IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 22nd, 2018

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

How state govts sponsor pilgrims to Haridwar, Ajmer or Jerusalem (Jan 18, 2018, Indian Express)

A number of states subsidise pilgrimages to sites of various religions, with many also providing free travel and other facilities to their senior citizens. At a time when the Centre has stopped subsidising Haj from this year, a look at pilgrimage subsidies run by various state governments:

In 2012, MP introduced the Mukhya Mantri Teertha Darshan Yojana, among the first of its kind.… In the first nine months of current fiscal, 89,000 have been sent, chosen by lots from all 51 districts; one can travel only once. They are taken by train to sites such as Badrinath, Kedarnath, Jagannath Puri, Dwarka, Vaisnho Devi, Gaya, Haridwar, Shirdi Tirupati, Ajmer Sharif, Kashi, Sammed Shikar, Shravan Belagola and Velankanni Church. Much earlier, the BJP government started subsidising pilgrimages abroad for Rs 30,000 or 50% of the expenses, whichever is less. The sites covered are in Pakistan (Nankana Saheb, Hinglaj Mata Mandir), China (Mansarovar), Cambodia (Angkor Vat) and Sri Lanka (Sita Mandir, Ashok Vatika).…

UP gives subsidies for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra and Sindhu Darshan Yatra. The first 100 applicants for the Sindhu Darshan subsidy have been getting Rs 10,000 since 2015, when the SP was in power. It was giving Rs 50,000 for every Kailash Mansarovar pilgrim; last year, the BJP government doubled it to Rs 1 lakh.… Schemes started by the current (Haryana) government provide subsidies to 50 elderly citizens (Rs 10,000 each) on Sindhu Darshan Yatra in Ladakh, and another 50 pilgrims (Rs 50,000 each) on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. A government spokesperson said Rs 5 lakh and Rs 25 lakh for the respective pilgrimages have been allocated in the annual plan of 2016-17.…



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Modi Govt Has Proved ‘Unwilling’ to Protect Rights of Minority Groups: Human Rights Watch Report (Jan 21, 2018, The Wire)

An increase in violence against women, government failure to control growing attacks on Dalits and religious minorities, often led by vigilante groups claiming to be supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), continuance of demeaning manual scavenging, curbs on free speech ill-treatment of tribal groups and crackdown on protests in Jammu and Kashmir, are some of the violations by the Indian government noted by the Human Rights Watch World Report 2017, released recently by the New York-based non-profit.

“Indian authorities have proven themselves unwilling to protect minority religious communities and other vulnerable groups from frequent attack,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement, adding that “there needs to be a serious effort to prevent future attacks and to prosecute all those responsible for the violence.”

“In 2016, students were accused of sedition for expressing their views; people who raised concerns over challenges to civil liberties were deemed anti-Indian; Dalits and Muslims were attacked on suspicion they had killed, stolen, or sold cows for beef; and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) came under pressure due to India’s restrictive foreign funding regulations,” says the 2017 report….



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PIL in Bombay HC over discharge of Amit Shah in Sohrabuddin case (Jan 19, 2018, The Tribune)

A city-based lawyers’ association on Friday filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court against the CBI decision not to challenge a lower court order discharging BJP president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case. The PIL was filed by a group called the Bombay Lawyers’ Association (BLA).…

According to the petitioner, the CBI had failed in its duty as the country’s main investigating agency in upholding the rule of law. The petition said the CBI’s decision to challenge the discharge of three policemen even while not doing so in the case of Shah was arbitrary and malafide.

The CBI has challenged the discharge of two sub-inspectors of the Rajasthan Police, Himanshu Singh and Shyam Singh Charan and N K Amin of the Gujarat Police in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case.… The original charge-sheet filed by the CBI in the matter in 2010 named 23 accused persons, including Amit Shah, who was then the home minister of Gujarat.



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Loya’s Death Was Premeditated Murder, Says Late Judge’s Friend Uday Gaware (Jan 16, 2018, The Wire)

Justice BH Loya’s friend from law college, Uday Gaware, while speaking at a public meeting organised by the All India People’s Forum, an association of different civil society and political groups, stunned everyone when he said that the judge’s death was “premeditated murder”.

The meeting, held at New Delhi’s Indian Social Institute, was called “Suspicious Death of Judge: Implications for Democracy”. It was addressed by Caravan Magazine’s Niranjan Takle, the journalist who broke the story, the magazine’s political editor Hartosh Singh Bal, former judge of the Bombay high court BG Kolse Patil, senior advocate Indira Jaising and Gaware, who is a member of Latur bar association. Speaking in front of a packed house, the speakers demanded a probe and raised concerns over whether the executive was trying to influence the judiciary in any way.

Loya, who in official records died in December 2014 because of a cardiac arrest, was presiding over the CBI court in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in which BJP president Amit Shah was one of the accused. However, in November, 2017, Caravan broke a story that revealed that there were signs that multiple hospital documents related to his death may have been tampered. The family of Loya expressed its suspicion over various developments before and after his death. It should be noted that Justice MB Gosavi, who replaced Loya in the CBI court, discharged Shah less than a month after the judge’s death.…



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Catholic School Association Moves Madhya Pradesh HC, Seeks Protection From ABVP (Jan 15, 2018, The Wire)

The Madhya Pradesh Catholic Diocesan Schools’ Association has moved the state’s high court seeking protection of it’s educational institutes. The Indian Express reported that the association alleged the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – the student body affiliated to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – was trying to incite communal tension.

Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) said that the ABVP was increasingly targeting institutions run by Christians. He said ABVP had called upon its members to forcibly enter St Mary’s PG College in Vidisha and perform the aarti.

Their efforts to talk to the ABVP had been in vain, said the secretary general. On January 4, hundreds of ABVP activists had created a ruckus outside the college when they were not allowed to enter. Some even managed to enter the premises and chant ‘Bharat mata ki jai’.…



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Pravin Togadia alleges Modi conspiring with Gujarat Police to harass him (Jan 17, 2018, Hindustan Times)

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi played host to his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in his home state on Wednesday, his once-close aide and VHP leader Pravin Togadia accused Modi of conspiring with the Ahmedabad Crime Branch to harass him and VHP supporters.

“J K Bhatt (Ahmedabad Joint Commissioner, Crime Branch) has begun hatching a conspiracy against me and harassing our nationalist workers at the behest of political bosses in Delhia. In the last 15 days, how many times has Bhatt spoken with the PM? Their call details must be made public,” Togadia, Acting President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, told reporters in Ahmedabad after his discharge from a private hospital in the evening.…

Togadia had claimed that a team of the Rajasthan Police had come for him in a shut 10-year-old case, though there was no instruction from chief minister Vasundhara Raje or state Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria for this. He had claimed there was a conspiracy to kill him and this was hatched jointly by the Crime Branch and the Rajasthan Police.…



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Uttar Pradesh considers withdrawing Muzaffarnagar riots case (Jan 21, 2018, Indian Express)

The Yogi Adityanath government is learnt to be considering withdrawal of a case related to the 2013 riots in Muzaffarnagar, and has sought opinion of the district magistrate regarding its status, and asking if withdrawing it would be the right step in public interest.

A senior officer posted in Muzaffarnagar confirmed to The Sunday Express that the state government, through the Law Department, had sought details on 13 points in the case, that was registered on August 31, 2013. There is no mention of the leader’s name in the letter, except the serial number of the case.

The officer also confirmed that the state government had sought opinion on eight other criminal cases, lodged against BJP Budhana MLA Umesh Malik in Muzaffarnagar. Malik said he had no knowledge of the letter, and that he had not approached the state government for withdrawal of the cases. Malik also said that the others named in the cases against him include BJP Bijnor MP Bhartendra Singh, former Union minister and local BJP MP Sanjeev Baliyan, and Sadhvi Prachi.…



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Aadhaar may cause death of citizens’ civil rights, petitioners lawyer tells SC (Jan 17, 2018, Indian Express)

…Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioners, told the five-judge Constitution bench that Aadhaar may cause death of citizens’ civil rights. “A people’s Constitution is being sought to be converted into a State’s Constitution,” Divan told the apex court.

In August last year, a nine-judge bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar had also claimed it violated privacy rights.

The issue regarding the validity of Aadhaar and possible leakage of data has cropped up time and again since the inception of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) number. Besides, a recent report in The Tribune had exposed the fact that the Aadhaar database could be essentially bought on the internet only for Rs 500.…



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Haryana: Two minor Dalit girls raped, murdered in separate incidents; Class 12 student, seven others arrested (Jan 15, 2018, First Post)

Two minor Dalit girls were allegedly raped and killed in separate incidents in Haryana, barely a month after a similar case involving a six-year-old girl had shook the state. Police said that one of the girls, a 15-year-old Class X student, had been brutally assaulted and her private parts mutilated. The body of the other victim, an 11-year-old girl, was found in a village in Panipat district on Sunday morning, a police official said.…

Responding to the incidents, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Sunday said there was a complete breakdown of law and order in the state. Hooda said the BJP government had failed to put a check on the rising crime graph.

Demanding exemplary punishment for the culprits, he said, “This government has failed on all fronts. The law and order situation has completely broken down. Children are neither safe in schools nor in their homes. Such heinous crimes are increasing, but the government seems to be in slumber.”…



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Two priests booked for denying temple entry to Dalit girl (Jan 17, 2018, New Indian Express)

Two priests were booked on Tuesday for allegedly denying a Dalit girl entry into Sankareswar temple at Badgaon village within Balikuda police limits here. On Monday, father of the victim Basant Sethy had lodged an FIR with the police accusing priests Narahari Panda and Prahallad Panda as well as two other villagers of preventing his daughter Rojalini from entering the temple on December 11. Rojalini Sethy, who pursues engineering in a private college in Bhubaneswar, was refused entry into the temple by the priests as she belonged to Scheduled Caste community.

Following the incident, a group of Dalit youths, including girls led by former Sarpanch Hemant Sethy, had petitioned local police and the district administration to facilitate their entry into the temple. However, steps are yet to be taken in this regard.

Though local Sarpanch Niharika Biswal convened a series of meetings to broker peace between the Dalit families and upper caste people, it yielded no result. The upper caste people said the age-old tradition of restricting entry of Dalits into the temple cannot be broken.…



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Opinions and Editorials

Will the Hindutva Government Let Supreme Court Function as an Independent Institution? – By M Ghazali Khan (Jan 20, 2018, Urdu Media Monitor)

…In a letter addressed to Chief Justice Misra, they [the four judges] accused him of assigning important cases selectively to benches ‘with no rationale’, implying thus that he had sought to influence the outcome. They also expressed unhappiness with ‘certain judicial orders’ passed by the court, which they said ‘adversely affected the overall functioning of the court’. Citing a number of reasons of their grievances against Justice Misra, they made special reference to their requests to him for independent investigation into the mysterious death of a senior judge B H Loya, who was overseeing a case against ruling BJP’s President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah.

During the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 under Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister, Amit Shah was the Home Minister of Gujarat. A leaked report by the British High Commission in India said that the carnage in Gujarat ‘had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.’ Amit Shah was arrested in 2010 for the extra-judicial killings of a petti criminal Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi. Later he was released on bail but refused to appear before CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court hearing the case. The Judge, J T Utpat, who was hearing the case, was transferred and got replaced by Judge B H Loya. Judge Loya then sent Amit Shah several orders to appear before the court but showing utter contempt he did not comply with even one of them.

Lastly Judge Loya ordered Amit Shah to appear before the court on 31 October 2014. Despite being present in Mumbai Amit Shah defied court orders and did not appear. Judge Loya then issued a final deadline and asked Amit Shah to appear on 15 December 2014. However in extremely mysterious circumstances, the judge died on December 1, 2014. His family members and several of senior judges who have raised doubts and questions about the official narrative of Loya’s death that he died of heart attack, have been demanding independent probe into the case.…



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‘The Birla-Sahara Diaries and the Loya Case Are of Intense and Anxious Interest to Present Rulers’ – By M.K. Venu (Jan 17, 2018, The Wire)

…The political executive will always try to take advantage of any and every situation – especially one like the present one which, as I have pointed out time and again, has an instrumental view of everything, one which looks at every person, every institution, every occasion from only one point of view: “How can I put this man, this institution, this occasion to use?” As for the charge that by going public the judges have paved the way for the government to interfere, that is utter nonsense.

You can bet your life that at all times a government such as the present one makes sure it knows, and in fact it does know, what is going on among judges. The precaution is not that judges should keep silent in the face of that “intolerable wrong” but that citizens should be alert to the designs of government. They – that is, you and me, and everyone – must be a firewall around the court, and expose every effort of the government to use such an occasion for furthering its own designs.…

The Birla-Sahara diaries and the Loya case are of intense and anxious interest to the present rulers. That is why the public should be very vigilant about what happens in these cases. Second, the suicide note of Pul, the Loya case, and of course the Medical College case involve the judiciary.…



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How two police officers and RSS changed the script of the Assam agitation against outsiders in 1980s – By Ajaz Ashraf (Jan 18, 2018, Scroll.in)

In 1979, the All Assam Students Union launched a mass agitation to evict outsiders. By outsiders, the union’s leaders meant Indians from elsewhere who were perceived to control Assam’s economy. In a few months, though, they changed tack and started railing against foreigners, specifically illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

This alteration in the course of the agitation has long been ascribed to the union’s leaders realising that the Assamese people were bothered more about Bangladeshi migrants than Indians from other states. Abdul Mannan turns this thesis on its head. He shows the change came about in no small measure because of the efforts of two senior police officers and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

In his book Infiltration: Genesis of Assam Movement, published last year, the former professor of statistics at Gauhati University cites the forgotten memoir of one of the officers to show how they courted the union’s leaders and persuaded them to redirect popular anger towards Bangladeshi immigrants.…



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Aadhaar: from compiling a govt database to creating a surveillance society – By Usha Ramanathan (Jan 18, 2018, Hindustan Times)

…The idea of rule of law has been systematically violated. Court orders have been flagrantly violated. There was no law in the first seven years of the project; then a law was passed using the money bill route. There are MoUs between state governments, banks, oil companies and others with the UIDAI, designed to collect information about every individual and store it for use in State Resident Data Hubs, promising a 360-degree view of each individual.

The project has moved beyond creating only a surveillance state, and has set out to create a surveillance society in which every agency is required to collect, keep and give to the State information pertaining to every person. Mobile phone companies and banks are the best known illustrations of this.

The ‘Trickle-Up Theory’ is current economic thinking, viz, people may not have wealth to spend in the market, but they have their personal data which the marketplace wants. So personal information is to trickle up to create wealth for businesses. The dream is periodically shattered by leaks, breaches, failure of biometrics, and inflated claims of savings that get exposed. The project trundles on, nevertheless amid denial and wild allegations of orchestrated campaigns.…



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Bombay Riots of 1992-93: Gory winter – By Teesta Setalvad (Feb 2, 2018, Frontline)

The fault lines were sharp and deep in that December of 1992 when for nine days the urbs prima of India, hailed for its cosmopolitanism, saw this veneer shredded. Painfully. All of December, including the week of Christmas and New Year celebrations, public temper in Bombay (now Mumbai) was fragile, as the mal-intended maha arti programme launched by the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine released a fresh bout of venom and hate against “the Muslim Other”.

This is what led to the violence of January 1993, when for at least another nine days violence instigated by Saamana, the mouthpiece of the Shiv Sena, ensured that homes and properties were targeted with chilling precision. Officially, 900 people were killed in mob rioting and firing by the police, 2,036 injured and thousands internally displaced. Three rapes were reported and registered. According to People’s Verdict, a staggering 141 incidents took place in 1992 and 1,411 in January 1993. As many as 16 per cent of the incidents went unreported.

It is 25 years, a quarter of a century, ago that Bombay burned. The demolition of the Babri Masjid in faraway Ayodhya was the immediate and obvious provocation. But as the meticulous documentation by citizens for People’s Verdict and the petition seeking a first information report (FIR) against Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in the Bombay High Court, and thereafter corroborated by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission, revealed, the public temper had been kept on the boil by hate-filled, provocative writings on the pages of Saamana since July 1992. The Congress government led by Sudhakarrao Naik chose to let these crimes pass, the Bombay Police chose not to act, and the rest, as they say, are dark pages in India’s history.…



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Insidious fault lines – By Anupama Katakam (Feb 2, 2018, Frontline)

While the Koregaon Bhima violence is made out to be a Maratha-versus-Dalit battle, a far deeper and dangerous political game seems to be playing out behind it. In the context of the significant Maratha movement of October 2016 and the long history of strife between the two communities, it was an obvious conclusion that this attack was just another incident involving the assertion of Maratha supremacy over a lower caste.

A closer scrutiny points to the emergence of a couple of right-wing fringe groups that have a following in the region. They have been co-opting the Maratha community, currently a disgruntled, vulnerable and insecure lot, into their programmes with the message that backward communities are getting too big for their boots and must be shown their place. The project does not appear to be about Maratha rights.

The recent clashes have exposed a strange dynamic in Maharashtra. The Marathas believe Dalits are getting too strong, while Dalits say Brahmins are trying to create a divide between the two communities so that they do not join forces in the 2019 elections as they did in Gujarat. The support of the Marathas, who constitute about 50 per cent of the State’s population, is crucial to all parties. It works in favour of the saffron brigade that the Marathas are Hindu Kshatriyas and are thus amenable to the Hindutva ideology, says Jaideo Gaikwad, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council.…



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