate-mongers, and to strengthen grassroots efforts that promote communal amity.

Indian-American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.

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

References:

1. Hate Speech: Akbaruddin Owaisi arrested, police begin questioning
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-08/hyderabad/36215317_1_akbaruddin-owaisi-mim-akbar-owaisi

2. Boycott Muslims In India Says Indian Hindu Extremist
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N55TTGLgS4k

3. Praveen Togadia’s speech about Bhagyalakshmi Mandir at Charminar
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKM3jWPaMKk

4. Praveen Togadia’s provocative speech against Muslims
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bNFN5j0dAU

5. SP plans to drop cases against Varun, angers its own Muslim leaders
http://www.deccanherald.com/content/292506/sp-plans-drop-cases-against.html

6. Maharaja Dharmendra’s hate speech in Hyderabad
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fLiw3SBJjg

CONTACT:
Indian American Muslim Council
Ishaq Syed
Phone: (800) 839-7270
Email: info@iamc.com

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6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
phone/fax: 1-800-839-7270
email: info@iamc.com
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2002 post-Godhra riots: Nanavati commission orders probe into Sanjiv Bhatt’s allegations (Jan 10, 2013, Times of India)

The Nanavati commission, which is probing the 2002 post-Godhra riots, on Wednesday ordered a high-level inquiry into the alleged destruction of documents. Heeding the demand by suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, the commission ordered the setting up of a committee comprising home secretary M D Antani and additional director general of police (ADGP), State Arms Unit, Tirthraj. The committee has been asked to report back within three weeks.

Bhatt has been demanding 47-odd documents from the state intelligence bureau (SIB), where he was posted during the time of the 2002 riots. He maintains that he should be provided these documents, and on the basis of them, he could portray a clear picture on how the government machinery abetted the riots. The government did not respond to Bhatt. After Gujarat high court’s intervention, the inquiry commission headed by Justice (retd) G T Nanavati asked the government to furnish the documents Bhatt demanded for the purpose of inquiry. However, the government came up with a few documents and claimed that it had destroyed some documents in routine course, while it cannot part with some others. Bhatt demanded an inquiry into this issue. The commission ordered an inquiry with consent from the state government.

The commission has asked the committee to find out whether eight documents, including Pink Envelope Reports sent to chief minister Narendra Modi by the SIB during the riots, were destroyed. The committee will look into the circumstances under which five documents were destroyed by authorities. These documents include daily summaries of intelligence sent by SIB and the department’s incoming message register.

The committee will verify the status of documents related to the State Control Bureau. These include logbooks of vehicles, dispatch registers, outgoing message registers, outgoing telephone message registers and details on staff present for duty.

Besides, the committee has been asked to verify whether Bhatt had actually submitted ‘Godhra Incident of 27/2/2002 – An Intelligence Analysis’ to the SIB, which is treated as an internal document. In 2011, Bhatt had accused Modi of telling the police force to go slow on rioters and also accused the SIT of shielding the state government. Last year, he was summoned by the panel. He now wants to depose with all available records from the SIB.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-10/india/36257313_1_nanavati-commission-sanjiv-bhatt-post-godhra-riots

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Samjhauta accused involved in 2002 Gujarat riots? (Jan 13, 2013, Times of India)

The accused in the series of blasts linked to Hindu terror had also participated in the 2002 Gujarat riots that claimed over 1,600 lives. Investigations by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) have found that some of those accused in blasts such as the Samjhauta Express, Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Dargah and Malegaon had gone to Gujarat during the 2002 riots on the instructions of slain RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi. The new revelation shows that the radicalized group’s tilt towards violence had begun much before they started exploding bombs in Muslim-dominated places like Malegaon and Hyderabad.

Sources said, Lokesh Sharma, who has been arrested in connection with the Samjhauta Express and 2006 Malegaon blasts, has revealed during interrogations that following the burning of 59 kar sevaks in a train near Godhra in February, 2002, by Muslim fundamentalists, there was lot of pent-up anger among right-wing Hindu groups even in Madhya Pradesh. As the riots broke out in Gujarat, Joshi asked Lokesh to head to Gujarat and participate in the riots, sources said. “Lokesh has said that he duly followed the orders and also killed several people during the riots as part of a mob,” said an official privy to the interrogation. Lokesh, however, is not aware if Joshi himself or others in the group also took part in the riots.

NIA, however, suspects that if Joshi had sent Lokesh, he could have asked others close to him to carry out a similar task. Other accused in NIA’s custody, however, have not revealed any information as yet on this. Rajender Chaudhary, Manohar Singh, Dhan Singh and Lokesh Sharma are in NIA custody in connection with several blasts. “Initially, however, there actions were not well organized or coordinated and most acted independently. Although, their extreme radicalization had begun after the 1992 Babri Masjiddemolition,” said the official.

However, the first recorded anti-minority crime against the group members traces back to 2001, when they had shot a nun in the face from a running bike on Ujjain-Dewas road in MP. This was followed by participation in Gujarat riots, and then lobbing a grenade at a mosque in Jammu in 2004 that led to death of two persons and 15 others getting injured. It was in 2004 that the group first got organized under the leadership of Pragya Singh Thakur, who had called the accused to Ujjain Kumbh Mela and discussed carrying out coordinated attacks on minority religious places and gatherings. What followed was a series of attacks and blasts ranging from 2005 bid on the life of acquitted accused in 2001 Parliament attack case SAR Geelani in Delhi, blasts in Malegaon in 2006, Samjhauta Express, Ajmer Dargah and Mecca Masjid in 2007, and again in Malegaon in 2008.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18001596.cms

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‘Sadiq was not a terrorist’ (Jan 14, 2013, Times of India)

Sadiq Jamal Mehtar was not a terrorist. This message seemed to resound at Musa Suhag burial ground in Shahibaug. Sadiq’s brother Shabbir Mehtar, along with senior advocate Mukul Sinha, held a meeting at the ground where he was buried after being gunned down by a city police crime branch team on January 13, 2003. “My brother was subjected to injustice and horrors that were quite like the gang rape that recently took place in Delhi. He had no connection with terrorists or underworld outfit anywhere in the world. It has been 10 years since he was gunned down by the police, I want to tell the world today that my brother never was a terrorist,” said Shabbir.

Sadiq was gunned down near Naroda. He had been accused of being part of a terrorist plot to kill Narendra Modi, L K Advani and Pravin Togadia. Sinha said, “Ten years back when Sadiq was buried here, he was branded as a terrorist. Today, we have collected here to honour him.” Convener of Jan Sangharsh Manch, Sinha, added that CBI investigations were still incomplete and the probe agency was quite far from zeroing in on the real motive behind the killing. The advocate raised several questions on the CBI investigations. “In December, 2012, the CBI submitted its chargesheet in the concerned court but that did not contain anything new. The CBI has failed to dig out the truth in this matter. Even the police officers arrested by this agency are those whose names were already in the FIR,” said Sinha.

The probe, opined Sinha, should now focus on the people who benefitted from this killing of an innocent man in a fake encounter. He added, “The central IB as well as its state counterpart here had issued an input saying that Sadiq was here in the city to trigger the terror plot. A senior IPS officer who has now retired also had sent a similar input right before the fake encounter was staged. These people should be named as accused. From Sadiq’s case of 2003 to Tulsiram Prajapati’s fake encounter in 2006, if we look at all these encounters objectively, we get a clear picture of how Gujarat police had killed various persons by framing them as terrorists.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18012579.cms

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Hindu religious leader arrested for hate speech (Jan 14, 2013, Statesman)

Hindu religious leader Swami Kamlananda Bharati has been arrested for allegedly making a hate speech against the Muslims, police here said today. Police said that Bharati was arrested on Sunday night in Srisailam, about 250 km from here. He is being brought to Hyderabad and would be produced before a court.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Hyderabad police took him into custody with regard to the cases booked against him in Mir Chowk and Dabeerpura police stations in the old city. The cases were registered on complaints made by some Muslims. The president of Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samithi, a committee fighting for protection of Hindu temples, had allegedly made offensive remarks at a rally in Hyderabad 8 January.

The rally was organised to condemn Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) leader Akbaruddin Owaisi’s hate speech against Hindus. Mr Owaisi was arrested last week. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other right wing Hindu groups have condemned Bharati’s arrest. They alleged that he was arrested on Sankranti day when he had gone to the pilgrim town of Srisaialam for performing some rituals.

http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=439210&catid=36

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Police arrest eatery owner for inciting violence in Dhule riot case (Jan 12, 2013, The Hindu)

Even as the police arrested one person on Thursday in connection with the communal violence that broke out here on January 6 following an altercation, curfew which was imposed following the violence and the ensuing police firing that claimed six lives was extended. Dhule Superintendent of Police Pradeep Deshpande said that Kishore Wagh, the owner of the Maratha mutton shop – the eatery where the scuffle broke out – was arrested for inciting violence and causing damage to property and remanded in police custody till January 13.

Meanwhile, at the Macchi Bazaar Chowk where the eatery is located, people on both sides of the “border” – as the intersection is known here – fear that peace will be difficult to come by in the town. According to the people of Dhule who are no strangers to communal violence, the feeling of frustration, fear and loss that they witnessed in riots that paralysed the city in 2008 has returned. “We don’t know whom to trust. We live right on the border with Hindu and Muslim families. Everything was fine between us, and suddenly this happened. We fled our house and ran to save our lives,” Gita Prajapati, a resident told The Hindu . She said her brother was badly hurt in the riot. “We don’t know who hit him. He has injuries on his face and hands.”

While more than 200 people, including policemen and members of the two communities, were injured in the violence, six Muslims died in the police firing, prompting Muslim leaders to allege that the police were prejudiced. As The Hindu reported earlier, the houses of both Hindus and Muslims were gutted, and property was damaged. Members of the Muslim community have alleged that the rioters indulged in arson and loot with the police support. This prompted 13 Muslim corporators to threaten to resign if the Government failed to institute a judicial inquiry into the incident.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/police-arrest-eatery-owner-for-inciting-violence-in-dhule-riot-case/article4300475.ece

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Illegal detention stigmatises youth for life: Aiyar (Jan 14, 2013, Times of India)

Calling for greater accountability from law enforcement agencies, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar outlined the plight of youngsters being illegally detained, at the third ‘National Convention against Politics of Terror’ organised by People’s Campaign against Politics of Terror (PCPT) here on Sunday. Social activists and politicians, cutting across party lines, also spoke out against the detention of Muslim youth in terror related cases.

“Many youngsters detained have lost their youth. After spending long years in prison, the courts declare them innocent. In the absence of any assistance from the government they face stigma from the community and find it difficult to make a living,” Aiyar said. Quoting a study conducted by TISS, Aiyar said 89.6 per cent of Muslim detainees are illiterate and a majority of them are aged between 18 and 30 years. Of this, 25 per cent are in abject poverty and cannot afford legal support. He also said that illegal detention pushes Muslim youth into a life of crime.

Voicing the demands of the PCPT, he said that those implicated in terror related cases should be tried without delay and if there is no evidence they should be released with a certification of innocence. They should also be given compensation to lead a decent life,” he said. The leaders also demanded a mechanism to punish officers who have been found guilty of fabricated evidence to implicate innocent youth. They demanded that such police officials should be dismissed from service.

CPM’s former MP P Madhu spoke about communal tension in Hyderabad and alleged that the government is wrongly picking innocent Muslims from Old City. Referring to communal tensions in the recent past triggered by Bhagyalakshmi temple controversy, he said that religious structures illegally constructed should be removed. Social activists drew attention to communal bias against Muslims. They said that Muslims are being seen as suspects if they practise their religion. Demand for enactment of law on the lines of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act was made by the PCPT.

Ajit Sahi, a noted journalist, spoke about the misuse of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act by the government where many organisations which were suspected for having terror links were banned. CPI’s former general secretary A B Baradhan called for extension of support and taking up the cause of injustice against tribal people along with Muslim youth. Besides demanding ameliorating the condition of Muslim youth detained in terror related cases, PCPT also stressed the need for improving overall socio-economic condition of Muslims. A helpline was also started by campaign members to assist those implicated in terror cases.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18011939.cms

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BJP member held under anti-cow slaughter law in Madhya Pradesh (Jan 14, 2013, Indian Express)

In an embarrassment for the ruling BJP, one of its leaders who was till recently an active member of its cow protection cell, has been booked under a legislation that prohibits cow slaughter. Former district convener of BJP’s cow cell Vipin Bilauha, who lives in Katni’s Gayatrinagar area, and his two accomplices, M L Jain and Kandhi Yadav, have been charged under sections 4, 6, and 9 of the MP Prohibition of Slaughter of Cow-progeny Act.

Bilauha, a Bajrang Dal activist, and the two accomplices were transporting over 150 cows and calves for slaughter from Badagaon to Ganiyari when they were stopped about 35 km from Katni. Katni SP Rajesh Hingankar told The Indian Express that the trio had fled after abandoning the cattle and were likely to be arrested soon. He said they were involved in facilitating illegal transport of cattle across borders.

Not so long ago, Bilauha and other Bajrang Dal members used to regularly raid vehicles to check if they were carrying cattle meant for cow slaughter. There were complaints that they were involved in irregularities like charging money to allow passage of cows meant for slaughter. Bilauha had been removed from the post following such complaints. Investigating Officer M P Patel said the police had been tipped by a current member of the cow protection cell about Bilauha’s activities. The impounded cattle have been kept at a nearby village.

MP last year amended the legislation making cow slaughter punishable with a seven year jail term and shifting the burden of proof to the accused. Though the law had been amended to plug loopholes exploited by the accused to make conviction difficult, there had been several complaints against right wing activists that they harassed cattle owners and raided even authorised vehicles. In fact, the idea behind the country’s first cow sanctuary, whose foundation was laid in Shajapur district recently in the presence of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, was first mooted in 2008 to shelter cattle ‘freed’ after raids by right wing organisations.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1059028/

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Have government schemes failed Muslims? (Jan 14, 2013, Times of India)

Six years ago, the Sachar Committee report showed that the Muslim community in India suffers from severe deprivations in education, employment, health services, public infrastructure, access to financial services leading to much higher poverty than other religious groups, somewhat like the condition of scheduled castes and tribes. The government responded by setting up a separate ministry for minority affairs, and launching several programs to provide benefits to the Muslims. How have these programmes fared? And, what is the condition of Muslims in the key areas that the Sachar committee had underlined? A report authored by Abusaleh Sharif, member secretary of the Sachar committee and the man widely regarded as being the main author of that committee’s report, indicates that not much has changed. The report has been released by the US-India Policy Institute of which Sharif is now the chief scholar.

In a unique exercise, Sharif has calculated that providing education to Muslim and SC/ST communities would on its own boost the GDP growth rate up to 12%. At present, Muslims contribute only 11.2% to the country’s GDP while dalits and adivasis contribute only 16.5%. This is because these communities are poorly educated and forced to work in traditional and low value creating occupations. In traditional services, the share of Muslims and SC/STs in the workforce is about 18% each while in modern services their respective shares are just 8 and 14%. Comparing NSSO data of 2004-05 with 2009-10, the report notes that in this period literacy levels of Muslim OBCs improved by 5.9 percentage points in rural areas and 5.3 points in urban areas. In the same period, literacy among dalits improved by 8.5 points in rural areas and 5.1 points in urban areas. Among tribal communities, literacy shot up by 11.3 points in rural areas and 8.6 points in urban areas. As a result, Muslims, who were earlier roughly at the same level as dalits and tribals, are now beginning to lag behind. At the class 10 level, a similar situation exists. In both rural and urban areas, the number of students clearing class 10 has increased by 13% and 11% for STs and SCs respectively in urban areas, and 10% and 9%, respectively in rural areas. For Muslims, the change is only about 5% to 7% in rural and urban areas.

The share of 17 to 29 years old youths who are in higher education has increased by just 1.6 percentage points for Muslim OBCs over the same period. For other Muslims, it has increased by a minuscule 0.8 points. Compare this with a 9.4 points increase among Hindu upper castes and 5.3 points among Hindu OBCs. The improvement in dalits and tribals are similar to the Muslims. Analysis of the nature of employment across different types of work shows that Muslims continue to be concentrated in lower paying jobs. The source of income for almost a quarter of Muslim households is self-employment in non-agricultural occupations, mainly artisanal work. Only 14% of dalits and 6% of tribals earn their living from similar occupations. Another 23% of Muslims households earn by doing agricultural labour. Among dalits and tribals, the shares are 36% for this occupation. In urban areas, over 45% of Muslims are self employed – more than any other community. They are usually involved in petty trade and various services like repair, etc. In the better paying and more secure salaried jobs, Muslims have the lowest share of all communities.

NSSO data from 2009-10 shows that in urban areas, over 88% of Muslims workers of age 15 years and above are in informal employment, the highest for any community. Muslims make up just over 6% of all government jobs, the lowest share of all communities and social groups. Government schemes like the MGNREGS meant to provide a cushion for the unemployed too seem to have bypassed the Muslim community as Muslim households made up only 2.3% of those that got work under the scheme. The report also points out that there is policy confusion about how minority communities are to be targeted for benefits under various schemes. Two sets of “minority concentration districts (MCDs)” have been flagged – one set is of 90 districts having 52% Muslim and 3.3% Christian population while the other set of 121 districts is the target of the prime minister’s 15-point programme and has 66% Muslim and 11% Christian population.

Financial inclusion by extending credit facilities to the minority community on a priority basis is one of the big planks of the 15-point program. RBI data shows that in the 121 districts, average per capita advances to Muslims increased from Rs 50,000 in 2008 to over Rs 100,000 in 2011. But in the same districts, advances to Hindus increased from around Rs 230,000 in 2008 to Rs 270,000 by 2011. The report reviews expenditure by the ministry of minority affairs and shows that while allocation has increased from Rs 500 cr in 2008-09 to Rs 3,135 cr in 2012-13, the actual per capita expenditure was working out to just Rs 230 in 2011-12 because 20% of the funds remained unutilized and also because coverage of the schemes was only about 50% of the total Muslim population. For the multi-sectoral development programme of the ministry, of the Rs 2,966 cr available in 2011-12, only 44% had been spent. It is only in the case of the scholarship programs that targets are being surpassed.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/18013610.cms

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7 Maoists, 1 policeman hurt in AP encounter (Jan 14, 2013, Indian Express)

At least seven Maoists and a Greyhound constable sustained injuries in an exchange of fire at the border area of Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in Khammam district, the police said on Sunday.

A team of Greyhound personnel, an elite anti-naxal force, was combing the forest area between Cherla and Kitaram villages when some Maoists attacked them on Saturday night, a senior police official said. In retaliation, the police personnel opened fire at the Maoists, who escaped in the thick forest area, he said.

While preliminary reports suggest that seven Maoists sustained injuries, a police personnel was also injured in the encounter, the police official added. After being given first aid at Cherla village, the policeman was admitted to a government hospital.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1059023/

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Hamid Ansari seeks corrective measures in laws for gang-rapes (Jan 7, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)

Describing the gruesome Delhi gangrape as an incident that “let our heads hang in shame”, Vice President Hamid Ansari on Monday sought immediate steps for comprehensive corrective measures in laws and social behaviour. He said one must remember that full respect for human rights of all and on all occasions, inclusive of gender equality and gender justice, are prerequisites of a modern, progressive, society. “A recent event on the eve of the New Year gave all of us occasion for remorse and sorrow. It made us, as a people, hang our heads in shame.

“The expressions of anguish and anger, fully justified, must now be speedily translated into comprehensive correctives in laws, procedures, societal norms and values, and social behaviour,” Ansari said, addressing NCC Republic Day Camp 2013 in New Delhi. The 23-year-old victim, a paramedical student, was brutally raped and assaulted in a moving bus here on the night of December 16 and died of her injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital. The Vice President said this responsibility must be shouldered by all and discharged by all. “As a disciplined corps of young men and women, you can be the vanguard and trend setters,” he told the NCC cadets.

“NCC is the premier uniformed youth organisation of the country and its contribution to nation building deserves highest commendation. It helps channelise the energy of our youth into a creative force to usher in social change to a wide spectrum of activities which are powerful instrument of awakening in the society at grass-root level,” he said. 2004 cadets, both boys and girls drawn from 17 NCC Directorates, covering all the states and Union Territories are participating in this camp that culminates on January 28.

http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/DEL-hamid-ansari-seeks-corrective-measures-in-laws-for-gang-rapes-4140732-NOR.html

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Opinions and Editorials

As Dhule counts its dead, no lessons learnt from past riots – By Vinita Deshmukh (Jan 14, 2013, Tehelka)

Seventeen-year-old Aaseem Shaikh’s sister was going to get married in a couple of days when tragedy struck on 6 January. Shaikh became the first victim of police bullets in the riots that shook Dhule, a city in northwestern Maharashtra. “My son was on his way to deliver eggs at a customer’s house when he was shot,” says Naseem Mohammed Gulam Ahmed, his distraught father. Naseem Mohammed was out of town that afternoon and learnt of his son’s death only the next day. “The bullet pierced through his upper chest and he died before he reached the hospital. Why did the police fire at him?” A week after the riots broke out, battalions of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) took to the Mumbai-Agra national highway in several vehicles, to return to their respective units. That, though, has barely signalled the return of peace in Dhule, which is still under curfew intermittently in the 2 sq km downtown area where the riots had left six dead and 229 injured, including 113 policemen, as per official records.

The curfew might be completely lifted in some days, but anger against the law enforcement authorities, evident while talking to youngsters of the riot-hit area, may continue to simmer. In fact, residents point out that part of the ire that exploded into riots on 6 January can be traced back to 2008, when riots had left 11 dead and 552 injured. The October 2008 riots in Dhule, like the riots this time, had been concentrated in the two adjacent localities of Macchipura and Madhavpura, where nearly 50,000 people live, including both Hindus and Muslims. While most of the Muslims live in Macchipura, Madhavpura has a Hindu-majority population. The riots came a week after leaders of both the communities had given inflammatory speeches. Though the local media highlighted the issue and alerted the administration and the police, neither took it seriously and the riots were sparked when the poster of a religious leader was torn.

However, the kin of the six dead youngsters, all aged between 17 and 25, demand to know why the police fired to kill, and why the victims were all Muslims. Incidentally, none of the six dead belonged to the neighbourhood where the riots broke out. All of them hailed from different parts of Azadnagar suburb, about 3-4 km away from the riot-torn area. “My 24-year-old brother Imran Ali was shot in the heart and died instantly,” says Asif Ali. The fateful Sunday, 6 January, was an off day for Imran, who worked in an auto spares shop in Macchipura. However, that day he had gone to the locality to buy groceries, and did not return as usual by 4 pm. Instead, there was a phone call informing the family that Imran had been injured in a firing. Asif Ali says they were shocked; they did not even know that riots had broken out. Looking for his brother, Asif went first to Macchipura, but could not enter the area as there was heavy stone-pelting and the sound of gunfire. Then he went to the general hospital, where he was told that Imran was dead. “The police fired indiscriminately and my innocent brother has become the victim,” says Asif Ali.

Asif Patel, the uncle of another victim Saud Raees Patel, tells a similar story. Raees, 17, was shot, when he was on his way to buy fish from Macchipura. Raees was pursuing a diploma in electrical engineering. “Why did the police shoot him in the chest?” asks Patel, demanding a judicial inquiry into the riots and stringent punishment to those responsible for his nephew’s death. At the home of Deputy Tehsildar Abdul Halim Ansari, in Hazar Kohli colony of Azadnagar, a pall of gloom has shrouded the family ever since Ansari’s son Hafiz Asif, 30, was killed on 6 January. Hafiz used to run a grocery shop. His brother and uncle state politely, “Sorry, we are not speaking to anybody.” Ansari has still not got back to work.

The police response to the riots raises several questions. … Local NCP leader and corporator in Dhule, Shawwal Ansari, had witnessed the rioting and helped rush the injured to nearby hospitals. He says the police “deliberately fired at the people”. “I was there at the spot and saw the police firing start within 15-20 minutes after the riots began. This is exactly what they had done in 2008 also, and that is why many youngsters aged between 18 and 25 are against them,” he adds. Ansari also alleges the police targeted the Muslims, and after the riots subsided, “they damaged many vehicles parked outside the houses of Muslims”. He believes the six youngsters would not have died if senior police officers had restrained the policemen from firing too soon. …

http://tehelka.com/as-dhule-counts-its-dead-no-lessons-learnt-from-past-riots/?singlepage=1

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The Forgotten Carnage of Bhagalpur – By Warisha Farasat (Jan 19, 2013, Economic& Political Weekly)

Two months before the riots, between 12 and 22 August 1989 on the occasion of Muharram and Bisheri Puja, communal passions were already running high in Bhagalpur, which had a history of communal clashes. However, the immediate trigger of the Bhagalpur riots was the five-day Ramshila programme of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). As part of a wider nation-wide Ram Janmabhoomi campaign, Ramshila – bricks for the proposed grand Ram Mandir (temple) in Ayodhya – were to be carried in five processions through the rural areas of Bhagalpur and converge on the 24th in the town. The growing influence of the right-wing forces to polarise society on communal lines had already vitiated the atmosphere and provocative actions during the processions made matters worse. The outbreak of communal violence on 24 October 1989 in Bhagalpur was preceded by a series of rumours spread by criminal elements that around 200 Hindu students living in lodges near the university area had been killed by Muslims. This was followed by another rumour that 31 Hindu boys had been murdered and their bodies dumped in a well at the Sanskrit College. As it turned out, both rumours were baseless, but they fanned the communal violence (Minorities Commission 1990: 242). A three-member Commission of Inquiry, which was established by the Bihar state government to investigate the Bhagalpur pogrom, concluded that the riots were triggered by the Ramshila procession (Sinha and Hasan 1995: 14). It also named several police officials, including the then superintendent of police, K S Dwivedi for failing to stop the violence and recommended further investigation into the role of the official machinery during the riots.

The Bhagalpur riots took place when the Congress was in power in Bihar and Jagannath Mishra was the chief minister. Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister, during his visit to the riot-affected areas ordered that Dwivedi be immediately transferred because of his controversial role in the riots and anti-Muslim bias. However, the transfer orders triggered protests from the VHP and other Hindu right-wing forces, forcing Gandhi to rescind his orders (Chopra and Jha 2012). Even today, survivors note that had Dwivedi’s transfer order not been revoked at the time, many lives would have been saved since many of the worst atrocities took place after this. Indeed, the subsequent Commission of Inquiry constituted to probe the riots indicted Dwivedi and noted in its report: We would hold Dwivedi, the then superintendent of police, Bhagalpur, wholly responsible for whatever happened before 24 October 1989, on 24th itself and [after the] 24th. His communal bias was fully demonstrated not only by his manner of arresting the Muslims and by not extending them adequate help to protect them (Sinha and Hasan 1995: 114). The Congress government at the time did little to either stop the riots or provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims and their families. Even Lalu Prasad Yadav, who won the 1990 elections on a secular platform in Bihar, did not make enough effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Bhagalpur riots. Indeed, many among the survivors believe that Yadav avoided any action because many of the rioters who led the mobs against the Muslims belonged to his caste. Similarly, even the efforts of the current incumbent, Nitish Kumar, who heads a coalition of Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, have been piecemeal, and the major issues of justice, accountability of police officers, and reparations remain unresolved. The wounds of the mass violence were kept open and festering; even now victims recount the brutality of the massacre and the lack of justice thereafter in great detail.

Though 23 years have passed, the victims of the communal carnage are still struggling, socially and financially. In only a handful of cases, such as the Chanderi and Logain massacres, have the guilty been punished. In Chanderi village, 65 Muslims were hacked with machetes and their bodies thrown into a pond. Mallika Begum – the sole surviving witness – courageously withstood all threats and enticements offered by the accused to secure the conviction of 16 persons who were involved in the massacre. In Logain village, 118 persons were slaughtered. To hide the truth, the perpetrators buried the bodies in the fields and subsequently planted cauliflower over this mass grave. Even in the handful of cases where the rioters were convicted, such as Kameshwar Yadav in the infamous Parbatti case, the witnesses live under fear of reprisal. While Kameshwar Yadav was involved in many killings and incidents of leading the mob during the riots, he was finally convicted in 2007 for the murder of Mohammad Munna, son of Bibi Waleema, who was a resident of Parbatti area in Bhagalpur town (Yadav 2007). No protection or support was provided to these witnesses who testified against the rioters. A relative of Bibi Waleema, who is a street vendor, told us that he has stopped selling goods in his locality and now plies his trade far away as he fears for his life.

The most heartbreaking challenge for the victims of the Bhagalpur riots is their struggle against forgetfulness. The brutality of the mass violence committed against the Muslims has faded out of public memory even as the victims await justice and rehabilitation. The stories of the murder of around 1,000 Muslims – men, women and children hacked with machetes, entire families killed and dumped in ponds, or people locked inside their homes and burnt alive – are now remembered only by the survivors or the immediate families of the victims who have been fighting a lonely battle. The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Delhi was perhaps one of the few civil society groups that documented the riots in detail, particularly the role and complicity of the police in the rioting (People’s Union for Democratic Rights 1996). Apart from PUDR’s effort, there have been intermittent visits from individual activists to meet with the survivors and the victims’ families. Overall, there has been very little documentation or support extended by human rights groups to the survivors of the carnage. The official records of the Bhagalpur riots, alongside other major instances of communal violence, have been comparatively examined and analysed extensively in an earlier report by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) titledAccountability for Mass Violence: Examining the State’s Record (Chopra and Jha 2012). This report provides a fresh insight into the mechanics of communal violence at the four sites – Bhagalpur (Bihar), Gujarat, Nelli (Assam) and Delhi (the anti-Sikh riots of 1984) – and concludes that the state has failed to punish the perpetrators or provide adequate compensation to the victims and their families. …

Even K S Dwivedi, who was indicted by the Bhagalpur Commission of Inquiry, was never punished, and the current state government promoted him as an additional director general rank officer (Bihar Times 2011). Most recently, he was made additional director general (wireless and technical services) by the state government. Instead of facing investigation and prosecution, several officers named in the Bhagalpur Commission of Inquiry or Sharma’s report, have been promoted. Even more reprehensible and condemnable is that Dwivedi has been awarded the president’s medal on the eve of Independence Day this year for distinguished services despite having been held directly responsible for the Bhagalpur riots by the Commission of Inquiry (The Times of India 2012). As our research reveals, successive governments of different political parties have failed to comprehensively address the issues of justice accountability, reparations and rehabilitation of victims of the 1989 communal violence in Bihar. Similarly, the compensation policy has also failed to provide the much-needed acknowledgement and support to the victims/survivors. CES has tried to engage the Bihar state government, and has submitted policy-based recommendations, which we hope will also help the government in redesigning the compensation policy for the riot victims. Even if the Bhagalpur riots have faded from public memory, the horrors are still alive amongst the survivors in Bhagalpur who are still awaiting meaningful justice and reparations. But, perhaps, the most important learning is that communalism pervades our societal fabric, and there needs to be a collective response to ensure that it does not result in violence and discrimination based on religious affiliations.

http://www.epw.in/insight/forgotten-carnage-bhagalpur.html

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Fifteen Minutes of Infamy – Editorial (Jan 19, 2013, Economic & Political Weekl)

In the five decades of its existence the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) has remained a minor player in the politics of Andhra Pradesh representing a section of the Muslims of Hyderabad. It now has a few members in the legislative assembly and one member in the Lok Sabha. However, a recent speech given by its legislature party leader, Akbaruddin Owaisi, in Adilabad has suddenly catapulted it to national prominence and the MIM has been subjected to intense scrutiny by mainstream and social media. Akbaruddin is in jail, finally arrested by the police for spreading hate among communities and waging war against the country. The most quoted of his outrageous statements was one where he said that if the police was removed from the country for 15 minutes, India’s 25 crore Muslims (a fancy number in itself when the census states it is 13.8 crore) would teach a lesson to 100 crore “Hindustanis”. Akbaruddin made other incendiary statements as well and it is only proper that he has been arrested. However, the interesting thing is that he has been making similar speeches for at least 15 years, carrying on the “fiery” oratory tradition of his father, Salahuddin Owaisi.

The MIM under Qasim Rizvi defended the “independence” of an Islamic state of Hyderabad under the Nizam at the time of Independence in 1947. It organised the “Razakars” (a mercenary army) infamous for its violence and killings of communist partisans and Hindu subjects of the Nizam. It was banned after Hyderabad state’s merger with the Indian Union in 1948 but was revived by Rizvi, in 1957, in the 48 hours he had between being released from prison and leaving for Pakistan. It is common knowledge this was part of a deal with the Government of India to undercut the popularity of the Communist Party of India in Hyderabad by propping up the MIM to wean Muslims away from it. Rizvi appointed Abdul Wahab Owaisi as president of the revived MIM before leaving for Pakistan.

In its second incarnation the MIM gave up its demand for an Islamic state but adopted aggressive Muslim fundamentalism to weld an electorally viable political bloc. It took some time but by 1969 the MIM got its first member in the legislative assembly, slowly increasing that number to about half a dozen. In 1984, the MIM won the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat and has remained undefeated since. The secret of its electoral success has been the sense of security it has provided Hyderabad’s Muslims who have suffered, since Independence, regular bouts of intense violence at the hands of an aggressive Hindu right as well as an insensitive state administration. The growing muscle of the MIM has neutralised this violence and since 1990, when the last major communal violence took place in Hyderabad in the aftermath of L K Advani’s “rath yatra”, there has not been any major incident in the city. Media reports and academic research both suggest that Hyderabad’s Muslims vote for the MIM largely because of the security it provides and the space this has opened for Muslims to pursue business, jobs, education and recreation without fear. The growing public profile and self-confidence of the Muslims of Hyderabad has also helped sustain a politics which foregrounds their cultural assertion.

However, this success has also limited the MIM to parts of the city and one community, and retarded its growth. Akbaruddin’s brother, Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi, tried to transform the MIM into a broad platform of marginalised communities, Muslims as well as lower caste Hindus by giving tickets to non-Muslims in local body elections. While this strategy proved unsuccessful (mainly due to the inability of the MIM to let go of its religious core), Akbaruddin’s political line of returning to the aggressive politics of Muslim fundamentalism has paid rich electoral dividends. The MIM recently won an unprecedented 11 seats in municipal elections in Nanded in neighbouring Maharashtra. It was in pursuit of this strategy that the MIM formed the United Muslim Action Committee with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board office-bearer, Abdur Rahim Qureshi, as its convenor, and had recently withdrawn support from the Congress-led governments in Delhi and Hyderabad.

It remains a matter of conjecture as to why this particular speech suddenly caught national attention. A major role has been of new media and social networks where a video of Akbaruddin’s speech went “viral”, forcing attention by the mainstream media, government and judiciary. While the wheels of justice move indecisively and slowly, the political ramifications of this unexpected trial of Akbaruddin are significant. By foregrounding “Muslim” hate of Hindus, this speech will give a fillip to the Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindutva forces not just in Andhra Pradesh but around the country. In Hyderabad, this will lead to a further consolidation of Muslims behind the MIM, leading to a strengthening of communal politics. The fact that action has only been taken against a “Muslim” leader when scores of Hindu extremists have said worse things but remain untouched by the law will further polarise opinion. The Congress government in Andhra Pradesh is playing both sides. It has charged Akbaruddin with sedition to win “Hindu” votes, an accusation that is unlikely to stand up to legal scrutiny. The MIM leader will then be freed and this will thus keep the “Muslims” happy. The coming forward of progressive forces to denounce Akbaruddin’s speech and the public outrage over his comments will hopefully not only scuttle attempts to let him off the hook, they should also force a reluctant state to initiate action against all other hate-mongers. Anything less will be too dangerous to contemplate.

http://www.epw.in/editorials/fifteen-minutes-infamy.html

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A nation outraged – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Jan 12, 2013, Frontline)

If ever there was one incident in recent times that numbed the whole nation, it was the horrific gang rape and violence perpetrated on the 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus in Delhi on the night of December 16. The young woman died nearly a fortnight later, after battling for life, first at the Safdarjung Hospital in the capital city and later in a hospital in Singapore where she was airlifted for treatment following severe infection requiring an intestinal transplant. Her death left India shell-shocked. Protests that began after the incident became public knowledge grew in mammoth proportions. The incident was the trigger, and what followed was a response to the every-day reality faced by women, especially those who use public transport. This was perhaps the first time young people, schoolchildren and college students poured out into the streets on the issue of violence against women, and the media threw its entire weight behind the protests.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s handling of the situation added to the general feeling of shock and outrage. The government took time to react, preferring to confine itself to pleas for peaceful protests and restricting the movement of the protesters by barricading all roads leading to India Gate in New Delhi (policing in the capital city is the responsibility of the Union Home Ministry). Oblivious to the belligerent mood of the people, the government continued issuing banal statements one after the other. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s first statement with regard to the incident, which came on December 23, was more like an appeal meant to assuage the protests. “We will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country,” he said. At best the government looked at the incident in isolation as a “heinous crime”, grossly underestimating the anger and resentment that it had aroused. With each passing day, crowds swelled at various points in Delhi. Whether they were organised or not or lumpen or civilised, there was genuine anger.

This perhaps led to the six perpetrators getting apprehended in record time, which indicated that the police could swing into action if they wanted to. The government immediately set up two commissions, both headed by retired judges, one to inquire into the incident and the other to look into a long-standing demand by women’s organisations, to widen the definition of sexual assault. It was in September 2012 that these organisations had submitted a memorandum to the Union Law Minister reminding him of the changes required on the lines suggested by them. Sensing the public mood as the victim’s condition worsened, there was a turnabout in the government’s thinking. The Union Cabinet met on December 26, a full 10 days after the incident, and decided to set up a commission of inquiry with Justice Usha Mehra, a retired judge of the Delhi High Court, as its chairperson. The main role of the commission is to fix responsibility for lapses or negligence on the part of the police or any other authority or person and to suggest measures to improve the safety and security of women in Delhi and the rest of the National Capital Region. The commission has been given a time frame of three months. On December 27, the Prime Minister, while addressing the National Development Council (NDC) meeting, made a more definite statement: “Let me state categorically that the issue of safety and security of women is of the highest concern to our government.” He also announced the setting up of another commission, under the chairmanship of Justice J.S. Verma, retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to review various laws, including punishment for aggravated forms of sexual assault.

Perhaps, for the first time in its history, the NDC took cognisance of an issue of violence against women. It is unfortunate that it took a brutal rape and murder in the capital to force the country’s leadership to react. Whether it was meant to quell the protests and calm down the opposition parties or was a sincere attempt to deal with the issue was not clear. The Prime Minister merely stated the obvious: “Gender inequality is another important aspect, which deserves special attention. Women and girls represent half the population and our society has not been fair to this half. Their socio-economic status is improving, but gaps persist. The emergence of women in public spaces, which is an absolutely essential part of social emancipation, is accompanied by growing threats to their safety and security.” Meanwhile, the Delhi government, led by Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, called for a ban on tinted glass windows for motor vehicles and for enhanced policing. It also deliberated on recommending the death penalty for certain kinds of violence against women. Amid all this began a battle of attrition between the Chief Minister and Delhi’s Commissioner of Police. …

The processes that are producing incidents such as the one currently in focus are complex and need to be addressed comprehensively. Focus on quick-fix solutions like the death penalty or chemical castration or even community action, a euphemism for public lynching, apart from the fact that it may not be any kind of a solution, distracts attention from this. Addressing it in a comprehensive manner would mean looking at the entire gamut of discriminatory laws, judgments, policies, and portrayals of women in the media and questioning the larger socio-economic determinants that not only impede the complete participation of women in society at large but also create the conditions for the kind of outrage witnessed on December 16. There are wider social and economic processes and policy decisions that constitute the central cause of the growing crime graph. Ensuring the safety and security of women cannot be confined to platitudes; it requires a proper understanding of the systemic faults that lie behind the escalation of such crimes. Provisioning of infrastructure, tightening of laws, setting up of fast-track courts, speedy trials, and better policing of the roads might be a part of the wider solution, but the processes that shape mindsets and attitudes need to be corrected first. And that cannot happen in a society where everything, including women, are viewed as commodities.

http://flonnet.com/fl3001/stories/20130125300100400.htm

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Reluctant state – By Kirti Singh (Jan 12, 2013, Frontline)

The recent incident of gang rape of a 23-year-old girl by six men in a moving bus in Delhi triggered a nationwide response from citizens, including women and young girls who have been subjected to various forms of sexual harassment and assault for as long as they can remember. Every time they stepped out of their homes, walked on the streets or boarded a bus or train, they risked and continue to risk being harassed and groped and subjected to unwelcome sexual touching. However, instead of their harassers being targeted, their freedom of movement and their right to choose what they will wear and to associate with whomever they want are restricted. These women and others who marched with them demanded justice and severe punishment for those who had raped the young girl and beaten and assaulted her and her friend. Some people also demanded that the police be held accountable and punished for failing to prevent this and other rapes or sexual assaults from taking place. They demanded more stringent laws against rape and other forms of sexual assault.

A government that had ignored such demands for decades suddenly swung into action when it realised the extent and uncontrollability of the public anger. It claimed the girl was given the best medical treatment. A speedy investigation of the case was carried out in about two weeks and a charge sheet filed. In another knee-jerk reaction, a high-level committee comprising former Chief Justice of India Justice J.S. Verma was constituted to suggest “laws to provide for quicker trials and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women” [sic]. The Home Minister asked all political parties to send this committee their suggestions for changes in the law. However, the limited terms of reference of this committee, which is only supposed to suggest harsher punishment and measures for speedier justice, show that the government is not serious about bringing comprehensive and holistic changes to the laws and procedures relating to sexual assaults.

A commission headed by Justice Usha Mehra, former judge of the Delhi High Court, has also been set up to inquire into the various aspects of the incident and to “identify the lapses, if any, on the part of the police or other authority or person that contributed to the occurrence and fix responsibility for the lapses and/or negligence on the part of the police or any other authority or person”. The commission has to suggest “measures to improve the safety and security of women, particularly in NCT [National Capital Territory] of Delhi and NCR [National Capital Region].” This commission has obviously been constituted to deflect the demand by various women’s organisations for the removal of the Delhi Police Commissioner and other high officials for not putting in place and enforcing safety of women and other preventive measures which had been agreed upon. A number of measures to improve the safety and security of women in Delhi had been suggested to the police following cases of rape, murder and sexual assaults in the past. The police were to map Delhi and identify areas where women are most vulnerable to assault. Following this, there were to be increased patrolling in these areas and improved lighting on the streets and in places like public toilets in the city.

It was also decided that buses, taxis and other modes of transport would not be allowed to ply with tinted windows; the police were to enforce this rule. However, neither did patrolling substantially improve even in vulnerable areas nor did the police enforce the rule against using tinted windows. The bus in which the gang rape took place had tinted windows and had passed through several police check points when the assault was on. VIP and VVIP security continues to be prioritised over and above the security of citizens, including women, in Delhi and more than 30 per cent of the police force is deployed for this. In their memorandum to the Police Commissioner after the gang rape, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and other national women’s organisations demanded that the police should follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in all cases of sexual assault. These procedures should mandate the police to register a case immediately, send the complainant for medical examination, collect the evidence, including clothes, at the spot, and carry out the investigation in a time-bound manner, the memorandum said. It demanded punishment for the police personnel concerned if they do not follow this procedure.

From time to time the Delhi Police have issued certain standing orders, including Standing Order No. 303/2010, which lay down certain guidelines for the police in cases of rape. Though further changes can be suggested to them, these guidelines were a step in the right direction. They stipulate that a woman police officer shall be present in each police station, that “the victim” and her “family” shall be made “comfortable” and that the investigating officer along with the woman police officer shall escort the “victim” for medical examination. The order also stipulates that no “victim” of sexual assault shall be called or made to stay in the police station during the night and that the statement of the “victim” shall be recorded in private in the presence of family members unless it is a case of “incest”. Further, it says that the investigation shall be supervised by an Assistant Commissioner of Police and that the information on the case be immediately given to the rape crisis cell. In the case of children, it is mandated that the statement of the “victim” shall be recorded at her residence and that the child shall be medically examined within 24 hours and her clothing promptly sent for forensic examination. It has also been stated that private hospitals shall give immediate medical attention to the complainant and that the medical examination shall be carried out after psychiatric help is made available to the child. These mandates shall also apply to women who need immediate medical help and counselling after they are sexually assaulted, the guidelines say. These orders were issued following the directions of the Delhi High Court in judgments in 2003, 2007 and 2008. However, these standing orders are rarely followed in letter or spirit. …

http://flonnet.com/fl3001/stories/20130125300101700.htm

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Where buying a motorcycle can spark a riot – By S. Anandhi, M. Vijayabaskar (Jan 7, 2013, The Hindu)

In the recent violence against the Dalits in Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu, about 300 of their houses were burnt down and other properties destroyed by the Vanniars, a numerically strong intermediate caste, sections of whom have been economically stagnant. The immediate cause for the rampage was a Vanniar woman’s marriage to a Dalit youth and the consequent suicide of the woman’s father. However, the large-scale and systematic destruction of Dalit properties was a result of the simmering discontent against the upward mobility of the Dalits. The growing intolerance of the intermediate castes towards this economic mobility of the Dalits is not confined to Dharmapuri district alone. In the last two decades, 11 districts in the State have witnessed similar destruction of Dalit property as part of caste violence. There are two aspects to this Dalit mobility and the resultant violence against them. One is the declining of role of agriculture in rural Tamil Nadu and its impact on the social and economic relations within villages. The second is the specific ways in which the changing economic relations have been negotiated through altered caste and gender relations posing challenges to the intermediate caste’s pre-existing power.

Across Tamil Nadu, the role of agriculture in sustaining rural livelihoods has dramatically declined with non-farm employment increasingly playing a significant role. A recent survey of rural households in four districts in the State done by the Institute of Development Alternatives, Chennai reveals that only 28 per cent of households rely on agriculture solely for their livelihood. In the remainder, at least one member of the household was engaged in non-agricultural employment, ranging from construction work to a range of manufacturing sector jobs. This resonates strongly with the observations made about the “commuting worker” in contemporary rural and urban landscapes. In Tamil Nadu alone, more than 72 lakh workers commuted from rural areas to work in non-agricultural sectors. This mobility is highly gendered with the age profile indicating the emergence of a young male workforce. This mobility has been accompanied by a new mobility of capital too. Studies indicate a growing ruralisation of the formal manufacturing sector in the last 15 years, with its output increasingly coming from the rural areas even as urban manufacturing employment is becoming more informal.

It is in this context that one needs to understand Dalit mobility in parts of Tamil Nadu. The spread of a range of manufacturing activity in small towns in Tamil Nadu and its diffusion into the nearby villages have spawned new rural-urban and rural-rural mobilities and a move into manufacturing and service sector jobs among Dalit youth, particularly in the northern and north-western districts. This mobility has also been backed by investments in education albeit of a limited kind. The move away from traditional agricultural work has undermined the control that the intermediate castes could wield on Dalit youth. Fieldwork in villages adjoining and housing textile and clothing factories in the Coimbatore and Tiruppur districts, and shoe factories in Vellore district reveal not only a striking shift from agricultural work among the Dalit youth, but also a strong reluctance among them to take up agricultural work.

The mobility beyond the village has enabled Dalit youth to challenge their traditional caste obligations and the masculine powers of the dominant castes. The refusal of Dalit women to perform menial duties for intermediate castes, the refusal of the younger generation of Dalits to labour in the lands of intermediate castes and to perform caste obligations such as funeral drumming – combined with relative improvements in their every day existence – have become the source of conflicts between the Dalits and the intermediate castes in the State. The inability and reluctance of sections of intermediate castes to make a shift from agriculture despite its non profitability due to strong social values attached to agriculture, their inability to force the castes below them to work on their farms and their lack of control over the mobility of Dalit youth have underwritten their caste anxieties.

Further, caste dominance is contingent upon the masculine power of men, their ability to control women in private and public spheres and also their ability to control the subordinate men of oppressed castes. With the challenge posed to their caste dominance, the intermediate castes find their masculinity in crisis since they are unable to exert power over the subaltern Dalit men and women. They also imagine an erosion of their masculine power in the private sphere with their claim that Dalit men lure away “their women.” The crisis of intermediate caste masculinity, which is the result of the economic mobility of the Dalits, is certainly at the core of these conflicts and the caste violence which targets Dalit properties. Otherwise, how can one explain the fact that invariably during the caste violence in recent times, motorbikes owned by the Dalits, a symbol of masculine mobility, have been targeted by the intermediate castes who desire to imitate the erstwhile dominant castes in their starched white dhotis moving on Enfield motorbikes!

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/where-buying-a-motorcycle-can-spark-a-riot/article4280216.ece

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Book Review

Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation

Author: Laurent Gayer & Christophe Jaffrelo, Eds.
Reviewed by: Javed Anand
Available at: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.. http://cup.columbia.edu/
Review:
Is India turning into a Hindu rashtra? (Jan 13, 2013, Asian Age)

The Conclusions chapter of the book opens on an alarming, ominous note: “It is easy to think of the prospects of the Indian Muslims in gloomy terms. Long ago denied the sceptre, which many thought essential to their existence, and now suspected by many for their religion and regarded as second-class citizens, is there any future for them other than eventual absorption in the Hindu mass? “It’s a quote from the highly regarded scholar of Indian history, Percival Spear, from one of his writings in 1967. That was nearly half-a-century ago. Before the communal riots in Meerut (1968), Ahmedabad (1969), Bhiwandi (1970) and elsewhere; years before communal violence entered the era of state-condoned, state-complicit, even state-sponsored pogroms and genocidal killings: Nellie (1983), Hashimpura (1987), Bhagalpur (1989), Ayodhya, Surat and Mumbai (1992-’93), Gujarat (2002). What’s the ground reality today? In hindsight, was Spear being alarmist or prophetic? The editors of Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation tell us that the empirical research findings encapsulated in the case studies brought together in the book offer “some elements of response” to Spear’s question. Read together, we do not get a simple yes or no answer. Read separately, the answer comes close to a disturbing “yes” in case of some cities. In others, hope survives.

The case studies cover an interesting mix of 11 cities categorised into three ideal types. One: the former Muslim capitals where the sharp post-Partition decline of the community is marked by identity politics – Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bhopal. Two: cities that are “over-determined by communal violence and political (sometimes cultural) obliteration” – Mumbai, Ahmedabad. Three, cities where resilient cosmopolitanism is still in evidence – Bengaluru, Kozhikode and Cuttack. Aligarh and Jaipur fall outside these three categories. The reality of each city, the editors agree, is far more complex than the ideal types would indicate. As the sub-title of the book itself suggests, and this is not the first time we are hearing of it, the marginalisation of Muslims is an undisputable fact. There’s ghettoisation too. (We are cautioned, however, to distinguish, analytically at least, between the enforced Muslim ghettos or “neighbourhoods of exile” of some cities from the self-selected “ethnic enclaves” in others). And there’s worse: “The extreme cases of riot prone areas suggest that the ‘absorption in the Hindu mass’, to use Spear’s words, may be the fate awaiting Muslims in (some) Indian cities.”

Not surprisingly, the most ominous signals emanate from Gujarat, the state under Narendra Modi’s rule. The sprawling Juhapura area in Ahmedabad where Muslims cutting across caste and class divides have been compelled to inhabit fully meets the definition of a ghetto. In trying circumstances, the community is doing its best to forge ahead. “Education” is its new mantra. But here is a worrisome observation from Christophe Jaffrelot and Charlotte Thomas, the contributors to the chapter on Ahmedabad: “The Muslim promoters of modern education in Juhapura are definitely playing down their religious identity, as if that’s the price to pay for being recognised as a full-fledged Indian citizen. Taken to its logical conclusion the process of cultural occultation will seal the fate of India’s multiculturalism”. Thankfully, all has not been lost even in the saddest of cities. The researchers cite one happy example: “Since 1969 (when the city was consumed by a vicious communal conflagration), Ramrahim Nagar has not been affected by any of the Gujarat riots, including the 2002 pogrom”.

Read together, the case studies uncover three distinct “trajectories of marginalisation” of Muslims in Indian cities. As you move from city to city you realise that, one, the decline is more pronounced in some regions than others, two, Muslims are not evenly marginalised and, three, in the country’s social geography that affects Muslims, the Hindi belt and the West are one end of the spectrum, while the rest of India lies at the other end. Who is to blame for the marginalisation of the Indian Muslims? The answer, the editors say, lies partly in history. The only ancestral skill the Muslim elite from north India and the princely states possessed was “a certain kind governing”, something they lost with the arrival of the British sarkar. The decline of Muslim artisans is another story. And unlike the Marwaris, not many from the Muslim business class progressed from trade to industry. Interestingly, the study debunks the idea that Muslim lack of interest in modern education is among the major causes of their backwardness. “For the whole period 1891-1931, Muslims were well ahead of Hindus in terms of literacy in English and it is therefore doubtful that ‘Muslims found the process of adjustment to Western education particularly hard’.” Instead, the explanation lies in the caste-system among Muslims. Only a small section among them (ashraf) had access to education and even this thin layer got seriously depleted with Partition.

If that’s the social backdrop, “the deliberate marginalisation of the Muslims by the state” post-Independence and the intensified communal onslaught of the Sangh Parivar in recent decades are identified as factors behind the backward slide of the community. Overall the book paints a grim picture of the reality of urban Muslims. But there are glimmers of hope in a new middle class emerging across cities, straining to forge ahead, turning to education with great enthusiasm. Sadly, as the editors point out, “education is one thing, employment another”. The short message of the book is that a solution must be found soon to end both institutionalised discrimination and the recurring communal targeting of the community. As to the fears of “absorption (of Indian Muslims) in the Hindu mass”, the editors are not unaware of the counter-veiling pull of resurgent Islam.

http://www.asianage.com/books/india-turning-hindu-rashtra-455

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